fried egg salad

Did you fall in love with The Crispy Egg? Did you, too, find yourself obsessed with the crackly lacy edges, the potato-chip like crisp underneath, the souffled egg whites, and the high melodrama of all of that hissing and sputtering? Did you go on a Crispy Egg Bender? Come, sit down. You’re among friends.

This is the next chapter in the crispy egg saga. It was intended for the next day, but I mistakenly got distracted with chicken pot pies, chocolate babka and fall-toush salads instead — my priorities are whack, I know. It came into my life when I went on the hunt for something more interesting to do with egg salad. I mean, traditional egg salad is oh- kay (although I prefer my take on it, with coarse dijon and bits ‘o pickled celery) but given all of the magical, wonderful ways you can cook and consume eggs, don’t you think the category of egg salad really ought to contain more clever intrigues than, say, curry powder and jarred mayo (shudder)?

I found exactly what I never knew I was looking for in the Pok Pok Cookbook I’d purchased that month, unable to resist the (worthy) hype any longer. Here, the aforementioned crispy egg is flipped and fried again, until the yolks are cooked but still “molten” and the whole thing is a golden shattery cloud. Meanwhile, prep a salad — greens, onion, carrots, celery and cilantro are suggested but there’s no reason not to add or subtract items you already have around. And look, I realize at this point you’re probably thinking, “Okay, Deb, it’s a fried egg and salad. Are we really going to make such a big deal out of this?” I get it. I’d think the same. But I haven’t told you about the dressing yet, excuse me, the sizzling dressing. The mere suggestion of the ingredient combination — lime juice, fish sauce, chiles, garlic, hold me — was enough to stop me, and every dated, mayo-inflected notion of what egg salad could be, in my tracks. Poured over this salad and rough-chopped crispy eggs while still hot and tossed just enough to slightly wilt it, to be honest, I think I wilted along with it. It’s that good. It wants to be your dinner tonight.

Also new: Yesterday, on the sporadically-updated Tips blog, I walked you through making your own vanilla extract. It’s insanely simple and budget-friendly, and so good, there’s no going back to store-bought. [Make Your Own Vanilla Extract]

One year ago: Warm Lentil and Potato Salad
Two years ago: Lentil Soup with Sausage, Garlic and Chard
Three years ago: Buttermilk Roast Chicken
Four years ago: Chocolate Peanut Spread
Five years ago: Cranberry Syrup + An Intensely Almond Cake and Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Six years ago: Mushroom Bourguignon and Smashed Chickpea Salad
Seven years ago: Fried Chicken
Eight years ago: Leek and Mushroom Quiche and Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Grilled Peach Splits + News! and Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde
1.5 Years Ago: Hot Fudge Sundae Cake
2.5 Years Ago: Peach Pie
3.5 Years Ago: Charred Corn Tacos with Zucchini-Radish Slaw

Fried Egg Salad [Yam Khai Dao]
Adapted, just a little, from the Pok Pok Cookbook

I made several liberal interpretations here. I used readily-available celery, not Chinese. I used less than one chile because my husband declared it “plenty hot” only to find that we might not have minded the second one, since the other dressing ingredients mellowed it a lot. If you’ve got palm sugar and want to make palm sugar simple syrup (here’s the recipe online), you absolutely should, but I just used 1 tablespoon water + 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar instead. Finally, the salad is supposed to be tossed at the end in a hot wok with the dressing you’ve made, but I found pouring the hot dressing over the salad and tossing it to be an acceptable substitute. It only lightly wilted the ingredients, my preference. For the to-the-letter version, plus an almost unfair amount of delicious inspiration in one place (hello, fish sauce wings, papaya salad and grilled corn with salty coconut cream), I cannot recommend the cookbook enough.

Serves 2 to 6 4 (as part of a larger meal), but it also makes an excellent single-serving meal for a hungry human

Eggs
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Enough vegetable oil to reach a depth of 1/4-inch

Salad
1 cup lightly-packed torn green leaf lettuce (approximately 2-inch pieces)
1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1/4 cup thin or julienned carrot strips
1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery, Chinese or other, include leaves
1/4 cup lightly packed coarsely chopped cilantro, thin stems and leaves

Dressing
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice (Key limes are recommended, but don’t fuss if you can’t find them)
1 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar simple syrup [see Note up top] or 1 tablespoon water + 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons (1 large clove) very thinly sliced garlic
2 fresh Thai chiles, preferably green, thinly sliced (more or less to taste)

Fry eggs: Heat a wok or small skillet over the highest heat. Once hot, add enough oil to reach a depth of a generous 1/4-inch. Once the oil is hot enough to smoke, carefully crack the eggs into the oil — cautiously, as they will splatter a lot — and decrease the heat to medium-high. The eggs will hiss, sputter and the whites should puff and develop translucent bubbles. Once they’re very crispy and a deep golden brown underneath, 45 seconds to 1 minute, use a thin spatula to flip the eggs, trying not to break the yolks but not fretting if it happens. Cook for another minute on the second side, until the yolks are set but still slightly molten (aim to have them a little less loose than mine, shown above). Transfer eggs to paper towels; you can cook them up to 15 minutes before serving. Discard oil and wipe out wok or skillet.

Assemble salad: Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Quarter the eggs through the yolks and add them to the salad.

Make the dressing: Place the lime juice, palm syrup or dark brown sugar and water, fish sauce, garlic and chiles in the same wok or skillet. Set it over medium heat and heat the mixture until it just begins to sizzle at the edges, less than 30 seconds.

Finish and serve: Pour the hot dressing over the salad and eggs. Stir gently to combine. If you’re feeling fancy, transfer the salad, liquid at all, to a plate in a low heap. Eat at once.

key lime pie

January, as far as I’m concerned, is a pretty mediocre month. The holiday party tinsel-and-bubbly frenzy of November and December is replaced with hibernation and Netflix binges. The charming first and second snowstorms pass and the ones that follow are met with more of a really? it’s snowing again ? Squarely between Christmas and mid-Winter break, it’s too early in the season to be so weary of the cold, but here I am, counting down the days until the hi/bye gloves can literally come off.

Fortunately, just when I’ve resigned myself to thinking it’s going to be as beige and bleak going forward as the paragraph above, January — as if implicitly understanding that it’s going to have to sell itself harder — presents us with a luminous ray of tropical sunshine packaged as citrus fruit. I become obsessed. This ridiculous thing I bought five years ago as everyone around me tut-tutted that it would never earn its keep is put into overdrive as we conduct methodical studies of the pros and cons of cara-cara vs. blood orange vs. pink grapefruit vs. tangerine juice. (Spoiler: they’re all amazing.) Citrus is as good as everything else about a biting cold sleeting day is bad.

Predictably, it doesn’t take us long to graduate from wholesome pursuits such as freshly-squeezed juice and citrus-studded salads (such as these) and onto more urgent matters: pie. There is something about key lime pie that, to me, easily trumps lemon meringue or even the most buttery caramel blood orange tart and that thing is sweetened condensed milk, which is unquestionably the manna of the canned food aisle. Thick, creamy and halfway to dulce de leche, it protects you from the harshness of the lime juice without taking away any of its tart-fragrant charm. Add a salt-flecked buttery graham cracker crust and a raft of whipped cream on top — did I mention you can have this whole thing made in well under an hour? — and I only want to know why we don’t have this around more often. Or, as my friend Claire Zulkey said best, “I never know it’s what I wanted until I’m eating it.” \


One year ago: Pear and Hazelnut Muffins
Two years ago: Gnocchi in Tomato Broth
Three years ago: Buckwheat Baby with Salted Caramel Syrup
Four years ago: Baked Potato Soup (with the works!)
Five years ago: Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Seed Crema
Six years ago: Light Wheat Bread and Clementine Cake
Seven years ago: Chicken Caesar Salad
Eight years ago: Pancakes, Frisee Salad and English Muffins and Artichoke Ravioli with Tomatoes

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles
1.5 Years Ago: One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes
2.5 Years Ago: Bacon Corn Hash
3.5 Years Ago: Raspberry Ricotta Scones
Plus, since it’s popsicle season where you are: Both last week’s Butterscotch Pudding and this week’s Key Lime Pie have popsicle equivalents in the archives. Make them and send sweltering thoughts our way, please.

Classic Key Lime Pie
Adapted somewhat liberally from the version at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami, where I am not

Every key lime pie recipe agrees that a can of sweetened condensed milk is the king of ingredients. From there, they diverge. Some use more lime juice, some less. (I use 2/3 cup for a nicely tart filling; use only 1/2 cup if you’re more wary of the tartness of limes.) Some use more egg yolks, some use less. (I find I only need 3 for a good set and flavor, but you can go up to 5 if you’d like something extra-rich.) Not all insist that you whip your yolks until they’re pale and ribbony, but it makes for a lovely final texture and I think is worth it.

Most importantly, despite the name, you don’t need key limes to make this. I mean, if you can get them, please do. They’re wonderful. But I made this, as I often do, with regular grocery store Persian limes and it’s no less dreamy with them.

Crust
1 1/2 cups (155 grams) finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 crackers)
3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated sugar
2 pinches sea salt
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Filling
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
3 large egg yolks (though extra-large would do you no harm here)
1 14-ounce (396-gram) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup (155 ml) fresh lime juice (from about 1 dozen tiny key limes or 4 persian/regular limes)

To Finish
3/4 cup (175 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar, to taste

Heat oven: To 350°F (176°C).

Make crust: Combine graham crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir until mixed. Add butter and stir until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a standard 9-inch pie dish. I like to use the outer edge of a heavy measuring cup to press in neat, firm sides but nobody will be the wiser if you just use your fingertips. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set on cooling rack while you prepare filling. Leave oven on.

Make filling: Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 1 1/2 tablespoons. Beat zest and egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened again, about 3 minutes more. Squeeze zested limes until you have 2/3 cups juice. Whisk into yolk mixture until combined. Pour into graham crust and bake pie for another 10 minutes, until set but not browned on top at all. Let pie cool completely before adding topping — you can do this outside (thank you, January!) or even in your freezer (but don’t forget about it) to hasten the process, and your pie reward, along.

Make topping: In a medium bowl, beat cream and sugar until soft peaks are formed. Spread over top of chilled pie. Ideally, pie should be chilled at least another 2 to 3 hours with the cream on top so that it can fully set before you take a slice, but whether that happens is between you and your pie.

Key lime pie keeps in fridge for a week, though certainly not around here.

Mushroom marsala pasta bake

Over the last couple years — a dark time in which I’ve slowly had to accept that my once-tiny baby with fairly simple needs now required real square meals at very specific times of the day, such as dinner, far earlier than we ever do and that he’d likely be looking to me (me!) to provide them or face the hangry consequences — I’ve attempted to increase my repertoire of two things: 1. Dinners that can be made easily in under an hour that I actually want to eat, and 2. Casseroles. No, no, I don’t mean the canned cream of soupiness things. I mean, the idea of taking disparate meal parts and baking them in a big dish until they’re much more than the sum of their ingredients. Plus, they’re dinnertime magic: they reheat well; they make excellent leftovers for as long as you can stretch them; and they rarely require anything more on the side than a green salad (for grownups) or steamed broccoli (for people who haven’t yet come around to salad). Long Live The Casserole Rethought With Minimally Processed Ingredients! is hardly a sexy catchphrase, but there you have it: my new battle cry.

In the first category, Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala from 2008 in the archives became a favorite again in 2013 when I began making it much more quickly with thigh cutlets. Within the second, I’ve been trying as best as I can to reimagine baked pastas into dishes that are less of a cheese-valanche and more of an insanely good flavor assault with a sizable portion of vegetables within. (See also: Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella and our previous house favorite, Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage).

On Sunday, these two dishes collided deliciously as I attempted to take my favorite part of chicken marsala, that incredibly rich, intensely flavored mushroom sauce, and tangle it with al dente noodles, mozzarella and a crunchy parmesan lid to make a baked pasta that became instantly our new favorite. Seriously, if you come over for dinner this winter, prepare to be served this. This couldn’t be further from the jarred red sauce, grainy ricotta, overcooked-to-collapse ziti most of us associate with baked pasta and it’s not sorry at all.

Casserole-type dishes, previously: Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions, Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole, Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms, Spinach and Cheese Strata, Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella, Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs and Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage. Plus, one of my favorites from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is a Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Baby Swiss. [New! Smitten Kitchen Casserole Category]

Unrelated: Out of curiosity, as ’tis the season and all, how long does it take you between “thinking you might be getting sick” and “admitting that you are really, actually sick?” I mean, I guess we all should all know from life thus far that the key to returning to the Land of the Fully Functioning and Unmiserable is to make this gap is as narrow as possible, so you can get on with the bone broth/day sleeping/Good Wife bender portion of your illness and hasten recovery along, but we rarely do it, right? Because it might sort out on its own? But for the first time ever, I narrowed this gap to a mere 36 hours this weekend and when a doctor told me Saturday afternoon that I had not, say, swallowed razor blades but caught strep throat (again, seriously), I actually wanted to high-five myself because as completely terrible as it feels, it’s curable . Antbiotics fix it. And, lo, by Sunday afternoon I was not only high-functioning enough to decide out of the blue to Old English all of our furniture (my husband thinks they may have accidentally laced my meds with Domesticity), I was hungry and eager to cook again. This, specifically. Pasta: A friend to achy throats, hurrah.

One year ago: Three Cheers for Chicken Pho
Two years ago: Gnocchi in Tomato Broth
Three years ago: Apple Sharlotka
Four years ago: Pizza with Bacon, Onions and Cream
Five years ago: Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens and Poppy Seed Lemon Cake
Six years ago: Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew and Almond Vanilla Rice Pudding
Seven years ago: Crunchy Baked Pork Chops and Pickled Carrot Sticks
Eight years ago: World Peace Cookies

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches
1.5 Years Ago: Grilled Bacon Salad with Arugula and Balsamic
2.5 Years Ago: Bacon Corn Hash
3.5 Years Ago: Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones

Mushroom Marsala Pasta Bake

Prep time: 30 minutes, tops
Cook time: 30 minutes, tops
Servings: 4 really generous or 6 slightly more moderate ones
To serve a crowd: Double it in a 9×13-inch or lasagna pan

1/2 pound (8 ounces or 225 grams) pasta of you choice, such as a ziti or twisty shape
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
3/4 pounds (340 grams) fresh mushroom, sliced (I used pre-sliced cremini, my new favorite thing)
1 small-to-medium yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry marsala wine (see notes at end for more information)
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) stock or broth (chicken, vegetable or mushroom)
1/2 cup (50 grams) finely grated parmesan cheese
4 ounces (115 grams) mozzarella, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

A tip: If we play our cards right here, this can be made entirely in one dish. I used a 4-quart Staub braiser (Happy Hanukah to me!) but any 3-to-4 quart stovetop-to-oven type dish will work.

Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 to 2 minutes before perfect doneness. Drain and set aside.

Heat oven: To 400 degrees.

Make the sauce: Reheat your empty pasta pot over high heat. Add oil and once it is hot, add mushrooms and cook until they’ve begun to brown and glisten, but have not yet released their liquid. Reduce heat to medium-high, add onions, salt and pepper and saute together until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Marsala and cook mixture, stirring, until it has almost or fully evaporated (depending on your preference). Add butter, stir until melted. Add flour, and stir until all has been dampened and absorbed. Add stock, a very small splash at a time, stirring the whole time with a spoon. Make sure each splash has been fully mixed into the butter/flour/mushroom mixture, scraping from the bottom of the pan and all around, before adding the next splash. Repeat until all stock has been added. Let mixture simmer together for 2 minutes, stirring frequently; the sauce will thicken. Remove pan from heat.

Assemble and bake dish: If you’re cooking in an ovensafe dish, add cooked pasta and stir until combined. (If you’re not cooking in an ovensafe dish, transfer this mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.) Stir in half the parmesan, all of the mozzarella and two tablespoons of the parsley until evenly mixed. Sprinkle the top with remaining parmesan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until edges of pasta are golden brown and irresistible. Sprinkle with reserved parsley and serve hot. Reheat as needed.

A bunch of notes:

  • Why marsala? Because it’s the Pantone Color of the Year 2015! More seriously, Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily with a deep, complex flavor. It comes in dry and sweet versions; for savory dishes, use the dry. (For zabaglione, use the sweet. And invite me over.) It shares some commonalities with Sherry and Madeira, which aren’t exactly substitutes, but would also taste good here. You can buy dry Marsala it at wine shops inexpensively. I find that mine keeps open in the fridge for a year, but I have a feeling wine experts are grimacing. Seriously, though, ours still tastes for cooking great very long after it’s been opened and that’s all I need to know.
  • We don’t consume or cook with alcohol : Here’s what I’m not going to say, “But the alcohol cooks off!” as most recipes will tell you because it, yes, it largely/mostly does, but not completely. Since I’m cooking for a mixed-age family, I cook mine down to nonexistence (I’m after the flavor, not a nap, though naps = swoon, you know?) but I know that many people will not want to use it at all. And you don’t have to. This dish will still be incredibly delicious without it. If you’re looking to try something clever/delicious in a different way, you might rehydrate a few dried porcinis in 1/4 cup boiling water. Remove them, chop them find and add them to the other mushrooms for a louder mushroom flavor. Then, strain the porcini soaking liquid to remove any sand/grit, add 1 teaspoon sherry or red wine vinegar and use this instead of the Marsala for a little extra flavor oomph.
  • If it weren’t me making this: You might add some diced cooked chicken to the final baking portion. I personally am incredibly put off by chicken in pasta dishes, but seriously this is no time to start opening the terrifying large can of Implausible Things Deb Doesn’t Like.

Butterscotch pudding

One of my worst cooking traits is that when I get frustrated with a recipe, it can take me years to get back to it. I mean, I’m theoretically too old to be having tantrums, kitchen or other, but there’s no other way to describe this behavior where I get frustrated, throw my jangly measuring spoons in the sink and huff off to gaze at jeans I could probably fit half a thigh into, which is how I mope.* Sure, you could just say that I need a little space, a break, it’s-not-you-it’s-me from the recipe so I can gain some perspective, and consider other approaches but six years ? That is how long it’s been since I last attempted to share a recipe for old-school, dead-simple butterscotch pudding from scratch which refused to set. A six-year tantrum. (Fine, I snuck some pudding pops in there, but it’s so cold today, I cannot even look at them.)

There’s a reason butterscotch pudding is a classic, and no, and I don’t mean custard or pastry cream with 6 egg yolks and over a quarter-pound of butter. I don’t mean mousse, with all of those egg yolks, twice the butter and also egg whites and heavy cream. I don’t mean budinos, flan or any of the other luxurious jiggly desserts we order in restaurants. I mean, butterscotch pudding, the kind a grandmother would make with just milk and a little thickener, like the kind that comes in a box but will never, ever taste as good as this.

I know food writer types are always trying to tell you how “easy” and “quick” things are to make — we’re always trying to get you out of the kitchen, aren’t we? — but butterscotch, the buttery brown sugar, vanilla and sea salted counterpart to white sugar caramel, really, truly is. Melt some butter, add brown sugar and let it bubble a little, then add salt and cream, finish with vanilla and you’ve got a dessert sauce from the gods. Stovetop butterscotch pudding uses this same process, adds a little thickener and then milk instead of cream, although you can use some of both if you’re a resolution-snubber. It sets in cups in the fridge, looking rather beige and suspect. But you don’t eat it for its looks. You eat it because there is more dynamic flavor compressed into single spoonful than you’re going to get from even the best scoop of ice cream. It’s rich and toasty, faintly buttery, comforting and unlike most butterscotch desserts, not tooth-achingly sweet. It’s something of a midwinter miracle.

But where’s the scotch? Would you believe that butterscotch, in the classic confectionary sense, doesn’t have scotch in it? I mean, I’m not saying butterscotch sauce and scotch (or rum, or bourbon) would taste bad together, but the name is misleading. Wikipedia says that the origin might be “scorch” (for heat) or “scotched” cut into squares, like the candy) instead.

Puddings, previously: Best Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Pudding Pie, Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Mango, Vanilla (Bean) Pudding, Vanilla Custards with Roasted Blueberries, Caramel Pudding, Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings, Almond-Vanilla Rice Pudding, Arroz Con Leche, Silky Decadent Old School Chocolate Mousse and Yogurt Panna Cotta with Walnuts and Honey

One year ago: Coconut Tapioca with Mango
Two years ago: Ethereally Smooth Hummus
Three years ago: Apple Sharlotka
Four years ago: Vanilla Bean Pudding
Five years ago: Caramel Pudding
Six years ago: Potato and Artichoke Tortilla and Fig and Walnut Biscotti
Seven years ago: Goulash and Lemon Bars
Eight years ago: Really Simple Homemade Pizza and Balthazar’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings
1.5 Years Ago: Slow-and-Low Dry Rub Oven Chicken
2.5 Years Ago: Blackberry Gin Fizz
3.5 Years Ago: Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt

Butterscotch Pudding
You can make this pudding even more rich by swapping 1/2 cup of the milk with heavy cream. Read to the end for a dairy-free coconut version.

Cook time: 10 minutes plus 1 to 2 hours to set in the fridge
Yield: 6 1/2-cup servings or 8 petite ones (I love these glasses for tiny hands and also puddings). The photos here show a half-batch of pudding.

2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (95 grams) dark brown sugar
Several pinches of sea salt (I use a scant 1/2 teaspoon of flaky Maldon salt)
1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and reduce heat to medium-low. Let it heat and bubble for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Don’t let it smoke or burn, which brown sugar is always very eager to do. Reduce heat to low. Add salt and cornstarch, stirring until combined — it’s going to look like a thick paste. Switch to a whisk and add the milk in a thin drizzle, whisking the whole time, so that no lumps form. Once all of the milk is added, you can switch back to a spoon. Cook over low to medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer. Let it simmer for a full minute, stirring, it should clearly thicken at this stage, although it will finish thickening in the fridge. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract. Divide into glasses or pudding cups and let chill in fridge for 1 to 2 hours, until set.

Those decorations on top: A dollop of whipped cream and chocolate crunchy pearls. I highly recommend the dark chocolate ones (you can get them from Callebaut, Valrhona and a few other brands); they’re so much more delicious and fun to eat than chocolate sprinkles. I highly recommend that whatever you do, you never try the beige ones, which are made from Valrhona’s Dulcey Chocolate, their in-house take on salted, caramelized white chocolate. I regret ever discovering it. Trust me, the safest thing is to never find out how good it is.

Variation: Coconut Butterscotch Pudding: Okay, I realize that making butter scotch without butter is of questionable logic. But, I did it anyway, using coconut oil instead of butter, and canned full-fat (and well-shaken) coconut milk for the milk above, yielded a totally dairy-free pudding. The result is something distinctly delicious, a little darker and more translucent in color than the dairy version, with a nuttier butterscotch flavor. Don’t skimp on the salt here.

Popcorn party mix

Let me get the possibly obvious out of the way: I, Deb Perelman, unapologetically, shamelessly, unwaveringly love Chex Mix. Sure, the last time I made it to the letter I was in high school and decided to have a party where we’d invite boys too (yes, I was as cool in high school as you’d expect) and it seemed so strange to me, this aggressive mix of steak sauce, spices and butter, but holy moly was it good.

So, let’s not pretend this is anything but a Smitten Kitchen homage to this beloved mix — which I’m sorry to reveal, did not bring all of the boys to my yard , er, parents’ wood-paneled living room. These days, I make it a little differently. At some point, the Chex cereal became popcorn, not because I don’t like crispy crunchy magically woven pillows of corn, wheat and rice cereal, but because I love popcorn that much more. I add nuts, pretzels and something cracker-y to it. And then, as should surprise exactly nobody, I brown the butter for extra toasty depth. I add some mustard, in both Dijon and powdered English mustard formats; smoked paprika, because it completes me, and sometimes a tiny bit of dark brown sugar too. I tend to make massive amounts of it and

…Hide it from myself. I can’t be around it. I’ve tried again and again but it never works. It always leads to awkward dinnertime conversations like “Why aren’t you hungry, mommy?” and then I have to lie to my sweet, impressionable child and tell him it’s because I ate too much broccoli at snack time

So, do the right thing: make this and bring it to a party, preferably at someone’s apartment, far from the clubby madness below. Think about what a weird — here might be some grievances, but even I cannot stand the sound of me complaining — but also wonderful year it’s been — a new Smitten Kitchen! a new book on the (distant) horizon! and maybe even a redesign at last! — with, I hope, an even better one ahead. Cheers to you, friends. This wouldn’t be any fun without you.

More New Year’s Eve Snack Ideas: Over here.
More New Year’s Eve Cocktail Ideas: Over here.

Popcorn Party Mix

3 tablespoon olive or a neutral oil
6 tablespoons (70 grams) unpopped popcorn kernels
1 cup nuts (I used peanuts, which weigh 140 grams)
2 cups bite-sized pretzels, or bigger ones, broken up
1 cup broken-up plain bagel or pita chips, oyster crackers or melba toast
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons (8 grams) dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, adjusted to taste
1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Heat oven to 250°F (120°C).

Pop your popcorn: Place 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 to 3 kernels in a 3-quart or larger pot and cover with a lid. Turn heat to medium-high. When you hear these first kernels pop, add the remaining kernels and replace the lid. Using potholders, shimmy the pot around to keep the kernels moving as they pop. When several seconds pass between pops, remove from heat. You should have just over 6 cups. Dump into a giant mixing bowl and add the nuts, pretzels, chips or crackers to the popcorn.

Brown your butter and make the sauce: Wipe out your empty pot and place the butter in it, set over medium heat (no lid needed). Melt the butter and keep cooking it, stirring occasionally and watching out for hisses and splatters, until the bits at the bottom of the melted butter puddle begin to turn golden and light brown. Remove from heat, and whisk in Worcestershire, sugar, spices and salt. If you ended up using pre-popped or seasoned popcorn with salt, or salted nuts or crackers, you might go easier on the salt. If you like your mix quite traditionally salty and none of your packaged ingredients were coated with salt, you might up it to a full teaspoon.

Pour butter-spice mixture over popcorn mix and toss, toss, toss, until all the ingredients are evenly coated. Spread out on your biggest baking sheet or two medium-sized ones. Bake for 45 minutes, tossing the ingredients around every 15 so that they cook evenly. Let cool completely on trays, then pack into jars and get on your way.

Roasted grape and olive crostini

Within the great file of my favorite food category, Things I Can Put On Toast, I dare you to find anything easier to whirl up in the minutes before a party than artichoke-olive crostini, the terribly named but unmatched in Mediterranean deliciousness of feta salsa or walnut pesto. Lightly broil a thinly sliced baguette — and I vote for preparing a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, ready to bake off later, nobody minds — and voila: it’s suddenly a party.

This is my new favorite addition to the category. Although it takes longer to cook, it takes just as little time to throw together. This seemingly simple combination of two ingredients, roasted together, become so much more than the sum of their parts. Personally, I’m not a great fan of either on their own; I find most grocery store grapes too sweet and readily-available olives too aggressively salty and one-note. But in the oven together, these bugs become features. The briny bite of the olives tangles with the syrupy sweetness of the grapes and together, make a juicy mess that’s incredible with rosemary and sea salt, heaped on a ricotta-slathered toast

The best part is you don’t have to go hunting for that exasperatingly overused phrase these days, “the best ingredients.” I’ve made this with everything from NYC street cart grapes on their last legs and from certified organic, just-plucked Greenmarket blocks away and both were delicious. It doesn’t care if your olives have been imported from Greece, Italy or Trader Joe’s, that I used a baguette from a nearby bodega that also sells enhancement pills and 40s, and that I didn’t even make my own ricotta (gasp!). It just works, which means you’ll have more time to do things you’ll regret seeing on Instagram the next morning and other great holiday party traditions.

In The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: These two ingredients tangle together in an easy weeknight chicken dish.

Planning a party? You’re going to need some drinks and snacks.

One year ago: Rum Campari Punch
Two years ago: Fromage Fort
Three years ago: Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze
Four years ago: Milk Punch
Five years ago: Pear Bread, Parmesan Cream Crackers and Walnut Pesto
Six years ago: Pizza with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Onions
Seven years ago: Iceberg Wedge with Blue Cheese and Caramel Cake
Eight years ago: Gougeres and Stuffed Mushrooms, Russian Tea Cakes and Coq au Vin

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
1.5 Years Ago: Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw
2.5 Years Ago: Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime and Mint
3.5 Years Ago: Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes

Roasted Grape and Olive Crostini

I couldn’t resist using a pretty mix of olives and grapes, but, honestly, my favorite combination to use here are purple grapes and kalamata olives, seedless and pitted, respectively are ideal. I make it with fresh rosemary and ricotta, but other herbs and cheese would work here, such as thyme or blue cheese. The only pesky part of this recipe is that I find that the roasting time really varies. What you’re looking for is for the grapes to soften and get leaky — this can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on how firm/juicy your grapes are (softer ones take less time). I have also seen many references to grapes roasting and bursting in 10 minutes in other recipes, but have never experienced this in my oven. Once these juices muddle with the herbs and briny roasted olives, it’s all unquestionably worth it. Don’t forget to spoon any messy pan juices over the toasts.

Yield: 12 crostini, a very small batch. I usually double this for a small party.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grapes, seedless purple ones are my first choice, all will work
1 cup olives, pitted kalamata are my first choice, all will work
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary, divided
Sea salt and red pepper flakes
About 12 baguette slices, toasted
3/4 cup ricotta

Heat oven to 400°F (205°C). Combine olive oil, grapes, olives, 1 teaspoon rosemary, a couple pinches of sea salt and pepper flakes in a baking dish or roasting pan. Roast until grapes are wilted and leaking juices, about 35 to 55 minutes, rolling ingredients around in pan a few times throughout roasting time to encourage even cooking.

Slather each toast with ricotta, then heap each with grapes, olives and their pan juices. Finish with remaining rosemary and eat immediately.

Fairytale of new york

As far as Christmas songs go, Fairytale of New York is pretty bleak. Instead of chestnuts on the open fire, horses come in 18 to 1; instead of white Christmases, morphine drips; instead of coming home for the holidays, one waits them out in drunk tanks. It’s not the stuff of greeting cards. And yet, for a whole lot of people, myself included, it wouldn’t be December without The Pogues 1987 holiday anti-ballad on repeat. It comes in handy when you’re feeling a little grinchy* about the season; there’s something of a relief in a song where nobody does anything right but aren’t pretending things are any other way. The sentiments are honest, and in a way, a little magical, choirs and bells and bands in the street, imagining better times and better years ahead.


Not that I listen to the song anymore. I mean, I used to often enough that I’d drive my husband, less charmed by Christmas music, bonkers but then my son got old enough to start sorting out the words and abruptly, being a good parent won out, at least for another decade or so.

But my nostalgia for the song is so steep, when I spied a cocktail called the Fairytale of New York in this month’s Imbibe Magazine, there wasn’t a chance I wasn’t going to be making it (plus rugelach pinwheels, which are on repeat this year) for the next holiday party. The drink is essentially an Old Fashioned, except instead of muddling a sugar cube with bitters, you sweeten it with a “winter warmth syrup,” with raw sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, walnuts, apples and pears. The aroma of this simmering on the stove is so reverentially amazing; if you had even a trace of holiday hesitation left in you, it would instantly eradicate it. And if it didn’t, well: bourbon.

I hope that wherever you’re spending the holidays, you are with the people you adore, getting to eat the food you love, and listening to all of your terrible holiday favorites (I like a steady mix of Pogues and John Denver and the Muppets, personally). And I hope that someone hands you one of these as soon as you walk in from the cold.

* warning, grimness ahead: …perhaps because you learned that one of the most famous crooners of the last century was a terrible parent or maybe you listened to Santa Baby in the wrong mood and found it grossly materialistic and paternalistic or perhaps because a certain song you once loved got ruined forever a few years ago…

One year ago: Gingerbread Snacking Cake
Two years ago: Fromage Fort
Three years ago: Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs
Four years ago: Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies (still a favorite!)
Five years ago: How to Host Brunch and Still Sleep In and Spinach and Cheese Strata that will make you a hero
Six years ago: Braised Short Ribs with Potato Puree, Swiss Chard and Horseradish Cream plus Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread
Seven years ago: Austrian Raspberry Shortbread and A Slice-and-Bake Cookie Palette
Eight years ago: Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti and Hazelnut Truffles

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
1.5 Years Ago: Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw
2.5 Years Ago: Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt
3.5 Years Ago: Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes

Fairytale of New York
Adapted from Dave Mitton of The Harbord Room in Toronto, via Imbibe Magazine

This is essentially a winter spiced old-fashioned, a really wonderful variation on it for this time of year. The mulled simple syrup will make you home smell heavenly. I fudged the ingredients a little, using a whole apple because I didn’t have a half pear, using orange bitters instead of walnut ones, and ground cloves (a few pinches) instead of whole. Nobody was the wiser.

Winter Warmth Syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup raw, demerara or turbinado sugar (granulated will do just fine if you do not have them)
1/2 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
12 walnut halves
3 cinnamon sticks, broken up
6 whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg

For Each Cocktail
1 piece of orange peel (about 1 by 2 inches)
3/4 ounce Winter Warmth Syrup (recipe above)
2 dashes of bitters (Fee Brothers black walnut bitters are recommended, I used orange bitters)
2 ounces bourbon, rye or Canadian whisky

Make the winter warmth syrup: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Strain into a clean glass bottle, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 2 cups.

Make a drink: Place the orange peel, syrup and bitters in a low glass and muddle. Pour in whiskey, add a large ice cube and don’t forget to share.

Make a carafe: We brought 2 4-cup carafes of this to a party, using all of the syrup and about 5 1/2 cups bourbon. We tossed a few orange peels into each jar. Don’t forget to remind friends to pour it over ice (we forgot), so they are not asleep before, you know, Santa comes down the chimney.

Deep dark gingerbread waffles

I know, I know, we just talked about gingerbread two weeks ago, in a biscotti, hot chocolate-dipping format. It’s too soon! I completely agree with you. But this was a request; a commenter asked if there was a way to transplant the intensity of everyone’s favorite gingerbread cake into a waffle format. Asking me this is like asking a Muppet if they like to count. I live for this; I thought you’d never ask.

True enough, the so-called gingerbread waffles I browsed on the web seemed to be in name only; pale beige specimens, softly spiced, more gingersnap than ginger thud . Proper gingerbread should make an entrance, with no restraint in the ginger or molasses department. It should be dark and a little sticky. It should either be adored or reviled; there’s rarely any middle ground. Lucky for me, my family, both young and old, cannot get enough.

Pretty much everything about these will remind you of the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread. The waffles are deeply spiced, colored, fragrant and yet harmonious and addictive. But, as I always strive for honesty here, I have to tell you that it might remind you of the worst part of the Gramercy gingerbread too — these guys really want to stick to the waffle iron. But they won’t. What they need is a little extra careful coaxing when you lift them from the waffle iron, little by little, being careful to avoid big tears (nobody will be the wiser to the small ones). You’re probably going to curse me a little. But, I want you to know that I would never put you through such a pesky retrieval if these were not absolutely, unwaveringly worth it . Plus, the moment they hit the plate, they begin to firm up. Within one minute, they’ll fulfill all of your waffle hopes and dreams: crispy edges, soft center, and a flavor that will make it impossible to have another winter holiday without them for breakfast ever again.

One year ago: Breakfast Slab Pie (the other way I’d feed houseguests for breakfast)
Two years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
Three years ago: Parsnip Latkes with Horseradish and Dill
Four years ago: Spicy Gingerbread Cookies
Five years ago: Mushroom Marsala Pasta with Artichokes
Six years ago: Seven-Layer Rainbow Cookies and Grasshopper Brownies, two of my favorite sweets in the archives
Seven years ago: My Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies
Eight years ago: Zucchini Latkes and Short Ribs Bourguignon

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Frozen Coconut Limeade
1.5 Years Ago: Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream
2.5 Years Ago: Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken
3.5 Years Ago: Linguine with Pea Pesto

Deep Dark Gingerbread Waffles

These waffles use more sugar than any other I’ve made, but they don’t end up tasting excessively sweet because the sugar is necessary to balance the intensity of the molasses. That said, you absolutely will not need syrup on top of these, despite my suggestion of it in photos. Just a dusting of powdered sugar and maybe, if you’re feeling fancy, a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche will make these even more perfect. Serve with a mixed citrus salad (favorites: 1, 2, 3) and crispy bacon, if that’s your thing. And if it’s not, you can send it here.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 15 small rectangular waffles; serves 4 to 5

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 cup buttermilk, yogurt thinned with a little milk, fresh apple cider or even stout beer
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for brushing waffle iron
Powdered sugar for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, molasses, sugars, egg and butter until combined. The butter will likely firm up and make little white splotches throughout; this is a-okay. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Heat waffle iron to a middle heat. Either brush waffle iron with melted butter or spray it lightly with a nonstick cooking spray. Ladle gingerbread batter into waffle iron until they’re about 3/4 filled out. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions. In my waffle iron, I like to cook them 1 to 2 minutes more.

To remove waffles: Open waffle iron. Wait about 30 seconds, giving them a chance to steam off a little. With tongs in one hand and a small spatula in the other, gently, carefully lift corners of each waffle section enough to slide the spatula underneath, then lift and slide some more until you can get the section out. Curse Deb, because these waffles are very sticky and eager to tear. Trust Deb, that they will be worth it. Spread them on a tray in a single layer to let cool slightly; within 1 minute, they should be crisp to the touch and easier to lift. Repeat with remaining batter. Try not to stack waffles — even though they’re firm, they will stick.

Serve immediately, dusted with powdered sugar and, if you’re feeling fancy, a dollop of barely or unsweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche.

endives with oranges and almonds

I realize this might not look like much. It probably looks suspiciously like a salad, which means it’s probably going to be the last kid picked for your holiday cooking olympics. It doesn’t taste like ginger, linzer or crushed candy canes. It smacks of January Food, the stuff of resolutions and repentance, and there’s no time for that now. But I need to tell you about it anyway, urgently, because the preoccupation with this salad has hit me so intensely, so wholly, it’s basically the only thing I want to eat, and since I’m ostensibly the grownup here, this is exactly what I’m going to do.

I had this for the first time two weekends ago, when I got to spring a surprise Miami Beach getaway on my husband as a belated birthday present. We had dinner the first night at José Andrés’ Bazaar, the kind of prolonged, indulgent meal that, I’m sure purely coincidentally, usually only occurs when we’re not simultaneously parenting. I don’t think we had a bite of food that was less than pristine. I’ve been a little obsessed with Andrés’ cooking since I lived in DC, right around the time Jaleo opened. I remember piling in there one night in 1999 with friends in town from New York and one told us that he really wanted to study in Paris the next year, but he needed someone to stay in his rent-controlled East Village apartment and also take care of his cat while he was gone. My roommate and I have never volunteered ourselves so quickly, not that anyone asked me my “welcome to new york” story. Even without such life-changing memories, the food was perfect, and no matter how many pork and scallop products were on the menu, there were always vegetables too, treated as carefully and respectfully as the finest jamón serrano. Our Miami meal was no different, which is why I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that of everything we ate, it was this seemingly random composition of goat cheese, almonds, oranges, chives, sea salt, endive, sherry vinegar and olive oil that I haven’t stopped pining over since.

My mother and I had this for lunch on Friday. I had more with dinner. I managed to eke another plate in on Sunday night and I can tell you with unwavering certainty that I will be eating this alongside my latkes on Tuesday. It’s at once a salad, appetizer and also finger food for parties, because, well, if you think I ate those little endive boats with a knife and fork, you might be mistaking me for someone with better breeding. Besides, how better to taste the happy commingling of fragrant citrus, tangy cheese, crunch of deeply toasted almonds, droplets of intense sherry vinegar and fruity olive oil, all finished with sea salt than to grab it by the endive boat and sail off with it?

On the radio: I’ll be on the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC at 1 p.m. EST today, and we’re talking about Hanukah food delights: latkes, doughnuts, brisket and more. [Details]

One year ago: Linzer Torte
Two years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
Three years ago: Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
Four years ago: Broiled Mussels
Five years ago: Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce
Six years ago: Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake and Sausage-Stuffed Potatoes
Seven years ago: Apple Cranberry Crisp and Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
Eight years ago: Boozy Baked French Toast, Onion Soup

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Frozen Coconut Limeade
1.5 Years Ago: Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon and Ricotta
2.5 Years Ago: Chocolate Swirl Buns
3.5 Years Ago: Rich Homemade Ricotta

Endives with Oranges and Almonds
Inspired by a version at José Andrés’ Bazaar in Miami Beach

Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a light meal

3 oranges (I used 2 navel and one cara cara orange)
2 heads of endive
2 ounces soft goat cheese or chevre, crumbled
1/3 cup sliced almonds or chopped marcona almonds, well-toasted
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for drizzling
Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced chives
Flaky or other sea salt, to finish

Cut the top and bottom off your oranges, exposing the citrus flesh inside. Then, resting on either end, cut the peels, including the white pith, off the oranges. [Set aside for orangettes!] Use your knife to cut between each membrane and orange segment, cutting only so far as the center, which should release the orange segments. You can chop them once or twice more, so the pieces are not too large.

Trim end off endives and arrange individual leaves on a medium platter. Add a few orange chunks to each, then goat cheese crumbles and almonds. Season with black pepper, then drizzle with a very thin stream of olive oil. Add a few droplets of sherry vinegar to each “boat.” Scatter chives over and finish each with sea salt.

jelly doughnuts

I have been promising you a recipe for homemade jelly doughnuts for as many Hanukahs as this site has been in existence, which is to say 9, including the one that begins next week. This might lead you to conclude that I like neither fried food, doughnuts or even jelly, or all over the above showered in unholy amounts of powdered sugar, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, which is that I like them so much that if they want a chance to live out their short shelf-life destiny, they should stay far from my home.

These round jelly doughnuts are sometimes called sufganiyot , or at least when they hail from Israel and are consumed during Hanukah. However, in my vast — for research, guys, just for research! — jelly doughnut studies, I can tell you that there are sugared round versions of these in dozens of other wonderful places on earth. In Germany, these would be called Berliners ; in Poland, pączki (I get mine at the Polish butchers on 2nd Avenue; how about you?), in Russia, ponchiki , in Ukraine, pampushky , in Italy, bombolini (swoon), in Finland, munkki (although not all of these varieties are always filled with jam) and, hey, who wants to go on a Fried Dough World Tour with me?

What almost all of them have in common is yeast dough enriched with egg and a bit of butter which gives them a stretchy, rich but not very sweet quality that I find hopelessly addictive. They fry for just a couple minutes each, and are best the first day, which means they are useless in trying to teach anyone the value of delayed dessert gratification, but means you’ll be something of a hero to anyone who has Eat Doughnuts Still Warm From The Fryer on their life list, not that we know anyone like that.

Doughnuts, previously: There are two recipes on this site to date for doughnuts, apple cider doughnuts that should come with a warning for parents of rapidly-growing-up kids — or, at least, me — that they include photos of a one month-old in argyle knee socks slumped over a can of Crisco. [I lost about an hour this week staring at that photo.] Plus, chocolate doughnut holes, which are the perfect party size and include the same curly-haired moppet, now old enough to bang on an empty Crisco can like a drum. Ah, wholesome family memories! Both are excellent recipes, but they are notably absent in my single favorite doughnut quality: yeast. Yeast doughnuts are to cake doughnuts what brown butter is to fresh, what caramel is to plain sugar, what homemade vanilla extract is to anything you can buy in a bottle. Today is the day to make that right.

Next up: NOT a dessert, promise. I know it’s been a bit of a sugar stampede here this last week or two. We’ve got baking on the brain! I also am finding it hard to focus on dinner with so many rugelach pinwheels to make. But here are a few weeknight favorites that, for us, fit the bill but also do not keep us too busy to get all of the fun baking done, too: Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime and Ginger, Twice-Baked Potatoes with Kale, Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Vinegar, Sizzling Chicken Fajitas, Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings, Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole and Baked Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage

On Pinterest: A visual guide to everything worth baking this month, such as all 71 cookies in the Smitten Kitchen archives and homemade food gifts. Come see!

Signed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks: I work with McNally-Jackson, an independent bookstore in Soho through which you can order a signed Smitten Kitchen Cookbook with your choice of inscription; I sign them, they mail them out. We have a hard deadline for Christmas shipping (i.e. you’d pay standard and not rushed shipping and the book will reach you by Christmas) of this coming Monday, December 15th. [Order Custom Inscribed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks from McNally Jackson]

One year ago: My Great Linzer Torte Love
Two years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
Three years ago: Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs
Four years ago: Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Five years ago: Build Your Own Smitten Kitchen (the only gift guide I’ve ever made, now with hopefully all-fixed links) and Creamed Mushrooms on Butter-Chive Toasts
Six years ago: Zuni Cafe’s Roast Chicken and Bread Salad
Seven years ago: Chicken and Dumplings
Eight years ago: Winter Panzanella</a, Homemade Orecchiette with Tomatoes and Arugula, Chicken Skewers with Dukkah Crust and Pecan Squares

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake
1.5 Years Ago: Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon and Ricotta
2.5 Years Ago: Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
3.5 Years Ago: Dobos Torte

Jelly Doughnuts [Sufganiyot, Berliners, Pączki, Bombolini, etc.]

Updated 12/22/14 with a slew of additional notes and tips, after someone (ahem) made these two more times in a singe weekend. I found the dough easier to work with an extra spoonful or two of flour; it called for 2 1/4 cups, now calls for 2 1/3. I now share a second method of filling the doughnuts for more perfect centers. And I’ve written in the option of either doing the first rise or the second overnight in the fridge (but not both; the dough cannot handle two days in the fridge). We had two brunch parties this weekend, and to make things easier I pre-filled the doughnuts (the peskier method, below) and proofed them the second time in the fridge overnight. All I had to do in the morning was fry them, which takes all of 10 minutes, tops. And then: warm, fresh doughnuts for all. (Hooray.)

Yield: 16 2-inch doughnuts
Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 7-gram or 1/4-ounce packet) active dry yeast
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (180 ml) lukewarm (not hot) milk
2 large egg yolks
Few gratings of orange or lemon zest, 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 grams) butter softened
2 1/3 cups (290 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
1 egg white, whisked until frothy (for peskier filling method)
Vegetable oil for deep-frying, and coating bowl
1/2 to 2/3 cup jam or preserves of your choice
Powdered sugar

Make the dough: In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and milk. Let stand for 5 minutes; it should become a little foamy. Whisk in yolks, any zest or extracts you’d like to use, then butter. Don’t worry if the butter doesn’t fully combine.

By hand: Add half of flour and stir with a spoon until combined. Add second half of flour and salt and stir as best as you can with a spoon, then use your hands to knead the dough until it forms a smooth, elastic round, about 5 minutes. Try, if you can, to resist adding extra flour, even if it’s sticky. Extra flour always makes for tougher/dryer doughnuts and breads. Sticky hands and counters are always washable!

With a stand mixer: Add half the flour and let the dough hook mix it in slowly, on a low speed. Add second half of flour and salt and let the dough hook bring it together into a rough dough. Run machine for 3 to 4 minutes, letting it knead the dough into a smooth, cohesive mass.

Both methods: If the dough is already in the bowl, remove it just long enough to lightly oil the bowl. Return dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the fridge overnight.

There are two ways to fill doughnuts: In the easiest method, you fill them after they’re cooked with a piping bag. The filling is usually a little imperfect, off-center or slightly messy, but it takes the least effort by far. With the peskier method, you pre-fill the doughnuts, sealing the edges; the centers will be picture-perfect and neat, but it does take longer to assemble. Both will make you a hero to anyone you make these for, promise.

Easiest method: On a lightly floured counter, roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds; no need to re-roll scraps unless you wish; I like to keep the odd shapes for getting the hang of frying before cooking the final doughnuts. Or, if you’re vehemently against scraps and re-rolling, you can make small square doughnuts, which are surprisingly cute. Let cut dough rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature, loosely covered with a towel at room temperature, or in the fridge overnight, on an oiled tray, covered loosely with oiled plastic wrap (use this longer rise only if did the 1-hour rise the first time; two overnights is too much for this dough).

Peskier method: On a lightly floured counter, roll dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds; no need to re-roll scraps unless you wish; I like to keep the odd shapes for getting the hang of frying before cooking the final doughnuts. Or, if you’re vehemently against scraps and re-rolling, you can make small square doughnuts, which are surprisingly cute. Brush the edges of half the cut-outs with egg white, and in the center of each, add a tiny dollop (much less than you think you’ll need) of jam. Use the remaining cut-outs to form lids. Pinch every speck of the edges together tightly, almost as if you were making ravioli; you’ll want to seal these spectacularly well. Let filled doughnuts rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature, loosely covered with a towel at room temperature, or in the fridge overnight, on an oiled tray, covered loosely with oiled plastic wrap (use this longer rise only if did the 1-hour rise the first time; two overnights is too much for this dough).

Both methods, fry the doughnuts: Heat 2 inches of oil to 350°F (175°C) in a cast-iron frying pan (I like using one because it so delightfully re-seasons them) or heavy pot. Use your dough scraps to practice and get an idea of how quickly the doughnuts will cook. Then add about 4 doughnuts at a time to the oil, cooking on the first side until golden brown underneath, about 1 to 2 minutes, but often less so keep a close eye on them. Flip doughnuts and cook on the other side, until it, too, is golden brown underneath, about another minute. Drain doughnuts, then spread them on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb extra oil. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.

If you haven’t filled your doughnuts yet, i.e. you’re using the easier method: When doughnuts are cool enough to handle, place jelly or jam in a piping bag with a round tip with a 1/4- to 1/2-inch opening. You can fill doughnuts from the tops or sides; I did half with each. Press the tip of the jam bag halfway into the doughnut, and squeeze in the jam until it dollops out a little from the hole. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.

Finish doughnuts: Either generously shower doughnuts with powdered sugar on either side, shaken from a fine-mesh strainer, or roll the doughnuts gently in a bowl of powdered sugar.

Eat at once. Don’t forget to share. If eating these on the first day, leave any remaining doughnuts uncovered on a plate. These are best on the first day, but my son did not (shockingly) say no to one that had been in an airtight container at room temperature overnight for breakfast this morning, so I guess they’re not inedible on the second day. They will need to be re-powdered, however, as it absorbs into the doughnuts when they’re in a covered container.

To make these dairy-free: You can use warm water, soy, almond or coconut milk instead of the dairy milk, and coconut oil, shortening or margarine for the butter. I made a version with both coconut milk and coconut oil, orange zest and a bit of almond extract that were a big hit.