parmesan oven risotto

I’ve always struggled with risotto, the classic Northern Italian rice dish that gets creamy from slow cooking in broth. Even when I’ve accepted the work involved — most recipes tell you to separately have a pot of warm broth …

I’ve always struggled with risotto, the classic Northern Italian rice dish that gets creamy from slow cooking in broth. Even when I’ve accepted the work involved — most recipes tell you to separately have a pot of warm broth and to ladle it in, stirring, for the better part of an hour — the flavor, which often tastes odd to me when I used non-homemade broth, or the texture, which seems perfect for about 5 minutes and then often too gloppy, throws me. And yet it’s one of the coziest things to make in the winter, and can even be used to distract children who believe that pasta is the only acceptable carb. The last year, as I’ve spent much time looking around my kitchen for simpler approaches to our favorite foods as we’ve been home for almost all of our meals [see: these tacos, this bolognese, this roast chicken, these cookies, this galette], I’ve realized that almost everything I believed was mandatory about risotto is not, and you can make this golden, cozy, rich bowl ignoring every “rule.” Lucky us.

what you'll needshort-grain riceonion and garlicadd the rice

Without further ado, here are four moderately controversial opinions about risotto:
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lemon and lime mintade

Last week was a Lot. I ventured into it buzzing with adorably ambitious New Year’s intentions to, like, get things done, and spent most of it glued to a screen, furious and frustrated. As I mentioned in this morning’s newsletter, I…

Last week was a Lot. I ventured into it buzzing with adorably ambitious New Year’s intentions to, like, get things done, and spent most of it glued to a screen, furious and frustrated. As I mentioned in this morning’s newsletter, I’ve often felt that January is a blur and this one is particularly so. Armed insurrections are not a subject I know how to discuss in any meaningful way in a recipe headnote. But if you’re feeling like you’re in a fog, do know that you’re not alone.

Because feeding times at my zoo must go on as scheduled or it gets particularly feral around here, I did make three new things last week, all from The Flavor Equation [Amazon, Bookshop], a fascinating new cookbook from Nik Sharma in which he uses his molecular biology background to apply what he knows about the science of taste to recipe development. He also has an excellent palate, demonstrated through years of blogging at A Brown Table. I made the book’s shaved brussels sprout salad with crispy shallots, the coconut chicken curry, and then, because it sounded so impossibly refreshing, this lemon and lime mintade. It was inspired by one Sharma had on a long intentional flight that, although 16 hours long, sounds positively dreamy right now, some 1600 weeks into this pandemic.Read more »

baked brie with balsamic red onions

Despite my deep affection for cheese, to the point that one of my favorite things to do on a New York City weekend is to dip into Murray’s and treat us to something crumbly or aged or rich and runny, I don’t love cheese plates. It …

Despite my deep affection for cheese, to the point that one of my favorite things to do on a New York City weekend is to dip into Murray’s and treat us to something crumbly or aged or rich and runny, I don’t love cheese plates. It feels really good to get this off my chest. At first, it was just a budget issue; I still feel the sticker shock from the first time I tried to put together one of those cute boards with five or six different wedges on them, plus the crackers, breads, pickles, dried fruit, toasted almonds, olives, cured meats, and all of the other minimum requirements of our latter-day horns of plenty. But I was also put off by the waste. Even though so much went unfinished, the leftovers were unsalvageable, as fingers, forks, knives, and crumbs got into everything (a particularly shuddering thought in the age of Covid). Instead, when people come over, or what I remember of it, I prefer to focus on one or two decadent, attention-grabbing things and nothing grabs attention on a cold winter day like warm, runny cheese.

make a flaky galette doughwilt onions in butterbalsamic jammy red onionsassembly, not cutebrush with egg washready to bake

Baked brie was all the entertaining rage in the 1970s and 80s. Nothing was more glamorous but accessible, an imported cheese that everyone knew and could pronounce. But as Americans got more sophisticated about imported cheese — manchego! Humboldt Fog! — in a crushing fall from grace, brie became the opposite of chic. And this is where my interest piqued — dated and unhip, you say? Where can I sign up?

baked brie with balsamic red onions

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small-batch eggnog

Despite it not coming naturally to me, a person with a framed ketubah on her bedroom wall, I love Christmas with abandon — the lights, the windows, the big tree, baking all formats of gingerbread, making snowflakes, singing Santa Baby of…

Despite it not coming naturally to me, a person with a framed ketubah on her bedroom wall, I love Christmas with abandon — the lights, the windows, the big tree, baking all formats of gingerbread, making snowflakes, singing Santa Baby off-key while my kids cover their ears and beg me to stop. My family is used to going along with my December whims and often even enjoying them too, but my husband draws the line at eggnog; he doesn’t like it, even though he is wrong. For many years I went without — not caring for the carton stuff, too nervous to order it at a bar, and not feeling committed enough to make a whole carafe, just for me.

what you'll need

And then I started making small-batch ‘nog and all was right with the holidays again. A few years ago I whittled a standard eggnog recipe down to a single egg — as bakers know, about as far as any of us wish to divide anything — and then adjusted everything to taste. You whisk it up in two jars, right in the moment, because it requires no planning ahead, and it makes the perfect amount for two tumblers. Or, the perfect amount to put in a small jar and stick in a gift bag, because people who love eggnog who know people who love eggnog understand that we should not be deprived.

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gingerbread yule log

Because I’m a restless cook, never interested in making things I already know how to, a couple years ago I challenged myself to turn my favorite gingerbread cake into a roulade. Or, yes, a Yule log.* Five bottles of molasses, two jars of…

Because I’m a restless cook, never interested in making things I already know how to, a couple years ago I challenged myself to turn my favorite gingerbread cake into a roulade. Or, yes, a Yule log.* Five bottles of molasses, two jars of ground ginger, a gallon of heavy cream, several frantic pleas to friends that I had too much Yule log in my apartment and would they please come take some home, and two Christmases later, stop what you’re doing, you are going to love this.

gingerbread yule log

My goal was a holiday baking project that feels festive, looks a little fancy, but where every step is totally doable. You don’t need to have pre-committed to a life of fussiness to make this. You don’t need an elaborate sprinkle collection, gold leaf, piping bags, or a candy thermometer; we’re not even going to separate eggs. The cake is one-bowl, can be whisked by hand, takes all of 5 minutes to make the batter and 8 minutes to bake it. It rolls, unrolls, and rolls again without cracking — I would never lie to you. The filling is just whipped cream because as tempted as I was to make an eggnog-flavored German buttercream filling, I prefer gingerbread with barely sweetened, slightly tang cream. The cranberries are sugared. And the bark? Wait until I tell you about the bark. [Me, to every friend who I texted with yesterday, despite none of them actually asking me about the bark.]

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brussels sprout and bacon frittata

As a Content Creator (appended with a saracastic ™), I can tell you that December is a weird time. All we want are buttery cookies, heavily spiced cakes, and luxe cocktails and if sparkly string lights were edible, probably that too. Who can b…

As a Content Creator (appended with a saracastic ™), I can tell you that December is a weird time. All we want are buttery cookies, heavily spiced cakes, and luxe cocktails and if sparkly string lights were edible, probably that too. Who can blame us? This year — as we try, against what sometimes feels like stacked odds, to find cheer and festivity wherever we can concoct it — the singular devotion to December decadence seems even stronger. I can put the whole internet to sleep merely by saying, “So, how about some salad?”

all preppeda not-small amount of baconadd shallotsthen brussels

But what about dinner? It’s still happening, right? [I didn’t say breakfast. That will be a jelly doughnut with a latke chaser, obviously.] Much as I try to ignore it some days, 5pm arrives and with it the “Wait, we don’t have a dinner plan?” conversation as we go through the list of things we have and try to find those in the very narrow Venn diagram of what most of us want to eat or want to cook, 5pm becomes 6pm and the Small and Hangry are demanding treats.

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vanilla custard slices

I made these vanilla custard slices from Edd Kimber in August and we loved them — they’re like a rustic Napoleon or mille-feuille, at a fraction of the fuss — but declared them “not August food” and better saved f…

I made these vanilla custard slices from Edd Kimber in August and we loved them — they’re like a rustic Napoleon or mille-feuille, at a fraction of the fuss — but declared them “not August food” and better saved for December because they feel elegant and a little festive. But now it’s December and, at times, I know it can feel like we will need a jeweler’s loupe to find some of this promised festivity. There are essays about what a bummer this holiday season promises to be. There are articles about what a dark winter is ahead. There are dire warnings about overwhelmed health systems. Listen, I am in charge of absolutely nothing — not even my own children listen to me — but I hereby give us permission to read none of these articles. Real life can be enough of a drag; we have absolutely no moral imperative to absorb additional gloom.

what you'll needdock the pastry with a forkweight the pastry while baking itbake puffed pastrycook, stirringcook until thickened

Instead, I’ve been keeping a log of things I consider mood elevators. We went to a museum last weekend for the first time since last winter, and then an aquarium. We walked on Brighton Beach the weekend before, and got some dumplings to go. I splurged on some votives I’ve always loved and gifted others, and filled each with a candle, because the sun sets at approximately 2:30pm right now. We have vases and jars filled with knots of these wiry lights. We are “making” Hanukah candles, like we do every year. We are baking through jars of molasses, cinnamon, and ginger. We are making carafes of Irish cream, and finding ways to distribute them to friends. I’m trying to bury myself in books, but I loved the last one I read so much, I might just read it again (permission granted for this too). We’re going to cut snowflakes. We are going to ignore my husband’s protests and watch some terrible-wonderful holiday movies.

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sour cream and chive fantails

It would not be the Smitten Kitchen if I wasn’t popping in here, chaotic as ever, 24 hours before the cooking- and eating-est day of most of our years, to suggest a new recipe for your menus, that, judging by my DMs, you settled weeks ag…

It would not be the Smitten Kitchen if I wasn’t popping in here, chaotic as ever, 24 hours before the cooking- and eating-est day of most of our years, to suggest a new recipe for your menus, that, judging by my DMs, you settled weeks ago. Good news, however, there’s no timestamp on dinner rolls, especially ones as wonderful as these. If anything, I don’t think we eat them often enough — you know, just because it’s Wednesday.

what you'll needassistancedividecut into strips

One of my favorite recipe concepts from late Gourmet years is Ruth Cousineau’s buttermilk fantail rolls. It’s a startling simple recipe — a buttery, yeast-raised roll — with a brilliant twist: rolling it thin, brushing it with butter, stacking it in little piles of squares, turning each into the cup of a muffin tin. In the oven, the rolls spring open like a fantail, just the loveliest thing. Why make ordinary rolls if you could make rolls that evoke a highly agile bird known for taking intricate looping flights through the air, entrapping prey in their fanned tails? Or if that’s not the energy you want on your holiday table, Gourmet described them at the time as a “blooming flower, with each petal forming a perfect pull-apart bite.”

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corn pudding

In other years, the ones when it was safe to have guests, my favorite thing to ask when planning a Thanksgiving menu was for everyone to tell me what their essential dish is, the one if they come to dinner and it’s not on the table, they…

In other years, the ones when it was safe to have guests, my favorite thing to ask when planning a Thanksgiving menu was for everyone to tell me what their essential dish is, the one if they come to dinner and it’s not on the table, they throw a (hopefully) muted, inner tantrum. This is where all menus should begin, right? It was from this question that I learned that after stuffing, naturally, and long before turkey (sorry, turkey), a dish I had not grown up with — corn pudding — is one of the most popular on American Thanksgiving tables. Because I usually respond, “Great! Now you know exactly what to bring!” and friends have delivered, I’ve since learned what I’d been missing and I’m now fully converted.

here's what you needblend half the cornmix with remaining kernelsbrown butter

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potato and leek gratin

Because I do not often crave potatoes slow-baked in a cream bath with a burnish of cheese and fine crunch top, when I do, I know exactly how I want it to taste and how much work I’m willing to do to make it happen. Since it’s been …

potato and leek gratin

Because I do not often crave potatoes slow-baked in a cream bath with a burnish of cheese and fine crunch top, when I do, I know exactly how I want it to taste and how much work I’m willing to do to make it happen. Since it’s been eleven years (!) since I last shared a potato gratin here, I think it’s worth revisiting as we head into gratin season, which is not a thing, I absolutely just made that up, but really should be for colder weather and shorter days.

what you'll needthinly slicedalternate direction of stacked handfulsnudge in leeks

I prefer my potatoes unpeeled; I like the definition on the edges as they bake up. I prefer stacks of potatoes leaning this way and that versus the traditional flat layers, because it creates more texture and a looser density. I love big chunks of leeks in a potato gratin, not sautéed and hidden, but wedged in all over, sharing the spotlight. I prefer cheese only on top and while I like crumbs, too, they have to be tossed in butter first so they remind me of buttered toast and not, say, sawdust. And while I in the past have made gratins with milk and/or half-and-half, I feel especially at this moment in time that if we’re going to do anything, we might as well do it spectacularly, and that will require heavy cream. Not so much that the potatoes are drowning, but enough that they bake up to the luxurious texture that makes a gratin worth daydreaming about.

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