Sometimes it’s nice to cook for friends who favor a particular cuisine because it steers you in a new direction. Normally, I default to European/Mediterranean things like pastas and chicken with couscous and preserved lemon and stuff like that. My friends Jim and Todd (you know them!) are Tex-Mex fans and so, when I cooked for them last week, I decided to pull The Homesick Texan Cookbook off the shelf to delight them with food that they love. Turns out, I love it too and now I have some new dishes up my sleeve to pull out at dinner parties. The one I’m most excited about? Queso with Chorizo (it’s in the title of the post, duh.)
When we were in Berlin this past July, at a restaurant called Renger-Patzsch, our dinner ended with the perfect punctuation mark of a dessert: a chocolate tart with apricots and vanilla ice cream. It was memorable for its combination of elegance and simplicity; a tart isn’t easy to do, but this one, somehow, seemed effortless. I made a mental note that if I were ever going to cook a meal with European flair, I’d end it in a similar way. My moment came on Saturday, after I served that pork shoulder braised in Guinness to some friends.
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.
I’m a pie fool which isn’t the same thing as being a fool for pie. Julie Klausner recently pointed out in her podcast that Jews are cake people, Christians are pie people. From my own life experience, I find that to be true: my Jewish parents and grandparents, when at a social gathering, would put out cake. My dad would eat Entenmann’s crumb cake or lemon coconut cake at home for breakfast or dessert. I can’t recall a single time that a pie ever made an appearance at my house in my childhood. Whereas Craig, who grew up in a Christian family in Bellingham, Washington, ate pie. His dad makes a killer apple pie; pie is part of the fabric of their existence. Which is probably why when I make a cake, I could eat the whole thing and Craig will have a little slice; when I make a pie (especially apple), he goes nuts for it.
Sometimes I write recipe posts where I share a recipe at the end and other times I write recipe posts where the recipe is embedded in the post itself. There’s a reason for that!
Recipe posts where the recipe’s at the end are the kinds of recipes where specific amounts matter; recipe posts where I just write a recipe as part of a larger narrative are recipes where you can just wing it. So, Sam Sifton’s Pear Cobbler? You need to follow those instructions. But my Butternut Squash Soup with Whiskey Ginger Cream? That’s a totally improvised recipe and I wanted to give you the power to improvise your own version. If I’d written that with specific amounts, chances are you would’ve just replicated what I did instead of doing it your own way. The soup will taste better if you do it your way.
Remember yesterday when I posted about making salsa verde with a mortar and pestle? And remember this morning how I linked to a Huffington Post piece I wrote about roasting a chicken? Now it all comes together in this post, a post that begins with a confession: last week, I made a meal on Monday that I loved so much, I made it again on Friday. This is that meal.
My favorite way to cook, the cooking that makes me happiest, is the kind of cooking you do on the fly: no planning, no prepping. You just see what you have already on hand and you make dinner. And often that dinner is way better than the dinner you spend a week prepping for, shopping for and methodically executing. I have a theory about this. The theory involves cravings: the food that you crave in a specific moment directly correlates to something that your body wants. So, when you’re making dinner on the fly, if you add an extra pinch of red chile flakes? That’s because your body’s craving some heat. And that’s why the dinner you make on the fly is often so satisfying.
For as long as I’ve been cooking, I’ve been making the pumpkin bread you see in the above photo. (Proof: see this old post from 2004.) It’s one of the easiest recipes I know–dump a bunch of stuff into a bowl, stir it together, and bake it–and the rewards are rich: the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg will waft softly from the oven as you do the dishes and because the recipe makes two loaves, you can freeze one of them to enjoy later on in the month. The only tricky ingredient you’ll need to find is a can of pumpkin and that’s not tricky at all.