For Christmas, I gifted my partner, Quinn, a cookbook written by a favourite YouTuber of ours, Andrew Rea. The book and channel both are called Binging with Babish, each episode recreating iconic dishes from our favourite movies and TV shows. Missing the holiday food you have come to know, love, and crave? Try Ross’s Thanksgiving sandwich from Friends! (Yes, that sandwich.) Or, for something sweeter, Buddy the Elf’s delicious (?) dessert pasta! Want to “leave the gun, take the cannoli”? This cookbook has you covered, Coppola fans. Buon appetito.
As part of a sort of fun, communal New Year’s resolution, Quinn and I decided to make one recipe from the book every other week. Sounds manageable, right? We love cooking! We might love cooking even more than we love Uber Eats (marginally)!
Not wanting to bite off more than we could chew, our first dish was one of the simplest recipes in the book: a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, a la Creed. We heeded the author’s advice from to skip the mayo as featured in the movie. Similarly to the author, we also used our artistic license to purchase a more moderately priced steak (the recipe called for ribeye).We popped those in the freezer, got in our PJs, and after 30 minutes began cutting the meat into thin slices, which is around the time I realized the preparation of this meal was more of a quick-and-dirty one-man operation, especially with our limited countertop space. While Quinn did a lot of the leg work on the meat, I laid out the toppings and convinced myself that I was Integral to The Mission. The whole affair took 15 minutes flat and it was one of the best sandwiches of my life. Here is a bad picture of it:
Whether you’re more into New York style bagels or Montreal bagels, apparently Bagel Day was yesterday (Jan 15), and though we’re a little late onto this train, you can learn about the history of the humble bagel in The Bagel by Maria Balinska – yes, an entire book dedicated to it – along with a variety of recipes you can use to try your hand at making your own, so you can put whatever toppings and seasonings you like!
For a variety of different ways to make challahs, babkas, bagels, and more, check out Modern Jewish Baker by Shannon Sarna. The bagels in this one are New York-style bagels, and they come in a variety of incarnations, from plain bagels and whole wheat ones to jalapeno cheddar bagels and sweeter varieties like blueberry (classic) and cinnamon raisin, you’ll have enough bagels for all your sandwich desires! What I really like about this book is that it also contains lots of step-by-step shaping photo instructions, guiding you through how to shape your bagel dough, yes, but also the different ways you can braid your challah (in addition to the many-numbered strands, there’s also stuffed challah. Stuffed with delicious filling challah) and a clear demonstration of how to shape a babka.
The crop that has grown the most prolifically in my garden this year have been my peppers*, and while I love eating them roasted, served with some homemade sourdough (lean or enriched dough, it’s all good) and a fried egg on top… it’s a lot of hot peppers. Some of which are those tiny little chilis not normally eaten peppered on toast with an egg over top (pun intended).
So I decided to make some hot sauce when a bunch of the Padrón, Poblano, and Tibetan lhasa peppers (along with a few Thai chilis) started to ripen around the same time, and stumbled upon Lady and Pups’ Mean Santa chili sauce recipe. Part of it is that her food photography is off the charts stunning and she (or her photographer) could probably convince me to eat just about anything through the photo alone, but what sealed it was the short ingredient list, plus copious amounts of photos detailing the process and what it looks like at every stage. I remember this author from her incredible cookbook The Art of Escapism Cooking, having only recently made the connection between Lady and Pups (whom I follow) and her cookbook (which I adored). The recipe is deceptively simple – I had everything except fish sauce, which I then acquired, and shiso leaves, which I left out – for the amount of flavour that comes out of it. Don’t get me wrong, your kitchen (and the living room, and maybe the entire floor) will smell for the entire day. But is it ever worth it! And definitely try it with eggplants as she suggests after the chili sauce recipe: perfect combination, and this coming from someone who doesn’t even enjoy eating eggplants.
I should make a note that this is a chunky chili sauce, a different beast from the vinegar-based hot sauce you might be used to. Think sliced rounds of chilies cooked in oil till they’re oozing with flavour, their natural smoky fruitiness paired with fish sauce (or soy sauce if you want to make this vegan/vegetarian) to increase the complexity and add just enough saltiness to it… the umami scale is next-level, and you’ll be salivating right by the pot as it’s cooking from the moment the peppers start to cook down and release all their delicious flavours, even as your hands start to tingle from cutting the peppers and continue to burn as you wait for the chili sauce to cool and develop even more flavour**. It’s worth it.
If you’re a spicy food lover and could probably imagine yourself spooning (mild or moderate) chili sauce into your mouth as a snack***, this is for you. For even more resources for hot sauce creation & use, see below the cut!