Although nothing can be as delicious as this chunk of love right here, December saw a good bit of deliciousness emerge from my little green kitchen. I don’t know if people read blogs anymore, or if posts like this are of interest to anyone, but I want to try to write these each month as a way for me to continue to collect good food and find inspiration for those weeks that I feel like I have zero idea of what to feed my family.
I have been so happy in the kitchen these days, feeling like I am finally finding my place not just as a cook, but as a cook for a family of two adults and two toddlers (Drew is the easiest to feed these days…). My mother gave me Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for Christmas this year (delivered at Thanksgiving) and it has literally changed how my food tastes. Before I received the book, I was finally learning to remember just to add salt to my food while cooking, and to cook by taste. But Samin (the author… the Netflix series for this book makes all of us feel on a first name basis with her, I think) has only solidified those practices for me, as well as taught me some entirely new habits. I am making a lot of the same meals I always make and they already tasted good, but suddenly they are noticeably better. Salt and Samin are changing my cooking and we are all very happy about that.
Chicken paprikash: a hit in my household, although it was a bit spicier than suits my toddlers’ pallets. Still, it made a great lunch for my husband the next day and with buttered egg noodles dotted with chopped parsley, what is there to complain about?
Honey-Oat Pain de Mie: It took me finally realizing that I spend $4.45 on a loaf of bread at the market every week for toast to decide that I should just make bread myself. I am no expert (although bread is on my list of things to learn about this year), so this recipe is pretty fail-safe, and it is delicious. Soft, hearty, complex flavor (I do half whole wheat/half all purpose flour, which makes it more flavorful, I think), and perfect for toast in the morning or even just a slice of warm bread out of the oven at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Smashed and loaded crispy potatoes: My family loves potatoes, and I thank my mother for that. They are so delicious, so versatile, and yet so simple and familiar. These have the taste of the baked potatoes I remember eating at lunch when I was ten, but the texture of the best breakfast potatoes that have a crispy outside, soft center, and are accompanied by a pile of crunchy bits that are the highlight of the whole meal. I served these with a roast chicken, and then a few days later, pan fried in a bunch of butter (I have recently upped my butter purchases to two pounds a week and sometimes we don’t even make it seven whole days…) for leftover night and they were just as good, if not better, the second time around.
Speaking of… leftovers. I am finally understanding how to use them a bit better, or even how to create a complete meal with leftovers. My favorite means of leftovers is roast chicken. I have been using this recipe for months now, and it is, by far, the best chicken I’ve ever had, again and again and again. (Although last week topped them all, as I salted the chicken the night before, and oh man. So good.) It makes wonderful leftovers, too, especially if you make sure to scrape all the juices and greases out of the pan into the leftover container. One of my favorite things to accompany leftover night these days:
Quick, essential stovetop mac and cheese: I am weird and don’t like macaroni and cheese. I make the classic baked macaroni and cheese, topped with breadcrumbs, and only taste it for the sake of flavoring. I can’t even be tempted by the boxed Annie’s mac and cheese that my children love far more than the baked, homemade version. But this mac and cheese is actually one that I like to eat. I’m still not sold on it, but my husband absolutely loves it and it is so easy and seems like a better option (maybe?) than the boxed stuff. At least for dinner.
And I would be remiss to mention December if I didn’t end with the food event of the Lacy year: Christmas. A few weeks before Christmas, I arrived at my local farmer’s market meat stand, planning to just get my few meats for the week when I saw the recipe they posted on the glass case for Prime Rib in a Salt Crust. My innate need to eat something delicious for Christmas and to try something new and exciting-sounding sprang up and I locked down a 5+ pound piece of bone-in prime rib. The whole time I worked on it that day, I was terrified I would waste the money and have to serve my family and friends cereal for dinner. After the allotted cooking time, the thermometer read correctly, and I took the meat out to let it rest. After breaking the salt crust and cutting into it, my heart sunk as I thought there was no way it was done. So I quickly texted my mother a picture, and she responded with: “It is perfect. Exactly how prime rib should look. Send me some!” Music to an Odell daughter’s ears when their accomplished mother wants to eat their food. And it was, as she said, perfect.
Honorable mention goes to the potato gratin, which is my grandmother’s recipe, and the taste of Christmas for the Odells. Margaret was with us for Christmas, so we especially enjoyed getting to share that taste together.
I also made this beast of a coffee cake for our happy little Christmas breakfast, and it tasted anything but beastly.
Christmas is one of my favorite days of the whole year, and we marked it well. On to simpler, but just as tasty eats in January!