The celebrations come for you at the office, if you work in an office: beers and jalapeño poppers at Seamus Montaño’s pub downtown. What a team! They come for you in the neighborhood, if you take part in neighborhoods: crudités, mulled wine and mistletoe at the house that’s nicer than everyone else’s. Thanks for having us!
We’re all commemorating now, looking back and forward alike, gifting one another, taking stock of where we’re at and where we’re going. Honest talk: It is exhausting, physically and emotionally. So, please, take care of yourself these next few weeks. Go slow where you need to go slow. You don’t have to go to them all.
But if you’re running a party yourself? If you’re bringing people together in recognition of the successful completion of 12 months of toil, of togetherness, of time spent? Do yourself a favor and make a baked Brie (above).
The recipe is Melissa Clark’s — a wheel of Brie or Camembert slathered in jam or marmalade, wrapped in puff pastry and cooked in a hot oven until the dough’s golden brown and the cheese within it runny and fragrant. It tastes ambrosial and profiles as super fancy even while you can find the ingredients at the third-best supermarket in town. Put one of those down on a sideboard with some crackers, a sliced baguette, some spiced nuts and dried fruit? Here’s Otis Redding: Merry Christmas, baby.
Other things to cook this weekend or in the coming days? Food that’s got nothing to do with winter. (One exception: figgy pudding, if you want to serve one on Christmas. It needs a few weeks in the refrigerator for the flavors really to meld.)
I like a chicken fried steak with gravy, if only to remind me of hot summer days traveling across the American south, with pan-fried okra and a buttery dinner roll. (Sometimes I’ll take that dish deep into Texas and serve it with queso gravy.) Eat that on a gray day with a sky so low you think you can touch it and suddenly everything’s sunshine and bluebonnets.
I like, too, a Cobb salad that can transport me to a Hollywood hotel or a Newport patio in July. Likewise the shrimp they serve at Doc Ford’s on Sanibel Island, in Florida, or the Caribbean stew that Jim Harrison wrote up for the literary magazine Smoke Signals in 1981. And absolutely the roasted mushroom larb Yewande Komolafe developed to evoke the flavors of northern Thailand. The current temperature there is, according to Google, 87 degrees.
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Now, it’s nothing to do with spiced nuts or baby chickens, but I spent roughly seven hours stuck in the airport in Bangor, Maine, last weekend, and it might have been a nightmare except that I was reading William Carpenter’s remarkable 2009 novel “The Wooden Nickel,” about a third-generation lobsterman caught in the trap of a rapidly changing world. If you liked John Casey’s “Spartina,” this one’s for you.
Pure pleasure: Wesley Morris, in The Times, on “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé.”.
Similarly: Parul Sehgal on “What We Learn From the Lives of Critics” in The New Yorker.
Finally, from the reissue of Bryan Ferry’s 1994 album, “Mamouna,” here’s the title track. Listen to that while you’re cooking. I’ll see you on Sunday.