Good morning. The pizza oven was cranking out in the yard and no-recipe recipes were flying through the Catskills night: pizza with a bed of Parmesan and pillows of mushroom, with little spoonfuls of roasted bone marrow here and there like mozz; lamb chops cooked sous vide for a few hours with rosemary, butter and anchovy paste, then roasted in the oven for 90 seconds and served on a platter as if they were lollipops. Flank steaks marinated on the fly and sweet potatoes roasted in their jackets; here a plain cheese pie for a child, and there a lamb-belly one for adults. Then a loin of milk-fed piglet, roasted crisp, creamy and sweet, for all.
It was a lot of food and what tied it all together was neither a cookbook nor a digital guide to kitchen life, but that big, roaring wood-fired oven and the possibilities it suggested to those who had gathered on its hearth. I thought that was great. No-recipe cooking is freeing to the mind.
Now, maybe you don’t have a big wood-burning pizza oven? (I don’t, either. I was just visiting.) Try to think of your kitchen oven as if it were one, or about your heaviest pan or your wok or your slow cooker or outdoor grill: a tool capable of making great food if only you commit to it fully, really let it do its job.
So take that heavy pan, for instance: cast-iron, almost 10 inches across. What could you cook in that tonight, off the cuff, that would take advantage of its form? Let your imagination soar, but I’m thinking shallow-fried chicken thighs with loads of rosemary and red pepper, a shower of salt, cooked skin-side down slowly and for a long time so they get crisp and the meat grows dense and flavorful.
Serve that with a big spinach salad, maybe? It could be your no-recipe recipe of the week. It is certainly mine.
I get it, though. It is a Wednesday and you may not want to think too much about dinner. So you could make mac and cheese tonight. Alison Roman has a couple of strong recipes on NYT Cooking, along with a lot of instruction that will allow you to improvise. I could see making her stove-top recipe (above) and, while the pasta water heats, browning some ground beef or pork to mix into the dish at the end. (That is disturbingly delicious, a kind of cheeseburger stew.)
Or you could make pasta with portobello mushrooms. Chicken tagine as the chef Daniel Boulud cooks it. Braised halibut with asparagus, baby potatoes and saffron.
Or just bake a big tray of cowboy cookies, then eat them with a quart of cold milk and a second run at “Luck,” David Milch’s horse-racing drama, on HBO.
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A suggestion that comes from a space far from the pantry, a great distance from blackberries and allspice: Why don’t you listen to Bright Eyes, “The Calendar Hung Itself.” Listen a couple times, loud.
You’ll also want to read Nancy Rommelmann’s memoir of audition life in New York City, on Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood.
And what about Allison P. Davis on the rise of Domino’s superfans, on the Ringer? That, too.
Finally, Israel’s chief rabbinate has declared artichokes trayf, or not kosher. (They found worms in a packaged variety.) Our Jason Horowitz reports from Rome on how that news is playing in the city’s Jewish ghetto, home of some of the best and best-selling fried artichokes in the world. See you on Friday.