A Menu for December (Parsnip Soup, Beef and Mushroom Stew, Ginger Cake)

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We got a tree, a Christmas tree, and it’s my first one–Rabbi Schlomo, plug your ears–and it’s making our apartment seem so festive. Somehow I thought getting a tree would be a big ordeal: with the lights and the stand and the balls and the baubles. But, actually, it was a totally easy process. On the advice of my friend John, we went to the Target in Eagle Rock where we stocked up on all the tree necessities (a tree skirt, to attract male trees; lights, balls, etc.) and then we bought a tree right outside at a pop-up tree farm. The tree came on a stand so we just carried it through the door, stood it up, and started wiring the lights. Voila. Now all we had to do was to have people over to enjoy the tree, which is why I spent some time figuring out the perfect December menu.

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Psychedelic Purple Risotto

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Cooking is a lot like writing in many ways; the further along I get as both a writer and a cook, the more I notice the similarities. For example, in both writing and cooking, clarity is key. You can fill a sentence with lots of high-falutin words, just like you can fill a dish with lots of high-falutin ingredients, but if the idea doesn’t come across, then you’ve wasted your time. Another similarity? Breaking the rules. It’s fine to break the rules in both writing and cooking–see: Pale Fire, the Cronut–but you’ve got to know the rules before you break the rules. And so it was that on Sunday, I had some purple carrots from my CSA, along with asparagus and red wine, and I decided to go bonkers making something I know how to make very well: risotto.

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Shirtless Ryan Gosling Cookies

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Taking liberties with a recipe is one thing, taking liberties with a recipe name is another. When Dorie Greenspan first published the recipe for Pierre Hermé’s famous double chocolate cookies, they were called “Korova Cookies” for the restaurant where they were served in Paris. Then, one day, Dorie’s neighbor told her that the cookies were good enough to bring about world peace, so she renamed them World Peace Cookies and that went a bit viral. For some strange reason, though, these cookies never made an appearance in my kitchen. Maybe it’s because, in my small-mindedness, I thought: “How good could chocolate chocolate cookies be?” Then, last week, I made them and they were so good, so instantly adored, I knew I had to give them an even more appropriate name; the kind of name that could make a viral cookie go even more viral. And so Shirtless Ryan Gosling Cookies were born.

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Mastering The Art of Roast Chicken

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Here was the deal: my favorite roast chicken recipe is this one from Thomas Keller. (Sidebar: I’m currently in San Francisco and last night I ate at Zuni, and as I was leaving the bathroom who did I lock eyes with? Thomas Keller. Turns out he goes to the bathroom too; food gods are just like us!) The problem, though, is that the Thomas Keller roast chicken with root vegetables is an event. It requires that you use your roasting pan; it involves a shopping-cart full of turnips, rutabaga, carrots, onions, and potatoes. It’s not really practical for a weeknight. As for my usual weeknight roast chicken, I’d normally wind up putting the chicken in my All-Clad metal skillet so that I could make a sauce in there afterwards (see here), roasting the vegetables separately. That was OK. Then I remembered my trusty friend the cast iron skillet. What if I did the Keller thing in there? What happened next will astound you (how’s that for an UpWorthy paragraph ender?).

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The Best Apple Pie I’ve Ever Made

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Memorize this fact about apple pie making, and you’ll be set for life: it’s not about the recipe, it’s about your state of mind.

That nugget comes from Craig’s dad, the master of apple pie (see here), who’s said to me, in the past: “I think you’re overthinking it.” And in the past I had overthought it over and over again. But the truth is once you understand the WHY of everything, the rest takes care of itself. And that’s what helped me produce the best apple pie I’ve ever made, the one you see above.

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My New Favorite Fall Salad

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Sometimes there’s a salad that you like, but don’t love, and then you change a few things about it and suddenly it’s your new favorite salad. That’s what happened with this salad, a familiar combination of apples and fennel and walnuts and golden raisins and arugula. It’s one you can probably find in my archives and that recipe in my archives is good but not great. This one is great. What’s the difference?

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Corn Soup As Pure As Gold

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There’s a corn soup that you need to know about before the corn goes away and, sadly, the corn’s going away pretty soon. Grab some, OK? The sweet stuff. You’re about to make a corn soup that’s so good even people who hate corn soup–CRAIG’S PARENTS–will declare it wonderful. (I didn’t know Craig’s parents hated corn soup when I made this for them…more on that in a bit.) Confession: I took beautiful pictures of this recipe and the process of making it and then lost them, somehow, on the journey from my camera to my computer. So you’re stuck with these ones from my phone, but bear with me. It’s worth it.

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Tasty Sheet Pan Pizza That May Actually Be Focaccia

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Some food people are real sticklers for words and what they mean. For example: pizza. I consider the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza (developed by Nancy Silverton) to be some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, but there are detractors out there who call it focaccia because it’s so puffy. I’m pretty sure it’s pizza for a few reasons: 1. it’s round; 2. it’s cooked in a wood-burning oven; 3. the name of the restaurant is Pizzeria Mozza.

Still, even I had to raise an eyebrow at the pizza I just made from the cover of this month’s Bon Appetit. The dough is a clever riff on Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread. Though this one you knead, for 12 minutes, and then let it rest–and ferment–overnight in the fridge.

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