What to Cook This Weekend

Notes on Christmas, a tofu no-recipe recipe and more.

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By Sam Sifton

Good morning. I’ll paraphrase Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, to say that I’ve always thought of Christmas as a good time. To quote him directly, from the start of “A Christmas Carol”: “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.”

That wasn’t true for Scrooge, at least not until the end of the story, and nor will it be for the road-ragers battling traffic this weekend. But jeepers, people have been nice in the food markets of late, and I’m grateful to them for that, and to all of you for joining us in our journey toward the delicious.

Thank you, butchers, for the oxtails (above) I’ll use to bring the scents of the Caribbean into my kitchen on Christmas Eve, and for the bits and bobs I’ll roast in advance of a Boxing Day tourtière. Thanks, too, for the frozen bird I’ll thaw next week for a roast goose, with which to ring in the new year. (Unless, that is, Santa brings me a ham for the holidays: Glazed ham makes for really fantastic leftovers.)

Not that I’ll prepare only Big Meats this weekend. Other things to cook: matzo ball soup for Hanukkah, and rugelach, too; tamales and mulled wine for Christmas; and jollof rice for Kwanzaa, with this lovely coconut pecan cake for dessert. Gingerbread latte cookies! French toast!

I’ve also been dreaming about the pleasures of no-recipe recipes in the kitchen. For instance, wouldn’t a dinner of stir-fried tofu in black-bean sauce be good?

You don’t need a recipe. You could cook it tonight. Cut firm or pressed tofu into cubes and then fry them in neutral oil in a ripping hot wok until they’re crisp, then set them aside on a plate. Turn down the heat under the wok and gently fry a few tablespoons of fermented black beans, chopped garlic, chiles and chopped white parts of a bunch of scallions. Add some sliced cabbage and stir it all around until it softens, then return the tofu to the wok along with a few glugs of Shaoxing wine, a little less of soy sauce, a trickle of sesame oil, a little ground white pepper and sugar, and the sliced green parts of the scallions.

I might add to this mixture a few tablespoons of cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce, but you needn’t if you don’t want to. Serve with rice.

Many thousands more recipes to consider are waiting for you on New York Times Cooking — and we post further inspiration on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Go see what’s under our trees.

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Now, it has nothing to do with Cornish game hens or shortbread jammers, but I quite liked the police thriller “Dark Winds” from AMC, set in the Navajo Nation and starring the terrific Zahn McClarnon. (The Navajo Times liked him, too, but found the production lacking on the language front.)

David Remnick has a lovely interview with Ina Garten on “The New Yorker Radio Hour.”

For New York magazine, which declared 2022 “The Year of the Nepo Baby,” Nate Jones put together “An All But Definitive Guide to the Hollywood Nepo-verse.”

Finally, here’s a new SZA track for you: “Blind.” Happy holidays! I’ll see you on Sunday.

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