December is hard for a lot of people, many for legitimately terrible reasons like loss or sickness or wolverine attack. Thankfully, I am grateful not to have those issues, but I have other ones to do with that spongy stuff that lives between my ears and just above my neck, or is supposed to, in theory, if a person is constructed right. I've spent the majority of the month so far feeling like my cat (Prufrock) when she discovers her own tail and is like, "OH SHIT SHIT A TAIL WTF. Oh god what do I do? What do I do about this thing?! Do you SEE this craziness? MOTHER OF GOD. Was that there before???? Who even has these? Get it OFF!"
(The management provides all Prufrock impressions free of charge.)
Anyway, it's overwhelming for me because:
--All the planning that goes into the Daintiest Thing Under a Dressing Gown Ball to benefit The Disabled Veterans Trust (get your tickets here for Thursday the 14th of January!)
--Everyone and their sainted maiden aunt has birthdays this month
On top of all that, I am very excited to say I'll be going on a JANE STEELE pre-publication tour with three fabulous authors just after the Baker Street Irregulars Weekend, I have many fun things I need to write in order to promote this book, and I know loads of other people find their workload overloading right about when their personal lives feel like escaping a cave full of rabid bats.
So here's a friendly little recipe I whipped together this morning that took me about half an hour total. I don't have time. You don't have time. But let's be adults here and feed ourselves (not just holiday cookies and the rest of the eggnog straight from the container).
I'm gonna be straight with you folks right now: the recipe presented below is how I actually cook. I've been cooking for so long and worked in such great restaurants that I can do very fancy shit too, but honestly the best way to learn how to cook is 1) sure, follow the recipe 2) now stop following the recipe and throw everything but your grandma in a pan (she's old, and thus will take a lot of braising to grow fork-tender). Cooking seems overwhelming to many folks because there's this limitless amount of things to know, not to mention the stuff to learn, and the way to do it.
Screw all that. Just start somewhere and be a badass. You like pasta? OK, there are two rules for pasta. First, thoroughly salt the living daylights out of your cooking water. Second, cook the noodles for the right amount of time to still have firmness. (Secret: that part will be on the box.) VOILA ET BON APPETIT, you just made perfect pasta. Now put something on it. Yep, you're done!
The following will provide insights into my cooking process that may have my holiday guests running for the hills, but what the heck. I wish everyone a Merry Merry Whatever You Like, good eating, festiveness, and cheer!
TAGLIATELLE WITH SAVOY CABBAGE, BROWN BUTTER, POPPY SEEDS, AND PARMESAN (makes two servings)
1) Cut up a small savoy cabbage into thin slices. Chop one medium shallot. Put them in a pile while you heat your well-salted pasta water.
2) Get half a stick of butter from the fridge and brown it in a large skillet. Really brown that shit, thoroughly, over high heat. Wait until it looks brown. Outstanding.
3) Scrape your cabbage and shallot pile into the brown butter and now turn the heat down. Season the veg with some salt, a metric ass-ton of pepper, and exactly one precise dump of poppy seeds.
4) Add minced garlic to the pan and one glooping of stock (I used leftover turkey stock--you use whatever you want, because you're free). A glooping is about maybe, dunno, half a cup of coffee size.
5) Let your veg simmer in the butter and stock. Stir occasionally. Chop some fresh herb of choice and grate some parmesan cheese for garnish. Whistle a little. Wait a bit.
6) Cook two servings of your pasta (just guess at this--you'll do fine). When it's done, add a glooping of the used pasta water to your veg sauce before straining the water.
7) Take the pasta, raise it in your hands above the veg pan, and dump it in the aforementioned veg pan.
8) Stir the pasta and the sauce together and praise yourself for being an excellent chef.
9) Taste it. Is it salty and peppery enough? If not, pro tip: add more.
10) Put it in a bowl (or on a plate--you're free) and sprinkle your herbs and cheese on top.
11) Congratulations! May it be delectable and may your holidays be filled with joy!