There’s been some debate about whether or not you should serve salad at Thanksgiving.
My stance? A traditional salad — with wan lettuce leaves from a bag, dried cranberries (the most clichéd Thanksgiving salad ingredient), and toasted pecans — is a pretty depressing thing to see on the table, TBH. But, as I get older, my body does crave some kind of crunchy vegetable situation if I’m going to eat a lot of heavy food (turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc). So what’s a Thanksgiving chef to do? Enter the shaved Brussels sprout salad.
Sometimes people ask me if I barbecue and I say “no” and when they ask “why not?” I say: “Because I don’t really like my backyard.” And it’s true: we share one with our neighbors in our fourplex, and they’re all very nice, but it’s not very private and it also kind of looks out on to a gas station. So the idea of being back there for a long time with a pair of tongs and a brewski doesn’t really excited me much, even in summertime.
But that didn’t stop me last night from “grilling up” some steak. (“Grilling up” in quotes because, ya know, I wasn’t really grilling.) This dinner really was a triumph, if I do say so myself; I was welcoming Craig back from the Palm Springs Shorts Festival, where he spoke on a few panels. He was already glad to come home (Palm Springs is 105 degrees right now), but with this dinner he was even gladder. Let me tell you how I made it.
Our CSA continues to be a big boon to our diet, especially on Sunday mornings when the box arrives and I get to tear it open and make something right away for breakfast or lunch or a combination of those two meals (someone should come up with a name for that). Last week’s box contained some Boston lettuce, the box from the week before had golden beets that I hadn’t used yet. So, on Sunday at 11:30 AM, a vision slowly began to hatch in my brain: what if I roasted those golden beets and, at the same time, boiled a few eggs just so the whites firmed up and the yolks were runny. I could toss the lettuce with a mustardy dressing, using Dorie Greenspan’s mustard bottle technique and bring it all together like a golden vision.
A strange thing has happened to me recently. I’ve been working on a play (don’t ask any questions! it’s too soon) and also going to the gym five days a week so that, at the end of the day, I wander into Trader Joe’s (underneath my gym) in a sort of daze, eager to just grab some things to throw a tasty dinner together. In other words: by shifting my professional focus, I’ve actually gotten better at my profession because most people who read my blog wander into Trader Joe’s in a similar state at the end of the day and want to know how to put something tasty on the table. So it may come as a shock to you that I was able to make this, what seems like a highly involved dish, after arriving home at 6:30 in no mood to make a highly involved dish. It’s Chicken Milanese and it’s a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of a weeknight dinner.
You know how people say “pretty please with a cherry on top?” but the visual you get, from that request, is of an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and whipped cream? From now on, I want you to think about salad. Because cherries taste really good in salad. No, not cherries from a jar, I’m talking about cherries that show up, in season (like: now) at the farmer’s market. Look at the cherries in the picture above (which I procured from the West Hollywood farmer’s market) and tell me you’re not craving cherries. Well, crave them in salad.
There’s an eye-rolling threshold for home cooks when it comes to chef tricks. At some point, a chef will tell the home cook to do something that causes them (at least internally) to roll their eyes. “You want me to peel chickpeas before making hummus? REALLY?” That sort of thing. And I have to confess, even though the large majority of chefs I met writing my cookbook advised me to warm my serving dishes before serving hot food and chilling my dishes before serving cold food (like a salad), I secretly rolled my eyes at the idea. “I’ll never really do that,” I told myself.