The Churros That Saved The Dinner Party

IMG_1.JPG

Have you ever had a son or daughter who plays the piano like a real champ, such a champ that you invite all your friends over one night and set up a little concert–with fliers and cocktails and a video camera on a tripod–and when your son or daughter finally sits down to play they totally freeze up and won’t hit one note? That’s how I felt two weeks ago when I had friends over to eat not one but TWO dishes from a new favorite cookbook, David Tanis’s “A Platter of Figs.” My love for this book ran pretty deep for a variety of reasons: (a) it was a gift from Craig’s parents; (b) David Tanis is the chef at Chez Panisse, one of my favorite restaurants; and (c) the book is knock-you-out beautiful, with gorgeous pictures and recipes and writing that’s heartfelt and really, really smart. But when it came time to perform, I’m so sad to report that the two recipes I made from it–the Green Chile Stew & the Spicy Pickled Vegetables–were total duds.

Continue Reading

Easy Doughnuts (Sfince)

IMG_1.JPG

A dangerous thing to say after dinner is: “Do you want doughnuts?”

It’s a dangerous thing to say, because almost certainly the other person will say “yes” and then what do you do? Especially since most doughnut recipes require time for the yeasted doughnut dough to rise?

Here’s what you do: crack open Mario Batali’s first book, Simple Italian Food, and follow his recipe for Sfince. First of all, sfince is a funny word. It makes me think of an Andy Milonokis character who puts a “snf” sound at the start of every word. Only 1 person reading this will get that reference. Second of all, you can assemble the dough in a matter of minutes and as soon as the oil gets hot enough, you’ll be frying.

Are sfince as good as normal doughnuts? No, definitely not. But you douse them in powdered sugar and honey, and suddenly they’re very tasty. According to Mario, “this dough is caled pate a choux and it is used for profiteroles and Paris-Brest.” Anyone who read the Sunday Times Magazine section saw a whole essay about pate a choux, so you can take this recipe, fry the doughnuts, and then use them for all the things mentioned in that article. Fill them with ice cream and you have profiteroles; fill them with pastry cream and you have cream puffs. But if you want doughnuts, just eat ’em plain and tell your guest: “Hey, it may not be a normal doughnut, but I ain’t got time to make yeasted doughnut dough, fool.” They’ll appreciate it!

Continue Reading