Three Things

Valentine's Day Waffles, Schmaltzy Croutons, A Must-Read Memoir

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you all have big plans for the weekend. Ours involve these waffles, spoiling the dogs and…um…I think that’s it? Next week I am recording the very first Dinner: A Love Story podcast — I ordered my mic and everything! — and just wanted to remind you that my podcasts will be accessible to paid subscribers only, so if you’d like to be in on it, here is where you can subscribe.

Reminder that all the posts you receive from me by email can also be accessed on my substack website.

Alas! Three Things for your weekend…

1. Waffles for Valentine’s Day

Me to Andy this morning: We’re not celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, right? Andy: When is Valentine’s Day?

From the person who wrote How to Celebrate Everything, this conversation might come as a surprise to you, especially during a pandemic when we are desperately seeking any excuse to make one day feel different from the next. But the truth is, we’ve never really celebrated Valentine’s Day with each other. For the kids, it’s a different story — there’s usually something gifty (Abby, currently obsessed with making pasta is getting this modern classic), maybe chocolates, and when time allows, something a little extra for breakfast. No one who’s followed my Pantry, Project, Purpose series will be surprised to hear that I plan on making The Waffles. The recipe is an iconic, old-school classic from Marion Cunningham, requires an overnight rise, and made several appearances on my breakfast table in 2020, including on two special occasions: my birthday and Christmas morning (above). Their savory deliciousness is just unique enough to mark the day as different. So that’s what we’re doing. What’s on your menu??? Please enlighten!

2. Schmaltzy Croutons

I am not a big kitchen gear person, and yet, if I’m not careful, I can end up with a thousand knives and stirring spoons and pots and bowls on my counter after making the simplest dinner, resulting in some epic, soul-crushing clean-ups. Somewhere along the line, I decided that my little Victorinox serrated knife was the only knife for chopping tomatoes, and my 8-inch chef knife is the only one for slicing an avocado, when really, if I weren’t such a princess, the serrated knife could absolutely do both jobs on nights I’m prepping both. So since last March, when my kitchen (and yours, presumably) turned into an all-hours diner, I’ve been more mindful about what I’m pulling out of drawers and cabinets. If I’m tossing vegetables in olive oil in a large mixing bowl, can I just use that large bowl for serving the salad? That jam jar containing a tiny bit of leftover homemade vinaigrette — can’t I just build on what’s there to make a different vinaigrette instead of dirtying a whole new jar? Do I even need to rinse the cast-iron skillet after lunch since I’ll probably use it again at dinner?

As Glennon Doyle* would remind me: I CAN DO HARD THINGS!

That’s how I ended up discovering these croutons. After roasting chicken legs (which would be shredded and tossed into a salad), I was about to take out another sheet pan to bake some croutons when my new mindfulness kicked in. What if I just roasted the croutons on the same baking sheet, in the sheen of fat that dripped off the chicken? I’d save myself a pan to wash, and croutons baked in chicken fat? As my husband would say “It’s not like it’s gonna be bad.”

He was correct of course. It is here when I call up this sentence I wrote for Real Simple in 2002: “It’s just the thing to take a meal from ho-hum to how nice!” (In the margin, I got a “LOVE!” from my favorite editor, which is why I always remember it. Hi Tom!)

Note: The salad is the most basic supermarket-bagged romaine, grape tomatoes, avocado, chives, minced red onion, croutons, with a vegan Caesar dressing from my next book. (I realize vegan Caesar drizzled on chicken pieces makes exactly zero sense.) So you can see: There was a lot of pressure on those croutons to deliver, but they did.

*worth a New Yorker subscription to read Ariel Levy’s profile of Glennon Doyle this week

Easy Roast Chicken Pieces & Their Schmaltzy Crouton Byproduct

2 chicken legs or split chicken breasts
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375°F. Place chicken on a rimmed baking sheet like the one above, rub in a drizzle of olive oil on top of each, then season with salt and pepper. Pour two or three tablespoons of water in the baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes until chicken feels firm to the touch but not rock hard.

Remove chicken from the baking sheet, let cool and shred or slice for your soup, green salad, chicken salad, or whatever!

Schmaltzy Croutons
Note: Any homemade crouton, even when tossed in only olive oil and not chicken fat, has the power to upgrade salad or soup. You just want your torn bread to be glistening before you bake it.

3-4 slices bread (I want to say “preferably rustic” here, but I’m guessing they literally would be good made with Wonder bread)
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 425°F. Cut or tear (no knife!) bread into crouton-size pieces and place on the baking sheet in the spots where the chicken roasted. Using your hands (instead of dirtying a tossing utensil!) move them around a bit to absorb the fat. The pieces should be lightly coated but not in any way drenched. Toss in a little olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. (Sometimes I add garlic salt instead.)

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, keeping an eye on them after three minutes to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven, let cool, then toss into your salad.

3. Between Two Kingdoms

I mentioned this memoir last week, but felt a strong need to bring it up again. You know those books that are so well-written and so immersive that they prevent you from just moving on to the next book in the stack? That’s Between Two Kingdoms. It’s all the more amazing when you consider this is a cancer memoir. Suleika Jaouad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when she was 22. The first half of the book chronicles her harrowing experience with treatment (including a bone marrow transplant) and the second is about the road trip she embarks on in order to teach herself how to re-enter the “real” world post-illness. It’s hard to read sometimes, but in the end it’s hopeful and life-affirming in a way that I was shocked by.

DISCLOSURE: My husband is Jaouad’s editor, so if you don’t trust me and want to do your due diligence before reading, you can go ahead and read the decidedly more-objective reviews, including this one, on the cover (!!!) of the NYT Book Review. WOOO HOOOOO! It’s impossible to overstate how hard I am rooting for this book and for her.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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