I had a book I loved -- I won't call it a cook book, it was more of a food book -- that my sister gave me a hundred years ago. I still love it. It's called Home Cooking: A Writer In the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. It reads (to me, anyway) like a novel, as does her other food book, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. I would turn to these books, not so much for recipes as for inspiration -- for such wonderful end-of-the-day dishes as rösti (like hash browns only better) and welsh rarebit -- and for astonishing projects like homemade dill pickles and yogurt. They kept me going during the grind of graduate school -- I would fix myself some amazing comfort food and eat it while I watched The Food Network or Nick at Nite on TV, then work on some hippy-dippy crochet project before I started my homework.
All this is to say that, since grad school and marriage and the arrival of Miss K and the advent of the quilting bug, my cooking obsession has fallen by the wayside. But for the last few nights I have not wanted, I have needed cookies. And I am simply too busy to make them. I have to clean up cat puke off the sofa. I have to launder 1,171 socks (becasue 1,172 would be one too many.) The bed has to be made so we can muss it up again. (Yes, it does. It really is better that way, D. One day you'll understand why.) The answer? Midnight shortbread.
- Three ingredients. Always on hand. Butter. Flour. Sugar.
- Very little cleanup (assuming that, unlike me, you do not fling the flour about as you measure it.)
- Hands-on time is minimal. (No, don't use two knives to cut in the butter, that's ridiculous. Use a pastry cutter, you'll be done in no time.)
- Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake. No cookie cutters, no messy drop cookies.
- Make a fluted edge. Or don't. Cut into wedges.
- Flip on the tv or snuggle down with a book and let the oven do the work.
- Nibble daintily? Crunch and munch? You decide.
So you get first dibs, of course. You can share the leftovers in the morning -- they're wonderful spread with a little butter (and, if you're feeling decadent, a sprinkle of sugar) and enjoyed with some tea or orange juice. What time do you get up? I'll be over.