New York City isn’t always an easy place to love. You basically just hemorrhage money the minute you walk out the door. There is the constant fear of bugs with bed-related proclivities (I still don’t like saying the real name). I’ve seen more business men relieving themselves in the bushes of Washington Square Park than most. And in the summer, my favorite activity was simply standing in the fan aisle of the Bed, Bath & Beyond on 6th.
This is the season, however, where New York gets really really great. Holiday markets start appearing. Christmas tree stands line the sidewalks. Businesses start decorating their windows for the holidays. And, the chill in the air killed off all the mosquitos!
This is the season that brings to mind everything I love about the city. No hot-dog water smell. No real estate brokers. Just walking city blocks that smell like evergreen with a malted hot chocolate from Shake Shack in my hands.
See? I’m getting obnoxiously nostalgic about it. Sorry, guys.
Until I find a giant box full of money, I won’t be going to New York or anywhere any time soon. I need to be ok with that. Until then, I think it’s worth trying to bring some tastes of New York to Wisconsin.
One of my favorite places to stop on the way home from the library was the Momofuku Milk Bar in the East Village. Imagine a small, cool bakery that is also really confusing. Hear me out.
They are known for unexpected flavors and unexpected combinations of flavors. For example, their cereal milk ice cream tastes like the milk left behind in the cereal bowl. The compost cookie is made up of chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, graham crackers, oats, coffee grounds, potato chips, and pretzels. Their Thanksgiving croissant is stuffed with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Their food is awesome, if initially a little confusing.
And while today I’m not making any of the Milk Bar classics, it is a recipe from chef Christina Tossi, the “pastry-chef owner” of Momofuku Milk Bar, in her cookbook Milk Bar Life.
It is the Ritz Cracker ice box cake.
Ice box cakes are awesome. And ridiculous, but mostly awesome. The formula is you layer whipped cream with a cracker or a cookie. You stick it in your “ice box” for a few hours, and when you pull it out, the cream and the crackers will smoosh? Meld? Squidge? Gloop? Yes, gloop together, so you can cut into it like a cake.
When I was initally flipping through her cookbook, this recipe just grossed me out frankly, but considering my initial feelings about cereal milk ice cream, I thought I should give it a chance. Especially since I am on my “GIVE ME NEW YORK FOOD” crusade. While it’s not a Milk Bar classic, I like to think it’s very much in the theme of “…let’s make it weird in here.”
The recipe just calls for three ingredients.
- Ritz Crackers
- 1 1/2 cups of grape jelly (technically could be any flavor of jelly)
- 2 8-oz containers of whipped cream
- Fold together the jelly and the whipped cream. It will be gross. Then it will be kind of pretty
- Start layering the grape jelly/whipped cream concoction.
- Pause for a moment to decide if this is the weirdest thing you’ve ever made or if it is just up there on the list.
- Chill for at least four hours.
Review of the recipe: Befuddling. And also pretty good? You’re not going to like it if you don’t like the combination of sweet and salty. Also, as I type and eat a serving, it looses a little charm after the first four or five bites. It takes a few bites to figure out what you’re tasting. The jelly and whipped cream by itself is too sweet, and the Ritz crackers by themselves are too buttery, so each element balances out the other. However, about five bites in, your tongue figures out the score and suddenly all you can taste is grape jelly. All in all, I’m a bigger fan of the ice box cake I made two weeks ago (pumpkin puree and powdered sugar folded into whipped cream, and layered with graham crackers), but when in doubt, we did it for science.
Review of the book: Milk Bar Life and I have a little mileage under our belts at this point. I even tried to cook it once.
The book includes some really cool, unexpected ideas. Poaching fish in pickle juice, salt & pepper cookies (you could then use to make grilled cheese sandwiches), a delicious crock pot cake. It also has some ideas that I think she includes more to tell a story about her friends and family, not quite as a recipe you should be following. Most notably, how to melt bleu cheese on pretzels. Unless you, the reader, needs a recipe for that. Then, she includes a really really great recipe about how to melt bleu cheese on pretzels! If you’re ok with the random “wait…what?” recipe, then I’d recommend it.