Bacon-wrapped shrimp: Ron Swanson’s favorite food wrapped around his third-favorite food.
(Ed: I’m going to write about Parks and Recreation and make some references to events that unfolded in this most recent season, but there are are no spoilers about the actual finale here as I wrote this prior to it being aired.)
To thoroughly transpose a line from Shakespeare, I come not to bury Parks and Recreation, but to praise it. After all, It was truly the little sitcom that could–much like its spiritual predecessor, it started out with a shaky and short first season and then quickly found its footing with its second–but for whatever reason it never was able to break out to a huge audience despite being one of the smartest and funniest comedies on TV. To be an ardent fan meant knowing the show was constantly on the brink of cancellation year after year (with few exceptions), so while I’m annoyed that NBC has decided to burn off this final season by airing episodes back-to-back for seven weeks, I’m grateful that the series was able to make it to 125 episodes in the first place.
There are so many things to love about this show, but I think what may stay with me the most is that no other show, certainly in recent memory, used food to comedic effect better than Parks.* (30 Rock came close with its night cheese and a dogs taking steaks and Cheesy Blasters, though.) Whether it was grandiose set pieces like the Snake-Juice-fueled disaster from “The Fight” to the simple act of Tom Haverford singing “this is how you eat it” before diving into a hot pepper, food so often served as a springboard for fantastic comedic moments but also showed that it could forge bonds between even the most unlikeliest of people. In a recent interview Michael Schur noted that food (and specifically breakfast food) was a way for Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson specifically to come to an accord despite deeply different political viewpoints:
They are such different people, and we independently arrived at Leslie + waffles and Ron + bacon, so suddenly it seemed like a point of overlap. I always thought of it as hopeful. There is an old trick of diplomacy, where if you have two warring factions who agree to sit down at a table, you first choose something very simple and uncontroversial that they can agree on. You say, “What does everyone want to drink, water or motor oil?” When they all say water, you have begun the session with a point of mutual agreement. For Leslie and Ron, a 19th-century libertarian and a 21st-century progressive, that thing is breakfast food.
Spaghetti with Mixed Citrus and Parsley
Well, I hope you’re happy, you who yearn for fall and start pinning pictures of pumpkins and sweaters and boots on Pinterest in JUNE and/or have excited countdowns for the start of football season. It might seem irrational to blame a certain group of people for the bitter cold and varying degrees of snow outside, but someone has to take the blame for this and I’m going to aim it at anyone who hopes for summer to come and go quickly and for fall to start immediately after Labor Day. Because the more hype there is around all things autumnal, the more likely we seem to be destined to get a brutal winter. I know I really shouldn’t complain because for the most part we’ve only been dealing with brutal cold while our friends in New England have been getting terrifying/downright absurd levels of snow, but the average high here for this time of year is supposed to be in the mid-forties.
As I write this, the current temperature is SEVENTEEN, and we’ll be lucky if we get into the high twenties today. I’m all for hygge and coziness and the like, but at some point I’d also like us to move closer in the direction of springtime. Read More
Eggs in pots/ouefs en cocotte
It’s kind of surreal when I consider how much I used to hate eggs given that I’ll have them any time of day nowadays, but I think that my former distaste for them is rooted in the fact that I prefer my eggs on the slightly runnier side rather than cooked to oblivion, and growing up the latter is what we usually had at breakfast on the weekends. (The fact that I would also eat them with pancake syrup–and yes, pancake syrup and not real maple syrup–probably had something to do with it too.) I’m glad that I eventually came to this realization because otherwise I would be missing out on so many fast and relatively inexpensive dishes as well as the health benefits of the egg itself.
Of all the ways I love them–softly scrambled, poached, in an omelette or tortilla, or even baked in a sauce–I think my absolute favorite is the French classic ouefs en cocotte. It’s so easy to make, can be endlessly modified to one’s own taste, and unlike omelette cookery requires very little actual cooking skill aside from safely removing the ramekin from the hot water bath (or bain marie) when it’s done. Rachel Khoo’s take on this dish was what finally got me on board with it as she employed some creme fraiche and salmon roe along with nutmeg and dill to bring it together, and then later when I was flipping through Mimi Thorrison’s cookbook I found her version that employed mushrooms and onions cooked in a red wine sauce to also pique my interest. I tried Rachel’s first during a stint when Michael was away on business, and initially I was really frustrated with it because when I would check in after twelve minutes, then fifteen, and then twenty, it didn’t seem like anything was actually happening. I think I let it stay in there for twenty-five minutes altogether and was preparing myself to spoon into a fully-cooked egg yolk, but happily it was far runnier than I expected. When Michael and I tried Mimi’s version a few months later we also let the eggs go for longer than prescribed and yet the results were similar. It was then when it dawned on Michael where the disconnect lay: given that both of these women are European, they are naturally accustomed to using eggs that aren’t refrigerated. No refrigeration means that egg-cooking times are going to be much shorter as a rule. Read More
Deconstructed Cheesecake with cheesecake foam and blackberry ravioli
In the past I’ve mentioned how Michael is not much of a dessert person but that the introduction of the iSi has changed that–if only slightly–but there is one dessert he loves and yet we never make at home: cheesecake.
(I’d make a bad joke about being a ‘bad wife” and not making it for him, but seriously–if he really wanted it that badly he would have made some himself by now. He did ask my mother for some baking tips to make one over Christmas so perhaps when I see a springform pan appear in an Amazon order I’ll know that he’s serious about giving one a try.) In all fairness, there was a really, really good reason for why we never made it when we lived in either New York or Stamford: one cheesecake is way too much for two otherwise reasonable people to eat, and to be completely frank we’d probably end up like Rachel and Chandler from the Friends episode “The One With All the Cheesecake,” driven to cheesecake-induced madness:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdYy_7rsLKk Read More
Cured Beef with Watercress Salad from Hawksmoor at Home
I’m not sure what it was that made me think making salt-cured beef in the fridge was a perfect idea for a chilly January weekend, but all I do know is that when I took out our copy of Hawksmoor at Home one Thursday morning before breakfast and I flipped open to that page, my stomach growled. Audibly. It also seemed so simple and the flavors so perfect to this time of year, since you grate up quite a bit of celery root and throw in some rosemary springs to meld with the salt and brown sugar–I mean, it was practically begging me to give it a try. Michael was sold on it pretty quickly, so over lunch I went out in search of ingredients and was able to place a lovely, just-over-one-pound piece of tenderloin into the cure and then into the fridge and I could feel very pleased that half of my Saturday dinner prep was well underway.
Goat cheese with kumquat-rosemary marmalade
Signs you probably have been watching too much Top Chef via Hulu recently:
- You’re obsessed with timing and food prep, to the point where you have no issue doing significant prep work on a weekend afternoon because you’re paranoid something is going to happen when you actually get down to cooking dinner for real.
- You really, really want a GIF of Dale Talde yelling “FUCK” after his team lost the mise en place relay race before Wedding Wars because you need it to express your frustration with so many things in life. (Unfortunately it’s not in this clip but this is as close as I could get it.)
- You’re very upset that you can’t make one yourself and be done with it.
- You get very strong inclinations to make everything from Tom Colicchio’s cookbooks.
- You get feelings of anxiety when you go into your new-to-you supermarket because you know if you only had 30 minutes to shop you would be TOAST and not get half of the things you needed.
The Hermès Madeleine
We’ve been in Baltimore for a month as of yesterday, and while there are adjustments to make like finding new food and wine stores and getting accustomed to driving around in a real city, overall the move has been a very positive one. We were mostly unpacked by the time New Year’s rolled around largely thanks to Michael going through box after box during his time off work, and even now we just have to figure out where to hang and/or place the remaining pictures we have stashed around the apartment.
(We also have to get used to living in a city with an actual football team again, and moreover living not that far from the stadium. We were spared the brunt of the excitement this year but I imagine next fall we won’t be making many plans to venture out on Sundays unless it’s to places we can walk.)