- Jalapeno Pickle Brined Fried Chicken (with ranch. duh, this is America)
- Blue Cheese Potato Salad w/ Bacon and Scallion
- Beergarita Popsicles with Smoky Chile Salt
- Tomato and Peach salad with Basil and Red Onion
- Strawberry Icebox Cake
Cauliflower is one of the most magical vegetables we know. It’s a work horse, standing up to whatever weird contortionist acts low-carbers, vegans, and paleos throw at it. One day it’s rice, the next it’s an analogue for buffalo chicken. We read a recipe the other day where someone used it to make fucking brownies. For all that hard work, cauliflower deserves a long, decidedly straightforward, culinary nap. Preferably one under velvety blanket of gruyere spiked bechamel.
We’re not ready for fall. Okay?
We know it’s already started but we just really, really aren’t into it. Fall means that winter is around the corner and last winter was too cold, too long, too much. We can’t trust those cozy sweaters and pumpkin-everythings because we know what’s next: cold toes, icy roads, and general sub-arctic misery. So we’re hanging on to summer with all we’ve got.
f summer had a patron saint, it would be potato salad. It’s the perfect carby, creamy complement to the season’s grilled meat (or some spicy fried chicken). No self-respecting BBQ is complete with out it.
Unfortunately, most potato salad recipes suck. Half are candy-sweet, and the rest taste like you’re freebasing a jar of French’s. While sugar-and-mustard-covered-potatoes seems to be the status quo: we think there’s gotta be a better way.
I (Rachel) was put on my first diet when I was about 6 years old and spent at least half of every year thereafter obsessing over my calories, carbs, or whatever food group I wasn’t “allowed” to indulge.
While it fucked me up for a good long while, and I stopped dieting for good back in 2009, the one huge advantage of being indoctrinated in shitty diet culture since birth was being exposed to weird guilty-pleasure diet foods. Stuff that normal humans– the ones not subsisting on Pickles, Sugar-Free Jello, and Plain Chicken Breasts covered in Hot Sauce– would never think to eat. Stuff that’s so frozen in time, stuck in the weird, made up pseudo science of the decade, that it’s hardly recognizable as food. But stuff that, just the same, is incredibly fucking delicious.
As fellow neurotic, over-achieving, Midwestern perfectionists, there is no character on TV closer to our hearts than Leslie Knope. She’s the plucky, hyper-organized basket case we someday hope to be, and she is our dream dinner party guest. When scheming to come up with a recipe inspired by her (and the rest of the cast at Parks and Rec) there was only one answer:
Eating non-holiday meals during the holidays can be weird. It’s hard to execute a hot meal in the morning when you’re busy, but December means planning for strangely timed meals and the questionable cooking abilities of your loved ones. Along with the usual requisites for food being tasty and satisfying, there’s a balance that must be struck: non-holiday meals need to be nourishing to keep you alert and feeling well enough to face your creepy Republican uncle while you pick at gristly ham and Jell-o salad, but they can’t be so filling that you don’t have room for pie.
Our solution is a gigantic breakfast with plenty of fiber, fat, and protein to keep you satisfied until it’s time for dessert.
Breakfast Skillets are full of the most delicious things on the planet and are our go-to hearty breakfast. Tender potatoes with crisp edges, chunks of meat, deceptive volumes of vegetables, and runny eggs with melty, bubbly cheese are an easy way to leverage hot sauce and ketchup into your face, but they also are nutritionally dense and diverse. Breakfast Skillets are a great way for your body to get some of the vitamins it may have missed during last night’s appetizers-on-a-stick repast and fill you up without making you need a nap. More than that: they are a great way to feed a hungry crowd, like your hungover friends or out of town relatives usurping your couch.
Eat it alone with Cholula and black coffee to correct any ills remaining from yesterday’s eggnog or pair it with Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Apart Bread and some fresh OJ for a low-maintenance family breakfast that is so fucking classy, it will make your mother get off your back about finding a job.
Pumpkin Pie is the fucking worst.
At its very best, it’s a plate of nostalgia that enables Cool Whip, but it usually is just a sweaty, curdled abomination with too much nutmeg and flabby pie crust that tastes absolutely nothing like Pumpkin.
Pumpkin, believe it or fucking not, doesn’t taste like your Pumpkin-Spice Latte. It tastes like squash, because it is one, and it’s a damn fine one at that. It’s savory with a subtle starchy sweetness, like carrots that have been cooked forever, that turns from brightly tart to nutty and pleasantly murky the longer it roasts.
Pumpkin makes a great soup, and possibly an even greater hash with plenty of chipotle and dark greens, but it’s finest application, in our never humble estimation, is a classic French recipe that we’ve stolen from the incomparable Dorrie Greenspan, who we think is adorable and has a great haircut.
Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good is exactly what it sounds like. It’s all of your favorite savory things crammed into a pumpkin, and then the oven, and then your face. It makes a great main dish, served in giant slabs with crusty bread and some spicy green beans, and is an obvious choice as a starchy side, or you can mix everything up and use it as a seasonal hummus-alternative (fuck hummus) for whatever you want to get covered in gooey cheesey pumpkin guts.
This is one of those dishes that’s great for cleaning out your cabinets. Anything that tastes good together, and generally goes well with cheese, is a perfect addition to your pumpkin. Got a bunch of italian sausage? Toss it in. Leftover beets? Why the fuck not. This is a template, not an edict, so play around with it, and don’t be afraid to use whatever you like to eat– or got overloaded with by your winter CSA.
We are really into Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. They’re unapologetic, unpretentious carb and cheese parties that are wholesome and comforting. They’re as much sandwich as they are delivery mechanisms for soup into your face, and eating them is like having your stomach hugged with bacon and caramelized onions.
Grilled Cheese is one of those things that is less of a recipe and more of a formula, sort of like vinaigrettes. There are basic structural components essential to the form and some steps you can take in the cooking process to ensure it’s perfectly crisp-on-the-outside-gooey-in-the-middle. However, for the most part, you can do whatever the hell you want.
The foundation of a grilled cheese is, shockingly, not the cheese; the right bread is the real key to this perfect sandwich. Commercially prepared sandwich loafs (think pre-sliced and plastic bagged) will certainly facilitate cramming melted cheese into your mouth, but they won’t deliver the best texture or flavor. Part of what makes a grilled cheese SO good is a chemical process called the Malliard Reaction. It’s how fancy bitches say “getting brown and toasty” and is what makes carbohydrates the most delicious stuff on the planet. In the Malliard Reaction, amino acids (which are the building blocks of proteins) sort of… melt when exposed to heat, and this gives them the opportunity to combine in new ways. The byproducts of these changes are malty, sweet, nutty flavors, and the strong aromas we associate with stuff that’s toasty. Because commercially produced breads lack a properly formed gluten (aka: wheat protein) and are often made with inexpensive, over-processed, low-protein starches, they can never get brown, crispy, and toasty like an artisan loaf. So start with something from the bakery section, or a local bakery (Chicago locals: head to Logan Square’s La Boulangerie) and pick a loaf with a well-developed crust. Sourdoughs, French Bread, and Ciabatta, are all great foundations for your sandwich.
As fundamental as bread is to this sandwich, cheese selection is obviously not something to take lightly. The perfect grilled cheese is gooey and stringy, and has plenty of assertive, cheesy tang. We like to use two different cheeses in our Grilled Cheese, because there aren’t many that both melt into pools of goopy wonder and can keep their flavor profiles together while being heated. Try using one soft, squishy cheese (Brie, Chevre, Merkts and Alouette cheese spreads) that makes everything melty and wonderful, and another with an assertive flavor (Cheddar, Blue, Aged Gruyere) that makes it taste more memorable.
Cooking a Grilled Cheese can be hard. Like, seriously, actually hard to do. Bread toasts a lot faster than cheese melts when you’re cooking over a direct heat source; if you cook until your cheese is optimally melted on the stove top, you will, without a doubt, have a burnt crust. So we like to treat our sandwiches like steaks. Sear them quickly (after a good coat in unsalted butter) in a heavy bottomed pan, until nicely browned and transfer to a 375 degree oven, on a cookie sheet, until the cheese is oozy and perfect. You will have a flawlessly crispy, evenly browned, heart-breakingly-melty Grilled Cheese every time, with no sad, sweaty, unmelted slices of cheese in the middle.
With those three central tenants of Grilled Cheese in mind (good bread, two cheeses, cooked like a steak), you can do pretty much whatever you want. We love stuffing them with our favorite flavors (tomatoes, avocados, bacon, ham, the list goes on) being careful to not overload the toppings and preventing the cheeses from fusing the bread together. We’ve got our two all-time favorite formulas for you below and are really excited to hear about what combinations y’all can come up with on your own!
Most of our favorite vegetables are not vegetables at all. Cucumbers, okra, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn, PEAS!!, and, of course, tomatoes are all fricking fruits. It’s beautiful fucking witchcraft and opens up some interesting culinary ideas when we stop the automatic thinking that fruits are for dessert and veggies are savory. When you blur those lines, and those flavors, you can come up with some interesting dishes– like Grape Pizza.
Think about it.
Tomatoes are small, sweet, fleshy fruits. So are grapes.
Grapes are super juicy, taste great with cheese, and have an acidic punch. Same with tomatoes.
They’re not quite botanical twins but they’re pretty damn close. With the extra savory backbone of bacon and shallots, grapes are the perfect sweet note in a complex, crunchy pizza.
Now, a few notes–
Making pizza dough isn’t even a little hard– but it is messy, and it’s a process that requires a small time investment. Even though it is extra delicious, sometimes we just don’t feel like fucking with it and there is absolutely no shame in that. These days there is plenty of great pre-made doughs available commercially. Trader Joe’s in particular has some righteous crusts, and we especially dig their whole wheat variety.
While we totally encourage a short cut, we sadly cannot recommend using a pre-cooked pizza crust for this particular recipe. It won’t taste right. Save your Boboli for when you’re too high to do anything but cover it in BBQ and cheddar but forget to bake it and eat it anyway (not that we know anything about that)