When my husband and I moved to Provincetown in 2014, we did it in pursuit of more time. We were tired of the constant grind of New York City, tired of using up our entire paychecks just to pay rent and feed ourselves, and tired of being so tired. Heading into our ninth season at Pop+Dutch, we’ve learned that — well, let’s just say we’re not exactly fully rested.
Still, I thought I’d miss the city more. I thought I’d get restless in the wintertime. I thought everyone who cocked an eyebrow at me saying “You’ll be back” would be right.
I was wrong about all that, too. The dark and population-sparse winters have been the backdrop to some of my favorite times here. I savor the quiet. Waking up without a single plan for the day, or the day after that, feels more liberating than I ever expected, to the point that, once the crocuses come up, I start to get a little twitchy about heading back into the busy times.
I wait all year for the extended cooking projects, the lazy mornings, the dinner parties that stretch into the morning without consequences — that is, right up until now. Deep February is when all I want to do is be somewhere new, see something for the first time, and eat something different — all with a voracity I truly didn’t expect.
It’s no surprise that after two full years of sticking mostly close to home, wanderlust is breaking through, including the culinary sort. If, like me, you have been waking up dreaming of dim sum or crawfish boils or sprawling Indian buffets, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And that I’ve made a discovery that really does help: homemade naan. Making it is so much easier than I thought.
I’ve been carelessly eating store-bought naan all this time, when, as it turns out, I have everything I need to treat myself to the real thing.
Naan is traditionally cooked in a tandoor oven — a clay pit that reaches temperatures north of 800º F. This recipe, incredibly, allows you to get great results in a cast-iron skillet on your stove.
The recipe I started with, from the blog Rasa Malaysia, calls for plain yogurt. But every time I have made it so far, I have managed to forget to buy some. I used sour cream as a substitute, and it worked perfectly.
There is a moment in the dough-making when you add your wet ingredients to a neat pile of flour with a well in the middle, and I cannot stress enough how suddenly messy things get. No matter how carefully you construct your flour pile, no matter how quickly you work, yeasty water is going to try to run straight through the flour and off the countertop. Just be prepared for this and keep at it — it helps to make yourself a little pile of flour off to the side before you begin; you’ll use it to continually dust your surface as you knead, and trust that it will work. It will work.
Set a timer for 10 minutes of kneading because your arms will get tired and insist it’s been long enough when it hasn’t. This never fails.
These naan are fluffy, tender, charred in spots, and perfectly chewy. They make a complete meal paired with lentil soup and a salad. They also will make that hummus you have in your fridge taste special. And if it’s Katherine Alford’s recipe printed in these pages a couple of weeks ago, all the better.
Mainly, this bread will make you feel like you have traveled to a distant land — or at least made it to a very nice Indian restaurant.
1 tsp. sugar
½ cup warm water
¼ oz. (about 2¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Some extra oil, for greasing the skillet
3 Tbsp. melted salted butter
Cilantro to garnish
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, warm water, and yeast. Stir to combine well and set aside until the yeast becomes foamy, about 10 minutes. Mound the flour on a flat surface and make a well in the middle.
Add the yeast mixture, the yogurt or sour cream, the salt, and the olive oil, and knead the dough until the surface becomes smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes. This will be an absolute mess at first — stick with it and have a little pile of flour next to you to keep dusting your flat surface. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour to an hour and a half.
Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion of dough to a roughly 8-inch circle using a floured rolling pin. (I do these one at a time, right before they go into the pan to save space in my little kitchen.)
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat and lightly grease the surface to keep the dough from sticking to it. Place the dough on the skillet. When it puffs up and bubbles, flip it over and cook the other side. Repeat with the remaining dough, brushing each naan with melted butter as it is finished, and scattering some chopped cilantro on them as you go. Serve warm, feel brilliant.