Every time I type this, I feel like I just typed it two minutes ago, despite possessing a full span of memories encompassing January through this morning: the holidays are coming.
Summer’s breath is still on us; it’s just in the 70s, which is an ideal temperature for warm weather, but we have scant few days to get in any more bare-limbed outdoor activities. Well, assuming you haven’t broken out the Halloween decor yet, in which case rest assured there is a specific angel assigned to Earth who will make sure the rest of September and the majority of October are like July in the Caribbean, only somehow more humid.
Humid weather when it technically should be nippy makes me think of the time I went to a writers’ conference in Atlanta in March a few years back. I lost my mind and agreed to make and transport bar cookies (brownies, blondies, etc.) in sufficient quantity to serve as dessert for 75 people in exchange for a discounted ticket price and access to VIP events.
In Virginia, it was blustery and gray, whipped with a light but stinging rain. In Atlanta, an 8-hour trip south, one could well believe the Devil went down to Georgia and made a habit of wintering there. I sweated more over a short weekend than I had the entire previous July (though the conference was nice). Then I came home and went to see a movie the next weekend in a long heavy coat with a winter weather advisory on the radio. It’s really only a footnote, but I suddenly got why some people watch the Weather Channel so much.
I have not, I am sorry to report, made it that far south very often, or to places in that general direction I would like to go. I have long held an urge to visit New Orleans, even though people who have been there repeatedly warn me that it’s not like the movies (or even TV). It’s dirty, crowded, touristy, rude, hot, sleazy, overpriced and full of mosquitoes, they tell me. To which I reply, “Well, sure, if you say so, but they have so much FOOD.” I feel like that makes my desire self-explanatory.
One of the places in New Orleans that’s been getting a lot of buzz in the last few years isn’t even a longstanding institution and is, to my surprise, owned and run by a Charlottesville native named Mason Hereford. The restaurant and its recent cookbook are both known as Turkey and the Wolf.
(Per an interview, the name came about because Hereford’s dad used the term “turkey” to refer to people who were being stupid or obstructive; and at a high-end restaurant where Hereford had worked, it was tradition for the whole kitchen staff to howl like wolves when the tickets were cleared.)
So, obviously, this week’s recipe is from the new Turkey and the Wolf cookbook, which is very fun and you should definitely go nab a copy of, and rest assured I am getting nothing free for telling you that. It’s shot in that almost garish, hyper-realist way that’s popular right now, as opposed to the sensuality that marked a lot of ‘90s/’00s food photography. (That’s another way of saying it’s fun.) The restaurant is sort of an elevated sandwich shop and the recipes are mostly achievable for the home cook, which is very pleasant.
The great thing about this recipe is that it gives you something relatively minor to fiddle with if you need to burn off some nervous energy and also lets you invent a task that appears greater than it is if you want to shoo everyone out of the kitchen and have a little time to yourself, both very useful traits for a recipe that might be called upon multiple times for holiday parties. Alas, I do not recall who the Colleen referred to here was; I believe a friend of Hereford’s who just makes a very good dip.
And take this from me so you don’t make the same mistake I did (long ago; I forget for what recipe): leave the cream cheese in its foil wrapper when you set it out to soften. Butter can stand out in the naked air and be fine; unwrapped cream cheese acquires the translucence of old toenails.
I would in fact recommend you practice making this a couple times just for your family or your office mates; it’s not like anybody’s going to complain about having extra snacks to eat. Just don’t loudly proclaim, “Yep! Gonna make this for the Christmas party in a couple months!” or you’ll trigger a heatwave that’ll make everyone think it’s mid-August again.
Or possibly March in Atlanta.
My Best Try At Colleen’s Onion Dip
(from the “Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin’ in New Orleans” cookbook by Mason Hereford; please understand the “me” referred to here is Hereford, not myself)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
2 teaspoons onion powder
¾ teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt or 1½ teaspoons Diamond kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated chicken bouillon (preferably Totole brand; this ingredient optional but optimal, according to the cookbook)
1½ tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce (Crystal, Tabasco, etc.)
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Set a heavy skillet over medium heat and melt butter and oil together. When it sizzles, add the onion, stir and set heat to medium low. Cook, stirring more frequently as onions start to turn dark brown and sweeter and mushier (60-90 minutes). Stir in Worcestershire sauce and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once cool, scrape thoroughly into food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Process until mostly smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Pulse as needed.) Store in a sealed container in refrigerator; keeps for up to 1 week.