chicken soup for the (flu-ridden) soul

“I want soup,” I said to my mother, thrusting Small Victories in front of her, open to the page featuring Aunt Renee’s Chicken Soup. In January, I was feeling absolutely dreadful with what I would later learn was the flu. It was about 2 pm–not a perfect time to begin making homemade chicken stock. My mom implored me to find a different recipe that I wanted to eat, one that didn’t take upwards of 5 hours, but I didn’t want anything else. Throwing caution and a fully-fleshed out chicken stock to the wind, I sent my dad to the store with a grocery list and patiently waited.

My mom said she would make the soup for me, but I ended up doing most of it myself–she was doing other work, I was lurking in the kitchen sticking my nose in the stockpot, impatiently stirring, and waiting for the scents of onion, dill, and chicken to bloom.

Homemade chicken soup requires patience and time, neither of which I had an abundance of that day. While the stock simmered and developed on the stovetop, I made biscuits for the first time, using a quick recipe from Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook. Biscuits are one of those foods that seem so…ancestral. The paternal, Jewish Egyptian side of my family was likely not making any, but my mother’s old Texan side surely made their fair share. I wanted to use schmaltz in place of lard (thus bringing my two lineages to a beautiful collision) but our only container was frozen solid so I used shortening. I would love to thaw that schmaltz and try it out with these biscuits, though. They ended up pretty good, but what isn’t when slathered in apple butter?

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We ended up taking off the soup an hour before the suggested time because my father was impatient and hungry and old and it was 7:30 pm. It was a sublime soup. I don’t know what it is about chicken soup that does what it does to you. I was certainly not healed (you need Tamiflu for that) but man, it makes you feel like you’re being hugged.

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Did I mention I made all this WHILE HAVING THE FLU? One of the more impressive moments of my culinary life. I have loved Small Victories so much lately, and Julia Turshen’s beautifully simple, rustic, delicious approach to cooking. You must pick it up if you haven’t already.

-Sophie

food is medicine

This post was due for November, and we’re now in the second week of the president that led me to write this post and make this chicken in the first place. 48% of the population would agree with me when I say that November 9th was just the worst. That was a confusing day, a foggy day, and I couldn’t even stomach eating anything until about 2 pm when I went to get some breakfast tacos to eat in my car before I picked up the girl I nanny from school.

She is the sweetest girl, and I was so happy and so sad to see her that day. We had talked about the election as much as you could talk about it with a seven year old, and she goes to a girl’s school like I did, and we love each other. She got in my car and I asked how she was doing. At first, she said my car smelled bad from the tacos. But then she paused and said how sad she was. I talked to her but every word out of my mouth turned to tears and I didn’t want to cry even more so I think I stayed quieter than usual.

When we got to her house, her mom had made a bowl of guacamole and set it out for us with tortilla chips and two glasses of Topo Chico. All of us sat and ate and talked about the day, tried to reconcile everything and tried to come to terms with being so confused and so sad. Lila wanted to stop talking about it then. So I played with her and her little sisters, for a long long time. We played a game where I was in jail in their parents’ closet, my cell constructed under suit jackets and jeans where I was shielded from everything and just steeping in my own silence and sadness with such beautiful, effervescent little girls around me. That was that day. I barely wanted to leave closet-jail that night.

That Friday, I wanted to–needed to–really cook. At the time, I hadn’t for a while, becoming too reliant on Trader Joe’s actually-pretty-delicious soup dumplings. I braved Central Market on a Friday evening, picked up a chicken, and invited Kobi and my sister over to eat with me. I made Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken from Cooking for Jeffrey, the first meal I had cooked out of it. She has become a meme of sorts in circles that don’t actually understand her, but the existence of Ina Garten and the food she makes is truly one of my greatest comforts in this world. Watching her show grounds me when I’m overwhelmed and cooking her food calms me, reminds me of the brief healing power of a good meal– especially a roast chicken.

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When cooking with wine, she always says, “Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.” I try my best to follow her every instruction (with the exception of homemade chicken stock only) but this one is simply unrealistic for me. This was perfectly delicious and beautifully comforting even with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck pinot grigio.

We took the cast-iron skillet into my bedroom since my roommates were congregating in the living room, set it on the floor, and carved the chicken as best we could. I sat with people I loved, mopped up pan juices from a skillet with a hunk of bread, and ate a roast chicken after what was probably the hardest week of my young life.

Food is all of these things: it is caring for people, it is nourishment, it is community, it is pouring yourself into something special. Eating a roast chicken on the floor didn’t fix the country that night, but it put a little more love in our hearts.

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-Sophie

ham, brie, & fried egg crepe

**THIS POST IS LITERALLY FROM JANUARY 2016. STRAIGHT UP I WROTE IT IN JANUARY. DON’T KNOW WHY I NEVER DECIDED TO DROP THIS GAME-CHANGER OF A CREPE**

When I was studying in France in 2014, I made it a point to document the components of each crepe I happened to eat. And I tried a lot of them. Roquefort, chicken, and bechamel sauce. Smoked salmon, goat cheese, creme fraiche, and chives. Nutella and shredded coconut. Chocolate, salted caramel sauce, and caramel ice cream. Ham, brie, and a fried egg. Speculoos on speculoos on speculoos. Recently, I went through my journal and made a comprehensive list of the crepe combinations so I could attempt to recreate them in America. The ham (jambon, I’ll say), brie, and fried egg crepe is a classic that I can go for at any minute of the day, though it was my dinner last night.

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I make crepes semi-regularly but for some reason this was the only one in recent memory that came out less than perfectly. Of course that’s how it goes. It still tasted great! A perfect combination of most of my favorite things to eat and a nice memory of France all in one.

-Sophie

father’s day

Since I first viewed it in September, Bon Appetit’s How To Make A Smash Burger At Home video has echoed through my mind as I fall asleep each night. Adam Rapoport’s silver-fox good looks, those lacy edges of that burger, that melty American cheese on a Martin’s potato roll…it is all the stuff of my dreams. I have wanted to make this burger for ages, and I thought Father’s Day was as good a time as any to try it out.

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The burger is made on a cast-iron skillet (very appealing to me) and not a grill, because as Adam so wisely explains, when you grill a burger, all the good stuff (i.e. fat) drips to the bottom of the grill. This totally explains why I hate all grilled burgers!!! I don’t know how I had never thought of it before.

I started these burgers and it all started relatively smoothly. The skillet was nice and preheated, the burger patties were loosely packed as instructed, but then CAST-IRON CHAOS ENSUED! I am used to the smoke alarm in my apartment going off any time I use my skillet, but it’s very sensitive. Thought my house might be different! But I started making more and more of these burgers, and the skillet got more and more smoky, and the house got more and more smoky, and then every smoke alarm in my house went off. Happy Father’s Day!

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I should have had all the cheese slices unwrapped before I started, which was such a rookie mistake. The burgers still turned out great though. I used brioche buns (even though Adam Rapoport advised against that) from the bakery I work at. We don’t have Martin’s buns in Texas, Adam!!! (how does the Austin Shake Shack get them and can they hook me up with their supplier?!?) I also made a delicious sauce of ketchup, mayo, onion powder, pickle juice, and celery salt. I was slurping that up.

I accompanied the burgers with a cole slaw recipe from one of my mom’s best friends. It’s pretty light, especially compared to most slaws. Lots of fresh herbs and really light on the dressing. I also made a simple caprese salad with summer tomatoes which are nearly at their peak! It was good for the burgers to be balanced with something fresher.

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My dad’s favorite dessert is a peach cobbler, with Texas peaches that are right in season during his birthday month of June. When I was working at the bakery on Sunday, they brought out this peach crumble pie and I knew he needed to have it for his dad’s day dinner. I bought it on the spot. It was delicious served with a dollop of Blue Bell vanilla.

The house doesn’t even smell like smoke anymore so these yummy burgers are a success in my book.

-Sophie

impromptu dinner party

My parents were going to be out to dinner and my mom suggested I have a dinner party. This was the night before, so I had less than 24 hours to throw this thing together. It was okay because only one of our friends was in town…so it worked out and I only had to cook for three.

For being a relatively cosmopolitan and epicurean city, it sure is damn hard to find a tub of truffle butter in Dallas. It took me trips to FOUR different stores to find it and several calls, but I trekked through dangerous neighborhoods and spanned dozens of miles in every direction of the city and found it.

I had wanted to make Ina Garten’s Tagliarelle (tagliatelle? which is it? I have heard both?!) With Truffle Butter ever since I saw her make it for Barbara and Bobby Liberman while visiting their Berkshires cabin in her latest holiday special. It just seemed so luxurious–and it is, mothasuckas! Tagliarelle/telle is a delicious new pasta I’ve tried! Light and eggy and such a delicate nice shape. Light pasta but not a light sauce- it is a whole jar of truffle butter and cream. Whatever, we’re young.

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We had a basic arugula salad that I always make (not too worthy of a photograph) and then for dessert, I made something I’ve wanted to make forever- Eton mess. It incorporates raspberries, one of the few fruits I like, and whipped cream and meringues, two things I also really like. Also, why are MERINGUES the most difficult thing to find? Even harder than truffle butter, like damn! I literally couldn’t find these anywhere and had to make them myself! It wasn’t hard but like shit! The point of this dessert was that it is very little cooking and mostly assembling!

Anyway. It was delicious and summery. You cook down the raspberries with sugar and lemon juice and framboise and just layer them all together. It’s really cute and rustic and still really elegant. I loved it even though my sister didn’t. She prefers cake.

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A picture of the homemade meringues, just for fun. They were cute.

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-Sophie

linguine with italian sausage and pomodoro sauce

I CAN’T STOP MAKING PASTA!

I make so much pasta at home, and my sister makes me feel like a Michelin starred pasta chef with how much she praises me for each pasta dish I make. For this quick dinner, I used my favorite Bon Appetit pomodoro sauce recipe and added, of course, Italian sausage. This is a simple and yummy meal that always makes everyone happy.

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-Sophie

sausage risotto with spring greens

I have never tried making risotto before- the real, by hand, stir-this-until-your-hand-falls-off kind of risotto. I make that disclaimer because my dad makes Arborio rice in a rice cooker and calls it risotto (sorry for exposing you like this). This is remarkably unphotogenic and looks basically like gruel, but it was delicious.

I made Bon Appetit’s Sausage Risotto with Spring Greens to use up some sausage and chard that we had in the fridge. It turned out really good and I didn’t even mind the stirring that much while listening to Joanna Newsom’s interview on WTF with Marc Maron.

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Lately, my family has been very obsessed with Trader Joe’s sausage of all varieties. My summer at home so far has been seeing all the things I can put sausage in or on. I’ve had worse summers!

-Sophie