Sunday, December 26, 2010

Let’s get some [effing] French toast

Excuse my use of the alphabet—that phrase is the first thing that pops into my head when discussing the eggy delight known as French toast.  Made with leftover panettone, this particular incarnation has a custard center that melts in your mouth like pudding.  I like pudding. 

I also love brunch.  And so does my buddy.  Naturally, we are more than down with brunch for dinner.  Fluffy French toast rounded out with clementines and bacon? Yes, please.  Though, if you need a quick breakfast-in-bed surprise for a buddy of your own, this would probably work for that, too.

Like most of my recipes, this is meant to serve two—math is not my jam, but feel free to reconfigure for however many pals you need to serve.  I think the key here is to keep your toast simple. I bet that is how the French came up with such an authentic dish... probably was the same with French fries.

French toast (for two)
Two thick rounds of panettone cut into halves (making four slices total, two per pal (go math!))
1 cup milk
2 eggs
3-ish tablespoons honey (I double glugged because I like things sweet)
½ teaspoon kosher salt.
1 tablespoon butter
Powdered sugar for dusting

Whisk milk, eggs, honey, and salt together in a wide, shallow dish.  Preheat a pan over medium heat; season evenly with butter.  Dredge panettone in the custard mixture, letting each half sit a moment to soak up the liquid.  Fry bread in pan until both sides are golden (three-ish minutes per side).  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup or jam.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The bombe strikes back

It worked! The bombe was a success.  I tricked my mother into hosting a holiday party so I could showcase my cooking assembly skills.  Praise for the ice cake included: “This is da bombe!” and “It didn't bomb!” and “If the TSA were here, they'd have to confiscate this bombe.”  They certainly thought they were clever. 

After a few rounds of bananagrams, I turned out the bombe and ganached it.  The pistachio and chocolate ice creams were smooth and rich, and the icy raspberries added a nice tart bite.  But let’s be honest, I thought it could have been boozier. 
And, for those of you reading with lactose-intolerance issues, keep in mind that you could make this with sorbet.  Bombes are fun and festive, and you should make one for your family so you can roll around in the punny praise, too… though, I wouldn’t recommend taking it to the airport in a cooler.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Panettone is the bombe

Last week I watched Jamie Oliver make this monstrosity and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Jamie’s speed in the kitchen makes everything look so easy—and let’s face it: I want to eat booze-soaked bread and ice cream.  So this morning, after a trip to Ferrara Bakery for some fresh panettone, I made a bombe of my own. 

I’ve been considering different flavor profiles all week and I finally settled on pistachio, chocolate, and raspberry.  Jamie stuffed his bombe with more goodies, but, as my ice cream choices were richer in texture, I decided to keep my fruit layer on the simple side. 

The steps are as follows. (Note: I left out the parts where I got my hand trapped in plastic wrap, jam in my hair, and chocolate on my phone. Fair warning.) 
Here’s what to do:

1. Line a freezer-proof, nicely rounded bowl with cling wrap.  (You want to use a bowl that has a round bottom, not a flat one, otherwise the top of your bombe will be flat. And that would be lame.)
2. Line the edges of the bowl with slices of panettone (or any sweet bread if it isn’t the week of Christmas).
3. Drizzle the bread with a sweet wine (Jamie uses Vin Santo, I used Tabor Hill Demi-sec).
4. Raspberry jam layer!
5. Spread the pistachio ice cream into the bottom of the mold. (It helps to soften before hand… a lot.)
6. Tumble in the fresh raspberries so they lie in a single layer. Dot with a little more jam if desired.
7. Spread the chocolate ice cream layer over the raspberries. (I bought two pints of each ice cream, but I only ended up using one pint of each—this will no doubt depend on the size of your bowl.)
8.  Add one last round of panettone.
9. Drizzle with more wine.
10. Wrap up the plastic cling and use a plate to smush all the flavors and layers together. Then pop it in the freezer.
I don’t know what happens after that.  Mine hasn’t turned out yet—it’s still chillin’ in the freezer.  I guess this post is a smidge premature.  Let’s talk later.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Apples crisped

Sometimes you have a good idea. Sometimes that idea is somebody else's and they tell it to you, but you can't stop thinking about what a good idea it is until it is so familiar in your head that it becomes your idea. And then you are making apple crisp and topping it with vanilla yogurt, even though you don’t like vanilla yogurt. I’ve tried to get into yogurt before who hasn’t tried switching to plain Greek for ten o’clock snack once or twice? I just couldn’t stick with it. But after making this apple crisp, I am back on the yogurt wagon. It’s a gateway drug. Next come the Tupperware, walnuts, and honey. Ship me to Russia. First, let’s talk about apple crisp.

Over at smittenkitchen it has been proclaimed that the crisp is not just for dessert. If this is revolution, I am Heath Ledger in the Patriot. Fruit and granola? Of course this is breakfast food! The apples go juicy and soft, like apple pie filling, while the granola browns into a chewy crust (with the help of butter and honey). Less sugar, no butterscotch sauce, ice cream swapped for yogurt. I could be writing a health blog.
On a side note, I appreciated that this recipe allowed for flexibility: I didn’t have nuts on hand, I added allspice for kicks, I measured nothing, and my crisp still turned out delicious. These are ingredients you can’t mess up.
So hear me when I say, “I made an apple crisp and topped it with vanilla yogurt.” Now think about it until you have to make your own. Viva la revolution!

Gateway Apple Crisp (adapted from smittenkitchen)

5-ish (mixed) apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon allspice

Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly grated cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup flour

2 heaping cups oats

Preheat oven to 350°F. Squeeze lemon half over apple slices. Mix in sugar, flour, allspice, and dust with freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon for depth. Pour mixture into that 9-inch spring-form pan you bought thinking you would never use until you realized you have no other smallish baking dishes. Melt butter in a small saucepan and add honey. Combine flour and oats and melty, sticky saucepan contents. Pinch of salt! Pour this over the apples and bake until the apples are bubbling and the granola is toasty brown—about 1 hour (maybe more if your oven is like my oven and cannot regulate its temperature to cook a chicken).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mustard greens, three ways

The colder it gets, the harder it is to shop for fruits and vegetables exclusively at the farmers’ market. I miss strawberries on my cheerios. I crave plantains like it’s my job. Eating seasonally is rough, but eating local is even harder. I can make do without asparagus until spring, but it’s clementine season and I don’t think there are any thriving groves in Chicago. Eventually I’m going to break down and buy more than the occasional lemon or lime, but I’m trying to stick to the market for now.

This week market shopping paid off as we picked up our first pound of mustard greens (not to be mistaken for “big parsley”). I know neither Alex nor I would ever have chosen mustard greens at the g-store, where the commonplace mixed-lettuce bag reigns supreme, but in a basket on a folding table, next to a big pile of sweet potatoes (because what else is there?), the mustard greens found their moment.

We’ve had three preparations of mustard greens this week, each showcasing a different element of their exceedingly pleasing character.

The first was a salad. Raw, these curly leaves are delightfully spicy and crisp, without being watery. They have more chew than your regular salad lettuce, but there is no lack of bite. I dressed the greens in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, then added anything I found in the fridge in an attempt to disguise the raging pep of the mustard. Apples, toasted almonds, radishes, goat cheese. The apple/almond/goatcheese pairing was spot on, but not for the reason I’d thought. (The radishes were a mistake: unnecessary and out of place. I pushed them to the side (not pictured).) The toasty nuttiness, sweet juice, and creamy tang were just right with the peppery greens, intensifying the zing, not masking it. Alex described it as “light… with a bite... [and] topped with crunch.” Take what you will from that.

The real winner for me this week has been my lunch sandwich: sourdough toast, fresh goat cheese, and mustard greens. Tang and zing—bangarang! It is fantastic. It is such a simple sandwich, however, complex in flavor. The key is the quality of the ingredients. Bread, cheese, and veg are all fresh and local. These ingredients are like three fifth-grade girls with broken necklaces that say “Best” and “Friends” and “Forever.”

Thirdly, we had wilted mustard greens. The greens in this preparation are blanched in boiling water, then cooled to stop the cooking, drained of excess liquid, chopped, and sautéed in butter and garlic. (My own BFF, Sarah, sent me a recipe; clearly, I worked from different quantities.) With less than a pound of starting material, we had barely two servings of cooked greens but they were worth it. I’d describe the finished product with one word: Bitter—in a good way. On a plate with chicken in cider-mustard sauce (see what I did there?) and cheese-crusted squash, the bitter greens provided a much-needed balance. I’d go so far as to say, “They put the must’ in mustard greens.” Except I don’t want to sound lame.

So I’ve discovered a new flavorite, and it’s been recipe-successipe here this week. I am planning on cheating soon, though. These are on my Christmas list: