Find a small metal bowl—even a hollowed-out onion works—and nestle it into a pot of Brussels sprouts. Light a piece of coal. Lower the glowing coal into the bowl with tongs, then carefully spoon some ghee over it. Cover the pot. Wait a few minutes. Uncover the pot. There, you’re done—you’ve just executed the dhungar method, just like Leela Punyaratabandhu taught you.
The dhungar method—and the spice-rubbed Thai Muslim-Style Chicken that employs it— kicked off September on Epi, a month of vibrant cooking, smart shopping, and, uh, green cheesecakes. Let me explain.
Along with Punyaratabandhu’s chicken, we started September with Sheela Prakash’s Melted Broccoli Pasta, an economical dinner (just $1.74 per serving!) where you get to smash cooked broccoli into a silky, penne-coating sauce. Later in the month, Christian Reynoso wrote about another way to turn vegetables into a sauce...or marinade...or condiment. Escabeche, the technique of infusing vegetables with acid (usually vinegar, sometimes wine) and flavorings (bay leaf, garlic, chilies, paprika), is all of these things. And it’s just the bright, crunchy, spicy thing to cut through the richness of pan-seared pork chops.
Elsewhere in sauce content, Tiffany Hopkins has three words for us: Tomato. Brown. Butter. “The only thing better than fresh, peak-season tomatoes are fresh, peak-season tomatoes that’ve teamed up with sizzling brown butter,” she writes in this piece. (As of this writing, tomatoes are still hanging on on the East Coast. But probably not for long, so move on this brown butter sauce now.)
What do you top with tomato brown butter? Everything. But in Hopkins’s house, you’ll probably see her pouring it over fish. Salmon is her Sunday night standby, and she revealed recently that she’s found a new way to prep it: cubed, on a sheet pan, until crispy.
By the way, fish was not always on Hopkins’s menu. In 2014, she went vegetarian, and still eats mostly that way. This month she revealed how she did it, with this comprehensive guide to easing into meatless eating. Another writer on the vegetable beat is Kendra Vaculin, who dealt with the summer’s abundance of cucumbers by developing this killer meatball salad. (Hey, I never said Kendra is a vegetarian.)
But enough about sauces and vegetables! Let’s skip to dessert. If you are anything like Vaculin and I (and Maggie Hoffman, and Joe Sevier, and most of the Epi staff), you need baked goods on hand. Always. And you won’t let anything stop you—not even if you have to bake in the wrong pan.
Because what’s a “wrong pan,” anyway? Isn’t that sort of rude to call a pan “wrong”? Any pan can be a vessel for cake or brownies if you do a little kitchen math. Oh wait—Vaculin just did the math for you.
Not in the baked category, but still most definitely a dessert, is the buko salad Hopkins wrote about this month. “I enjoy this dish more than ice cream,” she writes (bold statement, Hopkins!). “I love the bouncy texture of the coconut gel and palm fruit, and the chewiness of macapuno strings.”
Also frozen: this pale green avocado cake. “Avocados have a history of sneaking into dessert recipes as a creamy substitute for dairy (see fridge fudge, chocolate pudding, even baked goods like brownies or pound cake),” Vaculin writes in her defense of the dessert. “I am wary of this practice, especially when it’s touted as a way to create a “healthy” version of a classic treat—not for me, hard pass.” Luckily, this Nadine Levy Redzepi is not in that camp; it’s packed with so much cream cheese it’s pretty much a cheesecake.
I was about to tell you to make that avocado cake on a Monday night—what else do you have to do?—but then I remembered that I don’t have children, which means that I don’t have to deal with the stress of sending those children back to school, either in-person or virtual. As Hoffman reminded me recently, no parent is baking on a weeknight right now.
And maybe they’re not cooking at all. I get it! And the reason I get it is because Hoffman wrote about it so eloquently in this essay about kitchen burnout. “If, like me, cooking was one of your outlets in the past, it’s possible, after all these months of meals, you’ve lost your kitchen mojo, too,” she writes. Of course, Hoffman is a woman of action, so she didn’t stop there. She put together this week-long meal plan of low-stress, low-effort cooking. She dubbed it Easiest Week Ever, because that’s what it was. And that’s what any week can be if you follow the plan.
Speaking of kids, here’s a lovely line from Zoe Adjonyoh’s article about the Ghanaian hot sauce shito: “Part of the joy of eating shito as a child was being able to untwist its child-unfriendly cap, which made it feel like contraband. The strength required made accessing the black gold an adventure in and of itself—the threat of dark, smoky fish oil dripping all over my and my school uniform only added to the buzz. Be careful, my mum would caution.”
Yes, be careful—Adjonyoh’s recipe for Drunken Apricot Shito is so good you’ll find yourself going through it at warp speed, adding dollops to everything from cheese plates to Adjonyoh’s delicious spin on fish and chips. But if you're looking for a slightly less intense heat, Christian Reynoso's got you with this Calabrian chile paste-braised chicken, where the heat is balanced by sweet, roasted grapes.
Oh, you thought we were done with Adjonyoh? Hardly. To accompany her shito and fish and chips recipes, she wrote a rundown of West African pantry essentials, complete with shopping links, for Well Equipped.
What else has Well Equipped—Epi’s shopping team—been hyping this month? Small roasting dishes. Kitchen art. Watermelon LaCroix (kind of). And soy milk, of which a very passionate Vaculin wrote that no other alt milk “has even come close to dethroning.”
This was also the month that we released Lauren Joseph’s epic Fall Cookbook Preview, a hand-picked selection of 39 books, about half of which I’ve already ordered for myself. (My personal most eagerly-awaited: The Flavor Equation, A Good Bake, Dessert Person, and East.)
Not to be outdone by the cooking side of Epi, Well Equipped also dipped into desserts in September. Here’s a baking mix that’s actually excellent. Here are some extremely craveable chocolate bars. And here are some ugly kitchen shoes, which are not dessert, but are a treat nonetheless.
Wednesday Night Korean
Finally, a shout-out to our recurring column, Wednesday Nights in America. As Joe Sevier explains in this month’s installation, Wednesday Night Korean, the column was forced to go on sabbatical due to the pandemic. “There would be no side-by-side cooking with strangers, at least for the short term,” he writes. “Which was upsetting not only because it derailed our publishing plans, but also because some of the best meals (and conversations) I had this year were with people I didn’t know before I stepped foot inside their doors.”
But this month we pushed ahead (albeit without any in-person cooking lessons), releasing four recipes selected by Chef Hooni Kim: Dakgangjeong, Doenjang Jjigae, Pajeon, and these Spicy Pork Belly Sliders. Working on this piece, we were reminded how much we love this column, and we resolved to not put it on hold again. In other words, you can expect another installation of Wednesday Nights in America to come at you in October.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious