No-Knead Bread goes New Mexican with a kick of green chile.
FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO, nobody dreamed that something could drive us out of our favorite restaurants and into what, for some, is the least used room in the house—a place that requires an ability to read recipes, source ingredients, learn techniques, and do it all while grocery store shelves are stripped of basics like flour and yeast.
Americans, it turns out, are a resilient bunch. It took a month or so to get our bearings—after hoarding strange things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The internet picked up part of the slack. Blogs like The Daily Dish and Cook This Now inspired us to get cooking. Fresh-from-the-oven websites offered cooking tips with links on how to order everything you need to pull off the recipes. Trying a complicated Moroccan dish gets much easier when every ingredient appears on your doorstep.
I reveled in the Woks of Life website, where a Chinese American family explores the history of each recipe and provides easy-to-follow directions. Authentic stir-fries, dumplings, and scallion pancakes became a part of my repertoire.
PBS ran those wonderful old black-and-white Julia Child episodes to remind us how to roast a chicken and bake a fancy apple pie. One of my friends said he was not only watching every episode of The Great British Baking Show but also re-creating each recipe.
Home-cooked food consumed social media, with photos of fabulous meals, humblebrags about ancient sourdough starters, and versions of the ubiquitous No-Knead Bread, as touted by The New York Times’ Mark Bittman. I followed the Times’ food content religiously and laughed when one day it announced, “Chocolate pudding is the answer.” What was the question? I wondered.
Although I have cooked professionally for 45 years, most of the meals I prepared at home for the past decade were not elaborate. The compact kitchen in my 1940s bungalow hemmed me in. Granted, if I needed space and double ovens, I could head to my cooking-school kitchen at Las Cosas, in Santa Fe, where I had my pick of cookware—Le Creuset and Staub, Cuisinart food processors, blenders, a commercial six-burner stove, smokers, and more. But once the pandemic hit, I knew I had to make it work at home.
I started by buying my own KitchenAid stand mixer. (Even as other retail sectors saw a downturn over the past year, kitchen stores reported steady sales.) I upped the ante on trying all the dishes I never had time to play with when I was working full-time: bagels, puff pastry, six-hour roasted pork butts, monkey bread (yum!), and all sorts of ethnic creations I had never included in my classes.
Numerous friends waxed lyrical over the air fryers they purchased (me included). Many of us pulled out favorite cookbooks and got nostalgic making loved but forgotten dishes. Old-time homesteading techniques roared back into popularity as folks made cheese, raised chickens, fermented vegetables, and put up jams and jellies.
The pandemic gave us lemons, and we made mint hibiscus lemonade.
As I look back on the past year, I realize that my slowed-down life taught me to enjoy what I cook by bridging the distance between what I do for a living and what I do for myself and neighbors, especially in a dire time. On that score, the Times is right: Chocolate pudding is the answer—and it’s among my favorite new make-at-home recipes.
Ancho Chocolate Pudding
Makes approximately 6 five-ounce servings