Good morning and welcome to the shortest day of the longest year. As I just texted my college roommates, It can only get brighter from here! This is most likely my last post of the year, and I will spare you the 2020 laments and curses, and instead leave you with five things, each of which has brought me a small dose of intense happiness as recently as the past 24 hours…
1. “Check Your Doorstep”
Let’s begin with those cookies. I know holiday boxes are not a new thing, but do you all feel like the whole ritual is in overdrive this year? Even before holiday baking kicked into high gear, though — like way back to even the spring — Abby got seriously into spending a few hours baking cookies or muffins, then driving around the neighborhood like Santa Claus to deliver the delicious dividends to her friends. “Check your doorstep,” she’d text and I think the appreciative replies to those messages fueled her more than I’ll ever really grasp. Her most recent mission (she made a big batch of these so she could include her gluten-free friend) inspired me to put together a cookie box for some locals, even though I’ve never been the best or most patient baker. So far I’ve made Zebra Cookies, Toasted Almond Snowball Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies (Note: I found the bake time listed was way too long, and pulled the last few batches out after 8 to 10 minutes), and hopefully this afternoon, some Peppermint Bark, though I feel my motivation waning. Now the fun part: Who gets the “check your doorstep” text?
2. A Quick, Hearty Dinner
This Crisp Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts and Brown Butter has been in my “saved” file on instagram for so long, and last night, a chilly one that called for something hearty, we finally decided to bite the bullet and do it. It’s an Ali Slagle recipe from NYT Cooking, and calls for you to pan-fry the gnocchi instead of boiling it so it gets crispy. If there were Pulitzers for technique innovation, I would nominate her. There’s a hefty drizzle of honey on there, too, which makes the gnocchi taste less like pasta and more like toasted breakfast biscuits. Good grief! Note: It’s not a light dinner, but it was an incredibly memorable one. And so easy, my 17-year-old cooked it for us. (FYI: Forgive me if it’s behind a paywall — I know it comes out in front from time to time.)
3. Saturday Night Dinner
Breaking news! I care a LOT about dinner, no matter what day of the week it is. (See: Previous 1,558* posts. ) Lately, though I find myself spending a ridiculous amount of psychic energy thinking about our Saturday night menus. It feels like an easy way to make the weekend feel like a weekend, if you know what I mean. We clear the dining room of all the detritus (it’s essentially two home offices, a gym, and occasionally a high school classroom during the week), light a few candles, dim the chandelier, and serve food on platters instead of right from the pot. All this to say, we totally nailed it this past Saturday night. Andy made Marcella Hazan’s Pork in Milk (one of the first recipes ever posted here on DALS), I made our OG kale salad with pomegranates, and some roasted potatoes that my kids proclaimed were the best thing I served them in 2020. It was completely by accident, too. I forgot about them in the broiler. (You’ll be reading about that recipe in my next book.) Basic roasted potatoes would work with this menu, too.
*actual number of posts written here since 2010
4. Holiday Menu
This is the first year since I’ve been married that I haven’t woken up on Christmas morning at my in-law’s home. (And my childrens’ first ever without them.) To combat all the sadness around this, it helps a little to have a few food rituals in place (holiday cookies, above) so we can at least go through the motions and hope the warm-and-fuzzies follow. Chief among those rituals is Christmas Dinner. We obviously have no choice but to make the same menu Andy’s mom has made for over two decades. The whole thing (including the above cookies) is in How to Celebrate Everything, but the gist of it is this: Roast Beef Tenderloin, Curried Carrots with Pecans, Sybil’s Salad, and Mashed Potatoes. Someone gave us a big gift from Murray’s Cheese, so we’ll probably make a pretty starter plate with that for cocktail hour. And raise a glass to our health and silver linings.
5. This Thing Dinner
Every morning, usually before we are properly caffeinated, and sometimes before we are even out of bed, someone will ask “What’s for dinner?” It’s a joke that predated the 24/7 short-order cooking hours of the pandemic, and now seems to have taken on a whole new meaning of fake dread. (If I ask it, Andy gives me the Heisman, turning in the opposite direction pretending to be in pain, as though I asked him when his tooth is getting pulled.) The truth is, though, I know we both ask it because dinner feels like the brightest spot in a long, gray day of zoom calls, bored — often struggling — kids, and the low-level pining for all that we are losing as this marches on. And the thing is, dinner has always been this for us. More than once on this blog and in my books, I’ve called the dinner table my North Star, and it’s a wonder to me how that star gets to burn brighter and brighter in darker skies. All this to say, I hope you have a safe, healthy holiday, and that you find some measure of comfort around the table.
See you in 2021, when I hope to have some fun news for you. Stay tuned! xoxo