That’s right. I’m done. Over the last four months, as a tribute and adventure, I made all 25 of Mark Bittman’s favorites from The Minimalist. I did them mostly in batches of two or three when time allowed. This was not by any means a Julie Powell-scale endeavor. If anything, it gave me more appreciation for the breadth of Powell’s accomplishment.
We’ll start at the end. Tonight I made the final dish. Pear, Gorgonzola, and Mesclun Salad. This salad is to the 90s what the Caesar was to the 20s. Who knows how many times I’ve eaten this (plus or minus the toasted walnuts). But it definitely stands the test of time.
This looked like a simple and awesome recipe for, say, Thanksgiving. Given that I had to make a second turkey for this project (see below), it made sense to have this as a dessert. Unfortunately, this dish was a dud. The flavor was great, but the texture was terrible — oddly sandy and greasy at the same time. I blame the gelatin. Also, some of the dairy sank to the bottom of the dish as it cooled, so there was a creamy white layer below the pumpkin puree. Really strange. I have reread the recipe and I don’t know what I could have done differently: as far as I can tell, I followed the directions exactly. I pureed the hell out of it, too. Anyway, I think this dish would have turned out way better as a stirred custard: I’d try substituting 3 or 4 eggs for the gelatin, and following pretty much the same steps.
I don’t eat much turkey. It just doesn’t occur to me to go grab a 12 pound bird at the store and throw it in the oven for dinner. Plus, it puts me right to sleep. Having said that, if I did need a quick turkey dinner, this would be my method of choice. It is the turkey equivalent of Chicken Under a Brick from part 1. And it works! Our turkey took a bit longer than 45 minutes, but it was done in under an hour and a half. And in a way, it felt like magic: aren’t turkeys supposed to take hours and hours? Nope.
This was my favorite of the batch. What a great combination of flavors. Like the Watermelon and Tomato salad in part 4, this salad is unconventional, super chunky, and it starts turning into soup immediately. Not that that’s a problem—I really enjoyed slurping up the leftovers the next morning.
There is one more dish: South Indian Eggplant Curry. I don’t have a picture of it. Of all 25 recipes, this is the only one I’d actually made before, when it originally appeared in the Minimalist in 2008. It’s the only microwave Minimalist dish I know of, and it’s good but not something I’d make twice.
With the completion of this project, I do feel like a small burden has been lifted. A low-grade burden that grew as I did more of these recipes and neared the end. A voice saying, “Finish the damn thing already!” So I finally did. This was a great project, but I’m glad to be done with it.
What should I cook next?