Bone Broth is a SCAM

The difference between sad, salt-filled flavor-cubes, or, worse, a can of glop, and real, soul-warming, heart-filling soup is 3 hours of your time and a chicken carcass you already have. You do not have to pay $8 at the Whole Foods for the privilege. And you’re already going to spend those hours of your life puttering around doing something, so why not spend it on stock and buy yourself something really nice? Like, as I mentioned, soup?

The roast chicken is one of nature’s perfect units of people food. I realize this makes me sound nuts, but come with me for a sec. There are some foods, like an apple or an egg, that are literal perfect units of human consumption. You hold it in your little hand, and it has its little wrapper, and the insides are all delicious and just the right size for a snack.

A roast chicken is like that, but for 2-4 people: first roasted, then shredded in crepes or a pot pie, and then, miraculously, as STOCK in soups, stews, risottos, pilafs, pastas, etc. Only when you take out a 2-cup block of frozen chicken stock to make yourself a truly transcendent rice pilaf will you know true power. It’s intoxicating. (Not literally).

Plus, I find the more of the chicken I use the better I feel, not just because it’s extremely delicious, but because you’re making the very most of that little chicken who gave her life for your quesadillas. Whatever, it makes me kind of emotional. Thanks, little chicken. I will do right by you.

ANYWAY, this is not the Get Sad About Farm Animals Variety Hour. The point is, despite what many online recipes tell you, you don’t have to buy sixty chicken wings, or use 3 whole uncooked chickens (looking at you Ina), or get 4 chicken’s worth of bones from the butcher. You don’t have to put whipped egg whites on top of it to make it extra-clear like that guy on TikTok, or strain it through a lace wedding veil. You just have to throw some stuff you already have in a pot and let it burble away happily on the stove while you go about your life like the busy and productive cottage witch you are.

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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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Ghosties (Chocolate Chip Meringues with Toasted Walnuts)

At its best, cooking is a magic trick. Clearly you can make something amazing with a beautiful, organic, lovingly massaged pork butt, but using fancy raw materials means everyone expects mind-blowing results. It’s so much more satisfying when you start with something unprepossessing. If you’re a magician making a tiger jump through a flaming hoop, it’s way better if you know that tiger started life as two raw, jelloid egg whites in a metal bowl.

Luckily for all of us, two egg whites and half a cup of sugar will net you almost two dozen startlingly chic little pure-white light-as-air cookies with all of the natural architectural sophistication of the majestic iceberg. You don’t even have to pipe anything.

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Cupcakes with Orange Icing

What can I say about cupcakes: They are small cups of cake. By now everyone knows that cupcakes, like donuts, have been absolutely done to death: filled, topped, swirled, glazed, drizzled, sprinkled.

I, for one, am over it. They’re only small cakes, Darryl, they can’t be expected to carry all that extra foofaraw and still taste good. If you want to make six caramels, a streusel, and a swirled marshmallow filling, you totally should do that, but you should do it Somewhere Else.

What I want is a small buttery cake with a lively, fresh icing, about the size of the cup of very good tea. That’s it. Make Cupcakes About Cake Again 2021.

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Foolproof Stovetop Popcorn

I am in no position to dispense advice this week. I’m writing this to you with my right wrist in a brace because I typed at a dumb angle for two hours straight yesterday and now I have tennis elbow despite never ever having played “tennis” in my entire life. I don’t want to cook anything, cooking is dumb and for suckers. I can’t believe my flesh prison is doing this to me four months before I turn 30, existence is meaningless, etc.

When I’m in this mood, reclining on my divan (couch) in my satin smoking jacket (ancient robe) and slippers (slippers), I like to make myself what I call Snack Dinner, or Charcuterie for Bums.

Charcuterie for Bums is every snack food I can get my hands on that has some modicum of protein or nutritional value and doesn’t involve actual cooking. This includes but is not limited to: apples and peanut butter, cheese and crackers, carrots and ranch, slim jims, pretzels, salami, etc. The only thing I will turn the stove on for is popcorn.

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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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Pancakes

On a random Tuesday during my first year in the UK I walked into a grocery store CHOCK FULL of panicked dads cleaning the place out of Nutella and yelling into their phones about “which KIND of flour, Helen?!” Apparently, here, Mardi Gras is Pancake Day. This is one of the essentially useless but culturally vital aspects of British life my mother failed to introduce me to, along with The Wombles and Eurovision. There’s an entire day here devoted to pancakes, and it’s this coming Tuesday, and also pancakes are crepes, and, at least in my experience, the dads have to make them.

British people are now trying to make American-style fluffy pancakes happen, which is cute, but they’re running into the same problem that’s plagued America for years: pancakes are deceptively tricky to do well.

Most American restaurant pancakes are deeply tragic: insipidly sweet, gummy, and/or dry. Because pancakes are simple in principle, people think they’re simple to make, which means most people eat and make mediocre pancakes as a matter of course. And listen, Bisquik is fine, if you are camping or otherwise deprived of the trappings of civilization. Otherwise, give pancakes a try from scratch. I promise you can do better than Bisquik.

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