Diana Henry's Roasted Tomato, Fennel and Chickpea Salad

Diana Henry's Roasted Fennel and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas

About once a week for the past I don't know how many years, I've sectioned a fennel bulb into eighths, washed a handful of cherry tomatoes, put them in a baking dish with a good glug of olive oil (more is better here) and some salt and then stuck it in a 200C/400F oven until the vegetables are tender as can be and the tomatoes have browned and slumped, about 30 minutes, though I confess I've never really timed it. I also let the dish cool in the hot oven, which helps the caramelization at the end and then I basically eat the entire thing, unless my husband is around in which case I share. I love this dish so much that I nearly lick the baking dish. It's easy, it can be made all year long, since even the yuckiest cherry tomatoes come alive with this treatment, and it tastes ambrosial. If I happen to be lucky enough to have some nice sourdough bread around, I pair the vegetables with that for an easy little meal and life feels good.

I love a ritualistic vegetable dish like this that keeps showing up in my life over and over, that never gets old, that I don't even have to think about when I cook it. Like roasted broccoli, stewed peas, sauteed zucchini - the all-stars of my cooking life. These are the things that flesh out our dinner table night after night and that I imagine my children will remember, either fondly or not, when they look back at the food of their childhood. However, as much as I love these dishes and the comfort they bring me in both flavor and preparation, they are not necessarily stuff for company. They are humble, regular dishes, not show-stopping or even really conversation-worthy. When you're having people over or if you need to bring a dish to a potluck, I think you kind of need to up your game a little. Not a ton, but enough to make a bit of an impression.

Diana Henry Roasted Fennel and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas

Of course, my culinary hero Diana Henry has a recipe for precisely this kind of elevated salad that used roasted fennel and tomatoes as the base, but pumps it up with all kinds of crazy flavorings, like harissa and preserved lemon and balsamic vinegar. It comes from her book How to Eat a Peach and is quite a stunner. The addition of chickpeas makes it a slightly more substantial kind of salad and fresh herbs make it beautiful - the kind of thing you can plonk on a buffet table and feel secretly smug about. And also consume rather obsessively. Which is the whole point. One more thing I love about it: the flavorings are so bold and fresh but actually this salad is essentially seasonless, so you can serve it in spring, when people are crazy for asparagus and rhubarb, and you can serve it in winter, when big roasts and stews prevail, and in both cases it just kind of works. Pretty neat.

As luck would have it, I discovered a similar kind of special version of roasted broccoli dish that you need to know about (as in, my father literally said WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT THIS IS THE BEST BROCCOLI I HAVE EVER EATEN when he had it), but I'll have to save it for next time. My camera, beloved and trusty documentation device on this blog since 2007, died a few weeks ago. Like, right in the middle of taking these photos, which is why I don't have a photo of the final dish (here's one from Diana, though). I thought it just needed a little repair work, but the camera shop guy told me it wasn't worth it - the repair would cost far more to do than the camera is worth. I was unexpectedly gutted, I have to admit. I loved that camera. I salvaged the lens and put it on my husband's camera, which is only a few years newer than mine was, but requires a whole new education. So bear with me while I figure that out. 

Note: This post includes an affiliate link and I may earn a commission if you purchase through it, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Diana Henry's Roasted Tomato, Fennel and Chickpea Salad
Adapted from How to Eat a Peach
Serves 6

For the tomatoes
10 large plum tomatoes (or an equivalent amount of cherry tomatoes, left whole)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1½ tbsp harissa
2 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the fennel
2 large fennel bulbs
Juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed in a mortar or left whole
Generous pinch of chile flakes
2½ tbsp olive oil
400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the dressing
2 small preserved lemons
2 tsp juice from the lemon jar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1½ tbsp runny honey
5 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp chopped parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375 F). Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and lay in a single layer in a roasting pan or ovenproof dish. Leave whole if using cherry tomatoes. Mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and harissa and pour this over the tomatoes, tossing to coat well, then turn the tomatoes cut sides up. Sprinkle with the sugar and season.

2. Quarter the fennel bulbs, cut off the stalks and remove any coarse outer leaves. Pull off any tender fronds (reserve these) and cut each piece of fennel into 2.5cm thick wedges, keeping them intact at the base Add the lemon juice, garlic, fennel seeds, chile and olive oil, then season and turn everything over with your hands. Spread out the fennel in a second roasting tin and cover tightly with foil.

3. Put both trays in the oven. Roast the fennel for 25-30 minutes, until tender (the undersides should be pale gold), then remove the foil and roast for another 5-10 minutes, or until soft, golden and slightly charred. Roast the tomatoes for 35-40 minutes, or until caramelized in patches and slightly shrunken. Stir the chickpeas into the fennel and taste for seasoning. Leave both to cool to room temperature.

4. Now make the dressing. Discard the flesh from the preserved lemons and dice the rind. Whisk the preserved lemon juice with the wine vinegar, honey and olive oil, season and add the lemon rind and parsley. Taste for seasoning and sweet-sour balance.

5. Arrange the fennel, chickpeas and tomatoes on a platter, adding the juices from the roasting tins; there might be quite a bit from the tomatoes. Scatter any fennel fronds you reserved over the top. Spoon on the dressing. (Leftover dressing can be used on other salads or to zhuzz up mayo for chicken or tuna salad.)

Diana Henry's Baked Chicken with Dijon Mustard and Herbs

Diana Henry's Baked Chicken with Mustard and Herbs

Thank you all so much for your incredibly warm and lovely messages! It's so nice to be back and know that all of you are out there still reading.

Today I'm going to tell you about how I deal with the daily grind of WTF AM I MAKING FOR DINNER TONIGHT that makes even the most eager cook a little, shall we say, itchy. I don't know how many of you here are also following me on Instagram, where I mentioned this new way of meal planning back in January, so forgive me if this is a little repetitive, but I really do find it such a helpful way of working through the constant and unrelenting chore of having dinner on the table every evening that perhaps it can be useful to a few of you too.

Here's what I do: rather than sit down and write down a whole menu for each day of the week when meal planning (which was time consuming and eventually felt very...uninteresting and difficult), I decided to assign specifically themed meals to specific days of the week in a much looser fashion. Like this: On Mondays, we eat pasta. On Tuesdays, it's beans. Wednesdays are for chicken. Thursdays are soups or stews. Fridays is for fish. (Weekends are a free-for-all.) What this allows me is much more flexibility and also more rigidity at the same time, but in a way that feels both freeing and safe. Do you know what I mean?

Since Mondays are for pasta, it means that the week starts out very gently. All I need to do is make a pot of tomato sauce, which I could do in my sleep, and some green vegetable (sometimes, yes, it's just a sliced cucumber because I am only human, other times it's steamed broccoli or boiled chard). Dinner is very easy and almost always drama-free, because the boys both eat noodles and everyone's happy. It allows me to start the week off feeling somewhat capable and in control.

Tuesday is bean day and I usually end up making some kind of simple bean situation in the Instant Pot. This recipe (using Rancho Gordo cranberry beans, for example!) is wonderful and Bruno will eat at least three helpings of it. WHUT. I want to marry that recipe. The boys eat it plain or with a bit of bread and Hugo will have some avocado with it. We top it with cilantro and hot sauce and pickled onions and avocado. Sometimes, though, life is too crazy even for the Instant Pot and then I make a red or yellow lentil soup, which takes about 20 minutes and while Hugo will bellyache about it, both kids will usually eat it. (Obviously, it helps if I slice a hot dog into the soup, but I don't always do that because I don't want them to get used to hot dogs on the regular because I am MEAN and also sort of stupid seeing as we live in Germany and they already are used to eating them all the time everywhere gaaaaah.)

Wednesday is Chicken Day. Sometimes I make this Korean chicken, sometimes I make breaded cutlets (but let's be honest, rarely, because that set-up is way too time-consuming and annoying at this point in my life - I mean, keep in mind that unless there's a second adult here, I can't set foot in the kitchen without Bruno behind me dismantling literally everything in sight or physically hanging off of me or Hugo asking if he is finally allowed to watch something NO YOU CANNOT AND IF YOU ASK ME ONE MORE TIME CHILD I SWEAR TO...), but recently I discovered Diana Henry's baked chicken and it is so delicious and so easy and so...satisfying and impressive and perfect that it makes me happy every time I make it.

You make a soft little mixture of Dijon mustard, butter and herbs (she calls for tarragon, but I end up usually just using a bit of dried sage or nothing at all), then squash this all over a bunch of chicken thighs. Then you sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and stick it in the oven until browned and crisp. That's it. The crispy top pleases the children, the herbs and mustard make it sophisticated enough to not give you an existential crisis and it's on the table (from start to finish!) in 40 minutes. (The active time of 5 minutes is fast enough that I can trick the kids into leaving me alone while I do it.) SO GOOD.

It's one of only two recipes actually printed out and pasted to my refrigerator, that's how much I love it. (The other one is for this, but with yogurt/milk instead of buttermilk.)

The original recipe specifies chicken thighs (skinless, but bone-in) and it is definitely the way to go. HOWEVER, because of course, I have also tried this with skinless, boneless chicken breasts and while it's not nearly as juicy and toothsome and rich, it's totally fine. Just reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes and then use the broiler for 3 minutes at the end to brown and crisp the breadcrumbs. (The photos in this post are of the chicken breasts.)

The recipe comes from Diana's chicken cookbook and is definitely, positively, absolutely worth the price of the book. For some godforsaken reason, I only own this book on my Kindle, which drives me fucking bananas, because if I want to cook anything else from it, I have to keep re-entering my password and peering at the phone and then my children see me on the phone and then they WANT the phone and my fingers are dirty and stop screaming and oh my god no you can't have a snack and you can't have the phone and please go play and ten more minutes and I hate everything and I really don't understand why cookbooks even come in E-book form, it's so dumb.

Mustard butter

Thursdays are soup/stew days, which means that sometimes we eat some sort of bean stew twice a week, but there are worse things, yes? Usually it's some sort of puréed vegetable soup and bread. Thank goodness for German bread, which is about 80% of what Bruno eats in total, period. And sometimes, depending on just how much of a surrender week it is, it's the day the boys get pastina in broth (as in bouillon cube or Better Than Bouillon) and I fantasize about being capable of drinking three glasses of wine at dinner (I can't even do one glass, just so you know, which seems really unfair).

Fridays are fish (and frozen peas). Either I stick a bunch of frozen fillets in tomato sauce and serve over rice from the rice cooker, or boiled potatoes if I'm feeling charitable, or it's fish sticks. And then my husband roots around in the pantry looking for the instant mashed potatoes because you can't possibly have one without the other and I decide that instead of dinner, I'm having a bath and listening to a podcast and no, please don't follow me, in fact, forget I even exist, someone else is in charge now good night and good luck.

Please, PLEASE, you well-meaning, lovely, wonderful people, do not tell me how quickly this phase will be over and that I'll miss it one day. PLEASE. I am fully aware of that. As in every day. It sometimes keeps me up at night! It also does not usually make me feel better in the moment. You know? Sometimes you just have to live it and be frustrated and tired and happy when the kids are finally asleep and that's okay too.

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through them, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Diana Henry's Baked Chicken with Dijon Mustard and Herbs
Serves 4
Adapted from A Bird in the Hand

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
A couple of pinches of chopped fresh herbs (like tarragon, thyme, oregano, basil, what have you)
1 3/4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp bread crumbs (from stale, not fresh, bread)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Mash the Dijon mustard with the tarragon and butter until combined. Put the chicken into a roasting pan (or a baking dish) and brush or use your fingers to spread the mustard mixture onto the chicken. Season, then press on the bread crumbs.

2. Roast in the hot oven for 35 minutes. The chicken should be cooked through. Check this by piercing the flesh near the bone, with the tip of a sharp knife, in one of the larger pieces. The juices should run clear with no trace of pink. If not, cook for a few minutes more then test again. The top should be a lovely golden color.

3. Serve immediately with the cooking juices that have gathered around the chicken.

Jenny Rosenstrach's Perfect Slaw

Dinner A Love Story's Asian Slaw

It was my father's birthday the other day and to celebrate, I used my Instant Pot to make the Korean-flavored brisket from Dinner in an Instant and it was astonishingly delicious and done in less than an afternoon. What?! (Yes, I am still in that annoying phase of Instant Pot ownership where I cannot get over how fast it is. People, meltingly tender, practically spoonable brisket! In less than three hours! I mean!) (I actually used Tafelspitz, because my butcher didn't have any Rinderbrust that day, in case any of you are in Germany and want to make this too, and it was great.)

To round out the meal, I made white rice and this slaw from Dinner: A Love Story, which isn't Korean per se, but Jenny also serves it with something called "Korean Tacos" so I figured it would do as a low-energy vegetable side and you might not believe it if you had only tasted the ambrosial brisket, but this slaw basically stole the show. Now I know why Jenny's Andy said their Korean taco meal really "was all about the slaw." This slaw is perfect.

It's fresh and crisp and perfectly seasoned, with rice vinegar and fish sauce and lime, and just the kind of thing you don't want to stop crunching your way through. You'll have to restrain yourself from spooning up the juices left in the empty bowl. I added chopped salted peanuts, because I correctly guessed that Hugo might be slightly more inclined to eat it if there were peanuts to fish out, and I urge you to do the same. Using Napa cabbage means the slicing is a cinch and you don't need to massage anything or make it in advance. You just dump everything in a bowl and go to town. (I made this two nights in a row and added thinly sliced celery to the slaw the second night, which I also highly recommend!) The cilantro is non-negotiable. WHAAAAAT.

I feel like calling this Perfect Slaw might confuse you because it's not cole slaw. But calling it Asian Slaw feels a little lazy? Vietnamese Slaw? Napa Slaw? I don't know. These are the kinds of things I waste time thinking about. Just bookmark it, commit it to memory (I already have) and soon it won't matter at all what it's called. Or you'll just be calling it Perfect Slaw too.

Jenny Rosenstrach's Asian Slaw

Note: This post includes an affiliate link and I may earn a commission if you purchase through it, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Jenny Rosenstrach's Perfect Slaw
Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story
Note: The size of Napa cabbage is a little subjective, so depending on your head of cabbage, you may need to increase the vinegar and oil to 1/3 cup each.

1/2 small head Napa cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned cucumber
1/2 bunch scallions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced (optional)
Handful cilantro or mint (chopped), or both
1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Pinch brown sugar
1/4 cup neutral oil

1. Place all slaw ingredients except for the peanuts in a salad bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, then toss with the slaw.

3. Top with the peanuts.

Melissa Clark's Pork and Black Bean Chili

Melissa Clark Pork and Black Bean Chili


It's me.

I know. It's been, like, 8 months.

(Insert chagrined grin emoji.)

I nearly shut this thing down. No, really. But I couldn't pull the trigger! So here I am again. I missed you guys.

What's been going on? Well, Bruno turned two. Hugo learned how to read and write. In many ways, things are just fine. In other ways, though, the past year has been really difficult. Just life, you know? Nothing spectacular or out-of-the-ordinary. Mothering two young children, noodling forward in a marriage, trying to figure out my career, dealing with money issues...but to top it all off, I've recently been diagnosed with a string of stress-related health problems. I knew something was off last year already, but couldn't put my finger on it. This year, so far, my body has been telling me in no uncertain terms to spend a little more time saying no, putting myself first and finding peace.

Easier said than done! yelled a million mothers in exasperation as she skulked off to a corner to use her phone to meditate. (Insert eye roll emoji.)

It's been scary and humbling and also kind of nuts to witness my body manifest a lot of the crap that I do not do a good job of managing. And I'm kind of overwhelmed at how much willpower it takes to take care of myself. I feel like I'm a total champ at taking care of other people, so it's doubly weird to realize that I'm really failing at me. I'm sort of embarrassed by that. I'm also embarrassed about this paragraph! Let's move on.

Feeding the children has pretty much become a shit show. Hugo has the appetite of a small bird. Bruno is incredibly picky. (The only green thing he eats are spicy olives.) (THE ONLY GREEN THING.) (SPICY.) (MOTHERLOVING.) (OLIVES.) Every once in a blue moon, I throw my hands up and make alphabet noodle soup with a bouillon cube because it's Hugo's favorite thing to eat (insert exploding head emoji) and because Bruno will usually eat it too. But most of the time, I cook the food I want to eat (within reason, people) and then there's a lot of whining and uneaten food and smoke comes out of my ears and no matter what I've made, the meal always ends with Bruno eating chunks of Parmesan cheese.

Because, surrender!

(I read that in a lovely cookbook called Repertoire by Jessica Battilana - in a headnote about newborns and surviving and fattoush salad - last spring and spontaneously burst into tears because it was so profound and wise and right and also WTF why are children so difficult? I sometimes debate going around my house and taping pieces of paper with SURRENDER written on them to the walls. You know, just to remind me.)

Last year, I also discovered this chili from Melissa Clark's most recent cookbook called DINNER: Changing the Game (via Whoorl, but I can't remember in what context) and there were a few brief, shining evenings in which the children and Max and I all enjoyed eating it. Since then, Bruno has decided that ground meat is for the dogs and Hugo hates stew, but Max and I continue to think that this is an exceptionally delicious chili. (It's also a delight to make, which seems important if you derive some modicum joy from cooking, as most of us here do? I hope?) It has sage and beer in it, plus cheddar on top, and it's just really satisfying and wonderful. I'd call it my favorite chili.

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I truly love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Melissa Clark's Pork and Black Bean Chili
From Dinner: Changing the Game
Serves 4 to 6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 pound ground pork (or turkey)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
1 tbsp chili powder, plus more if needed
2 minced garlic cloves
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup lager (like Negra Modelo)
Grated cheddar or sour cream, for serving (optional)
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and pepper; cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened and lightly browned, about 7  minutes. Add the pork and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it is cooked, about 7 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, sage, chili powder and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the black beans and the beer. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with grated cheese (or sour cream) and with the lime.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Turmeric Pancakes with Coronation Chicken and Spinach


I know. Just the name of this meal sounds fussy as all get out. But actually, it's simpler than you think. And you know what else it is? Fun. Also, delicious! Despite the multiple steps, I highly recommend it for your next eat-with-your-fingers meal. And it's fast enough that you could make it on a weeknight, especially if you're the kind of person who remembers to make the chicken salad the day before. (I am not this person yet, but I am constantly striving to become this person!)

What the meal consists of are soft, floppy crêpe-style pancakes (flavored with cumin and turmeric, which gives them a Day-Glo hue), filled with coronation chicken salad (which is just boiled chicken mixed with yogurt, curry powder and mango chutney, essentially) and some sautéed spinach. Before eating, you add fresh cilantro, shredded coconut and an essential lime squeeze. Roll it up, eat it, done!

Picky children may react suspiciously to the meal at first. If you let them fill their own pancake, from all the little bowls that you have set out containing the various elements of the filling, they might relent in their resistance somewhat. Maybe. Of course, letting them fill their own pancake means they may only eat the chicken salad and the pancake? But so be it! You will be so happy stuffing yourself that you won't even mind.

(Some of these children may be heartened to know that the chicken salad contains no mayonnaise, only yogurt.

(Maybe don't mention the mango chutney?)

(While we're doing this, I should say that you could, arguably, even leave out the spinach entirely. I tried these with and without spinach and give you full permission to skip it.)


Turmeric Pancakes with Coronation Chicken and Spinach
Adapted from The Guardian
Serves 4

For the pancakes:
300g all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 eggs
600ml whole milk
Vegetable oil for the pan

For the coronation chicken:
4 cooked chicken breasts, skinned and finely shredded (400g net weight)
200g plain whole-milk yogurt
1½ teaspoon medium curry powder
3 tablespoons mango chutney
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon lime juice

For the spinach:
40g unsalted butter, or ghee
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1.5cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
300g baby spinach

To serve:
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
A handful of fresh cilantro stalks, optional
30g dried shredded coconut, optional
30g store-bought fried onions, optional

1. Start with the pancake batter. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cumin, turmeric, eggs and a teaspoon of salt. Add a little milk and whisk to a smooth, thick paste. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk, until you have a smooth, fairly thick batter, then refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

2. For the coronation chicken: In a large bowl mix the shredded chicken, yogurt, curry powder, chutney, turmeric, lime juice and a teaspoon of salt, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours before serving. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving, and stir in the cilantro.

3. For the greens, on a medium-high flame, melt the butter in a large saute pan for which you have a lid. Once it starts bubbling, add the onion and fry for five to six minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and a good pinch of salt, and fry for a minute more. Add the spinach, cover the pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until most of the water has evaporated and the spinach has wilted/cooked. Reheat before serving, or leave to cool to room temperature.

4. When you're ready to eat: Drizzle some vegetable or olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan on a medium-high heat. When it's hot, add three to four tablespoons of batter and swirl and shake the pan so the batter spreads out evenly over the base in a round. Fry for a minute or two on each side, until golden brown (if the pan gets too hot, turn down the heat to medium). Place the cooked pancake in a warm oven while you repeat with the remaining batter. You should end up with approximately 12 pancakes.

5. To serve, put the chicken and spinach in separate bowls on the table. Place a pancake on each plate, then add a few spoonfuls of chicken and spinach. Top with some fresh cilantro, dried coconut and fried onions, if using, then squeeze some lime juice over. Roll up the pancake and eat.

Aloo Tikki (Indian Potato Cakes)

Last fall, for the first time ever, I hosted Thanksgiving at my place. Max was traveling overseas at the time, so I hosted it solo to boot. Wah! There were 15 of us and although my guests (Joanie and her whole crew) brought plenty of delicious side dishes and some dessert, the big things - turkey! stuffing! gravy! pies! mashed potatoes! green beans! uh, cranberry sauce! - were on me. It wasn't the first time I'd done a full Thanksgiving dinner - I cooked one for 40 people at Soho House a few years ago - but that was in a professional kitchen with two sous chefs to help. Also, perhaps most importantly, I was being paid to do so. It was still one of my most insane days in the kitchen, except for that one time when we had to reshoot 11 of the Classic German Baking photos. In one day. While I had the flu.

In other words, I know from stressful kitchen days. So on Thanksgiving, I outsourced my children to my sainted parents, blasted The War on Drugs (excellent getting-shit-done tunes, among other things), put my head down and just did it. And, wow, is it different to be the Thanksgiving cook in your own home than it is to just show up with a few side dishes and a pie in hand, my usual role.

(A million seasoned home cooks roll their eyes and yawn, while mouthing ya think, genius?)

I learned so much. Like to err on the side of having a too-big turkey, rather than a too-small one (insert chagrined emoji face here). That baking an apple pie for close to two hours really is revelatory. To stay away from, how should I call them, newfangled variations on cranberry sauce. And that you can't have too many mashed potatoes, as long as you know about this way to use them up: Aloo Tikki, also known as Indian Potato Cakes, also known as my favorite kitchen discovery of 2017.

On Thanksgiving, propelled by some hard-to-articulate terror that we wouldn't have enough food, I made - hold tight - almost 9 pounds of mashed potatoes. After our feasting, this is what I was left with:



I couldn't figure out where to begin re-purposing what looked like about 5 pounds of leftover mashed potatoes. So I took to Instagram to ask for help, and almost 200 comments rolled in with ideas. I mean, people, the wealth of inspiration! It was incredible. (It's here, but warning: don't click on that if you're hungry and not in possession of an obscene amount of leftover mashed potatoes.)

The thing that most tickled my fancy was the idea of combining fresh, hot Indian flavors with the potatoes. Not only did it sound delicious but I was pretty sure it was going to be the best way to get excited about working through leftovers after that first obligatory meal of Thanksgiving leftovers (you know, pretty great the first time, pretty heinous the fifth). Also, they seemed dead easy and if you know anything about me at this point, you know that I will always, ALWAYS choose the easiest way.

So. Aloo tikki. You take a whole bunch of leftover mashed potatoes. You mix in some chopped red pepper and scallions, some cumin, coriander and turmeric, and an egg and flour for binding. Then you make little cakes out of the mixture. Fry them in oil. Whisk up an yogurt sauce (NON-NEGOTIABLE, DO NOT SKIP, PRACTICALLY THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS WHOLE POST). Serve them together and watch your mashed potatoes disappear faster than the speed of light. Magic!

Now a quick word of caution. I do not know authentic this recipe is. I found it on Genius Kitchen, which is the new home of the old Food.com. Some cursory searches online turned up other recipes for Aloo Tikki that certainly sound even better - with fresh ginger and garam masala and peas (PEAS!). But let me put it like this: this basic recipe already was the greatest thing I made all year, perhaps precisely because it was such a cinch. So don't let it stop you and then make the ones with peas (wherein the journalist calls aloo tikki Pakistan and India's greatest street food I REST MY CASE) and report back. Deal?

Aloo Tikki
Adapted from Genius Kitchen
Serves 3-4

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/3 cup yogurt (plain or Greek)
1/4 cup minced cilantro, or more to taste
1 jalapeno, minced (with seeds for hotter sauce, without for milder)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt, to taste

1. Place the mashed potatoes in a mixing bowl. Add the red pepper, scallions, egg, flour, and spices. Mix well, then set the mixture aside for 10 minutes.

2. In the meantime, make the yogurt sauce: Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the lime juice, oil, cilantro, jalapeño and salt to taste. Set aside.

3. Put 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet (preferably non-stick) and heat over medium heat. Form as many 2-3 inch patties as you can fit in the skillet and gently put them in the hot skillet. Fry each side until golden-brown, remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining potato mixture (adding more oil to the pan if necessary). You can keep the cakes warm in a 200 F/95 C oven. Serve hot with the yogurt sauce.

Lucky Peach's Miso Claypot Chicken (No Claypot)

Rice cooker

I made dinner in my rice cooker last night.

... insert blinking-in-disbelief emoji face ...

Let me repeat that.

I MADE DINNER. In my RICE COOKER. And no, not just the rice, mind you, the WHOLE DINNER.

(Well, except for the salads, but let's not split hairs.)

It may have been the greatest discovery of my year in food.

First things first, do you have a rice cooker? If not, GET YOURSELF ONE WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. I like the Korean Cuckoo brand. (Berliners, the tiny Korean shop on Spandauer Damm just past Klausener Platz sells Cuckoo rice cookers.) My model is very simple - it only has a "warm" and "cook" setting. Nothing special, no bells and whistles. (Unlike my friend Joe's rice cooker, which SPEAKS TO HIM IN KOREAN for crying out loud.) I honestly can't say specifically why I find the rice cooker such a transformative appliance in the kitchen, but not having to worry about getting rice (and other grains) cooked perfectly has actually improved my cooking life in ways other appliances just haven't.

Now that that's out of the way, you can focus on getting DINNER COOKED IN YOUR FLIPPING RICE COOKER WHY AM I SO EXCITED. The recipe I used comes from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes that my friend Florian loaned to me after I had dinner at his house a few weeks ago and had to restrain myself from swallowing the entire serving bowl of spicy celery salad in front of the other guests' horrified eyes. (While pregnant with Hugo, I craved crunchy, salty things, like tortilla chips and pretzel sticks. But this pregnancy has me wild-eyed over crisp vegetables and vinegar. In fact, I've eaten my weight in salad since May, literally guzzling the dressing out of the bowl when we're done. The other night, I actually found myself drinking olive brine from the jar. SO GOOD.)

The whole book is great -  it thoroughly demystifies various Asian grocery items, the goofy photo styling is funny and refreshing, and it's full of easy recipes for things you want to eat right now. Like "Economy Noodles", a simple Malaysian noodle dish that apparently takes about 7.5 minutes to make, hot-and-sour soup from Boston's Joanne Chang, char siu pork and miso-glazed eggplant (though I have yet to find Japanese eggplant in this fair city of mine), not to mention the spicy celery salad. But the recipe which is alone worth the price of the book is this one, for Miso Claypot Chicken (No Claypot), though of course you can make it in a Dutch oven if for some reason you still don't have a rice cooker. (GET ON THAT.)

For the No Claypot Chicken you make a really simple marinade of soy sauce, oyster sauce (which I replaced with hoisin sauce with spectacular results), Shaoxing wine, miso paste, salt, sugar, pepper and sesame oil. Into the marinade go sliced shiitakes and chunks of chicken thigh meat. While this sits for a minute, you put rice, water or stock and a single ginger slice in the rice cooker, then you scrape the chicken mixture on top of the rice and then put chopped scallions on top.

THAT IS IT! (I still can't get over it.)

One cycle of my rice cooker was enough to cook the meal completely - the chicken incredibly tender and moist, the mushrooms silky and fragrant, the rice sticky and savory and a deep mahogany brown on the bottom. Consistency-wise, it's sort of like the sticky rice filling of stuffed lotus leaves at a dim sum restaurant, and actually flavor-wise, too, except this meal is richer and more savory. We scooped out the steaming chicken and rice directly from the bowl and ate it with the aforementioned spicy celery and a cucumber salad with peanuts and cilantro.

Weeknight dinner jackpot!


Now tell me, good-people-who-already-own-rice-cookers: are you all doing a collective face palm because you've been making delectable meals in your rice cookers for years and I'm only now finally catching up? If so, what other dinnertime miracles await me? Give me your best rice cooker recipes, please!

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Miso Claypot Chicken (No Claypot)
Adapted from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon white or red miso
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
White pepper to taste
4 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
8 fresh shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced, or 4 dried shiitakes, soaked, stemmed, and thinly sliced
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 slice (¼" thick) fresh ginger
2 scallions, cut into 1" pieces

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, wine, miso, salt, sugar, sesame oil, and a few grinds of white pepper. Add the chicken and mushrooms and fold to coat.

2. Combine the rice, stock, and ginger in a rice cooker or a small Dutch oven.
For a rice cooker: Scrape the chicken mixture and all of the marinade on top of the rice. Scatter with scallions. Cover, start the rice cooker, and cook until the cycle is done. Open the lid and check the chicken for doneness. Depending on your model, the chicken may need a couple more minutes to cook through. If it does, set the rice cooker for another cycle, press start, and check again in 5 minutes.
For a Dutch oven: Place over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, until just simmering. Reduce the heat to low and cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Fluff the rice, scraping up the crust from the bottom of the pot.
3. Scoop out and serve by the bowlful, or eat it straight out of the rice cooker.