Every year I try to make some sort of delicious baked good for the holidays. One year it was chocolate cayenne cookies (they were awesome). The next, I mixed and baked nearly 10 pounds of homemade granola and gave it out to everyone I knew. For Christmas dinner one year, I made a chocolate pecan tort, that really turned out to be more of a nearly solid chocolate pecan log. Still tasty, but lacking in the presentation and texture department. Live and learn.
This year, my inspiration came from a more unlikely source, though not terribly surprising, if you know me and the things I get really excited about when it comes to food. Since the summer, I’ve been mildly obsessed with both David Chang and Lucky Peach magazine. Don’t know who David Chang is? He opened a restaurant in New York City in 2003 called Momofuku Noodle Bar, which was a big deal because he didn’t take reservations so rich people had to wait in line with the proles, and because he served the most crazy delicious pork buns and ramen noodles, swimming in pork fat and eggs and signature broth (we ate there on our honeymoon, and it still haunts my dreams). He’s since opened five more restaurants, been named Best Chef New York City by James Beard twice, and now publishes, with McSweeney’s publishing, Anthony Bourdain and writer Peter Meehan, the magazine Lucky Peach.
Lucky Peach is genuinely not like any other food magazine you’ve ever read. One, it’s really funny, and very casual. Two, it’s beautifully designed – less on the gussied up pictures of food, more on the colorful illustrations, graphics and unorthodox layout. And three, it explains in as-clear-as-possible English how to make a variety of things, from the broth for ramen bowls to pickles. Sometimes it’s wonderfully simple. Sometimes it’s very difficult. Nobody ever said cooking was easy. If you’re at all into contemporary food, good food writing and trying new things, I highly recommend picking it up. You can order it at the Bangor Bull Moose, and Hello Hello Books in Rockland has it in stock. You can get it on Amazon, too.
They’re only on issue two, and this edition contains, among much else, a recipe for the Momofuku Milk Bar (Chang’s bakery and sweet shop) staple, the Corn Cookie. As a devoted fan of corn muffins, I was immediately drawn to this recipe. I’m picturing something falling in between my mother’s astoundingly good Amish Sugar Cookies, and corn on the cob, drenched in butter. All these things sound amazing. Christina Tosi, the mastermind behind the Milk Bar, has a way of taking family and childhood favorites (peanut butter and jelly, cereal, crackers, whatever) and elevating them to the sublime. These were my holiday cookies. I knew it.
Unfortunately, the recipe calls for something that apparently does not exist in Maine. The one thing that gives these cookies their buttery, corn-y flavor appears to be ground up freeze-dried corn – something common in Pennsylvania Dutch country and the Midwest, but unheard of here. Over the past three days, I’ve searched three Hannafords, the Natural Living Center in Bangor, Target (a Midwest company, but no dice), Ocean State Job Lot, Walmart and Shaws. Nothing. Unless I’m missing something, you cannot get freeze-dried corn in the greater Bangor area. I plan to investigate Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in Portland while I’m there on Thursday and Friday, but I remain unconvinced that they’ll actually have it. I’m going to have to order it online, it seems, unless someone can point me in the right direction? Please? Do you have stories of trying to find an obscure ingredient in Maine? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the meantime, here’s a link to the recipe that appears in Lucky Peach. I will make these cookies before Christmas, even if I have to order freeze-dried corn in bulk off the Internet. I’m fixated now. It’s all your fault, David Chang.