Clipped Recipes and Brown Butter

Sometimes I go through Grandma’s recipes, organized by me into two card-sized tins, and when I do, I find two things: (1) stained, cryptic notes in cursive penmanship and (2) torn clippings---from newspapers, from magazines, from the boxes of butter or oatmeal of decades ago. I have no idea, usually, if she’d tried and liked these torn recipes or if she’d been meaning to, but I keep them because, well, they were hers, things she thought worth trying. My mom and I carry on this tradition, she with her labeled folders of cut-out recipes; I, with mine. This cookie, from Gourmet circa 1961, is one of those clippings. I caught it in the magazine’s recent Favorite Cookies 1941-2008 round-up, and I knew I’d like them, both because they are made with the complexity of brown butter and because of the simplicity of ingredients, all things you probably have on hand. It took one whiff of browning butter, set in a pot on low heat to slowly melt and darken, for me to love it the way I love … [Read more...]

Lasagna, for one

Laurie Colwin says people lie about what they eat when alone. "A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce.” (I've decided, just so you know, that of all the writers I wish I could've had dinner with, Laurie Colwin is #1, followed very closely by this kid, Noah Lawrence, a Yale college student who writes things like this and this and plays songs like these). Saturday, I spent a day in the kitchen, alone, just me and my laptop, belting out music and online TV shows while I mixed dough and pushed pans in the oven. I could tell you I ate a sandwich, a cup of soup, some fruit---that I scrambled eggs, even. But I'd be lying. In fact, I ate a handful of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, followed by some other cookies (recipe forthcoming Friday posted here), chased with hazelnut coffee. All of these were eaten while I stood over the sink or fiddled with ingredients, never while I was seated and certainly … [Read more...]

The Best Cookies I Eat

**This recipe was featured in Bon Appetit's Blog Envy 2009 Contest, which, although we didn't win, was fun to be considered for. In my grandma's world, there were two good Christmas gifts: clothing hangers, wrapped with their heads sticking out and placed under the tree, and, homemade food. Every December, she stacked dozens of aluminum tins on the stairs to the dark, creaky attic of her Maywood bungalow. They were all different shapes and colors, some with holiday pictures of winter sleigh rides or smiling snowmen. And for the weeks leading up to December 25th, she filled them with what she baked: fudge, sugar cookies, pecan tassies, kolachkys, peanut butter cookies, chocolate-chip cookies, dessert bars. If you were one of the relatives, you got a tin. If you lived next door, you got a tin. If you were in one of her clubs or helped run her garage sales or somehow in some way knew Caroline, you got a tin. Bonus points if she found a recipe you liked, by the way: after she … [Read more...]

When Dipped in Syrup

My mom says when she was a girl, she could eat a loaf of Italian bread in one sitting. This, beyond her sense of humor and strong will, is how I know we’re family. It’s not at all uncommon, when driving home from Dominick’s with bread I’ve purchased, for me to tear off a chunk with my hands and bite right in, crumbs falling on my lap and the steering wheel. Taken out of the oven, with steam slowly escaping, Italian bread cracks along the top and smells like a bakery in the morning, heady with yeast and sweetness. The golden crust reveals an interior pillow of downy softness and air holes, the foundation of roast beef sandwiches; toast with butter and jam; stuffing; or, even, a snack of Nutella in the afternoon. Also, Italian bread makes crostini, which is essentially toasted slices baked with toppings, be they proscuitto with cheese or figs with honey. For myself, I prefer olive oil and seasonings, cooked until the oil sizzles and the toast crunches. To be wild, I might rub … [Read more...]

Hedged Bets & New Traditions

In my family, Thanksgiving mornings have always been quick, light bites first thing when you wake, as the scent of roasting turkey barely begins to float through the kitchen. In our pajamas, we eat cereal, cups of coffee, maybe a piece of toast. But, anticipating, we stop there. It’s no different than any other kind of delayed gratification, just like working this week means a paycheck next or not buying yourself new clothes---not even the creamy white coat with the 3/4 sleeves---means more money in your savings account or a little extra to spend on Christmas gifts. That’s all well and good, most years. When the turkey is a sure thing, when the stock market is strong, by all means put off pleasure. Look ahead to the later reward. But what about when the long-term benefit seems a little, well, unsure? This year, for example, the economy is in flux. Also, I’d be responsible for getting the Thanksgiving meal on the table. While very different situations, putting all my faith in the … [Read more...]

On Thanksgiving

As a child, I counted the days to Thanksgiving. You don’t have to tell me this is unusual. As far as holidays go, most kids would agree Christmas is the best, with its presents, cookies and long break from school. Shopping malls and radio stations also rush to December, bringing out music and promotions just after Halloween. But, in this holiday’s defense, I offer one word: turkey. Before I was old enough to know how a bird was cooked, I understood that slicing the crispy brown skin of one fresh from the oven would reveal white, tender meat perfect for a week’s worth of sandwiches. Coupled with all the trimmings, Thanksgiving turkey makes a meal worth anticipating. And this year, for the first time, I’d be the one making it. The star of our feast was an eight-pound turkey breast (because we prefer white meat, and because we’d be out of town, so smaller would be easier) filled with my grandma’s recipe for moist bread stuffing, the most delicious thing I eat every year and so … [Read more...]