The New York Times is having a tough moment and though some are basking in the scandal, I’d rather take the Ira Glass route and turn the other way. Well not so far that I stop actually reading the Times; it’s still the paper of record, as far as I’m concerned. And though I’ve griped about the Magazine food section growing a bit stale (can’t we get a few other writers into the mix?), I still read it regularly, along with the Dining section where many of the recipes–particularly those by Melissa Clark–earn a bookmark in my browser. Last week, though, two recipes earned a bookmark in my brain; Julia Moskin’s steak recipe–which involves cooking a high-quality steak in a cast iron skillet with no fat, just salt–and Sam Sifton’s smashed potatoes, both of which I made on Sunday night for Craig who’d just arrived back from screening The Skeleton Twins at the Seattle Film Festival.
A few months ago, when I first conceived of Sauce Week, I set out to make a dinner for myself that promised to be so outrageously decadent, I’d have to close my blinds before eating the first forkful. The premise was pretty basic–steak and potatoes–with one key difference. I was going to drench the whole thing in that most indulgent of French sauces, a sauce that contains more butter than most people eat in a month, yet a sauce so rich and sultry it’s pretty much the height of sophistication and elegance: I’m talking, of course, about Sauce Béarnaise.
I’m so mad at myself. I figured out how to make homemade potato chips in such an easy, head-smackingly simple way, I’m going to make them all the time and gain a million pounds. It all started when I thought about the shallow-frying technique I used to make pita chips and tortilla chips; why wouldn’t that work for potato chips? Turns out it does, better than expected. If I wanted to, I could have a plateful of homemade chips in front of you in 15 minutes. Warning: this is a dangerous thing to know how to do. You’ll never stop wanting to do it.
Now we all know the concept of the student beating the master and I don’t want to imply that my friend Diana was ever my student or that I was ever her master (though I was her roommate, which is kind of the same thing with me); what I’d like to imply, however, is that Diana–who was a timid cook when I lived with her–is now giving me a run for my money. I remember her not wanting to make a salad in front of me, back then, because she thought I’d be judgmental. Since then, and since moving in with her husband, she’s had a chance to hone her chops and by all accounts her chops are very good. Case in point: check out her potatoes.
I made a promise here on this blog and the promise went something like this: “I won’t blog more than three recipes from any particular cookbook because, after a certain point, people should just buy it.” Which is why I stopped blogging about one of my favorite new cookbook purchases (though not a new cookbook) because, pretty quickly, I posted three recipes from it. Now I have a 4th recipe which isn’t so much a recipe as it is a technique. So I’ll break my own rule but I sort of feel ok about it because (a) I won’t tell you what book it’s from; and (b) this technique is so straight-forward and simple, it may as well just be something your neighbor told you how to do rather than something from the pages of Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book. Oops.
Use what you got. That’s my best advice for cooking on weekend mornings. Make sure, on Friday, you’ve got eggs and coffee and some milk. After that, start your Saturday by raiding your fridge and putting together a breakfast that makes sense using as many disparate things that you can. Anyway, that’s my goal when I start my weekend and usually the breakfast that results is way better than one where I follow a recipe.
If I do a post on Friday, it’s usually because I have a weekend breakfast that I want you to make. There was that time I told you how to make eggs, biscuits and bacon; and let’s not forget these banana walnut waffles. This weekend, all you’ll need are a few stray Yukon gold potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, some slivers of garlic, finely chopped rosemary (use the fresh stuff) and a hard Italian cheese (Pecorino or Parmesan) and you can have this breakfast ready in no time.
It occurred to me last Thursday that one of the best recipes in my repertoire isn’t even something that I consider a recipe. It’s a thing that I’ve done for years and years–I talked about it in my video “How To Roast a Chicken”–and, yet, when I look at it by itself, separate from the main event, this thing that I do is pretty extraordinary. And that’s cutting small potatoes in half and placing them cut-side down around a whole chicken before it goes into the oven.