Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ultimate French Toast

Last year at the fabulous Rose's Luxury, my husband and I encountered the best dessert of our lives: a small piece of decadent French toast, topped with foie gras and served with a wee scoop of cinnamon toast crunch ice cream. We were informed that the toast had soaked IN melted cinnamon toast crunch ice cream before it was fried up. This detail stuck in my craw, naturally, so when my husband made a rash but delicious impulse buy of a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup the other day I decided to try my own version of ice cream battered toast for an old-school breakfast-for-dinner evening. Uh, sans foie. I might have the budget and the frivolity necessary for melting down some Ben & Jerry's, but I leave the foie to luxe professionals. I'd heard a tip somewhere along the line about toasting rolled oats and crusting them on dipped french toast before frying, so I decided to go all out and do that too. AND invite caramelized bananas to the party.

Freshly whipped cream spiked with bourbon too, if you please.

Drizzled over this behemoth was the bourbon barrel aged maple sizzurp. I daresay this is the Ultimate French Toast.

Bear plate by Rachel Kozlowski for West Elm

Ultimate French Toast
Makes 3 servings

*3 tablespoons butter
*2-3 egg yolks
*1 heaping cup vanilla ice cream, melted
*Pinch of cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of salt
*3 slices thick, hearty bread (challah, brioche, French or Italian)
*1/2 cup rolled oats, toasted until lightly browned and nutty
*1 tablespoon brown sugar
*Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup (or regular grade B, for plebes)
*Fruit of choice (caramelized bananas for me*)
*Freshly whipped cream (OR, a scoop of the vanilla ice cream you used if there's any left)

Melt butter in a wide cast iron skillet over medium. Whisk the egg yolks with the melted vanilla ice cream in a shallow dish, and stir in the seasonings. On another plate, toss the oats and brown sugar together. Dip the slices of bread in the ice cream mix, soaking nicely on both sides, before crusting one side of each with the oats. Fry the bread in the butter about 3 minutes per side. Top with the syrup, fruit and whipped cream (can be made a little before you start the toast prep and kept in the fridge). 

*To caramelize bananas quickly, cut up a few ripe (but not overripe) ones and saute in a couple tablespoons of butter over medium. Sprinkle in some brown sugar and splash in a little bourbon. Cook down for a few minutes, then serve hot.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Farfalle with Butternut Squash, Sage & Sausage

Although butternut, onions and sage are more autumnally associated than most flavor combinations, this is one of my favorite pasta dishes to make whenever there's a chill on the breeze, and this Smarch weather still certainly allows for plenty of roasted butternut squash.  I love farfalle for this dish, as each piece makes a solid and sturdy shelf on which the squash and other goodies naturally collect. Plus, seeing all those the bow-tie shapes fanned out on the plate is pleasing to the eye, or at least my eye! No matter what pasta shape you use though, it'll be an incredibly tasty and filling dinner.

Farfalle with Butternut Squash, Sage & Sausage
Makes 4-6 servings

*1 medium butternut squash
*1 lb farfalle pasta (preferably De Cecco)
*2-3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
*1 small onion, diced 
*4 cloves garlic
*12-15 fresh sage leaves
*3 tablespoons toasted pepitas
*1/4 cup freshly grated Parm-Reg plus extra for dusting
*1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 400 and cut the squash in half. Scoop out the guts and brush the flesh with olive oil and season with S&P. Place the squash flesh-side down on a baking sheet and pop in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, towards the end of the roasting time, put on a large pot of water to boil and salt it well. Saute the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Set aside when cooked. Add a tablespoon of butter drizzled with some evoo and saute the onion until nice and soft, seasoning as you go. Add the garlic in and continue to cook for a couple more minutes, then set the onion and garlic mixture aside with the sausage. Turn up the heat and add a little more evoo if necessary to fry the sage leaves. Once they are crisp, set aside on a paper towel to drain.

Boil the farafelle until al dente. While the pasta is cooking take the squash out and scoop the soft innards into a bowl and mash with the Parm-Reg. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water, and then after quickly wiping out the pasta pot, throw in the pasta, squash mash and sausage/onion/garlic mix and combine everything well, seasoning to taste. If it seems a little dry, wet it with some of the reserved pasta water. Crumble the sage, reserving a leaf or two for final garnish, and mix it in along with the toasted pepitas. Serve with an extra dusting of Parm and some more sage crumbles. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Brussels Sprout Hash

I was ambivalent towards Brussels sprouts for a long time, thanks to that certain sulfurous smell of boiled sprouts that issued forth from the kitchen whenever my old roomie would cook them (sorry Meg!!). I recently had an amazing dish of a roasted sprout salad, and decided it was high time to try to experiment with them. This recipe was adapted from a couple found on Epicurious and has worked itself into my regular rotation. It's tasty, pleasingly crunchy, and makes for an excellent side for just about anything. Nix the bacon, and it's a great vegetarian dish too.

Brussels Sprouts Hash
Makes 4 servings

*1 tablespoon butter
*4 shallots, thinly sliced
*Pinch sugar
*2 scant teaspoons apple cider vinegar
*10 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
*Small palmful of toasted pecans or almonds, slivered
*1/2 small Granny Smith apple, cut into matchsticks
*2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces (optional)

Melt a tablespoon of butter with a drizzle of evoo in a skillet over medium-low. Add shallots, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar, and caramelize for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Scoop out the shallots and set aside.

Then, fry the bacon and mince; set aside. Cut the halved sprouts into very thin ribbons and add to the skillet, turning the heat up to medium. Saute about two minutes and then splash in the vinegar. Continue cooking for a minute or so then add the shallots, apples, nuts and the bacon. Toss well and season to taste.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cream Scones

In an effort to have some palm-able breakfast options around the house, I started looking at scone recipes and was intrigued by a couple that were made with only cream, no butter. The recipe in this post on Chowhound was my eventual inspiration, as it looked like an incredibly simple and fantastic base recipe to incorporate into the rotation. I decided to doctor up the scones with orange zest and dried cherries, but customize yours in any way you'd like! I think next time I'll be trying caramelized onions, sharp cheddar and bits of bacon for a super-savory version.

Cream Scones (with Dried Cherries & Orange Zest)
Makes 8 servings

*2 cups flour
*1/4 cup sugar
*1 tablespoon baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*Pinch cinnamon
*2/3 cup dried cherries
*1 tablespoon orange zest
*1 1/4 cups heavy cream
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Raw sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and add the dried cherries and zest. Stir together the cream and vanilla extract and then combine with the dry ingredients, using a fork. Still using the fork, mix to a rough mass, then turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead briefly (only a couple times) just until the dough holds together. Pat into a 7 inch circle, or thereabouts. Brush the top with the drips and drabs of cream left in your measuring cup, then sprinkle with the raw sugar, if you'd like (I opted not to). Cut into 8 wedges. Separate the wedges and place on a parchment-coated baking sheet. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes until golden brown. Best eaten while still warm!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Winter Citrus Salad

Currently burdened by a nasty headcold in the midst of an unending winter, I yearned for a big bright hit of vit-C today. Luckily, my fruit bin just happened to be bursting with citrus. Halfway through absentmindedly peeling an orange, I was suddenly moved to cut and pare and arrange ALL my fruit into something pretty and sunny and worthy of a wee blog post. It's barely a recipe, but don't discount the mood-lifting power of a plate of glistening, jewel-like cuts of orange and vermillion and pink!

I whipped up a couple tablespoons of plain yogurt, minced mint, squeezes of citrus and a little honey and drizzled the dressing over the salad as you can see in the bottom picture, but feel free to use some mint infused simple syrup or a mere squeeze of lime to add a little extra zing to your salad.

Winter Citrus Salad
Makes 2 servings

*1 grapefruit
*1 blood orange
*1 orange (or clementine)
*Sea salt
*Palmful of shelled unsalted pistachios or pepitas
*Mint leaves

Cut the fruits into slices and then using a paring knife, remove the pith and rind from the rounds. Arrange the pieces on a platter and dust with a teensy pinch of your best sea salt and scatter some pepitas around on top. Tuck some mint leaves in for garnish.

Pro-tip: zest your oranges before cutting and paring and then either use the zest immediately or freeze for another use later.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Old Vermont Cocktail

After enjoying a lovely getaway in Vermont last weekend I decided to nurse my post-vacation malaise with a drink that reminded me of time spent in the state. A friend of mine, Marisa, had gifted me with some maple bitters over the holidays as well as some adorable recipe cards including a gin-based cocktail she named the "Old Vermont", a darkly sweet, woodsy and citrusy tipple. I shook a double order up for me and the husband, and it was a perfect treat to mingle with warm memories. I'm looking forward to making a non-alcoholic cordial recipe also given to me by Marisa as well as concocting other drinks with the maple bitters!

Old Vermont Cocktail
Makes 2 drinks

Recipe courtesy of Marisa

*3 1/2 oz gin
*1 oz grade B maple syrup
*1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
*1/2 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
*4 dashes maple bitters
*Ice cubes

Shake all ingredients vigorously and strain into a chilled glass.

My only addendum is to run a spent lemon or orange wedge around the rim of the glasses and dip in some maple sugar!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stuffed Acorn Squash

A stuffed squash makes for a beautiful, and economical, dish. As with bread bowls and ice cream cones, it's just plain fun to nibble at the vessel AND its contents. I usually make my stuffed squashes an omnivore's delight, but feel free to saute shiitakes instead of sausage, should you desire a vegetarian main. Bonus is that depending on the size of your squash, you'll have a little extra stuffing to pop into tomorrow's omelet or over some bitter greens. 

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Makes 2 servings 

*1 acorn squash
*2 scant tablespoons EVOO
*1 tablespoon maple syrup
*1 cup cooked brown rice
*2 tablespoons toasted pepitas

*2 links Italian hot sausage, casings removed
*1 small shallot, sliced thinly
*3 cloves garlic
*2 leaves kale, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
*1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
*Pinch of crumbled dried sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 400. Whisk together the oil and syrup with pinches of salt and pepper. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the guts. Cut a sliver of the rounded bottoms off too, so that they'll stay in place on the baking sheet. Place the halves facing up on a rimmed baking sheet, and brush the syrup-oil mixture all over the squash halves and into the hollows (pro-tip: I drizzle a little of the maple-y oil over the pepitas and toss before toasting them briefly in the oven). Bake the squash for 45-50 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, cook the rice, if not already on hand. Near the end of the baking time, saute the sausage in a wide skillet, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once it has browned and cooked, remove from the skillet and throw the shallots in for a couple minutes before adding the garlic. Then, add the kale and continue to saute for a few minutes more until the kale is wilted. Turn off the heat and add the pepitas, sausage, sage, thyme and rice. Mix well and season to taste with S&P. Remove squash from oven. Fill both halves with the stuffing and serve.

Dapper Owl Plate, Rachel Kozlowski for West Elm

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wild Mushroom, Caramelized Shallot & Brie Panini

This is a perfect winter vegetarian sandwich, earthy, warming, flavorful but mellow, and incredibly filling. Out of all the paninis I've pressed in the maker I got for Christmas, I think this is my favorite. Perhaps not the most appealing to take a picture of, but I swear there is one delicious bite after another in that green and brown tangle!

Wild Mushroom, Brie & Caramelized Shallot Panini
Makes 1 sandwich

*2 tablespoons butter, divided
*EVOO (I used a garlic-infused variety)
*2-3 shallots, sliced thinly
*2 cups mixed wild mushrooms, stemmed, wiped & sliced 
*Scant 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
*Balsamic vinegar
*2 slices hearty bakery bread
*3-4 slices of Brie
*Palmful of baby arugula
*Your favorite fancy mustard (chablis Dijon, for me)

In a wide cast-iron skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter with a drizzle of garlic infused oil and add the shallots. Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt (and a little pinch of sugar too, to speed things along) and caramelize for a good 30 minutes. If you don't have garlic infused oil and want a hint of the beautiful stinking rose, feel free to mince a clove up and throw it in with the shallots for the last few minutes of caramelizing. Remove the shallots from the pan and add the mushrooms and another drizzle of oil (regular evoo used this time), then saute for 4 minutes before adding the thyme and seasoning with salt & pepper. Cook another minute, splash with a touch of balsamic, and toss well.

Brush one side of each of the bread slices with a bit of the other tablespoon of butter (melted or room temp), then assemble the sandwich by smoothing a thin layer of mustard on one slice, then top with the shallots, mushrooms, arugula and finally, the Brie. Press the sandwich in a preheated panini maker for 4 minutes or so, until the sandwich is toasty. Cut 'n eat!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Classic Mac & Cheese

This is more than comfort food - it's nap food.  It is indeed, as its nickname implies, so rich and filling that more often than not it puts me and my husband into a food coma after we lick the last bits of delicious velvety cheese sauce from our forks.

Since it's a very basic recipe, its success depends on the quality of ingredients you choose to use. I make this when I have knobs of pretty great cheeses hanging around in the fridge that need a nice vehicle to take them out entirely... a good slab of intense Quebec cheddar, a piece of sharp Gruyere, a salty wedge of Parm, some creamy Fontina, say. Just try to not make it with pre-shredded, bagged stuff. And don't make plans the night you eat it, just in case you happen to fall into unintended slumber.

Classic Mac & Cheese
Makes 5-7 servings

*1/2 lb shells
*3 tablespoons butter
*3 tablespoons flour
*2 cups milk, warmed
*About 3 cups grated cheeses + 1/4 cup grated Parm-Reg
*Couple generous dashes of Tabasco
*1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
*1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a baking dish, or as I did for this recipe, two small cast iron pans. Boil the pasta no further than al dente and drain. Meanwhile, in another pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and foamed, gradually add in the flour, whisking all the while. Cook the roux for a few minutes, and then gradually pour in the milk, whisking to stamp out all the lumps. Cook the sauce until it comes to a low boil, then cook a few minutes more, stirring all the while. Remove the pot from heat and toss in the cheeses, Tabasco, and pinches of S&P. Once the cheese has melted, add the pasta and stir to combine well. Pour the pasta in an even layer in your baking vessel, then combine the thyme and bread crumbs with some S&P and extra grated Parm-Reg and sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly on top. Bake for 15-17 minutes, flicking on the broiler for the last 2 if you like a nicely crisped top.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mixed Nut & Dried Cherry Chocolate Bark

Chocolate bark is infinitely versatile, infinitely delicious. This is probably my favorite rendition of chocolate bark, because there's just so much of everything on it! If you can temper the chocolate correctly it makes for a great gift too, especially as it can be stored longer than your usual homemade baked goods. Even if you don't get the chocolate to temper perfectly, it still delights: I've given it out to many people who are happy to store it in the fridge. At some point I should probably get a candy thermometer to take the guesswork out of melting the chocolate to just the right point. In the meantime, I'll eat my fridge-cold chocolate bark and love it all the same!

Mixed Nut and Dried Cherry Chocolate Bark
Makes 4ish servings?

*1 bag (10 oz) high quality dark chocolate semi-sweet morsels
*1 small pinch ground allspice
*1/4 teaspoon sea salt
*1/2 cup hulled pistachios, lightly toasted and chopped
*1/4 cup almonds, lightly toasted and chopped
*1 tablespoon pepitas, lightly toasted and chopped
*1 tablespoon coffee beans, roughly chopped
*1/2 cup dried cherries, some chopped & some left whole

Melt the morsels in a heatproof bowl for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave, stirring after each round. When the chocolate is almost entirely melted, stir to melt the rest of the morsels and add the spice and salt. Combine the cherries, nuts, pepitas and coffee beans, remove about a third of the mix and chop it a little finer, then throw that into the chocolate, stirring to combine. Spread the mixture with a spatula onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet until it's evenly about a quarter-inch thick. Rain down the remaining nuts, seeds, coffee beans and cherries until there's a nice layer over the chocolate. I usually take another small pinch of sea salt and scatter some crystals over the chocolate at this point too. Pop the baking sheet in the fridge to chill the bark for a couple hours. Break into shards when hardened. Do store in the fridge if tempering chocolate ain't really your finest skill.