The eye of the holiday hurricane

In the awkward gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's A Good Day In Hell

Are we all back from Thanksgiving yet? Did we recover?

I love the holiday as much as anyone, but I rarely make it to the following week without feeling like I’ve done something horrible to myself (I have) and that I shouldn’t do that again (I will). The end-of-year, end-of-decade countdown is in full effect now, though — and with holiday parties, family gatherings, gift-shopping and more, it’s a lot. The next three or four weeks can wear anyone out, and in the gaps in between, we need to keep it simple.

Fortunately, I always come prepared on Fridays. This week we’re going focus on the moments in between the eggnog and sweaters. Let’s hit it.

7) A light weeknight dinner that doesn’t suck

I’m a sucker for the promise of a quick, easy, healthy-ish weeknight dinner. Magazines make it seem so easy, and it never is. But with the last languished leftovers lurking in the fridge and an office holiday party looming ahead, something without a lot of heft to it is just what we need.

Enter socca.

This is about as simple as it comes: a chickpea-flour pancake, cooked with onions and rosemary. I use Mark Bittman’s New York Times recipe, which boils down to this:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour

  • 1 cup water

  • olive oil

  • rosemary, salt, pepper

  • 1/2 medium onion

Preheat a cast-iron or oven-safe non-stick skillet in a 450-degree oven. Whisk the water into the flour until smooth (it will be fairly runny), and add salt and a tablespoon of oil. Slice the onion and add it to the hot skillet with two tablespoons olive oil, returning to the oven for 6-8 minutes. Pull it out once the onions are browned, scoop them into the chickpea mixture, add the rosemary and pour it all back into the pan. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove, brush the top with oil, then broil 2-3 minutes until slightly browned. Slice, scoop, serve.

It’s good on its own, but it’s also a terrific base for toppings. Such as: whipped feta, the best topping you can make with nearly no effort.

  • 8 oz feta cheese

  • 6 oz plain greek yogurt

  • 1 clove garlic, diced (be careful; the raw garlic can overpower the rest)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Run this all through a food processor, scraping the sides and repeating until smooth, add cracked pepper, and:

I spread this over the socca with crushed pistachios (I would’ve also added honey if I’d realized we were out of it when I was at the store. I bet it’d be good. It was good anyways.)

It’s flavorful and filling without weighing you down too much. That’s what the cookies in the break room are for.

6) Sour, but not foolish

There is, in my opinion, too much of an association of the holiday season with eggnog, a beverage I am terrified of in concept and do not have any desire to engage with. The last thing I need to be doing this month is drinking a glass of seasoned cream. No, for me, the winter drink we should be embracing more is the sour: winter citrus shines when given the chance.

Unfortunately, many classic sour recipes — if they don’t use repulsive pre-made sour mixes — call for egg white. Now, I was raised with a healthy amount of paranoia about kitchen cross-contamination, and the idea of raw egg in my drink skeeves me out a bit. Feels like an unnecessary risk to take. (Am I also someone who loves street meat, Cincinnati chili and late-night White Castle? Yes.)

Anyways, it’s the end of the year and I don’t need to be pushing my luck. Fortunately, my cocktail patron saint, Maggie Hoffman, has a surprising suggestion for an eggless sour: use silken tofu. Now, her recipe calls for a combination of vodka, lime juice, simple syrup and silken tofu, but I’m riffing a little bit here.

I used:

  • 1-3/4 oz pisco (left over from this summer’s best cocktail; vodka, light rum, whiskey or brandy would also work)

  • 1/2 ounce agave nectar (could also use simple syrup)

  • 1 oz juice from a Meyer lemon

  • 1 tbsp silken tofu (for the love of god, make sure it’s silken)

Shake this vigorously with ice, strain into a glass, dump the ice and solids from the shaker, return the drink and shake again without ice. Then strain again, twist with a slice of the Meyer lemon, and garnish.

The sweet-tartness of the Meyer lemons makes for a mellow drink, and the tofu is utterly undetectable, aside from giving the drink a soft smoothness with far less risk of salmonella poisoning.

5) There’s no segue here, but here’s a song I can’t stop listening to.

Are you familiar with Ezra Furman? You should be.

Furman’s been performing and recording since 2006, but his fourth solo album, Transangelic Exodus, released last year, is an under-the-radar masterwork, a jangling, furiously delightful supernatural concept album that reminds me a lot of Lou Reed.

4) Shit we gotta buy some gifts soon huh

I’ve started* my Christmas shopping this week, and you know who’s always the hardest to find a gift for? My dad. See, the thing is, once you hit a certain age — and I’m pretty sure that even at 37, I’m almost there myself — you have like, two things you’re interested in. And people have already bought you the things you’d need or want for those two things. What’s that leave? Dad books.

*I have not started

Now, Dad Books isn’t a genre that’s actually constrained by gender, age, or parental status — it’s a state of mind. Non-controversial books, often about history, the kind of thing meant to sit atop you after you’ve fallen asleep reading it in Your Chair. Here’s a quick list of the best relatively-recent Dad Books I can personally attest to:

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon

It’s a book about a boat blowing up written by a football historian. None more Dad.

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen

Surprisingly not self-serving and actually interesting by the standard of celebrity autobiographies. What Dad doesn’t love Bruce?

The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff

This recent retelling doesn’t focus on any of the [waves generally at all the shit] shit that has happened in the 18 years since; it’s a moment-by-moment recount of the day as it transpired from a number of perspectives. It’s a fascinating reminder of how little we knew about what was going on as it happened.

It Never Rains In Tiger Stadium by John Ed Bradley

It’s a football memoir that’ll make you cry, but you can swear it’s just the damn air in this house and who left the window open and HEAT’S NOT FREE, YOU KNOW

The Cost of These Dreams by Wright Thompson

There are no surprises when you’re reading Wright, and I mean that in a good way. It’s like the Springsteen album of Dad Books. (Aside from the Springsteen book I already suggested.)

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Okay this isn’t a Dad Book at all, but look at the cover: you can convince him it’s a James Patterson mystery novel and by the time he realizes you lied he’ll be mad about the media protecting sexual predators.

Image result for catch and kill"

In 2020 we’re radicalizing the Dads.

3) Okay but my dad doesn’t like books

Okay then you should revisit this timeless suggestion from my dear and wise friend Ramzy Nasrallah over at Eleven Warriors: make your own Apple Pie Bourbon. (Scroll down to “The Bourbon”.) Start now, you’ve still got time (per his parameters) to have it doing great by Christmas Day.

Panty melter. You're welcome.

(Image credit Eleven Warriors)

Ramzy has been suggesting bourbons every week for years, he will not lead you astray.

2) Completely apropos of nothing, let’s take a moment to appreciate Cheers.

Some beloved sitcoms don’t age well. Seinfeld? Super dated. The absurdity is classic, but the situations — and many of the social attitudes — are extremely of its era. Same for Friends. I loved Arrested Development, but on present-day rewatch it feels very much like the Bush-era relic that it is.

I was thumbing through Netflix the other night, as one does, and fell down a Cheers rabbit hole. And you know what? It holds up terrific. Sure, the hairstyles and clothing are out of date, but it’s still really damn funny and feels a lot more modern than a lot of those newer shows do.

In one of the earliest episodes, the bumbling bartender “Coach” advises a customer to support his gay son’s relationship if he truly loves him. Not bad for 1981! Better than Seinfeld!

Also:

1) Okay that’s it, let’s get to them dogs:

First, reader Bryan D. writes in:

This is Roscoe. He really wants a Kentuckiana Hot Loin but he cannot have one. He also wants to be a Friday dog; I told him Maybe? 

HE CAN DEFINITELY BE A FRIDAY DOG WHAT A GOOD BOY. GIVE HIM A SANDWICH.

ON SECOND THOUGHT DO NOT GIVE HIM THAT SANDWICH, THAT’S A NICE RUG AND YOU’LL WANT TO KEEP IT.

Next, reader Doug C. writes in:

Here’s one of my greyhounds being super stressed out.

TOO BLESSED 2B STRESSED.

Finally, Twitter user @brianjrhys submitted without comment:

No comment needed. Great dogs.

Thanks for reading and supporting The Action Cookbook Newsletter. Please, if you’re enjoying this, subscribe, share, tell your friends, steal your coworkers’ phones and sign them up, spray-paint the URL on highway overpasses. The more that read, the more that I can do with this. I’m grateful for everyone who’s been a part of this so far and I’m excited to push further in the coming year.

Share The Action Cookbook Newsletter

Happy Friday, everyone.

Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)