Party snacks by candlelight – is there anything better?
There’s a song my husband plays sometimes that echos the refrain “There will be snacks.” Sometimes we sing it to each other even when the music isn’t playing.
And while the song seems to be about the end of days, mentioning survival kits and crumbled financial institutions, it still seems to imply that even the apocalypse can be made better by snacks.
Which is an idea I can totally get behind.
There’s just something about snacks that make me happy. Perhaps because making them (and eating them) suggests that friends, laughter, a nice glass of wine and plenty of fun are in my near future. Or maybe it reminds me of sitting exhausted on my couch, after the last guest has gone home, and being left alone to finish off the last odds and ends from the plates.
Whatever the reason, out of all the meals or menus I plan or partake in, it’s always the snacks that I love the most.
Sweet & Salty Caramel Corn, otherwise known as evil incarnate
I have pretty decent willpower when it comes to food — with a few notable exceptions. At the top of that list resides the Jalapeño Cheeto (not to be confused with Flaming Hot Cheetos whose only redeeming quality is this excellent video). I don’t know what magic took place to make Jalapeno Cheetos even more delicious than the original flavor, but it worked. These things are the straight-up definition of addictive and I am absolutely powerless against them.
My initial encounter was a few years ago when my husband left a small bag open on the kitchen counter before he left for work. I came home early and poured out a few nibbles before folding up the bag and putting it away. Those few bites was all it took. I kept creeping back into the kitchen and sneaking handfuls until the bag was (shamefully) empty.
When my husband came home, I told him he was forbidden from bringing them into our house ever again. While he hasn’t completely complied with that request, they are thankfully a rare indulgence.
I mention this story because I have recently discovered — thanks yet again to my husband, bearer of evil temptations — something just as hauntingly addictive as those spicy, cheesy morsels.
Lemons to lemonade…The standby cliché that has encouraged optimism for years is certainly a useful one to keep in mind in the kitchen.
Even though I’m pretty confident in my culinary prowess, every so often my cooking projects don’t turn out the way I expect them to. Occasionally, no matter how determined I am in conquering certain recipes or ingredients, they remain untamed and I am forced to dine on humble pie instead.
This is where some culinary finesse comes in handy — if you’ve spent enough time in a kitchen, shouldn’t you be able to take a problematic dish and turn it into a delicious success?
I’ll say with total and utter assurance…sometimes.
One of the more frustrating food failures I’ve experienced was a few years ago, involving a chicken leg, sweat and tears. The picture in the magazine was of a perfectly lacquered piece of poultry, whereas mine (even after plenty of last-ditch efforts) remained lackluster and insipid. It was edible, sure, but I didn’t enjoy eating it. The taste of disappointment was too strong.
My most recent foray into the land of food flops came with a slightly ironic twist. Back in 2007, I ripped out a recipe for a Crisp Salami Cocktail Mix from the December issue of Food & Wine. I don’t know what about it intrigued me so much, but it seared itself in my brain. I wasn’t sure when I would make it, but I knew it would happen.
I ate Chinese steamed buns on New Years Day quite unexpectedly.
My husband and I had a lazy morning before finally deciding we were hungry enough to leave the house in search of food. To be on the safe side, we called our favorite neighborhood joint to check on the wait for brunch. Forty five minutes, they told us on the phone.
Given that their bloody marys and biscuits are good enough to make nearly any wait worth it, we scrambled to get dressed and drove with haste up the street. Moments later, we found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant. Pleased as punch, we walked through the door…and that’s when things went awry.
My kitchen has been feeling neglected lately. With all the craziness of the holidays, it’s been weeks since I’ve had the time or energy to contemplate a cooking project, let alone actually accomplish one. This is probably why my list of resolutions is basically a list of foods to make!
To get back into the groove, I decided to start the new year with a two-part project: making Chinese BBQ pork and then using it as a stuffing in Chinese steamed buns (Char Siu Bao). Steamed buns are one of my favorite dim sum treats and since I hadn’t ever made them before, I thought it was about time to check them off my list of missions to accomplish.
For the steamed buns, I used a Fine Cooking recipe that I found online more than a year ago. The link can be found here. In that recipe there is a sub recipe for the BBQ pork so I started there. While I could have purchased the prepared meat from a Chinese grocer, I think there’s something infinitely more fun about a project if it’s all made from scratch.
Homemade Chinese BBQ Pork – getting a jump on the char siu bao
While I have a few resolutions (complete another Whole30 and to learn more about my Nikon camera), most of my hopes for the new year involve cooking. I created a new page on this blog to track my food-complishments over the next 12 months, but here’s a quick run-down: