Oh my golly golly goodness - I am totally, totally overcome. I thought getting a book deal couldn't be topped, but then I started reading your comments and your emails, each and every one of them, and my heart just about burst. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for cheering me on, for believing in me, for finding inspiration in what I wrote for your own lives, and for generally being the most incredible readers and commenters a girl could ever have. I want to give you all a big hug. Maybe even do a little jig for you. Want to come up and visit me on Cloud 9? There's space up here, along with some nice, cold Champagne, delicious snacks, and really comfortable chairs. Plus the weather seems to be just fantastic all the time. Weird!
Seriously, though. I may have said this before, but I'll say it again (and again, and again): you guys are simply amazing.
Now to the nitty-gritty. I leave New York in mid-December. Which means that I have about six weeks left. At first I thought I would make a list of all the things I never got to do in the past ten years (Di Fara's pizza, Kitchen Arts & Letters, the Museum of the City of New York, dinner at Babbo) and get to work crossing things off that list. I realized about five minutes later that that might get a little depressing. (Not to mention exhausting.) It'd be like I was leaving New York and never coming back! Instead I decided to leave those things undone, to give myself things to look forward to when I come back to visit. As if there wouldn't be enough already...
Most importantly, though (and pardon the profanity, but I think it's warranted here): hell yes, I am keeping the blog. Can you imagine? I leave my friends, my job, my apartment, my city, and on top of all that, this little space, too? I think I would have a nervous breakdown in about 4 minutes flat. I need you, little blog! I need you, darling readers.
And look, I'm in Berlin right now, as I type, and it's going swimmingly! Wouldn't you say? You can't even tell that I'm here and not there, can you?
I'm here just for a few days, to work out a few things before I move. And right now, I'm sitting in a pool of sunshine, typing away to all of you while listening to someone's washing machine hum, thoughts of last night's homemade yeasted plum cake and plans for a pea soup party with friends on Sunday in my head. I have to say, I like this feeling; like all is right with the world.
One more thing I need to tell you before I head out for lunch is about these potatoes I made last weekend, when I was still reeling from the events of the week. The recipe comes from the chef at Diner in Williamsburg, which is such a great little place to eat. I have this fantasy of having a Stammtisch, you know, a restaurant within walking distance of your house, where you're such a regular that the waiters always seat you at your favorite table and bring you your drink without you having to order it and know just how you like your steak cooked or your greens drizzled, and all the while the restaurant is so cozy and unpretentious and such a joy to be at for a few hours each week that you end up never really wanting to eat anyplace else, no matter what. I like to think that, for some lucky people at least, Diner is that restaurant.
Anyway. Potatoes. Where was I?
Right! Potatoes. Delicious.
What the chef does is make a panful of caramelized onions with thyme, and then he deglazes the pan with vinegar, lets it get all syrupy and wonderful. The onions turn silky-sweet, herbal and pungent. You could practically eat them with a fork right out of the pan. But you don't. You exercise patience and fortitude while, in a different pan, you fry up a bunch of parboiled potatoes until they're brown and crispy and hot hot hot. Then you mix the vinegary, silky-sweet onions with the crispy, hot potatoes and sit down very, very quickly to eat them.
You might think, but what about the rest of lunch? Aren't there any vegetables or at least a sausage to eat with this pile of potatoes and onions? And you know, you have a point. You could certainly stand to add something to your plate. But if you are still as speechless as I was last Saturday, still reeling from one of the most exciting things to ever happen to you, just know that you won't actually need anything else to eat. That the potatoes will be the first thing that passes your lips all week good enough to wake you up out of your reverie and, while you chew happily and fork up more, to help you realize that no, never fear, it all really happened, it wasn't just a dream.
Pommes de Terre Boulangère
Note: I am not usually such an onion-lover. These onions, however, were a revelation. So much so that I actually wished I had made more. The next time I make this, I'm going to double or triple the batch of onions, and I think you should, too. If you have leftovers, pile them on a cheese sandwich, mix them into boiled spaghetti or just eat them with at the stove.
2 pounds (about 7 medium) firm, waxy potatoes
6 to 8 cups beef or chicken broth, or as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large red or white onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1. Place potatoes in a saucepan and add broth to cover by about 1 inch. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper, or to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer until just tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove potatoes from broth (reserve broth for another use) and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, combine onion with 1 tablespoon fat. Place over medium-low heat and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add 4 thyme sprigs. Reduce heat to low, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and caramelized, about 10 more minutes. Add vinegar, cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat, and discard thyme sprigs.
3. Slice cooled potatoes into rounds 1/3 inch thick. Place a large cast-iron skillet over high heat, and add 2 tablespoons fat (or as needed to provide a thick coating on bottom of pan). When fat is extremely hot, add potatoes and allow to sit without stirring or shaking until seared and crispy.
4. Turn potatoes and sear and crisp other sides. When well-browned, add caramelized onions, salt and pepper to taste, and stir to mix. Chop remaining 2 sprigs thyme (or if stems are woody, use leaves only), sprinkle over potatoes and serve.