I am searching, searching, searching the internet to see if I can find some version of the recipe I cooked tonight (without having to a)violate the copyright of a writer I admire and also b)type it myself.)
Because it is The Very Best Thing I Have Ever Eaten. Plus, I've made it several times, and it is easier to make well than it is to make badly. (I know, because I've done both. But it really is easy to make well.)
It's Chicken with Vinegar, from The Minimalist Cooks at Home, which was a Christmas gift several years ago and which I am finally working my way through. I don't have very many cookbooks. Since several of my favorite recipes were from Mark Bittman's Minimalist column in the NYTimes (print edition; the food section's on Wednesday) I thought this one might be a good bet. Well, yay me, and my excellent taste.
I love to cook, but I go through long phases where I can barely bring myself to toast a poptart. Lately, I've been cooking up a storm. Even more than cooking, I love grocery shopping, though when prices are high as they have been this spring, I get all mad, as if I was being insulted personally by mango growers and organic chicken farmers.
Rather than go on and on about the difficulty and frustration of trying to cook with a one-year-old standing between your feet, waiting patiently for you to put that knife down on the counter, instead I give you:
The cookbooks I use a lot:
My dad's 1955 Joy Of Cooking
The Best of Mennonite Fellowship Meals, which I'm thrilled to see is still in print. This is a weird compendium - but for every green jello salad with canned fruit, there's a great simple recipe that's got a place in my repetoir.
Brother Juniper's Bread Book my favorite baking book (and I've read them ALL.) Also thrilled to see this is still in print.
Easy Basics for Good Cooking, from Sunset, out of print but apparently there are plenty around. I need to take mine out and get it rebound, or drilled and kept in a looseleaf notebook.
I got out of my house basically able to scramble an egg. My dad was a terrific cook (in the 'big roasts surrounded by root vegetables' vein), and it was his main creative outlet. SO HE WOULD PHYSICALLY REMOVE ME AND MY BROTHER FROM THE KITCHEN so he could create in peace.
My brother was able to learn a little more from him than I was, and then worked in a bakery and at a lunch counter, so he had no such handicap as he faced adulthood. Me, I ate a lot of sandwiches, and a lot of eggs.
I don't really remember what made me want to learn to cook - I think it's connected to having this house and wanting to be hospitable. I do know that, before we were even really moved in, I made a big batch of chocolate chip cookies with walnuts for my brother and his friend, Wesley Paxton, who was visiting from England.
Our friend Chuck lived with us for years, and I think I learned mostly from him. He's a very ambitious and creative cook, who learned from both his parents; we've spent many happy hours talking food, now that he has his own kitchen.
Anyway, Easy Basics is exactly that, with lots of helpful photos (because the choux paste is SUPPOSED to separate like that when you add the eggs, but if you've never done it before, it totally looks like it has something has gone horribly wrong and you should throw it all out and order something instead.)
And because of Easy Basics - and because of choux paste, which is what creampuffs and eclairs are made of - I developed my peculiar area of speciality when it comes to cooking.
Which is: the recipes (and there are hundreds) which are simple and dependable, but which create a product all out of proportion to the effort involved. Which seem, to the person eating them, to be hard and time-consuming and to show immense skill.
Those are Betsy Recipes.