Midnight Pasta

Whenever my dad goes out of town, my mom makes something called Snaffles Mousse, which is the drag queen who gets kicked off Drag Race UK in week one a military-grade garlic dip pungent enough to kill a vampiric horse. Eat it on Ruffles, or use it to fumigate your house!

Many of us grew up with a healthy fear of Too Much Garlic, but I don’t live that life anymore. This spaghetti made me rethink my entire relationship to the garlic arts. Welcome to the Cult of the Midnight Pasta. We have fabulous robes, and we don’t care what our breath is like.

This recipe comes from Ina Garten, but you can find versions of it everywhere. It’s called midnight pasta, because apparently it’s the comfort food chefs make for themselves when they get home at 3am after a 15-hour shift. It’s middle-of-the-night-staring-into-the-fridge food. It’s macaroni and cheese if you’re fancy as hell. It’s butter noodles on steroids. And it uses an entire head of garlic.

Best of all, it takes literally 20 minutes, and it makes a sensational frittata for lunch the next day. Like nearly all good pasta sauces, it’s thrown together quickly with stuff you have around. It’s Italian stir-fry. All you need is parsley, red pepper flakes, garlic, and parmesan.

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Classic Carrot Soup

People always want to jazz up carrot soup with something – cilantro or red pepper or orange or parsnip or curry – to distract you from the fact that carrots are “boring”. I hate this.

There is a difference between boring and familiar! They’ve got depth, they’re sweet, they’re a fun color!! Justice for Carrots!

Carrot soup is one of my favorite party tricks because, like most of the things I am sharing with you, it is both tremendously good and extremely easy.

Chop some carrots, let them hang out, drunk on a little sherry, with a softened, buttery onion in a saucepan sauna for an hour, and they will mellow out into a deep, rich, almost jammy sweetness that is the base of honestly probably my favorite soup.

For those of you playing along at home, that’s a whopping 5 ingredients to make a tastier, more satisfying soup than I’ve ever been served at a restaurant.

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Roast Chicken for Dummies

There’s no excuse for not knowing how to roast a chicken. If you can make mac and cheese from a box, you can roast a chicken. If you can microwave popcorn, you can roast a chicken. If you can toast a pop tart, you can roast a chicken.

Not only is it a life skill, I genuinely believe there’s no more satisfying meal. There’s a reason why literally every culture has a version. You can do it with any kinds of flavorings you want, you can do it with rice or potatoes or cabbage or noodles or all of the above. My problem with roast chicken is… none, I don’t have one. But if I had to make one up, it would be that people find it intimidating when it’s actually the least-risk, highest-reward meal I know how to make. I know you think I’m exaggerating about the popcorn thing, but I’m not.

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Simple Summer Salad + French Vinaigrette

Vegetables. Even the word is high-maintenance. Other food groups have simple, iconic, one-syllable names, like Cher.  Fruit. Meat. Bread. Cheese.  You expect me to chew my way through the entirety of “vegetable”? I’m already exhausted.

Salad can be such a bummer. Bad salad tastes like licking a hedge clipper and feels like a punishment, and yet people eat it all the time.

I used to bring those pre-washed bagged salad mixes to school as preteen, as if middle school isn’t miserable enough already. Stabbing a plastic fork into a bag of tough, bitter “spring mix” covered in enough ranch to kill a horse is a sensation I think we should all leave behind us as we age, like Linkin Park and studded belts.

Really good salads are usually full of things that aren’t salad – meats and croutons and cheeses and interesting nuts. You think people are going to Sweetgreen for the kale?

And listen, I’ve made a Sweetgreen harvest bowl at home from scratch. Technically, it’s possible. But by hour 4, after roasting a chicken and two sweet potatoes, making brown rice, chopping apples and massaging kale and sprinkling chopped almonds and forgetting to not eat the goat cheese, I’ve determined that only Olympic athletes and the guy from Free Solo have the stamina to do this on a regular basis.

Actually delicious, lick-the-bowl-clean make-at-home salad is possible, and it doesn’t involve trying to keep an entire 50-garnish salad bar alive in your fridge.

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Easy Cheesy Frittata

Quitters never win, but sometimes winners make the entire package of pasta out of sheer noodle-based gluttony and then, well, what are you going to do with half a pound of perfectly good cacio e pepe? Throw it out? Give up on your dreams?

Meet Frittata.

This is a joke about the Train song “Meet Virginia”, which is funny only to me. Move along, nothing to see here.

Fritatta is something I can never spell right on the first try, but it just means “fried” in Italian. The Pinterest People are posting recipes for “easy frittata” that start with frying bacon and wilting spinach and chopping healthy things like butternut squash and beets and arugula, but to me a frittata is always the answer to “how can I de-sog this pasta”, and also “how can I make something tasty in 15 minutes or less without trying that hard.”

Fritattas where you have to do a bunch of work are, not to put too fine a point on it, dumb. I’m not chopping extra stuff or finishing anything under the broiler to make what is essentially a glorified omelette. Fritattas are about two things: the cheap thrill of successfully flipping an entire pan of leftover pasta, and elevating your sad soggy leftovers into a crispy treat.

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Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza

As far as I’m concerned, EVERYONE should have to account for their pizza sins. I’m sick of just comparing New York and Chicago – why is no one yelling at Detroit, where they’ve been selling what is essentially defiled focaccia since the dawn of time with seemingly no consequences?

The UK’s pizza landscape is a blasted heath full of wet, flappy crust and weird tiny sweet peppers and something called the “American Hot”.

Their “deep-dish” only comes frozen, sold by a company called “Chicago Town” (EXCUSE ME, WHERE?). This is, chillingly, “The UK’s #1 Frozen Pizza Brand!”, a fact which fills my soul with enough terror and pity to make an entire Greek chorus die barfing. (“In Chicago Town [again, where?], we don’t just make pizza, we go to town on it!”).

What is even the wrongest thing about this picture? It’s “going to town” on my brain.

I have seen one sit-down deep-dish restaurant here, in Shepherd’s Bush. It was called “Chicago Grill”, and when I looked at it reality blinked in and out like I was in the Upside Down.

The sign outside Chicago Grill

It is for this reason that I have decided Chicago-style pizza should immediately be submitted for protection under UNESCO World Heritage standards, like Champagne, and every other place that sells it should be forced to call it “big dish pizza”.

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Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is one of those foods that you’re just straight-up “not allowed” to have as an adult, according to bullshit diet culture. You learn to convince yourself it’s not that good. Fried chicken is for children, drunk college students, and people stuck at bowling alleys.

You can have chunks of over-breaded industrial protein composite, aka “boneless wings” (they’re NUGGETS, just call them what they are!!!) while “watching the game”, or you can have an artisanally-priced sandwich with too many garnishes and breading that slips right off that greasy thigh like a stocking off of an overheated lady at a brothel in the Old West.

What is even the point. This is why everyone gets all riled up when the good chicken sandwiches come from people who suck (Chick-Fil-A).

The best fried chicken is, of course, homemade. Having a Southerner in the family means that all of a sudden you have access to an entire repository of new powers, like being able to make fried chicken from scratch. This is why I love my brother-in-law Dave’s fried chicken: you just cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts (yeah, I know, spare me your gasps of horror) into tendo-sized strips, coat them with milk, egg, and flour, and fry them until they’re “brown enough” (his words), which usually means just a hint browner than golden. Boom. Done. Good.

I don’t want to hear it about how you’re only supposed to fry bone-in chicken. That is terrifying and I do not want to, even though I have seen it done well with my own eyes (at the best house party I’ve ever been to, because said party featured a beautiful handsome man frying bone-in chicken for everybody because he “didn’t want to talk to anyone.” Marriage material. Anyway.)

What? The Far Side is timeless.

Frying stuff in a vat of hot oil is scary enough, and I’m not here to tell you the “right” way to cook. I’m here to tell you how I cook. I want you to be able to have fried chicken as god intended: hot, fresh, light, crispy, with the Right Amount of breading and a Minimal Amount of fuss.

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Golden Latkes

Fried potato is one of the most delicious things you can eat, but I understand not wanting to make potato pancakes from scratch. When hours of work can turn so easily into nothing but grey-brown lumps of sadness and broken dreams, I fully understand the urge to rip off all your clothes and take to the hills, screaming, to live out the rest of your days as a hermit. Or at least, to run out to the store, pick up a pack of frozen hash-browns and call it a day.

And frozen hash-browns are delicious. They were a staple of my college dining hall brunch buffet, and they’re the one frozen potato product sold in the UK that doesn’t suck. (Why is this? This is a largely potato-based culture, you’d think they’d have it figured out by now.) But they are not the same as latkes. Hash-browns are for hangovers, and latkes are for joy.

Latkes are for special occasions. Latkes are for celebrating how great life is and how lucky we are to be living it. Your first thought on eating a latke should be “I can’t believe this is happening to me. I can’t believe I actually get to eat this. I need 5 more of these, immediately.”

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