Aside

Hunger Games

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 12.10.37 AM 

What are you doing this weekend? The Chicago-based half of Pen & Palate will be attending the 10th Annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest, the biggest apple pie contest in the country, clad in my finest pair of elastic-waist stretchy pants, chowing down on some homemade baked goods. And since Lucy can’t make it because she lives in some place called New York City (here in the Midwest, we refer to anything east of Gary, Indiana as “flyover country”), where such wonders do not exist, I will be eating for two. Sacrifices, etc.

I nearly gave myself an aneurysm last year, not finishing my apple pies until 3 AM, the morning of the contest (I think it lent a sense of urgency in the finished pies, which I believe worked in my favor), but that shouldn’t stop you from entering! Last year, they had upwards of 2,000 people show up. This year, who knows? Perhaps famous Chicagoans Kanye West and Billy Corgan will make an appearance. You know who else is from Chicago? A certain President of the United States of America. Just saying.

Article

Spinach and Cheese Empanadas, Fit for a King

henryviii

illustration: tram nguyen

 

This recipe is dedicated to my little brother, who despite being as thin as a rail and blessed with the metabolism of a very fast hamster, was diagnosed with gout at the tender age of 22. The doctor remarked that he had never seen this particular affliction in one so young, and that it was usually the disease of unusually large, prosperous, middle-aged men, such as Henry VIII. You develop it by eating too much steak, organ meats, and other rich foods and the best way to treat it is a massive overhaul of one’s diet. Upon learning of this diagnosis, my brother went to Macy’s and bought himself a deep fryer for Christmas.  He had a gift card, he said.

Read more

Article

Shepherd’s Pie

pen_and_palate_shepherds_pie

illustration: tram nguyen

 

Speaking of dinner parties! For many years, I had this habit of inviting people over for dinner and then planning elaborate, multi-part feasts that would require me to spend hours and hours in the kitchen while everyone else hung out in the living room, starving. I tend to get a little nervous about hosting, and I appreciated the built-in escape during awkward moments – which, when I am around, there are many! This system worked for me, mostly. Despite some delays I would inevitably emerge from the kitchen, triumphant and covered in flour, with four distinct and “innovative” homemade pizzas, or whatever similarly labor-intensive dish I’d made. I would bully people into profusely complimenting me and then, at long last, we’d all eat. I got praise; my friends got fed – everyone was happy!

Then, last fall, my mom came to New York to celebrate her birthday, with my aunt and my sister in tow. I had just moved into a new apartment and was excited to show it off, so I thought it would be nice to have everyone over for a lavish birthday feast. As the clock ticked down to the dinner party, the guest list grew and grew. The more people who were slated to attend, the more ambitious I got. Ultimately, I ended up with about 12 attendees and a menu consisting of a delicious but complicated seeming menu of fancy enchiladas (recipe courtesy of Saveur) followed by Lottie + Doof’s gorgeous chocolate juniper cake with milk jam. I don’t remember what I served for appetizers, but I do remember sending my sister’s boyfriend out on a hunt for “one stale bun,” which, winningly, he scrounged up.

Read more

Article

The Pies of Summer

I can tell you my love for you will still be strong after the pies of summer are gone.

illustration: tram nguyen

 

I don’t get people who say they hate summer. What? You don’t you like being happy? Tan? Dressing in slightly inappropriate outfits, just shy of mutton dressed as lamb? I just want to shake these miserable souls. By the time July rolls around, Chicago transforms into another city entirely. I love riding down the Lake Front Path on my bicycle in the summer, cruising past the absurd non-native palm trees that miraculously appear every June, pop-up stands selling aguas frescas and sweet juicy mangoes dusted with chili powder, and bikinied beach babes anointing themselves with coconut oil. As I watch the paddle boarders in the distant horizon, looking like so many perfect, tan, Jesuses walking on water, I remember that this is the reason I’ve decided to live in a place that is a completely unfit for human habitation six months out of the year.

I’ve been gorging myself on the best of summer produce, in the manner of a lab rat that has had it’s hypothalamus removed and can no longer tell the difference between hungry and full. All year long, I wait for and dream about the blueberries and peaches and Oh My God the tomatoes, which I consume by the pounds and pounds as soon as late summer arrives. Even as I bite into that perfect summer tomato, my joy is tempered by the fact that the pleasure is fleeting. That the season will be over in a few short weeks and it will soon be cold and gray and I will never be happy again.

Read more