Pollan champions the notion that people should re-prioritize cooking as a way of life, in contrast to our culture of processed foods and televised, “vicarious cooking.” The paradox between “celebrity chefs” and the convenience foods that fill our grocery stores is an interesting one — I suppose it’s just one more example of how technology has the power to dilute what is authentic in our lives, not unlike the ridiculous amount of sodium in a bag of potato chips. Pollan believes that this particular disconnect has a direct impact on our health.
When asked how food writing has influenced his personal habits, Pollan said that cooking has taught him to be more present, centered, and patient, describing himself as a “spiritually underdeveloped” person. Like more heroic endeavors, cooking is a step-by-step process, guided by the senses, not to be rushed. According to Pollan, the nightly ritual of cooking dinner is “essential to our sanity.”
I completely identify with this statement. Piecing together several part-time jobs that sometimes feel like full-time jobs, it is easy to feel scattered and over-worked. I feel lucky to be doing the things I love, but they involve a lot of time and energy for less reliable pay/concrete results than the conventional 9-5. Working from home can be sweet, but it can also be solitary and exhausting. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by work, I feel so grateful that I can hit the reset button in my own kitchen.
So today I’m doing that lazy baker thing, make something ridiculously simple, ridiculously slowly, with butter, flour, salt, and sugar from the freezer and the pantry, respectively. In true 21st century style, I am posting it online for others to consume in the form of words 🙂 Shortbread, allow me to celebrate your easily improvised style as I strive to keep my head on straight.
3/4 pounds unsalted butter @ room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups small-diced pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the pecans and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough 1/2 inch thick and cut into 2 1/2 inch squares with a plain or fluted cutter, or a cookie cutter. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temp and serve.
Voilà. A nutty, buttery biscuit to keep a shorty sane.
[Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.]