Sunday, April 28, 2013

make the most

These were supposed to be scones. And then something went terribly wrong.

Instead of getting a ball of dough, I got batter. Maybe my strawberries were a little too juicy? I was already running late this morning, so I ended up adding two eggs to the batter and pouring the stuff into a muffin tin. In hindsight, I should have added more sugar as well - while the sweetness level would have been appropriate for a scone, it wasn't really muffin-y. The recipe below reflects the amount of sugar I would have used had these been muffins to start with.

They were still pretty good - tender and moist, and faintly pretty pink. Not bad for something that only 30 minutes earlier had me staring and cursing at a bowl of pink goo.

Strawberry-Almond Muffins
adapted from Baking Bites
makes 12 muffins

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter, cold, cut into pieces
6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c. chopped strawberries, divided
1/4 c. sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and butter in a food fprocessor. Process for 15-20 seconds, until no large pieces of butter remain.

3. Add the yogurt, eggs and 1 c. strawberries to the food processor. Pulse until combined.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the twelve muffin cups. Divide the remaining strawberry pieces and almond slices over the top of each muffin.

5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack before serving.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

i thought you knew

Eight and a half years with someone, and you'd think you know them. Turns out, not so much.

Matty likes polenta!!!

What? I mean, I'm pretty sure we've had conversations about how he doesn't like polenta. Which is why, for at least 7 years, I've purposely avoided making polenta if we're both sitting down at the table together. So you can imagine my shock when he walked back to the stove to help himself to seconds of the polenta. "What? I like polenta," was his response to my incredulity.

Mind. Blown.

And now I won't have sad bags of cornmeal languishing in the pantry anymore. There's going to be a lot more polenta going down. This coconut milk one is a new favorite - rich and smooth with no butter or cheese. The slight sweetness was a good contrast with the gamey-ness of the venison, but the slight Asian profile tied together with the soy sauce marinade to make for a cohesive dish. The icing on this already-delicious dinner cake was Brussels sprouts roasted in the leftover bacon grease. Waste not, want not.

Bacon-Wrapped Venison with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4

1 lb. venison tenderloin, cut into 4 equal pieces
1/4 c. Maggi Seasoning or soy sauce
1 T. brown sugar
4 strips bacon
1 lb. Brussels sprouts

1. Place a grill pan in the oven, and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. In a large shallow bowl, combine the Maggi Seasoning and brown sugar. Add the venison, and let marinate at room temperature, turning occasionally.

3. Trim and quarter the Brussels sprouts. Set aside.

4. Remove the tenderloin pieces from the marinade, and lightly shake to discard the excess. Wrap each piece in one strip of bacon. Place the bacon-wrapped venison on the hot grill pan, and roast for about 10 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove the venison to a plate, and tent with foil.

5. Add the Brussels sprouts to the grill pan, and toss carefully to coat in the bacon grease. Return the grill pan to the oven, and roast for 10-15 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and charred in places.

Coconut Polenta
Serves 4

1 c. coconut milk
2 c. water
1 c. fine cornmeal
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the coconut milk and water to a boil. Add the cornmeal, and whisk thoroughly to prevent any clumping. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thickened to your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately, or keep warm over a very low flame.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

bright as yellow

I like to menu plan on Sundays, but sometimes, that means that by about Thursday, I'm no longer interested in what's on the docket. I'll then call Matty on my way home from work to see if he's in the mood for anything specific so I can swing by the store and make something new. Rarely is he useful in this instance.

However, this past Thursday, he did give an inspired answer to the weekly, "What do you feel like for dinner?" The answer, "Lemon pie."

Well, I was too tired to make lemon pie that night, but after working in the morning today, I had nothing but time to take advantage of the neighbor's ever-abundant lemon tree for this Lemon Icebox Pie. Not that it needed any time - this is the easiest pie in life. I want to make a million variations with different fruit juices - a lime one would be to-die-for.

The crust can be as simple or complex as you want. It could be everything from a pre-made grocery store graham cracker crust to the mixture of graham crackers and Trader Joe's Toasted Coconut Thins. To be honest, I don't have any idea how long those cookies have been in the pantry, and I don't even know if TJ's carries them anymore, but hey. Just throw any kind of cookies you'd like in there. I've actually always been looking to pair chocolate and lemon, so maybe the next crust involves Oreos.

Just make sure you thoroughly chill the pie. It's killer to have to wait, but it's truly best ice-cold.

Lemon Icebox Pie
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
makes one 10-inch pie

1 1/2 c. finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
4 T. butter, melted
7 egg yolks
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
1 c. fresh lemon juice
1 T. lemon zest

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a 10-inch pie plate, mix together the crumbs and butter until uniformly moist. Press the mixture along the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add the condensed milk, lemon juice and zest. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

4. Pour the filling into the pie crust, and bake until just set, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

worth the time

I don't think I'm getting lazy in my old age, but I feel like I'm getting better at learning what's worth taking the time to do.

I'm a little torn about these Aloo Paratha. On the one hand, they are extremely delicious. But it's a lot of steps, a lot of dirty dishes, and in the end, disappear faster than you can even say "aloo paratha."

The steps are incredibly fun, though - just time-consuming. I think this would make a good cooking club type of activity, or even one where your kids could help make their dinner (assuming you have kids with a adventurous palatea). Having extra hands along an assembly line might make everything less painful. And imagine how much fun the kids will have seeing the paratha puff up in the pan when they're cooking! I mean, I was fully amused. You might want a helper manning a separate pan for this step, too - unless, of course, you weren't as hungry as I was.

I also made a cabbage dish with a similar flavor profile to go along with the paratha. I ended up adding my leftover banh xeo filling, but I think I'd prefer the dish without the addition of meat. The spices and cooking time mellow out the cabbage to sweetly spiced strands of freshness, and when combined with the tender paratha, made for an inspired little taco. I made a quick dipping sauce out of a 2:1 ratio of Greek yogurt and coconut milk, which was the perfect amount of cool to cut the spices.

Aloo Paratha
from VeganYumYum
makes 8 parathas

For the paratha
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3-1/2 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1 T. canola oil

For the potato filling:
2 small Russet potatoes (about 1/2 lb. total)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. garam masala
1/2 t. cumin seeds
1/4 t. turmeric
1/4 t. red chili flakes

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Start with 1/3 c. of water, and mix/knead for 5 minutes until you get a soft, elastic dough. Add more water a tablespoonful at a time, if needed. The dough shouldn't be sticky, but smooth.

2. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and set in a small, oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel, and let the dough balls rest for as long as you can - 30 minutes, up to a few hours - so the gluten can relax.

3. Peel, chop and boil potatoes until fork tender. Drain well, and mash until the potatoes are completely smooth. Add in the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Form into eight even-sized balls, cover and set aside.

4. Prepare a shallow plate filled with flour. Dip one of the dough balls in the flour to coat it, then flatten it out into a disc. Roll out the dough a little, so it's large enough to cover the potato ball.

5. Wrap a potato ball with the dough, gathering the edges together. Pinch the edges together to seal, flattening it into a disc again. Dip it in the flour again, coating all sides.

6. Roll out the disc evenly into a circle, roughly six inches in diameter. The dough should be thin enough so you can see the spices through it.

7. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush the pan with a little canola oil. Place the paratha in the pan, and cook until you see scattered brown dots across the bottom. Flip the paratha, and oil the cooked slide lightly. Cook the second side until it looks like the first, about another minute. Keep warm in a low oven, and repeat with the remaining paratha.

Spiced Cabbage
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 4

1 1/2 lb. Napa cabbage, trimmed and cut into shreds
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 t. cumin seeds
1 1/2 t. sesame seeds
1 medium onion, sliced into half moons
1 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet. When the oil is hot, add the cumin and sesame seeds. As soon as the sesame seeds turn golden, add the onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned.

2. Add the cabbage, and cook for about 8 minutes, until the cabbage has browned in spots. Add the salt and cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for another 7-8 minutes, until the onions are completely tender. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

time for tea

I have never had any luck with roasting chicken. It always turns out undercooked, and I'm always standing in front of the oven, staring angrily through the window as the internal temperature inches up to 165 degrees.

But today, everything changed. The most delicious chicken ever entered my life, and if I have this much time every weekend, it might be the only thing we ever eat.

It starts out with a 12-24-hour brine. I made it to about 20 hours. The original recipe suggests draining the brine, and letting the chicken dry out on a wire rack in the refrigerator for another 12-24 hours. I thought about it (12-hour brine, 12-hour air dry), but decided to favor additional brining time, and only let the bird air dry for an hour at room temperature.

I think that was part of the key to my releasing my roasting frustrations - bringing the bird to room-ish temperature meant less time for the oven to have to worry about it getting there.

But let's talk about this brine. I may have to repurpose it for tea-drinking (sans sugar, salt and bird, of course). It makes your entire house smell like Christmas. It tints the bird a lovely golden brown, making it look cooked even before it hits the oven. Then, it browns to an amazing crisp after 40 short minutes. Unfortunately, I lost most of the skin from the bottom of the bird in flipping it over, but don't think it wasn't saved to be thrown in the mix when I shredded it for the buns.

Since the buns only required a pound of chicken, I used the breasts. They were going to be least good as leftovers as they got reheated. Yet still, even though I hate chicken breasts with a fiery passion, they were delicious in this use. Did I think the flavored brine actually soaked through into the meat? Not really. But it certainly got into the skin, and the aroma was powerful enough to make you think were tasting it. It's like those bacon-wrapped hot dogs tempting you every time you leave an arena. Does it ever taste as good as it smells? No, but it's still worth it (well, in the moment, at least).

The buns gave me a bit of trouble, not rising as much as I had expected. It was fairly cool, though, and I think I should have moved the bowl to the stovetop earlier than I did to help the rising process. The texture was still right, though, and I ate more than my share.

The green beans were an after-thought - I didn't figure half of a cucumber's worth of garnish was enough greenery for dinner. Simply steamed after I finished steaming the buns, and tossed in a 1:1 mixture of melted butter and yellow miso, plus a generous grind of pepper.

Can't wait to get into the leftover legs and wings - maybe a quesadilla, or a chicken salad sandwich with Sriracha aioli.

Tea-Brined Roast Chicken
from Serious Eats

8 c. water
1 orange
12 bags of black tea
5 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole star anise
1 t. whole black peppercorns
1 t. fennel seeds
one 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 c. salt
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
one 4-lb. whole chicken

1. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the zest from the orange, avoiding the white pith. Reserve the orange for later use.

2. When the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from heat. Add the zest, tea, spices and ginger, and leave the mixture to steep, uncovered and off the heat, for 20 minutes; then squeeze the liquid from the tea bags and discard. Add the salt and sugar, and stir to dissolve; then squeeze the juice from the orange into the mixture.

3. Rinse the chicken, and put it into a 2-gallon resealable bag. Put the bag into a bowl, then pour the bring into the bag, and seal the bag, pressing out any air. Put the bowl in the refrigerator, and leave the chicken to stand in the bring, turning a few times, for 12-24 hours.

4. Remove the chicken from the bring and pat dry very well, inside and out. Arrange a wire rack to fit over a pan, and let the chicken sit at room temperature, uncovered, for an hour. (At this point, get started on your steamed buns - recipe below).

5. Heat the oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the middle. Put a 10-inch cast-iron skillet into the heated oven for 10 minutes.

6. Remove the hot pan from the oven, and immediately place the bird, breast-side up, into it and into the oven. Roast for 40 minutes, turning once halfway through, or until the temperature in the thigh is about 165 degrees. Let rest for a few minutes, then carve and slice to serve.

Roast Chicken Buns
from Serious Eats
makes 12 buns

For the buns:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. self-rising cake flour (or 1/2 c. cake flour + 3/4 t. baking powder)
1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 1/2 t. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/2 c. warm water
1 t. vegetable oil, plus more for brushing the dough

1 lb. sliced roast chicken
1 medium cucumber, julienned

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cake flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the water and oil. Using your hands, mix and then knead in the bowl until a smooth and elastic dough forms (about 5 minutes). Add up to a 1/4 c. more water by the tablespoonful, if necessary). Lightly oil the bowl, and turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and let it rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, cut twelve 2 1/2-inch squares of parchment paper.

2. Punch down the dough, and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place the balls on the parchment squares on a baking sheet. Cover loosely with the tea towel, and let rise at warm room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Pat each piece into a long oval, about 5 by 2 inches in length, 1/8 inch thick. Brush 1 oval with oil, then fold in half lengthways. Place the bun back on the parchment square, and brush with oil. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Loosely cover the buns with the tea towel, and let rise until nearly doubled in size, about another 30 minutes.

4. Bring an inch of water to simmer in a saucepan so that the bottom of a steamer insert sits above the water. Arrange the buns, in batches, if necessary, about 1/2 inch apart on the insert, and steam over medium heat, covered, until the dough is slightly puffed and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

5. Layer each bun with sliced chicken, cucumber and your choice of condiments (hoisin, Sriracha, etc.).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

more than just a slice

Years ago, Matty got me a Sur La Table gift card, in the exact amount of one Knife Skills class. Seems like my style of slicing and dicing made him nervous, and I'll admit, I'm not the most graceful, but if we're going to talk about terrible kitchen accidents, I really need a mandoline skills class, not a knife skills one.

Before all of our stomachs turn, though, I would like to introduce you to my version of a knife skills class - one that involves slicing 12 oz. of asparagus stalks into 6-8 thin slices each. I'm happy to report that my fingers remained intact, but I did get one hell of a crick in my neck from being so tense about the whole thing.

The dish was well worth it, though. Delicate strands of asparagus and noodle commingling in a blue cheese sauce that was effectively spiced up by just the tiniest bit of smoked paprika butter. I had considered just shaving the asparagus stalks with a vegetable peeler (easier, safer), but the slightly more substantial slices in this method made for a more satisfying bite.

Bucatini with Asparagus + Blue Cheese
adapted from Herbivoracious
serves 4

12 oz. asparagus spears
salt, to taste
1 lb. bucatini
2 T. butter
4 garlic cloves
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
3 oz. crumbled gorgonzola, plus additional for garnish

1. Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Slice the remaining stem lengthwise into several strands, about the same diameter as the bucatini.

2. Bring a large pot of salter water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente.

3. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic, and cook until it just begins to take some color. Turn off the heat, add the smoked paprika and red pepper, and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

4. When there are about five more minutes left on the pasta, turn the heat back on the smoked paprika mixture and add all of the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus strands are nearly as pliable as the pasta strands, then use tongs to transfer the al dente pasta into the skillet. It's okay that some of the pasta water comes with it.

5. Add 3 oz. of blue cheese to the skillet. Toss thoroughly until the cheese is melted, and the pasta is well-coated with the spices. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with additional blue cheese for garnish, if desired. (Who are we kidding? Serve immediately with additional blue cheese for garnish).

Monday, April 8, 2013

don't doubt yourself, babe

The first thing Matty said to me upon taking a look at these pita pockets (other than the look in his eyes asking why I was trying to trick him into eating rabbit food) was, "Why'd you bother spending an hour roasting these instead of just stir-frying them on the stove?"

Fair question. Well, because the cover of Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty made Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce look the damn sexiest vegetarian meal anyone could possibly have. But I second-guessed myself and forgot a tip from a friend that the book has a typo in it. You don't roast 2 eggplants at 200 degrees for 40 minutes and expect to get deliciousness. That should be 400 degrees. Not 200.

So by the time the eggplant was actually cooked, I was over it. My eggplant wasn't as cute as Ottolenghi's anyway, so I wasn't going to serve it whole. And I thought I'd save us both the trouble of cutting up our own food, so I diced the roasted eggplant, added some greens and cucumbers, and threw everything into a bowl with the pomegranate seeds and a little bit of buttermilk sauce (except I had leftover coconut milk to use up, so mine was a coconut-yogurt sauce), and stuffed the pitas.

Despite the trouble, I loved this. It's fresh and light, but the eggplant still gives it a little more substance than your average salad. I'm going to have to make big batches to have around for lunch. Will probably just cube the eggplant before roasting, or you know, just stir-fry them on the stove.

Roasted Eggplant Pita Pockets
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty
serves 2

2 Japanese eggplants (about 1 lb. total)
1/4 c. olive oil
4-5 sprigs of thyme
1/4 c. pomegranate seeds
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
4 T. coconut milk
1/2 c. mixed greens
salt and pepper, to taste
2 pitas

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

2. Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Brush them with olive oil - keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Roast for 35-40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful, and nicely browned. Remove from the oven, and cut into 1-inch dice. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Whisk together the coconut milk and Greek yogurt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant cubes, pomegranate seeds and greens. Add the coconut-yogurt sauce 1 T. at a time until dressed to your liking. Toss thoroughly, and season to taste. Divide the mixture between the pita pockets and serve.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

better than yours

I thought my mom had sent me our family recipe for banh xeo a while ago, but all I found in Gmail was a note from 2007 that listed the ingredients. Not how much of each ingredient to use, or what to do with them, and in what order. Just the ingredients.

And people ask why I don't cook more Vietnamese food.

Anyway, the impetus of this was a dinner out at a local Vietnamese restaurant that thoroughly disappointed me. I mean, thoroughly. The fresh spring rolls were basically all vermicelli, the pho had absolutely no flavor, and the banh xeo was so soggy Matty thought it was an omelette. Oh, and the Vietnamese coffee he ordered? Had no condensed milk in it. This is not a new restaurant. It is relatively well-reviewed. Upsetting all around.

While this was definitely not the banh xeo of my youth - I made each crepe a little too thick, I couldn't find the steamed ground mung bean, and my banh xeo as a kid had all the pork, shrimp and bean sprouts inside as filling rather than basically cooked into the crepe - this was already leaps and bounds beyond that restaurant's offering, which was all I wanted to go for.

The flavor of the crepe was good and exactly as I remembered, but I think I need to thin the batter out more in order to get it to move around to make a thin, shatter-y shell. I've got plenty of filling left, so if Matty can be coaxed to eat this all week, I'll get it right yet.

Banh Xeo
adapted from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen via NPR
makes 4 crepes

For the crepe:
1 c. rice flour
2 t. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground turmeric
3 T. coconut milk
1 c. water
1 scallion

For the filling:
6 oz. ground pork or thinly sliced boneless pork shoulder
4 oz. shrimp
7 oz. straw mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. ground steamed mung bean
2 c. bean sprouts (about 1/3 lb.)
1/4 c. vegetable oil

For serving:
a few leaves of lettuce
nuoc cham

1. In a bowl, stir together the rice flour, cornstarch, salt and turmeric. Make a well in the center, and pour in the coconut milk and water. Whisk to create a silky batter. Add the scallion, and set aside for 1 hour.

2. Divide the pork, shrimp, mushrooms and onion into 4 portions. Put these ingredients, along with the mung bean, bean sprouts, batter and oil next to the stove.

3. Heat 2 t. vegetable oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a portion of the filling, and sauté, breaking up the meat, for about 45 seconds, or until seared and aromatic. Visualize a line down the middle of the skillet and roughly arrange the ingredients on either side of the line.

4. Give the batter a good stir with a ladle. Pour 1/3 c. of the batter into the skillet, and swirl to cover the bottom. When the sizzling settles down, sprinkle on 1 1/2 T. of the mung bean, then pile 1/2 c. of the bean sprouts on one side. Lower the heat to medium, cover and cook until the bean sprouts have wilted slightly, about 3 minutes.

5. Remove the lid, and drizzle in 1 t. of the oil around the rim of the pan. Lower the heat slightly, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes to crisp the crepe. The edge will have pulled away from the skillet and turned golden brown. Use a spatula to check underneath for a crispy bottom. When satisfied, use a spatula to fold the crepe in half, and transfer to a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling ingredients.

6. To eat, tear a piece of lettuce the size of your palm, place a piece of crepe on top, add a few mint and basil leaves, shape into a bundle, and dip into nuoc cham.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I don't drink much anymore. I can't. Two drinks, and I'm done. Mixing more than one type of liquor? Forget about it. Plus, I'd much rather eat my calories than drink them.

But somehow, when I went into the liquor cabinet this morning, I realized we were out of Maker's Mark. I mean, that's just embarrassing.

Thankfully, we had some Maker's 46, which I subbed for this bread pudding recipe. It's a little heavier handed than plain ol' Maker's, so I wouldn't use it again, but it was the best option this morning. If you're not into boozy breakfasts, though, just sub out a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract. You won't miss it too much - just make sure you have plenty of bananas, get that custard really into the bread, and you'll have a richly decadent breakfast. Don't believe that you should be having something so naughty. for breakfast? Cut the bread like Joy does in her version, and call it French toast.

There. Isn't that better?

Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding
adapted from Joy the Baker
serves 8

12 oz. challah, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 eggs
2 c. half and half
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. Maker's Mark
3 bananas, sliced
1 T. granulated sugar, for topping
1/2 T. ground cinnamon, for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch pan, and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, brown sugar and Maker's Mark. Add the cubed bread and bananas, and stir to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the custard soak in slightly.

3. Pour the bread mixture into the 9x13 pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the custard is set. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Friday, April 5, 2013

twice as nice

Salmon. Bacon. Mushrooms. Broccoli.

If I could eat like this every day, I would be completely happy. In the desire to find the next mind-blowing recipe online, I sometimes forget that dinner can really be mind-blowing in its simplicity and take only 20 minutes to get on the table (including slicing and dicing time).

I also need to remind myself that I have some amazing cookbooks, and they're not just for display (scroll down). The Internet doesn't know everything, and a Google search can't help me find cravings I didn't know I had.

Like this dish of broiled salmon and what is essentially a stir-fry. Sure, the bacon elevated a simple combination of flavors, but I might even dare try it without in order to let the oyster sauce come through. As it was this go-around, I only used half of the oyster sauce mixture called for in the recipe because I didn't want to lose the bacon flavor that was already there.

And sure, it has bacon, but this dish isn't terribly unhealthy. It breaks down to 2 slices per person (1 if you are better at portion control than me). I also think people like to tell you that 4 oz. of salmon is plenty for dinner, but I'm going to be real and tell you you're probably going to want 8. My mantra last night was Omega-3s, and my stomach is happy for it.

Broiled Salmon with Mushroom-Broccoli Stir-Fry
adapted from The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook
serves 2

2 salmon fillets, about 1 lb. total
2 t. sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
7 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
5 oz. broccoli, cut into small florets
2 T. oyster sauce
1/4 c. hot water

1. Preheat the broiler. Brush sesame oil on the salmon fillets, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate fillets on a roasting pan, and broil until done to your liking, about 5-7 minutes.

2. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook the bacon until golden brown. Add the shiitakes, and cook for about 5 minutes, until light golden brown. Add the broccoli, and cook until they just lose their rawness, about 3 minutes.

3. Whisk together the oyster sauce and hot water. Add to the skillet until it is seasoned according to your taste.

4. Divide the vegetables between two plates. Top each with a salmon fillet, and serve immediately.