It’s day %&@* of quarantine. Protein and fiber have left my diet, replaced by nothing but sweet, sweet carbohydrates. Bread. Pasta. Rice. All of it. But to be honest, I’m getting pretty tired of eating nothing but ice cream and potato chips. It makes me feel greasy and unkempt, like a stereotype of a housebound gamer. Thank god I haven’t developed a taste for Mountain Dew.
I’m still not going to give up carbs, of course. What is this, a health-food column? But there’s something to be said for jazzing up your food intake every once in a while. These are some of the recipes I’ve developed for injecting a little sophistication and style into my diet during quarantine.
Garlicky, Rosemary Smashed Potatoes
- 1 pound Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes (go for waxy, not starchy)
- Olive oil
- Onion powder
- Rosemary (fresh if available, but dried is fine)
Potato chips are wonderful, I know. But sometimes you just want the taste of a fresh potato—a crispy, crusty bite on the outside with a creamy interior. The secret to that texture, as with all roasted potatoes, is to parboil them.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your potatoes in a pot with enough cold water to submerge, then turn the heat on medium-high and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, but not quite falling apart.
Fish your potatoes out of the water and let them dry. Once they are, arrange them on a large sheet pan in a single layer. Give them room! Then, using the bottom of a cup or some other flat masher, smash the potatoes into the pan. They should flare out a little, and the whole pan should be covered with potato surface area. That increase in surface area, combined with all the little cracks and ridges you just made, are what make these potatoes so incredibly crispy.
Generously coat your potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and your other spices and herbs. You can choose to use fresh chopped garlic or garlic powder—fresh garlic will give you a more pungent taste, but watch out for it burning in the oven. Garlic powder will taste a little more like garlic bread.
Place the pan in the oven for about 20–25 minutes, or until the potatoes are noticeably browned and crisp. These smashed potatoes are an easy substitute for mashed potatoes, potato chips or just to eat on their own. And don’t just use garlic and rosemary—you can use whatever spices you have on hand—I’ve used Old Bay and mushroom powder before, and it still turned out great. Or you can try Bon Appetit chef Priya Krishna’s “Indian-ish” potatoes with sour cream and chaat masala. This recipe works with everything. Trust me, once you try potatoes this way, you’ll never make regular roasted potatoes again.
Homemade French Onion Dip
- 16 ounces sour cream
- 4 large yellow or sweet onions
- Apple cider vinegar
- Garlic powder (optional)
- Olive oil
Smashed potatoes are great, but maybe you really do just want some greasy, store-bought potato chips. No homemade potato can compete with Ruffles. But are you going to eat it with some boring old dip from the grocery store? No! You can do better than that. With minimal effort and lots of unattended time, you can make a French onion dip infinitely better than anything you can buy.
Roughly dice four large onions. Optionally, you could cut them into quarter-moons if you like bigger chunks of onion in your dip. Set a medium saucepan on low heat—seriously, the lowest you can possibly get—and start to sauté your onions in a little bit of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. The onions will seem like they’re way too big to fit in the pan. Don’t worry—they’ll cook down.
Sprinkle a little sugar, around a teaspoon or two, on the onions. This will help with browning and caramelization. Then, caramelize the onions, which basically means cooking them on super low heat for hours and hours. You can basically set it and forget it. Just make sure to stir them occasionally and make sure they don’t stick to the bottom and burn. Once they’ve heavily reduced in size and taken on a deep brown color—in my experience, 4–8 hours—splash a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar on them and let it boil down. Once that’s reduced, turn off the heat and transfer the onions to a heat-proof container, ideally the one you’ll make your dip in.
Once the onions are cool, dump the whole container of sour cream in there with them and mix it all around. Once it’s incorporated, add salt and pepper to taste, and optionally mix in some garlic powder if you like that kind of thing. I do.
I guarantee this will be the best French onion dip you’ve ever had. You will be ruined for store-bought dip for the rest of your life once you discover the wonders of fresh, homemade caramelized onions. And if you really want to take it up a notch, use cultured sour cream—the good European stuff. It truly is the food of the gods. Ambrosia.
The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
- 2 sticks butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- Blackstrap molasses
- 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
- Baking soda
- Vanilla extract or paste
- Bread flour
- 8 ounces baking chocolate (bar or wafers, not chips)
- Flaky salt
What is the perfect chocolate chip cookie? I have spent my life in search of the answer to this question. I have discovered that the perfect cookie is huge, chewy on the inside, slightly crisp on top, with gooey chopped chocolate and bursts of flaky salt.
This is a matter of opinion, of course. Some people like small, crunchy, crumbly cookies with little uniform chocolate chips. Those people are wrong.
To start, heat 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan on medium-low, stirring constantly until they melt. If you can find it, use fancy Kerrygold cultured butter. It makes a difference. Then lower the heat to low and wait for the butter to foam, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning. Once the foam starts to recede and the butter turns a light gold, take it off the heat and transfer it to your mixing bowl. Make sure to transfer it before it turns deep brown, because the carryover heat will burn it if you’re not careful.
Here’s my controversial opinion—I never use brown sugar. As Adam Ragusea, YouTube chef, demonstrated, brown sugar is literally just white sugar and molasses. I already have both of those in my pantry. Why would I buy a third product that, in addition to being the exact same thing, will clump up and get incredibly hard if it’s exposed to air?
Mix the brown butter, after it’s cooled for a bit, with 2 cups of white sugar and about 3 or 4 tablespoons of good-quality blackstrap molasses. Don’t measure it—it’ll stick to the spoon and you’ll lose half of it. Then, add your 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk. The extra yolk gives the cookie an amazing gooey, rich texture without adding too much moisture. Mix in the baking soda, vanilla and a little fine salt.
I never measure my flour. I shoot for the texture I want, which is kind of shiny-looking without being too sticky. Add enough flour so your dough won’t stick to your hands, but still looks relatively soft. I use bread flour in this recipe, because I find that the extra protein gives the cookie the chewiest texture. You can use all-purpose flour if that’s all you have.
Finally, mix in 8 ounces of roughly chopped chocolate, or chocolate wafers if you have them. I usually use semi-sweet or darker, and never use chocolate chips. They’re too small and uniform for my taste. I like some big pieces, some small pieces, and little chocolate flakes all throughout the cookie.
Put the dough in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes—because you’re using melted butter, the cookies will spread too much in the oven otherwise. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When the dough is chilled, shape them into little hockey pucks and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle some coarse, flaky salt over the top—that’s why we went easy on the salt earlier. Bake for about 10–12 minutes, or until they look just cooked. We want these to be gooey and even a little undercooked in the middle.
I have spent years developing this recipe. I sometimes wake up at 2 a.m. thinking about this cookie. It is the most wonderful cookie I have ever had, and I beg you to try to make it yourself during this quarantine. I think I’m going to make some for myself right now.