Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Comfort Food & Christmas Coming Up: Jansson’s Frestesle

Jansson's Frestesle recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Is it just me, or does it feel like holiday food necessitates buckets of heavy whipping cream and gobs of butter? Not just me? Alright, fine, let’s proceed.

At my other job, I’m already knee-deep in Christmas things. We like to stay a couple weeks ahead of the curve, and I spend my days translating articles about the best Christmas gifts, pretty sugar-cookie scented bubble baths and artfully wrapped cosmetics. The end result being that all I’ve wanted to do for the last few weeks is bake gingersnaps and indulge in a few “harmless,” late-night, online shopping sprees.

onions for Jansson's Frestesle (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

potatoes and one sneaky onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

onions ready for baking (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So when my other job said, photograph some Christmas foods for us, I said, absolutely and instantly ran to the grocery store to purchase buckets of heavy whipping cream and butter. Obviously.

Jansson’s Frestelse is a traditional Swedish Christmas casserole in which starchy potatoes play an understated backdrop to buckets of heavy whipping cream, butter, lightly caramelized onions and salty anchovies. When it’s all baked together in an oven, it becomes a rich medley of hot, bubbling cream beneath a crackling bread crumb crust. Holiday food at its finest.

layers of anchovies for Jansson's Frestesle (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
layered potatoes for Jansson's Frestesle (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It was about the time I was halfway through the dish of Jansson’s Frestelse (also known as Jansson’s Temptation for good reason), that I realized I had just single-handedly consumed one 250g carton of heavy whipping cream.

This brought me to the conclusion that holidays are meant to be shared with others not simply because they are about family and friends and togetherness, but because we should never have to eat so much butter by ourselves. (Or at least a holiday dinner allows us to do a better job of managing our feelings of guilt at having eaten so much butter by displacing them onto the rest of the assembled company.)

Swedish Christmas casserole (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

potatoes, butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Anyway, I’m sure the extra lipid layer will come in handy here in Berlin as the Christmas markets start popping up around the city and all the boot-shaped mugs of Glühwein in the world won’t keep me warm…

Jansson's Frestesle (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Jansson’s Frestelse (Jansson’s Tempation)

5-6 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
15 Swedish anchovy fillets (usually from a tin, in oil)
3 tbsp butter
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
½ cup bread crumbs

Sauté onions in 1 tbsp butter with a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tsp sugar until translucent and lightly browned. » Continue reading this post…

If on a Winter’s Night: Easy Winter Lentil Stew

easy winter lentil stew recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I haven’t taken my hat off for days. I’m beginning to wonder if I still have hair, and if I do, whether or not it matters. I’m supposed to be working. Instead, I’m chipping the nail polish from my fingers, staring outside at the falling leaves, debating whether or not to buy a monthly metro pass. (At the end of the story, I will end up buying one. I will not regret it.)

Some days it rains and in the coffee shops the crowds grow a low murmur. Outside, the smell of damp leaves and everywhere, I swear, I smell a roasting turkey. I’m reading a book of short stories by Italo Calvino and at the same time a Harper’s magazine from May I’ve been working on for months. In the news, it’s a blur of politics and hurricanes and I wonder what I’d be doing in New York if I were still there. I think of my McKibbin apartment, where I didn’t close up the three-inch hole in the window with duct tape until winter.

sliced peppers for lentil stew (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

garlic for lentil stew (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What I most look forward to are afternoons wrapped up in a blanket and my love, a movie laughing in the background and sleep in my limbs.

Don’t tell anyone, but I like these days. The damp, the leaves, the candles lined up on the windowsill. The snuggled in slippers, the garish green hat.

chopped vegetables for winter lentil stew (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When I cook on nights like these, I cook for comfort. I want the seeping smell of garlic and spice. I want to feel the thin skin of a tomato crack beneath my knife and hear the familiar sound of a peeler’s swish against a carrot. And when I eat my stew, I want it to mean the day is done. The shutters can be let down and soon, soon, I can go to bed. » Continue reading this post…

In the Beginning, There Was Butter: Bagna Cauda

bagna cauda recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“You start with nine sticks of butter,” my aunt says, giving me the recipe for a dish which, at the end of its life, will contain fourteen sticks. Her voice is a Florida twang, an accent no one else in my family seems to have picked up as strongly, though when I am with her, I find my own vowels stretching out. I becomes Ah, as though I’ve been stuck into a Twilight Zone dentist’s office and every personal statement is a chance to glance at my sweet tea-ravaged cavities.

“This is the easy way, but the real way is, you’re going to want to chop up about three things of garlic – at least.” Except it sounds like, Yer gunna wunna

My aunt is referring not to cloves of garlic, but to heads, because this is the famed family recipe for banyacotta, which is the phonetic spelling for a dish which is actually a famed Italian recipe called bagna cauda. The recipe is basically the same. But I think my family uses more butter.

bagna cauda (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Banyacotta is a familial rite of passage. Lovers, fiancés, new spouses, children – you’re not a part of the family until you’ve eaten banyacotta.

This is mostly due to the fact that for a full two days after eating it, you trail the scent of garlic behind you thicker than Pepe le Pew on an amour trail. It is imperative, for this reason, that everyone in the family partake, so that we don’t notice our stench, naïvely wandering through the world in our own little garlic reek.

For a long time, I had no idea that banyacotta was not just something that had been handed down in my family from generation to generation. All of the friends I told about the dish – it’s a dip of butter, garlic, and anchovies and you eat it on cabbage – were disgusted (but then again, that isn’t quite the favorite foods lists of an eight year old). » Continue reading this post…

What I Learned in Brooklyn: Chicken Tacos with Habanero Salsa and Red Cabbage & Pepper Slaw

tacos with roast chicken and habanero salsa recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

They may not be authentic or conventional. But as long as they’re made with 100% corn tortillas (preferably pressed in the back of a tortilla factory in Brooklyn), they’re real.

When my friend Akiko asked what I wanted her to bring me from America, the only thing I could think of was real tortillas. Not big, floppy flour mats, but small, imperfectly round discs with traces of char.

I’m not a taco Nazi, and I think there are many ways to build a beautiful taco. Often, I don’t even think it’s necessary to include traditional taco ingredients. In Germany this is hard to do anyway, since The Great Cilantro Hunt is a time-consuming task and limes are not, as they were in Brooklyn, ten for $1. But we make do with what we have – and though the tacos I made a few weeks ago on burrito wraps were good, these tacos, with the Brooklyn tortillas Akiko brought me, were great.

spicy habaneros (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

non-traditional tacos (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

roast chicken and vegetables (Eat Me. Drink Me.) » Continue reading this post…

Anger Cooking/Comfort Eating

potatoes and chili (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
potatoes and eggplant (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Don’t even ask me how my day was. Don’t do it.

My roommates asked – and twenty minutes of ranting later they said, “Well, look how… peeled those potatoes are.

And it’s true. They were quite thoroughly peeled and then quite thoroughly chopped. And the onion made me cry. And the eggplant never saw it coming. And I beat the yogurt and lemon juice until it never knew it had been two separate things.

I threw the pan in the oven and sat down. We talked about not me. I took a breath.

My vegetables took an hour to roast (in the way things never really go exactly like you had in mind), but my roommates and I sat in the kitchen. We talked it out. And the aroma of roasting vegetables crept into the kitchen. Soothing.

I heaped the vegetables onto my plate because being angry makes you hungry and sat down to eat, even though I wasn’t even very angry anymore. Just a little bit exhausted.

It took one bit to realize I’d confused the paprika for chili. My mouth burned. A just on the cusp of too much burning, there with the sweetness of onions and rich eggplant, the homey, comforting potatoes. Like the residue of my anger, not overwhelming, not too much for me to bear – just present, just persistent.

roast potatoes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

roast vegetables with tzaziki (Eat Me. Drink Me.) » Continue reading this post…

Bread/Love/Bread: A Few Sandwich Recipes

arugula, tomato and caramelized onion sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’ve been in sandwich mode again. How could I have forgotten what a lovely lunch it is: curried chicken or ripe tomatoes and basil, crumbled feta or camembert, peppery arugula, spicy mustard, caramelized onions or chopped olives… All stuffed between two warm, toasted slices of bread.

Sandwiches are like edible hugs. Right arm, left arm; top bread, bottom. Only good things in the middle.

Caramelized Onion and Tomato Sandwich

1 yellow onion
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 cinnamon bagel
3 sliced cherry tomatoes
Handful fresh arugula
3 slices feta

Thinly slice onion into rings and do a quick caramelize: heat oil in a skillet, add onion and brown sugar plus a pinch of salt. Sauté on medium heat until onion is deep brown and looks melted. In the meantime, toast cinnamon bagel (preferably one you’ve gotten for free from a tray of dumpster-dived baked goods after the bartender has spilled an entire beer on you and given you complimentary tequila shots. But a regular cinnamon bagel could be good too…) and prepare the rest of the ingredients: sliced cherry tomatoes, a handful of fresh arugula (washed, bottom of the stem removed), and a few slices of feta. When the onions are done: assemble.

arugula, tomato, feta (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Caramelized onion, tomato, and feta sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.) » Continue reading this post…

You Say Tomato, I Say Potahto: Roast Potatoes with Sweet Hungarian Pepper Sauce

roast potatoes with hungarian pepper sauce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When I think about things that go well with potatoes, the first thing that pops into my mind is tomatoes. There’s a great possibility that this is a vestige of some ingrained-in-my-childhood-brain Fox in Socks trickery, but there’s an equally great chance that this is simply because potatoes and tomatoes taste like magic together.

Let me be truthful – I haven’t cooked in a long time. For the last few days, I’ve been eating toasted slices of bread topped with a plethora of interesting things: garlic-ginger butter with aged gouda and arugula, mini peppers stuffed with goat cheese and marinated in oil, mettwurst with raw onion and cracked pepper, pink roe paste with piquant goat’s milk cheese, or absolutely, absolutely sinful Biscoff cookie spread. And while all of these things are delicious, there is only so much toast you can eat before you never want to see a slice of bread again.

basil plant (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

(As an aside, I really hate the word “plethora,” and I’m not really sure why I felt the need to use it here. I suppose that sometimes, words just want to be, whether we like them or not, just as sometimes, it’s not at all bad to be kind to people we don’t like.)

roast potatoes with hungarian pepper sauce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Part of the problem is that I haven’t really had time to cook – and the other part is that I haven’t really been home. I’ve been out having fun. Going to music festivals, entertaining visiting friends, sitting in cafés. Oh yes, I know, my life is hard.

roast potatoes with hungarian pepper sauce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

roast potatoes with hungarian pepper sauce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But really, I’ve missed cooking. The quietness of it. The focus of it. The to-do-list-fading-away-ness of it.

So today, for lunch, I whipped myself up a little something something. Nothing fancy – just some simple roast potatoes married to a bacon and sweet Hungarian pepper tomato sauce. » Continue reading this post…

Beautiful, Beautiful Bacon

bacon, once upon a time in America (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I miss bacon.

There is no bacon in Germany.

There is speck. There is pork belly.

But there is no bacon.

Bacon is what love is made of. Bacon is salt and fat, gnawed-upon muscle with crunch. Lips licked of grease and an old-timey taste of applewood or hickory. Bacon is hot Christmas morning and hungover brunch. It is the marriage of egg and potato hash, the slash of red on a diner’s cream plate. Bacon is being fed in bed and being too small to reach the stove. Bacon is getting your hand smacked for stealing strips still hot and popping. Bacon is burning your tongue. Bacon is burning your tongue again. Bacon converts vegetarians or is what vegetarians dream of even when they don’t dream. The scent of it sinks into clothes like the damp whiskey smell of campfire seep.

Like a hazy summer morning on the East coast. Without bacon there is no baked beans, there is no avocado sandwich, there are no dates wrapped in bacon blankets set on a plate in a restaurant in Seville, next to tiny octopi in oil, olives, and chopitos. Bacon is the what I make for you because I like you and the what you make for me because you like me. It’s also the what I make for myself when no one’s looking. Germany, oh land of beers and brats, oh land of cheeses and sausages, spätzle and baked breads – what I wouldn’t give for bacon. » Continue reading this post…

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