Dinners for the Spookiest of Nights

We have inspiration for cookies, candy and dinners to fortify a night of trick-or-treating.

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By Melissa Clark

Today is Halloween, an ancient autumn holiday rooted in Celtic druid traditions that, over the course of a few thousand years, has morphed into the all-out, ghoul-happy, trick-or-treat candy fest we celebrate today.

When my daughter was very young, we made sugar cookies shaped like skeletons and black cats. Now, she just wants to costume up and hit the streets with her friends, aiming to squirrel away enough candy to last until Christmas. My job is to make sure she eats something solid for dinner before she goes out.

Some of our favorites include an easy one-pot rice and beans, drenched in hot sauce for the adults; grilled cheese, either pure and plain or fancy with caramelized onions; a sturdy pot roast; or a cheesy broccoli casserole as ballast against the sugary onslaught. For more cookie, candy and dinner inspiration, check out our best Halloween recipes.

That will get you through tonight. What’s the rest of your week look like? Ali Slagle has a fantastic new recipe for seared pork chops (above) with dates and kale cooked in the pork fat from the chops. You could serve that with Kay Chun’s clever mashed potatoes recipe, which calls for baking the potatoes so they stay fluffy and creamy when you mash them. It’s a game changer that you might want to save for Thanksgiving.

Also new from Kay is a crisp and bracing salad with raw cauliflower, walnuts and Parmesan that looks terrific. I eat a lot of roasted cauliflower and sometimes forget that it’s also wonderful raw, when it’s sweet and mild tasting. Plus, the crunch!

You will need a subscription to get these and all the other thousands and thousands of recipes available at New York Times Cooking. You can also find us on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, where Eric Kim made not one … not two … but three fantastic kinds of kimchi. Here are his recipes for baek kimchi (white kimchi) and a classic kimchi.

Did you know that in Scotland, trick-or-treating is a more reciprocal affair? As Jemma Beedie explains in Gastro Obscura, costumed bands of children need to work for their sweets, entertaining with a song or a joke before the candy flows. That seems more balanced than what we’ve established here in the United States. Still, I love sitting on the stoop and passing out candy to the parade of princesses, ghosts and skeletons that rush by, bags open, masks askew.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy, and do you buy it for trick-or-treaters so you can sneak some first? Or do you stock up on brands you don’t like so you’re less likely to overdo it? I’m a sucker for those little boxes of Good & Plenty, mini York Peppermint Patties (especially frozen) and mini Butterfingers. But I always give out individual bags of gummy bears and blow pops, which my kid likes but I couldn’t care less about. I’d love to know your strategy at [email protected].

But Halloween isn’t just about candy. These moody autumn twilights often have a tinge of the macabre. The danse macabre is, of course, the medieval theme of skeletons jigging with the living to remind us (unsuccessfully it seems) that life is short and vain. It also looks to me like a great Halloween party. The theme was especially popular during times of plague, something I think many of us can relate to.

Which is why I was fascinated by Carl Zimmer’s reporting in The Times about scientists who studied medieval skeletons and determined that the Black Death may have profoundly changed the human genome. Skeletons can still show us a few moves, if we pay attention.

I’ll see you Wednesday.

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