My, how precious!

Today’s New York Times business page had a piece about artisanal chocolate. Now I love chocolate as much as the next gal, if not more, but does everything need to be so, well, precious?

This is part of a bigger trend. First, there was wine. It wasn’t enough to know that red went with meat and white went with fish. No, no, no. You had to know about vintages. Regions. Soil. How much sun France saw that year. Sure, there are good wines and bad wines (and really, really good wines and really, really bad wines). But, it starts to feel a little like a fetish after a while, no?

But, okay, I mean wine has been made and drunk this way for centuries.

Then came coffee. Tea. Olive oil. Vinegar. Mustard.

And now, chocolate. Do we need this stress? Isn’t this why we eat chocolate — for a bit of simple, sweet succor? What is simple about this: "Pop the first half into your mouth, and chew it to check the taste and texture. Then pay attention to the aftertaste. Next, try the other half and see if the flavor changes." I want dessert, not the palate equivalent of an IQ test.

I’d prefer my food minus the side of precious, thanks.

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Eight crazy nights (more or less)

A couple sets up housekeeping together.  They get a menorah and a box of candles.  The candle box assures them that there are just enough candles for one Hanukkah.

But, instead, the box of candles lasts for eight years!

All right, I’m exaggerating.  A little.  This  is, in fact, the tenth year my husband and I have celebrated Hanukkah together and I can count on one hand the number of years I’ve had to buy candles.  I don’t think I’ve ever used up a whole box. 

It is the true Hanukkah miracle.

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Latkes 101

My husband loves my latkes.  He says mine are the best.  I highly doubt this is true, but I let him continue to believe it.  Anyway, I think it’s all in the technique.  Just about any recipe will work (try this one if you don’t already have a fave).  Here’s the secrets:

  1. The food processor is your friend. Don’t try to hand grate — what are you, some kind of masochist?  Hand grating onions is just plain silly, and by time you get all the potatoes grated they will have turned purple.  This is why food processors were invented.  No, I don’t care how your bubbe did it.
  2. Use the "S" blade.  Now, this one perplexed me at first: shouldn’t you grate using the fancy little grating blade that rests at the top of the work bowl? In a word, no.  It doesn’t work.  I’m not even sure where mine is anymore.  Use the "S" blade, trust me.
  3. You can’t overprocess.  Well, I’m sure you can, but you won’t.  Make sure all the big chunks are gone, and then let it go another minute or two, just in case.  Past the point you think is too long is just about right.  Big pieces of potato (or, worse, onion) are not appealing.
  4. Don’t be a sissy with the oil.  For goodness sake, we are celebrating the oil!  If you don’t hear glug, glug, glug, you haven’t use enough.  I’m serious.  (In a weird life imitates religion moment tonight, I came perilously close to running out of oil.)
  5. Make sure the oil is HOTNot warm.  HOT.  Otherwise, the latkes will just sit there soaking up oil and never get brown and yummy. 
  6. Resist the temptation to flip too early.  Especially in the first batches it’s tempting to want to flip after just a few minutes.  Don’t.  Let them sit a minute or two longer than you can stand.  If you flip too early you need to flip again to get them really brown, and that is never a good idea.
  7. This ain’t rocket science.   At the end of the day grated potatoes and onions fried in oil are going to taste good, even if they aren’t perfect.  Play around with them until you get the hang of it — even the worst batch will be better than the goop that comes of a box.

Happy frying!

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