Here we are at the beginning of March, thinking we have managed to hoodwink winter, but it is going to come sneaking back into our lives next week. As much as I love wool sweaters, enough is enough. It’s time for some springtime. As the weather gods are not heeding my silent pleas, is it too much to ask, if I can’t be rid of wool just yet, could I at least have a little summertime cooking?
Mr. Friday sashayed out to the back porch last Sunday, being gallant as always, and rustled up a couple of backyard-grilled-burgers. We haven’t grilled outside all winter, in part I think to yielding to the distractions of a couple of new cookbooks.
We have been staging monthly pasta-making clinics, refining our flours, and improving upon our kneading techniques. Mr. Friday rolls the dough ball around on the counter for a moment or two, and declares it done; I attack it as if it were a hefty chuck of gritty raku clay, and punch out all the air bubbles. We were going nowhere fast. But now that we have learned to plug in the KitchenAid mixer, and set the dough hook in action, the pasta dough is actually viable, and, ultimately, edible.
It is amazing to think how much money we have spent on store-bought pasta all these years. Forget the convenience of having a box of spaghetti or macaroni sitting on the pantry shelf – which is like money in the bank; knowing dinner is just a well-salted pot of boiling water away. But a pound of Ronzoni costs about $2. A pound of lovingly fashioned home-made pasta, once you subtract the emotional distress, the hefty costs of tamping down the sous chef’s insubordinate soul, and cleaning up the powdery mess which clouds across kitchen counters, wafts to the floor, and lodges in dark wool sweaters, barely costs 35¢. It takes a couple of hours, too. And there goes a Sunday. A floury poof!
Luckily for us, last Sunday was spent organizing tax documents. That is always a humbling and distressful ritual. Eventually I flounced off to read, and nap. Mr. Friday and Luke the wonder dog went for a walk. As the sun set on the horizon we gathered together for a glass of cheap white wine, a handful of peanuts, and then he tossed a couple of burgers onto the grill.
I boiled up a couple of new red potatoes, because if a meal is served in this house without some good starchy carbs, it is not worth eating. A friend recently introduced me to smashed, roasted potatoes: all of the crispy joy of French fries, without the mess of splattered oil. And because we are grown ups now, we added a nice little tossed green salad to the hamburger meal. And changed over to cheap red wine. And finished off with brownies, made from a box. (Doing the taxes was my excuse.)
Smashed Red Potatoes for Two Weary, Touchy, Pasta Makers
4 medium red potatoes (or whatever is in the pantry – be realistic) – boiled until fork tender (do the math if you are serving more than 2 people)
Splashes of extra virgin olive oil
Good butter to dot each potato
A handful of Maldon salt
A scattering of black pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and drizzle some oil over the surface. Carefully cut the boiled potatoes in half, and salvage as many fingerprints as you can. Place potatoes cut side down. SMASH. With a heavy pancake turner, with a heavy glass, with a rolling pin. Use something hefty and satisfying. Admire the irregular shapes, press down some more, so everything gets pretty evenly squished. Neatness counts against your final score. Drizzle more oil over the potatoes. Add a small butter pat to each large land mass of potato. Scatter salt and pepper with abandon. Put the cookie sheet in the oven for about 20 minutes. Check every 5 or 10 minutes to admire the brown crispiness and listen for the sizzle. You will know when they are done. Serve immediately. Yumsters.
I have seen the crazy robins in our back yard. Spring is on its way.
“Yes, I deserve a spring–I owe nobody nothing.”
― Virginia Woolf