Good morning. It was a perfect all-American day: youth basketball in the morning, with a heave at the buzzer to tie the game, followed by a long walk with the dogs, football on the television and a superior no-recipe clam chowder modeled on these instructions, with leeks, potatoes, chopped surf clams, cream and a handful of raw bay scallops added to each bowl just before serving.
Give that a try this weekend if you’re feeling fishy. It’s New England in a bowl.
Me, though, I’m on to the next jam, and heading south to cook island-style. I’ll start with this recipe for a perfect Caribbean brown stew (above) that Brigid Washington adapted from a recipe she learned from the chef Ricky Moore in Durham, N.C. It’s a centerpiece of his annual Kwanzaa celebration, served with rice and skillet-fried plantains. (The holiday begins on Tuesday. Naturally we have many recipes for it.)
Brown stew takes its name from its color, which is generally derived from a base of what’s called “browning,” or burned-sugar essence: It’s deeply caramelized brown sugar mixed with boiling water to create a sauce that’s smoky, sweet and slightly bitter. Browning is easy to make in principle, but I’ve scorched a bunch of pots doing so over the years. What’s cool about Moore’s recipe is that he doesn’t use browning, but instead a marinade of brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, allspice and salt that approximates the spirit of browning, with little chance of ruining the Dutch oven in which you sear the meat.
Brown Stew Pork Shoulder
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So: that marinated cubed pork shoulder, onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, a whole Scotch bonnet pepper, bay leaves and thyme all cooked in chicken stock brightened with ketchup and apple cider vinegar until the meat’s tender and fragrant and spicy-almost-sweet. That’ll take me into Christmas nicely, with a big, beautiful prime rib for supper.
Later, there’ll be baked oatmeal for breakfast, Texas toast for magnificent grilled cheese sandwiches at lunch, gingerbread cookies for snacking, a portobello steak au poivre for dinner and slow-cooker sticky toffee pudding for dessert. (We won’t be eating this way in January!)
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Now, it’s a far cry from anything to do with eggnog or a roast turkey with orange and sage, but The New Yorker fired up the Wayback Machine recently and brought forth Don DeLillo’s first piece of fiction for the magazine, “Game Plan,” published in 1971. Good reading.
The best I’ve felt recently, listening to culture or people talking about culture, was during Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s conversation with Michael Barbaro on “The Daily,” discussing the year of Taylor Swift.
And the worst: the audiobook of R.F. Kuang’s “Yellowface,” narrated by Helen Laser. The story triggered in me something almost akin to a panic attack, a kind of cringed terror, anxiety cubed.
Finally, let’s have Billie Eilish take us into the holiday weekend: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” performed on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend. I’ll see you on Sunday.