Is salted caramel the best thing ever? “Bah”, you’re thinking. “Best? No way.” Is it better than fluffy kittens in a basket? Is it better than Tyrion Lannister looking at you like this? Is it better than doggie derp face? Who’s to say. Well, I am and the answer is yes. It is better than all those things.
Okay, so now we know that salted caramel sauce is the one true god, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you it’s the easiest thing to make. I mean, it’s simple enough. There’s only 4 ingredients. The thing about caramel though is that there is a very fine line between deliciously dark and acridly burned. You have to be brave when browning the sugar but not foolhardy. The best caramel teeters right on that line between sweet and bitter.
It definitely helps to have the right tools (I found this link to a tumblr that’s just people posing with giant spoons and had to include it here. Thank you for understanding). Seriously though, you’ll need a good, heavy saucepan. It should be larger than you’d think, 2 or 3 quarts is perfect. A rounded bottom is ideal but not required. An instant-read thermometer would also be extremely useful. It will help in that panicky moment between perfect and ruined.
But… doggie in the kitchen with heavy pots, hot pans and poisonous ingredients (for pups. I don’t cook with arsenic…much) is a recipe for trouble. Oh dear, cooking blog humor.
Luckily, little miss crazy eyes has become obsessed with a counter stool we bought at Ikea a while back. Occasionally we’ll have people over and they’ll think, “Hey, that’s a nice chair. Maybe I’ll sit in it so I can chat with Emily and Matt while they cook”. Arya will then launch herself onto it first, so they awkwardly end up perched on a corner while she innocently tries to look like she’s been sitting there for hours. Or, even better, she’ll let them sit for a fraction of a second before she leaps on to their lap, requiring them to hold her or she’ll slide off their legs while they look on, mortified. Either way, she ends up with the chair.
Matt and I used to live just around the corner from one of the best Italian specialty stores in Brooklyn. Caputo’s. Oh dio, this place is fantastic. They import the best stuff from Italy and make their own sausages and fresh pastas. They also make mozzarella and ricotta several times a day so it’s always extremely fresh. Needless to say, we were there a lot.
Note: This story gets a little sad… It was actually the owner’s elderly father who made the mozzarella and he liked to pick out the perfect ball for each person, dip it in the salty brine and hand it to you himself. It was very sweet. So one day Matt and I go in and order a bunch of stuff and as we’re chatting with the old man, he asks us how long we’ve been married. We tell him and he tears up, grabs my hand and tells me that his wife died. So of course, I tear up as he says how much he misses her. Now the old man and I are creating quite an awkward spectacle. Not what people expect to see as they’re buying their gnocchi. The owner comes out from the back and calms his dad and explains that his mom actually passed away a few years ago but his dad forgets this. Then he kindly hands me a tissue as I am no longer at all sanitary.
After that day, for some reason, every time the old man saw me, he would burst into tears. I felt so bad that I was triggering this reaction that I would lurk outside to see if the old man was there, and if he was, I would get the counter guys to sneak a mozzarella ball into my order while I would duck behind the counter. He stopped working eventually but mozzarella now has this bitter-sweet association for me. Maybe now it will for you too! You’re welcome.
Steamed mussels and clams are perfect for a crowd. Compared to a lot of seafood, they’re cheap, they’re a cinch to make and best of all, tasty. I also really like informal dinner parties and you can’t get more casual than everyone digging and dunking out of a big bowl in the middle of the table. Slurping broth from a clam shell is a great equalizer.
Over the weekend, we had our friends, Karen and Tom, over for dinner and we made a big pot of Garlicky Mussels and Clams along with a Corn, Tomato and Basil salad. With some good bread, a decent bottle of wine (or 3), it was a good night.
We did end up with a lot left over since someone couldn’t make it (‘sup Eric! You were expecting a leftover delivery, huh?). Well, we selfishly kept the leftovers to make this the next night. The best part is, it only takes as long as the pasta takes to cook.
I hated fish so much as a kid that I would fake allergies, stomach aches, symptoms of the plague to keep from having to eat anything from the sea (except seaweed which I loved, oddly enough). Every so often, my parents would take my brother, Nick, and I fishing off of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. We would have to wake up at 4:30am to get to the charter boat on time, which (in my memory) was always filled with cranky old Brooklyn mobsters.
Being on the water was exhilarating though, and I loved the excited chatter that went around the boat when anyone felt a nibble on the line. At least once, I was the only person who caught anything which would fill me with dread because that meant, at some point, we would be expected to eat it.