If there’s a cheese pairing associated with Valentine’s, it’s a glass of bubbly and a wedge of triple crème. Lovers who fall for this luxe combo tend to think of it as a supremely naughty indulgence – the apex of dairy gluttony. After all, “triple crème” suggests three times the fat of regular cheese.
Like Cupid, that’s a myth. Let me spread some beautiful truth: a hunk of hard cheese, like Pecorino or Parm, actually contains more fat by the pound than a wedge of runny Brie. That’s because there’s more moisture in soft cheese, meaning: more water. Hard cheese, on the other hand, is low in moisture and high in fat, making it far more decadent. MORE
I’m coming up on a milestone birthday (it rhymes with shmenty-five) and I’ve been doing some deep thinking and metaphor-exploring about this decade in a person’s life.
If the college years were a plastic bottle of Vladimir—painful but functional—then I’d say the mid-twenties have improved a little to Absolut. Specifically, though, they’re the last ounce left of a bottle of marshmallow-flavored Absolut in my old freezer. My roommate and I have no idea where it came from, or to what particular gathering it was towed, by whom. Nor do we quite like the flavor. But hey, it’s free, I guess. MORE
Typically, I plan party food according to two basic rules: one, make it delicious, and two, present it in a discrete form that can be picked up and brandished in the course of energetic conversation without spraying crumbs or dip everywhere. But for New Year’s Eve, which I usually spend with a close cadre of friends, I am willing to break the rules for lucky foods. New Year’s style so often seems to highlight glitter and glamor: sparkling beverages, spangle and shine on the clothes, twinkling lights—but the food is down-home, humble but filling and delicious. I simmer black-eyed peas to creaminess with a ham hock in a slow cooker. I leave the pork out of the collard greens in case of vegetarian guests, but I caramelize the onions with a smoky salt and deglaze with wine to make this humble green a little more dressy for the occasion. Soft, round rolls and the various offerings of other guests finish off the meal. Napkins are required. When we eat, I recite a litany cobbled together from memory and the Internet: the green folds of collards represent paper money and prosperity; the pork is a nod to the forward progress of the pig, who can’t walk backward; the black-eyed peas are looking to the future. MORE
Though I absolutely love champagne and prosecco and cava, the idea of sparkling-wine cocktails always has vexed me. I mean, if we’re really being honest, how many champagne-based cocktails truly are better than a lovely glass of champagne all by itself?
Just look at the classic namesake, the Champagne Cocktail, found in most bartenders’ guides: Into a champagne flute goes a sugar cube. Douse it with a few drops of Angostura bitters, then fill the glass with champagne. Maybe toss in a lemon peel. MORE
Let me be explicit about the conflict that informs my “Conflicted Kitchen” column here: I love food–making it and thinking about it and reading about it and eating it–but I hate gaining weight.
They say the average person gains 3 to 7 seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. One holiday season, I managed to put on 17 pounds in 21 days. This feat is easier than you might think. That year, there were cookie binges so intense that I ate every available Christmas cookie my mother had baked for the family and went on to pillage the neatly ribboned gift bags of treats she made for other people. MORE
Every December I decide to make an English steamed pudding, and every December I don’t make an English steamed pudding. Why not? Plum pudding sounds like the most magical Yuletide dessert, rosy and succulent and full of plums. Then I pull out a cookbook, read the ingredients, and remember why I’ve never made one. Plum pudding is not rosy and succulent and plummy; is is black, alcoholic, and raisiny. This would be ok with me, but no one else in my family would touch such a dessert. Figgy pudding, packed with dried fruit and rum, would be every bit as unpopular. So how could I ever have a steamed English pudding for the holidays? MORE
I recently decided to go gluten-free and, most of the time, it doesn’t really bug me. I don’t mind skipping the starchy foods I used to rely on for the easy quick-prep meals that characterized my diet. Of course, there are those little things I miss now and then, like whipping up a plate of fluffy pancakes on Sunday morning, or sinking my teeth into a really good slice of crispy thin-crust New York pizza.
But at this time of year, I’ve found myself only missing one thing: Cookies. When Thanksgiving ends and the holiday season officially begins, seemingly earlier than the year before, the pumpkin pies and cranberry scones disappear in favor of brightly decorated reindeer-shaped sugar cookies and wide-eyed smiling gingerbread men.
If you’re anything like me, you may be worried that your family won’t want to give up their usual holiday cookies in favor of gluten-free treats that you can enjoy. But here are some delicious alternatives everyone will love—so make sure you have extras! MORE
Seasonal winter beers have a long history; brewers across Europe often relied upon stronger recipes to help get through the coldest, darkest part of the year, and early American settlers continued in those traditions, which might be very broadly broken up into British Isles, Belgian, Scandinavian and central European categories.
British beers brewed for the winter season tended to be stronger than their year-round counterparts, but there was not necessarily a set ‘style’ as we divide up beers today – it might be classified as an old ale, a strong ale or something even less specific. Spices were rarely part of the equation; that was usually reserved for mulled wine, which was also traditionally served around the holidays. But even commercial Christmas beers are nothing new – British breweries had begun the practice as early as the 18th century. Eventually, some of those stronger, sweeter styles previous enjoyed anytime evolved into ‘winter’ beers, and some of the more well-known British beers we think of as Christmas beers fall into that category.
During my childhood, my parents always gave homemade gifts to their friends, co-workers, and employees during the holiday season. My dad would stir up industrial-sized batches of his super-secret pancake mix, package it in zip top bags, and pair it with jars of my mom’s blueberry jam.
In exchange, we’d receive plates of chewy homemade toffees, tins of dense, sugar-dusted pfeffernusse and giant bags of long-roasted Chex Mix. (I loved the nearly burnt bits most of all.)
Since becoming an adult, I’ve spent years searching out my signature holiday treat, so that I could have a thing that my friends and neighbors would look forward to each December. I’ve tried tiny frosted sugar cookies (too much work), dark chocolate toffees (delicious, but I could not abide the endless wrapping), and pumpkin seed brittle (good, but not everyone likes grassy flavor of pumpkin seeds). MORE
I looked down at the array of dishes on my “Swedish Sampler” during this year’s St. Lucia Festival at the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia. As I did, I thought of how little the food in front of me resembled the art-on-a-platter photos of trendy New Nordic cuisine I’ve seen everywhere in food magazines lately. Carefully placed elaborate foams and meticulously designed dustings of local dirt didn’t adorn the food. And there weren’t foraged mushrooms, bunches of fresh moss, or just-caught seafood anywhere to be found on the plate.
No, there was nothing “new” about my festive dinner. But it looked exactly like what most people think about when they think of Scandinavian food–a homey hodgepodge of old Nordic cuisine.
With foreign names like köttbullar, rödbets sallad, and knäckebröd, the food both intrigued and intimidated me. No traditional Swedish smörgåsbord buffet would be complete without herring, pickled salads, boiled potatoes, or lingonberry jam either. Having never had a taste of anything Nordic, I approached the meal cautiously. I knew that pickling was used frequently in the cuisine, so I expected vinegar to dominate and taste too unfamiliar for my American palate. MORE
With Thanksgiving now firmly behind us, the season of frenetic holiday shopping now begins. Between co-workers, neighbors, teachers, and family members, it seems like the list grows longer every year. I am happy to help!
No matter what stripe of eater or drinker for whom you’re shopping, I think I’ve found something they just might enjoy. Here are some of my favorite food-related giftables for the 2012 holiday season.
First of all, please know that I honestly do not lose sleep over what you drink for Thanksgiving. If you happen to enjoy white zinfandel or whipped cream vodka or Martinelli’s sparkling cider or Mountain Dew or kombucha… by all means, please enjoy that. I don’t care a whit if you pair the holiday bird with a Fuzzy Navel, a shot of Jagermeister and a chaser of Milwaukee’s Best. I’m not really one to offer unsolicited advice on what you should imbibe. Otherwise, I would probably have jumped off a bridge long before the holidays.
But since I write about booze for a living, each November I am asked—by people such as my readers or my editors or even my neighbors—to weigh in on what may be the ultimate First World Problem that we face: What beverage shall I ever pair with the Thanksgiving meal? Oh. My. God. Let the handwringing begin! MORE
When I set out to learn more about the source of the word turkey and some of its idiomatic variants, I had no idea that the research would lead me, well, on a wild goose chase.
Let’s start with the word for the bird. Turkeys are North American in origin; the domesticated fowl we raise today is the descendent of a slightly smaller wild bird found throughout the continent, though a cousin of this bird was domesticated in Mesoamerica long before Spanish explorers arrived. The Spanish called Mexican bird pavo, or peacock, after another fowl with spectacular plumage. Further north, English colonists thought the wild turkeys looked more like guineafowl, a small African bird that was imported to England through Turkey. Due to their trade origin, the guineafowl were sometimes called turkeys—and thereafter, so was the wild North American bird. In the nation of Turkey, as it happens, the bird is referred to as hindi, or from the country of India; in India, the bird is called peru, after the South American country; elsewhere in Europe, the turkey is known most commonly as “French chicken” and or “Indian chicken”—the latter generally refers to continental India. MORE
When it comes to Thanksgiving menu items, my family is the type that prefers tradition to experimentation. Throughout my childhood years, we ate nearly the same meal. A turkey, prepared and stuffed with seasoned bread cubes from Pepperidge Farms. Mashed russet potatoes with butter. Hubbard squash, steamed, drained of extra liquid and creamed with butter, salt, and freshly grated ginger. Briefly blanched green beans, dressed with more butter and toasted almond shards. Canned cranberry sauce. And two pies (apple and pumpkin) with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
It’s a fairly traditional spread, with just one glaring omission. There are no sweet potatoes to be found. My mom, unimpressed with the classic casserole constructed of canned potatoes, brown sugar and marshmallows she had been forced to eat as a child, banned orange tubers from her holiday table. MORE