I’ve been meaning to make some form of sticky toffee pudding for at least a few years, ever since a friend of mine first waxed lyrical about one she’d had at a pub near our offices called the Shakespeare. At that point, I’d never had sticky toffee pudding or, possibly, even heard of it, but her description alone had me sold–of a sticky, soft, eat-it-with-a-spoon cake, gooey with dates and draped in an abundance of caramel sauce, served warm and ideally with ice cream on top (which, in and of itself, is enough to get me on board with anything).
What a strange, hard week this has been. It feels like it has been hard in every sense of the word — difficult, unyielding. I hope everyone is okay. This is the first of a number of recipes I’ve had saved up for these first few baby-filled months, and, thankfully, it is so very easy. I think “easy” was going to be my mantra in the kitchen for the foreseeable future no matter what, now that we have a little person to cuddle and feed and care for, but right now it feels particularly apt to share something that comes together without much effort, without any stress, to be a treat that soothes and indulges.
Every once in a blue moon, usually when we’re just about to fall asleep, B2 likes to come up with ideas for things I should cook next. I use “ideas” loosely, because it’s mostly a sleepy, intentionally goofy dialogue that consists of “what about …” followed by a long pause and things like “… homemade hot pockets!” (to be fair, that would be delicious) or “something with cheese” or “pumpkin toast.” (When I asked what pumpkin toast would be, like toasted pumpkin bread or toast with pumpkin on it or toasted pumpkin or what, his answer was, “You know. Pumpkin. Toast. Pumpkin toast.” And then he fell asleep. Two weeks later, I showed him this and he said, with glee, “See? It was a good idea!”)
So I think I’m about five years late to this party. But I am newly, and really, obsessed with dates. They are so good. How are they so good? I don’t know how I was so woefully misinformed, but up until a couple months ago I had this idea that dates were just a vague something to be nibbled on at your grandmother’s house if all the cookies were gone, or maybe used as a convenient vehicle for goat cheese and bacon, or admired from afar as a healthful “substitute-for” things I am generally reluctant to substitute. And then I was gifted a box of really great ones, with fancy things like orange peel and almonds tucked inside, and my world was totally rocked. This is probably news only to me at this point, but it turns out dates are pretty much candy. They have a consistency like caramel and nearly the same buttery taste; they’re sticky and soft and reminiscent of wonderful things like honey, cinnamon and molasses. B2 was unmoved by my date revolution (although he hasn’t gotten tired of responding to “Want a date?” with “I thought we were already married. Get it?”) but, with or without him, I’m fairly sure I’ve eaten my weight in them since April.
As much as I dread fall (mostly because of the season that-shall-not-be-named that comes after it), I have to admit that I secretly enjoy more things about it than any cold-weather hater should have the right to. There’s the undeniable coziness of multiple layers and fuzzy slippers, the soothing weight of a heavy comforter at night, the crisp in-between weather that’s cool enough for classy wool coats but not so cold that I’m resigned to rustly Michelin-Man puffer jackets; there’s the never-ending cornucopia of magical fall baking, from warm, spicy poached pears tucked into baked oatmeal and scones brushed with maple syrup to a surplus of pillowy baked bread and my very first challah. And, maybe best of all, there are magical things like virtual pumpkin parties, thanks to Sara of Cake Over Steak!
Last week I woke up to find that all the leaves outside our window were gone. Now that the trees are mostly bare, we can see a little sliver of the East River from our dining table; it glints blue-green and looks deceptively peaceful on cold, sunny mornings like the ones we had a whole spate of last week. Lately it’s been typical late fall, early winter fare around here — jam-packed schedules and everything hurtling at breakneck speed. Has it been like that for y’all? We’re staying put this Thanksgiving since we’re travelling for Christmas, and even though we’ll be missing our families, I think we’re both looking forward to a peaceful oasis later this week. (Plus, we’ve got oodles of Thanksgiving dumplings in our plans and we’re pret-ty pumped about them!)
Pinch dishes from The Fortynine Studio.
We had a mini impromptu Friendsgiving last weekend! Even in miniature, it was my first time putting together anything remotely like a Thanksgiving meal on my own, and it was so much fun. For the main, I braised an abundance of chicken legs using Jamie Oliver’s milk chicken recipe, which was life-changing and totally worth the hype, at least in my opinion (also, one day I will stop being scared and I will roast a whole chicken, I swear). For the salad we had mixed greens with ridiculously ripe Bosc pears and shaved Parmesan, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil — simple and easy. But my favorite dishes — as it should be with Thanksgiving — were these sides.
Happy Friday! Just popping in to wish you guys a happy weekend and to share these teeny apple crumbles, up on Verily Magazine today. These little guys were one of the first mini-fied “for two” recipes I made for this blog, and they’re still one of my all-time favorites. They’re unbelievably easy to make (seriously, you probably don’t need a recipe) and they have all the pairings I love in a little 4-ounce package: crisp textures on top matched with soft and comforting underneath, sweet notes with savory ones, warm gooey fall-spiced filling with cold ice cream. I’m especially in love with the cheddar in the crumble topping — it might be off-putting to some, but I promise it’s so delightful. Far from being jarring, the cheddar melts into a subtle nutty, savory note that’s barely but happily noticeable, and adds a little chewy resiliency to the crust that I adore. You can find the full recipe here. I hope you all have fantastic weekends!
So this may seem odd, given my great and well-documented love for Southern comfort food, but I’m not usually the biggest fan of mashed potatoes. To me they’re like the vanilla extract of side dishes — potentially delicious, but usually in need of a partner.
When I was a kid, my dad used to drive me to KFC as a treat once in awhile after piano lessons or swim practices. Man, I got all up in that meal. Two piece meal, all legs, Original, mashed potatoes and coleslaw, please, thank you. But I’m pretty sure I spent half my time (after tearing into those Original chicken legs like a starved shipwreck survivor) trying to figure out how to make those mashed potatoes more palatable. Leftover fried chicken bits mixed in? Spread thick on a biscuit? With … the coleslaw? (I wish I could say I didn’t try that, but I did. … And I liked it.) However you slice it, the mashed potatoes were the one thing on that plate I didn’t devour with single-minded ferocity.
I realize I’m making it sound like I was very into my KFC experience. I was. I was very into KFC.
Anyway. I’ve come to realize that making mashed potatoes from scratch does a thing or two or trillion for them. But a few months ago, I came across these glorious-looking roasted garlic smashed potatoes on The Baker Chick, and that was a real game-changer.
First, this salt potato thing is genius. Boil the potatoes in well-salted water, pasta-style, and the result is a flavorful skin and a creamier potato. Smash it all up with butter and milk, leaving the skins
because you’re lazy because they’re nutritious and have fiber and such. Then, add to that a couple of cloves of golden fried garlic. (That should have been one awesome head of roasted garlic, but I got impatient.) Finally, throw in one pan of sage leaves crisped up in brown butter? It turns out mashed potatoes can do the damn thing all on their own after all.
One of my favorite restaurants back home serves a mean creamed corn. Decadent, syrupy-sweet, almost like a custard. (Whenever my dad orders it and the waitress asks if we’d like dessert, he always says, “Got my dessert right here!” and holds it up with big grin. My father is a faithful subscriber to the school of Jolly Dad Banter.) To me, it’s one of the ultimate comfort foods, a dish that typifies warm, indulgent Southern nourishment.