There are two things you should know before starting this post, because it is long and full of detail. One, these are the easiest and most rewarding potatoes you will ever make in your young culinary lives, so I hope with all my being that you will put this recipe to good use at some point. It’s my own recipe – doctored up and figured out over the years – so the measurements are imprecise. But so is life! You’ll probably need to adjust it as you go, and I encourage you to. Enjoy the flexibility that is cooking (as opposed to the rigid, scientific scariness of baking, but more on that later).
Two, before you embark on any food journey, you should know about the most fabulous website in the world – which Marc introduced me to, I cannot take credit for this – because it will change your life. Wines Til Sold Out, a discount online wine store, presents the user with one bottle at a time and sells a bunch of them at INSANELY LOW prices until there are no more. Because of this website, our house has a wine rack that is constantly full in the most flossy, ostentatious way with at least 20 different bottles. (And since you buy several bottles of each type at a time, we are able to stock the stuff we like.) Get on this site. The bottle we’re drinking tonight cost us a mere 11 dollars – discounted from over 30. (For the recipe, I am also using another bottle of cooking white wine that I always have on hand, it costs about 9 bucks and gets used over time.)
So, first and foremost, let’s break down what this dinner entails:
-An aperitif (the best part of any meal, which Americans need to latch onto in our cultural narrative). I believe that one should have at least one full drink whilst nibbling and awaiting the real meal, so that is what we’ll do here. Count a glass of the red you’re going to be having later as part of this, or have a bit of white, a beer, or a cocktail. Whatever you have on hand. Something light if possible.
-A full dinner with roast meat, potatoes, and a vegetable.
-A nice, simple, elegant dessert.
And to do this, you will need (rough estimates on prices for two people, things like salt/pepper/oil I won’t count because YOU SHOULD HAVE THIS):
-A nice, crusty loaf of bread — $2
-Olives and peppers for the aperitif — $3 if you fill your Tupperware up judiciously at the olive bar
-Yukon Gold potatoes, enough for two (ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES, WHITE POTATOES ARE FOR THE WEAK) — $1.50
-Green beans (frozen are fine, but fresh feel fancier) – $1.50
-One yellow onion, medium size — $.75
-One bulb garlic —$.50
-A light, thick meat of your choice for two. (Could be chicken breast, pork loin, or whatever. This time I’m using pork butt because the butcher recommended I try it, though I usually use pork loin, but it’s a really adaptable recipe and can use most white/pink meat. ) — ~$9
-Herbs de provence (you get them in a jar, any supermarket. You should always have a jar of this on hand, they are nature’s most versatile herb blend)
-Some cooking white wine (that you should also have on hand, but if you don’t, add about 7-9 bucks to this cost)
-A handful of berries, I chose blackberries — $3
-A slice of cake from the bakery where you got the bread — $3.50
-A nice, light red (or richer white) BOTH OF WHICH YOU ACQUIRED AT A SENSIBLE DISCOUNT RETAILER, BECAUSE YOU ARE SMART — $10
So there are your prices! A little more than 15 per person, but just about! And there are things you can skimp on if you are in a pinch. So let’s get down to the food itself. First on the list, and coincidentally, most simple: The Aperitif.
As you can see, there isn’t a whole lot of work that goes into this. Break off a piece of crusty bread, have some olives and peppers (or cheese, or hummus, or whatever you like here) and a nice drink. The aperitif is not supposed to be substantial in terms of food (the point is to get your appetite going), and it’s much more about the experience than the actual course. So take this time to linger, have an olive or so, dash in and out of the kitchen, and generally revel in the criminally-underappreciated “before the actual meal” period of the evening. It will make any dinner instantly feel a million times more luxurious.
Now, onto the preparation of the main course. This meal is called
Roast Meat Of Some Sort With The Sumptuous Chelsea Winetatoes And String Beans
As you can see, this is all incredibly fancy and French. But don’t let it intimidate you! The preparation is extremely simple, all you need is a large cooking dish (like the one seen here), a pan, and a pot in which to blanch your beans. All in all, this recipe takes about 2.5 hours from start to finish, but the vast majority of that is spent enjoying the aperitif while the potatoes roast away. The secret to my potatoes being so unbelievably delicious is in the name – they are cooked with white wine. This renders them tender, aromatic, and the perfectly rich kind of savory. Combined with the herbs, garlic, and onions, you are in for a serious potato-y treat.
To prepare the taties:
-Preheat your oven to about 400 degrees.
-Cut your yukons into nice little cubes about half the size of your standard ice cube, as shown in the photo.
-Cut your onion into nice frito-sized “onion chips,” and mix them all around with the potatoes in your pan.
-Mince about four cloves of garlic into a nice, fine mince.
-Put your minced garlic into the bottom of a drinking glass.
-Top with a few teaspoons of herbs, and a generous amount of salt and pepper (several good pinches of each), as seen here:
-Add in about a glass’ worth of white cooking wine. You can (and maybe will) add more to taste as you go.
-Add about three tablespoons of olive oil.
-Add a little bit less than a glass’ worth of water, enough to fill the drinking glass entirely. It will look strange and unappetizing once it’s all combined and strirred up, but fear not!
-Take about half of this tincture and coat the taties lovingly, as seen here.
-Place the potatoes in the oven and let them slow roast for about an hour, stirring them occasionally so that they are nice and evenly coated/caramelizing, and adding a bit more of the tincture if they seem dry and sad.
(They will look more or less like this after an hour)
Now! Onto the meat. (This will happen during the hour that the tates are in their first roasting round.)
One word on this: I’m using pork butt here as I mentioned before, but I would recommend a beginner use loin. It’s a little easier to work with, as it’s a much less marbled cut of meat. Butt (or shoulder, basically the same) has an excellent flavor that I really love, but if you’re a beginner, keep it simple. Chicken breast and loins (medallions of lamb or pork are also great here) are as simple as you can get.
Anyway. You’re going to want to rub both sides of the meat with a little salt and pepper, and leave the meat out long enough that it can get a bit dry. (As Julia Child taught us, meat must always be dry before searing, or it won’t get all nice and wonderfully brown.)
Once your potatoes are starting to feel a bit cooked (but not brown and crispy yet, this should be like the above photo, after about an hour), go ahead and sear your meat in a medium-hot pan for about 2 minutes on each side, or until it is nice and brown and sear-y on the outside but still has much cooking to go within. (This will depend on the thickness of your roast, of course. If you are doing chicken breast, be even more judicious about how long you sear, because the breasts cook quickly and can get tough.)
While the meat is searing, and you are still awaiting your potatoes, you can snip the ends off your beans and blanch them in boiling water for about 4 minutes, or until nice and green and lively. Just enough to get them not crunchy and weird before you give them a quick once-over in the pan with a bit of butter and salt (and maybe a squeeze of lemon, if you’re feeling daring).
Once your meats are seared, transfer them to a little cubby you make in your potatoes, and add the rest of the tincture, as seen here.
Continue roasting for approximately 60-75 minutes, or until cooked through. (Mine took a long time, as it is a big piece of butt!) This will be enough time for your roast to be juicy and well-cooked within, your potatoes to be nice and brown, and your onions to be positively caramelized. Use your judgment here, you’ll know when it’s caremelly and wonderful. It’s not a science, it’s an art!
In the meantime, sautee your string beans in a pan with a pat of butter and a decent sprinkling of salt. You should be able to eyeball this, I trust you.
Now, take out your roast, and gaze upon it.
Now plate! Served with a nice glass of red (or white) and a hunk of crusty bread, it’s the perfect, most aromatic and satisfying meal. Enjoy!
Onto the dessert.
I’m going to be really honest with you here: I am terrible at cooking dessert. To be kind, is not my specialty, and I have burned more tarts than I have saved. The precision of baking – as I mentioned before – alienates me, as I tend to experiment and wing it when in the kitchen. I wish that I were better at desserts, and I hope to progress in writing this blog, but for now I am terrible at them. So what do I do? I get a nice, big slice of cake at a bakery (where I got my bread), and some berries to spruce it up and make it look a little more homemade. (I also love the way the tartness of berries contrasts with the rich, creamy sweetness of the cake. It’s a great combination, and a great end to a meal.)
Cut the slice in half – I find a bit of cake goes a long way – and serve. Nothing complicated here.
Now, the two of you retire to the couch to watch a profound foreign film and digest the whole thing over a glass of whiskey, and cuddle the night away. (Or, if there are a lot of you, you let the meal run long into the night with great conversation and after-dinner drinks and coffees.)
Despite the length of this post, it’s an incredibly simple meal to execute, and it always feels as indulgent as going out for a big dinner on the town. I am forever an advocate of the dinner party – whether for two or ten – and this has been one of my standby meals for a long time. I hope that you will enjoy it (if you make one of these things, please let me know!), and most of all, I hope you will join me in finding more frugal ways to enjoy a great meal than always going out to restaurants and overpaying for mediocre pasta.
Going out for dinner can be great, yes. But there is a deep satisfaction in knowing you can make something just as good at home – and for a fraction of the price.
I want to get on Amal Amuddin’s style level.
I was talking to a girlfriend recently about work when she told me “I counted the times I said ‘or maybe not’ after a statement in the meeting, and it was too many. I hate when I do that. I hate playing into what people think a girl is.” She talked about a man who spoke with such effortless confidence and conviction, certain that his words had weight. “What must that feel like?” she asked.
I talked to another girlfriend over lunch about how she manages to be a mom and have a career that is just as demanding as it was pre-baby. “You’re never really ready,” she said, “You just do it. You rise to the challenge, and become that person.”
A girlfriend posted on Facebook about her children’s school announcing a day off for the kids with very little notice. She made a comment about how “she was sure the moms were going to be the ones calling out from work.” It was played off like a joke, but it wasn’t one.
I see these women and am staggered by their strength, their resilience, and their humanity. I am overwhelmed by their ability to be equally warm and professional, sure of their paths but somehow sure, on a greater level, that no one can be sure of anything. They seem the most capable people I know — navigating a world of obstacles and slights and off-color comments, and bringing people into the world despite the acute knowledge that it will be a punishment.
And then I think of my girlfriend being so worried that she was “coming off as a girl” for apologizing, and for being not perfectly certain that she was right. I think of the anxiety it brings her to say something that reminds people of her femininity, as though anyone could forget. And it feels so completely tragic that this compassion, humility, and quiet strength — this very femininity — is seen as a liability, and not the extraordinary thing that it is.
MEET THE LEVELING UP TEAM
Tim German, Ian
Tim German is a comedian and actor living in Annapolis, Maryland. After getting tired of college (University of Maryland, College Park), Tim moved halfway across the country to study improv at The Second City in Chicago. He is now back and hopes he can be the best actor/son/boyfriend he can be. Recent Credits include: Cord in Spark (Adventure Stage Chicago), Jim Griffin in Mark Twain’s Riverboat Extravaganza (Pointless Theatre), and Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird (Compass Rose) among many others. He hopes you enjoy the show.
wait tim what are you doing on my dash in this fabulous linen shirt
When I decided to start this blog a few months back, my goal was pretty singular: talk about money in a way that doesn’t make me feel like an old, crusty white man in a boxy suit (and perhaps, as a second goal, have an outlet for my shoddy personal photography). But the point was just to have a space to talk about the stuff that gets to me – the overwhelming crises of bills, my inability to understand investments, the constant anxiety of picking the right insurance plan, and so on and so forth. It was a place to talk.
Since that initial starting point, I have decided I want to make something more of it. I am working with (an incredibly talented and somehow also incredibly chill) designer, I have invested in a camera that can take slightly less shoddy photos, and I am making BiG pLaNs for the future of the site. And yesterday, when I posted a little photo of my new camera to #enhance my personal #brand (and to solicit some much-needed photography advice), I got a couple jokes along the lines of “Now you’re going to become a famous fashion blogger.”
And this is a joke, yes, as I have neither the disposable income nor the bone structure to be a famous fashion blogger, but I still feel compelled to say: Fuck that. Fuckkkkk thatttttt.
Part of the reason The Financial Diet is important to me is because, as a 25-year-old woman who lives on the internet and likes both pumpkins and art-directed photos of minimalist bedrooms, I am a prime candidate (victim) for Lifestyle Blogs. Left to my own devices, I am liable to get sucked into a k-hole of hate-browsing fashion blogs, scrolling through their untouchable Instagrams, and marveling at their uncanny ability to turn their life into one uninterrupted stream of sponsored content.
And I work in sponsored content. I have written or ideated dozens if not hundreds of various pieces of copywriting by now, and genuinely enjoy the work. I have nothing but respect for the hustle, and on the rare occasion that a brand has approached me with an offer to try out some free shit for a bit of personal Chelsea Fagan promotion, you better believe I was about that shit. But this is a mere shadow in the towering monolith that is the Fashion Blogger, as almost all of the content they will produce (no matter how much they choose to illegally not disclose that shit, and that is its own can of worms for the FTC to open) is funded by somebody.
The thing about Fashion Bloggers – and their mutated, diversified cousins, the Lifestyle Bloggers – is that they aren’t REALLY people. At least, not in the way we think of people. Follow one of these waifish WASPs on Instagram and prepare to know literally nothing about them except that they enjoy macarons, get to travel for free, and are being followed around constantly by some put-upon boyfriend who has to risk his life in city streets to capture her #ootds. Everything they put out to the world is filtered through that Pinterest-brand art direction and a DSLR, a procession of blazers and lattes and crisp white sheets that is impossible to tell from anyone else.
And look, I am as basic as the next bitch, I love all of those things. But I have two issues here: One, can you at least provide me with one piece of information about yourself that doesn’t come in the form of a hashtag, and Two, can you please not pretend that the life you are living and aesthetic you are presenting isn’t expensive as shit? I have had the privilege of finding out, through my work, what these bloggers are getting for endorsements and guest posts, and trust me – you don’t want to know. And I also know that, if you want to keep those sweet, sweet branded dollars flowing, the best thing to do is remove all trace of potentially controversial content from your site. You don’t want to express an opinion, or curse, or even denote a preference that doesn’t come in the form of a shirt you have to promote. So they turn into something like Cashmere & Rosé or whatever the fuck they are called, and cease to exist outside of posts about what they’re “totally obsessed with this week!”
That’s another thing: Stop saying you’re obsessed with things. The only thing you are obsessed with is free shit, which I get, as I am also obsessed with that. But please be honest about it. You can still drown in endless sponsorships, you can just do it while providing at least a glimpse into what you actually enjoy or think about in your day-to-day life.
I guess what I hate more than anything is that, in the great MeDiA LaNdScaPE, you are forced to choose between “people who actually have sweet/funny/interesting things to say” and “people who satisfy my ceaseless thirst to look at pictures of macarons.” And I don’t think my life’s mission is to straddle those two worlds, as I know right now my photo game will never be anywhere CLOSE to what these people are putting out (photoshop stresses me out, and I am just not photogenic enough to inspire people to want to look like me, which is kind of a relief). But I do think that it’s important to call out this obnoxious trend, as a whole generation of #influencers is turning into this dead-behind-the-eyes hybrid of Kylie Jenner and Martha Stewart.
Fashion bloggers have to be aspirational, yes, but they can still be people. Because no one’s life can look like that, and they know that, and we know it, and there is no reason to continue playing the game. Even if we had the limitless income and spare time to make every outfit worthy of a blog post, and art direct the cheese we eat while standing in front of the fridge in our underwear, who would even have the time? We have jobs. And we need a fashion blogger for the working woman. Because life is stressful enough already.