December is the Time For Sparkles (and Stew)
The Friday Newsletter is ready to make the most of a long December
December can be dark if you let it.
I mean, quite literally, it’s dark out there.
The actual data might say otherwise, but I feel like the sun is setting at lunchtime right now. A couple days ago it didn’t even come out at all. There is no denying that we are headed headlong into winter, even if it’s technically still fall. And there’s a lot to be stressed about: holiday travel and shopping, family obligations, year-end deadlines at work, Christmas shopping, the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album… December can get dark quick!
That’s why it’s good to create your own light this time of year. Do something silly and/or indulgent for yourself. Don’t be afraid to sparkle, because when the nights are the darkest, that’s when it’ll shine the brightest.
Looking ahead at a post-Thanksgiving stretch that would see me attending my first post-[waves hands] wedding and two Christmas parties in the span of a week, I looked at my closet and grumbled. Sure, I’ve got a lot of collegiate sweatshirts and quarter-zips, but nothing for an actual event. So, I did the only prudent, rational, and responsible thing I could: I bought a purple velvet dinner jacket.
And you know what? I feel great in that thing. It’s completely impractical and a ludicrous thing to have, and I am loving every minute of it.
It may not be easy, but I hope you can find a way to sparkle this December. Get yourself a silly jacket or a shiny dress or a sweater with Christmas cats or Hans Gruber on it. Do things for others this season, but don’t forget to do something for yourself along the way.
Oh, and make a stew. You can’t feel bad when there’s stew.
We’ll get to that in a minute.
Friends, it is the first Friday of the last month of the year.
I’ve got another great Friday Newsletter on tap for you, with—as always—Seven Good Things to get your weekend kicked off right. This week, that includes:
A simple, hearty and delicious stew!
Two cocktails that’ll have visions of sugarplums dancing in your head!
Great recommendations in music, books and movies!
Sparkling conversation with The Internet’s Best Comment Section!
Dogs, and maybe another animal or two?
It’s Friday, and I’m feeling festive, friends. Won’t you join me?
7) Pressure like a drip drip drip that’ll never stop
My condolences to everyone who just read that line and thought “whoa-oh”, as I assume your Spotify Wrapped year-end summary was also dominated by your kids wanting to listen to the Encanto soundtrack on the way to school.
But I digress.
If there is one immutable, unquestionable, unassailable good thing about this time of year, it’s that it’s Stew Season. There is no better way to spend a chilly Sunday afternoon than lovingly tending to a bubbling pot of stew, and no better thing to enjoy on a dark wintery evening than the product of that labor.
But, y’know, you don’t always have four to six hours to babysit a pot of gumbo, do you?
That’s where I must make the case for an electric pressure cooker.
I haven’t embraced the now-practically-ubiquitous countertop appliance the way some people have; there are entire cookbooks and cooking blogs dedicated to the notion that you can (and should) cook everything in an InstantPot-type device. I think that’s silly, and also distracts from the things they are very good at: they are phenomenal at making stock (I just froze three quarts of stock from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass), and they’re terrific for speeding up a stew.
One cold night recently, I decided to take a stab at a paprikash.
Traditionally, the classic Hungarian dish is made with chicken, but I had some pork shoulder in the freezer. I’d take an approach similar to that of a pork chili, just with the spices tuned differently, and then serve it over a bed of pappardelle, a meaty sauce’s favorite pasta.
Pressure-Pot Pork Paprikash and Pappardelle
(serves 6-8, takes about an hour)