If You Can’t Stand the Heat… Stay in the Kitchen?
One writer can’t abide the notion of waiting until autumn to make a beloved handful of recipes that require deep-frying, sautéing, and even—gasp—baking.
It’s 85 degrees in New York today, and I’ve just taken a loaf of bread out of a 450-degree oven.
Reader, I don’t have central A/C, and in truth, I left the air-conditioning unit off while baking because of either energy concerns or a temporary, heat-induced lack of mental acuity.
My desire to use the stove this time of year is not, my partner would confirm, my top quality as a human. The heat our oven produces makes him howl when he walks in the door, so I cook as early in the day as I can. I’d agree with him that it’s perverse to employ what can only be called a how-much-clothing-do-I-need-to-wear-to-not-get-boiling-oil-on-me cooking.
In my defense, I have limits: I’m not going make a pork roast, leaving the stove on for hours. But appetite is a primary driving force, and as much as I love raw food, sandwiches, and salads, there are a handful of the recipes for which I’ve broken down—and turned up the heat—even on the 80- and 90-degree days. That’s how strong my craving was, and that’s how good these recipes are; I can’t recommend each of them enough.
A good fat steak
By far the most sensible of the bunch, a steak can be cooked entirely on your stovetop—yes, even a thick one. I like to butter-baste and skillet-sear mine, as in this J. Kenji López-Alt recipe. (Tip: Toss a few leaves of sage into the pan if you don’t have thyme or rosemary—delicious.)
Pasta with eggplant tomato sauce
Yes, this recipe involves deep-frying. In the summer. Stay with me! Eggplant fries in almost no time, and the rest of this recipe—adapted from Marcella Hazan’s classic—is a snap. Eggplant acquires a silky, creamy texture when fried, lending a super-satisfying, meaty feel to a vegetarian dish. It’s slightly adaptable; I used basil since I didn’t have parsley and the results were divine.
I can’t quit this curry by The New York Times’ talented Melissa Clark. At this point, I’ve completely changed it, dispensing with canned Thai curry paste in favor of a couple tablespoons of dried Indian curry powder and golden vadouvan. I use more coconut milk than is called for; I swap out snap peas for kale or sautéed zucchini; I am the boss of me!
Although New York City rolls are maybe worthy of odes, there’s nothing like a turkey sandwich made on your own easy, no-knead bread. Finish proofing dough in the morning so you can have that oven off by 10 am before it gets super-hot.
Ground pork and vermicelli
If you have a good Asian market near you, you know the allure of its prettily packaged sauces and spices—and those neat-looking vermicelli noodles, which cook even more swiftly than pasta. The internet abounds with Vietnamese, Thai and Taiwanese riffs on ground pork with noodles (and I for one am determined to try them all!) So check your fridge—you’ll likely need scallions, ginger, and garlic—and start Googling! There are few wrong moves with this combo.
Pok Pok chicken wings
Made famous by chef Andy Ricker at his bi-coastal Thai food empire Pok Pok, this recipe was actually refined by first employee Ich Truong. It is a dream. Either use the version printed in Ricker’s cookbook or try this version from Food & Wine. If you can wrap your head around deep-frying your way through the dog days, you’ll be rewarded with crisp, spicy, fish sauce-shellacked wings that will make even annoyed family members forgive you for turning up the heat. (Mine sure did.)
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.