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October 2009

Freezable French Toast

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Freezable French Toast

2 loaves sliced bread

6 T butter, browned

3 c half-and-half
4 eggs
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T flour
2 T vanilla extract
1 T real maple syrup
2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° unless you are going to use the broiler to toast the bread, in which case you can wait to turn on the broiler and then reduce the heat to 350° for the baking cycle.

Heat butter in a saucepan until it has browned, about five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about five to ten minutes - you want the butter to still be liquid but not so hot it that it causes the eggs to cook when you add them. Then whisk in eggs, half-and-half, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Pour into a wide, flat container (like a lasagne pan or a big Tupperware container.)

Spray a wire cooling rack with cooking spray (or grease lightly with oil or a little butter) and place it inside a baking sheet. Two if you have them.

Start toasting the bread. You can either use a toaster or arrange the bread on the racks and broil for a minute or two on each side. The idea is to toast the bread and then soak the warm toast in the egg/half-and-half mixture so that it absorbs.

Take two pieces of warm toast at a time and submerge them in the custard for about sixty seconds (you'll start to see air bubbles as if you are drowning them - drowning them in GOODNESS.) Shake excess liquid off and arrange pieces on the wire cooling racks. Mine fit eight perfectly and I baked two sheets at once. Bake at 350° for fifteen minutes, turning after seven minutes (if you are baking two sheets switch their positions in the oven at this time.) Repeat with toast, custard soak and bake until both loaves and the custard are gone.

Let cool on the racks for thirty minutes, then place in freezer for an hour. Transfer frozen toast to Ziploc bags and freeze to store.

To reheat simply pop into the toaster and toast.

Makes 32 pieces. Serves: 1 Patrick.

Printable version here

Notes: Did that make any sense? It seems so obvious when I was doing it (toast soak bake freeze) but I am not sure if I didn't just garble things a little. The idea came from Cook's Country (a magazine I like) but I tweaked it a lot. The process takes time and is a nice weekend project, I think. The payoff comes on weekday mornings when you can create really good french toast in thirty seconds with the toaster. Ta DA! 


Shredded Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

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Shredded Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

1.5 lbs chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 T vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced
1/2 t salt
3 T chili powder
2 t cumin
2 t coriander
1/4 t cayenne
4 cloves garlic, minced

1 28 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 c red wine

2 c shredded cheddar cheese
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
 
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas

cilantro garnish

Heat oven to 300°. Dry beef with paper towels and then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven until it is hot and shimmering. Cook half of the beef, turning to brown all sides. Remove browned beef to a plate and repeat with remaining oil and beef. Remove second batch of beef to the plate and then pour off fat, reserving about a tablespoon in the pan. Add onions and half a teaspoon of salt and cook until onions soften, about ten minutes. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Add garlic and cook and additional minute. Then add tomato sauce and red wine and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add beef to the sauce.

Tear a large sheet of aluminum foil and fold it in half. Then carefully press the aluminum foil into the pan. You want the foil to rest just above the level of the sauce and beef. Crimp the edges to form a seal around the rim of the pan (yeah, it is hot - be careful) and then put the lid on. The aluminum foil isn't strictly necessary but it cuts the cooking time in half if you do it.

Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for one to one and half hours - check it; the beef should be very tender and fall apart with a fork. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beef from the sauce. Let it cool until it can be handled, then shred it and put it into a medium bowl. Add one cup of cheddar cheese, one cup of the sauce and the black beans. Stir to combine.

Spread half a cup of sauce onto the bottom of a 13X9 baking dish. Increase oven to 375°.

Soften tortillas*. Working one at a time take a quarter cup of beef and bean filling and roll into each tortilla. Place filled tortillas seam side down in the baking dish. When you cannot fit any more into the pan, top with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20-25 minutes until cheese has melted.

Garnish with cilantro.

Printable version here

-- Adapted from Josie Landon's recipe in Cook's Country, Oct/Nov 2009

Notes:

This was time consuming compared with using ground beef but it was delicious.

I know that chuck roasts are generally three to four pounds, even when they're on the small side. In this case I took a small one and chopped it in half. I used one half for the recipe and froze the other. I also realized that only Steve and I would really be eating this so I used an 8X8 pan, six tortillas and I (you'll never guess) froze the leftover filling and the sauce. I used the muffin pan again and the resulting beef and bean hockey pucks looked even weirder than the marinara sauce but it made nice single-serve portions for, say, lunch. For me. Or me. Or me me me.

Edward ate the beans. Caroline ate it all. Patrick... well, you know Patrick. I think he had peanut butter toast.

*There are lots of ways to soften a corn tortilla. You can wrap them in aluminum foil and bake them in a low oven for five to ten minutes. You can spray them with cooking spray and put them on a cookie sheet in a low oven for three to four minutes. Or you can use tongs and hold them individually over a gas burner for a minute or two on each side. I prefer the latter approach but I also regularly set tortillas on fire. Like, actual flaming fire. So there is that.              


Jan Hagels

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Jan Hagels

1 c butter, softened
1 c sugar

1 egg, separated white from yolk
1 t almond extract

2 c flour

1/2 c sliced almonds
1 T sugar
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and almond extract. Then add flour and stir until just combined.

Turn dough into ungreased 15X10X1 inch pan (jelly roll pan.) Using your fingers spread the dough until it evenly covers the entire pan.

In a small bowl whisk egg white until it is frothy. Brush egg white over dough and then sprinkle the almonds on top. Finish by sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over the dough.

Bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool and then cut into pieces. Traditionally these cookies are served in diamond shapes so cut into diagonal strips that criss-cross the pan. Or, you know, squares taste the same.

Printable version here


Notes: The most time consuming part of this recipe is pushing the dough into the pan. When you first start to do so you will swear that I am  crazy and it will never be enough to cover the pan. But I'm not and it does.

My mother's best friend was German (still is, last I heard from her) and she used to make these cookies at Christmastime. For the first thirty seven years of my life I only considered eating these in December. But I have recently realized that life is too short to relegate things that taste good to tiny windows of time and my new plan is to start drinking at breakfast. Oh, and to make Jan Hagels whenever I feel like it.

Last week I was standing in the grocery store about to buy a package of Oreos when I decided that I should bake more often. What could be more comforting and loving than a homemade cookie in one's lunchbox, I reasoned. So I virtuously returned the Oreos to the shelf and I picked up a big bag of chocolate chips and a small ditto of sliced almonds on my way out. Then, as I do, I forgot about it until about nine o'clock on Sunday night. Jan Hagels come together very quickly and they bake quickly so it wasn't THAT much of a hassle but I still felt like I had been particularly selfless when I told Patrick on Monday morning that I had made cookies for his lunch.

"Great!" he said. "Chocolate chip?"

"No! Jan Hagels!"

So he looked at them and made a face and said, "oh. I don't like almonds" and then Steve said, "oh no not those ALMOND cookies again" because Steve doesn't like almonds either (I think he had a bad marzipan experience as a child.) The end result is that I got six dozen cookies all to myself and Patrick took one of those vile little shelf stable puddings we had left over from his tonsil surgery.

There is no moral to this story but if you are not weird and you like the delicious taste of a well-sugared almond then you will no doubt enjoy this recipe. 

PS Someone requested printable versions of the recipes and I think this is an excellent idea and I am working on implementing it. So... I'm trying.

PPS I froze some of the cookies after I baked them because... well I could eat 6 dozen Jan Hagels but should I? I defrosted them later and they were pretty good.


Freezer Marinara

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Yes, I freeze my marinara in muffin cups, hence the weird cupcake shape. Then I pop the portions out and bag them and freeze them for later.

Nice to Have in the Freezer Marinara

1/4 c olive oil

1 c minced celery
1 c minced carrot
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes*
1/4 c red wine

2 bay leaves
1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
pepper to taste

In a small stockpot, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion begins to soften, about eight minutes. Add the celery and carrots and cook another fifteen minutes. Then add the tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves, salt, sugar and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour. Stir occasionally. 

Notes: This is fine with pasta but I like it best as a base for other things - like a gooey delicious Italian Sausage sub, for example.

*If you have fresh tomatoes you are luckier than I am.


Italian Sausage Meatball Subs

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Italian Sausage Meatball Subs

2/3 lb ground Italian hot sausage
1/2 lb ground beef
4 slices of sandwich bread, stale or toasted or both
3 c marinara sauce, divided
1/3 c chopped fresh basil, divided
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1 baguette

In a bowl tear the bread into small pieces, then add 3/4 c of marinara sauce and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the bread soften. Add sausage, beef, 1/4 c of fresh basil and the Parmesan cheese. Using your hands mix well and then form eight meatballs. In a large saucepan or skillet heat the remaining marinara sauce until it reaches a simmer. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook, covered, turning frequently until the meatballs are cooked all the way through, about twenty-five minutes. 

Cut four-five inch sections of baguette and split them in half lengthwise. Pull out some of the bread or flatten it with your fingertips. Place the bottom of each baguette onto a baking sheet and spoon a tablespoon of marinara onto piece. Slice meatballs in half and place two on top of the sauce, overlapping them slightly. Top with another tablespoon of sauce and a handful of mozzarella cheese. Broil just until the cheese melts, about two to three minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

Notes: This was the night I decided to make something that I really like and to hell with everybody else. People might speak with nostalgic pleasure of the chicken casseroles or pork shnitzels of their childhood but for me there is nothing so comforting as a good sub. Which is weird because I grew up in DC; a city not exactly known for its sandwich culture but there it is.

Steve had one the size of a slider and looked like he would rather be eating a nice salad; Patrick thought there were just too many possibly suspicious things going on here and ate the corner of the bread and Edward's throat hurt so he had yogurt. Caroline took one look at my plate, said "WHOW" and she and I ate meatballs and cheese and bread until we both had to be hosed down.

"Mmmmmmmmm," said Caroline.

For reference I browned the leftover sausage and ground beef (I bought a pound of each) and froze them in separate ziploc bags for some unspecified, probably soupy, future use. I also had four meatballs and some sauce left over so I froze those together as well. You can use purchased marinara for this recipe but if you do I would heat the sauce with some fresh basil just to give it a little more flavor. And now I will put up my fast and adequate marinara recipe because I am a dummy dope and did not think to do so first so I could link to it like I planned. 


Mini Bell Pepper Solution One

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In the baby bell pepper suggestions Jana had me at cheesesteak. Actually, anyone could have me for a cheesesteak but perhaps I have said too much. Grill or sauté the chicken breast, sauté the peppers and some onion, smother it with cheese and stick it on good bread... therein lay my problem. I had no good bread and I cannot eat a cheesesteak on wheat. Besides, even if I could my cheese options were limited. I know the purists in Philly use a sort of Cheez Whiz and personally I prefer a nice provolone but I had neither.

So I scooted down a bit in the comments and although Rbelle's stuffed peppers were tempting I decided to try Aiyim's chicken recipe which was posted thusly:

Here's a recipe for my very favorite chicken... mix together: ~1/2 chopped red bell pepper, 2 chopped roma tomatoes, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp fresh parsley, 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, 1/2 tsp oregano. arrange ~4 chicken breasts in a baking dish and sprinkle with pepper. pour the pepper/tomato/feta mixture over the chicken. drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. bake for 25-30 min at 400.

I confess that I thought the recipe just forgot to mention salt and I was about to add some when I remembered all of those epicurious commenters who substitute maple syrup for cornstarch and vinegar for frog legs and then complain that the final result is unpleasant. So I made it exactly as directed and it is a good thing, too, because the feta allowed it to be plenty salty without any additions. I did add cilantro but not because I thought I needed to elevate the flavor profile or anything; I just accidentally identified the cilantro in my refrigerator as flat-leaf parsley and did not recognize my mistake until I smelled it going into the bowl.

I will make this again and the only thing I would do differently next time is I would first sear the breasts before baking. I love a nice sear.

Note: I took the photo before I put it into the oven because I liked the colors and then I neglected to photograph it after it came out because I was starving and Caroline was standing on my foot shouting "EAT! EAT! EAT!"

Thanks for all the suggestions! I plan to try something else from the comments if I can get to the peppers before Patrick finishes them raw.


Mini Bell Pepper Challenge

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Patrick's post-tonsillectomy soft diet has been a bore. I know it shouldn't have mattered that one of us was down to about six things he would/could consume but it did. I felt flat and uninspired and wondered why we all couldn't just eat buttered noodles every night and be done with it. Today, though, his two weeks is up and I asked what he would like to have for dinner to celebrate his return to the land of the crunchy.

Red pepper, he said promptly.

I was not surprised. Patrick's favorite food in the world (I mean, after pizza. he is not completely weird) is raw red bell pepper and he has been jonesing for it practically since he came out from under the anesthesia. So I promised to get him some.   

Meanwhile, I was out and about today and I made the mistake of asking Steve if he needed anything while I was running errands. Kitty litter, he replied, and then told me to stop whining because he thought we could make do this time with only two of the forty pounds tubs. God, I hate getting the kitty litter. My weak and spindly arms can barely lift the giant Sam's Club sized barrels into the cart and then I struggle to keep the now top-heavy Sam's Club cart from crashing into walls. But our cats prefer the cheap stuff for their private moments and if there is anything you learn as a cat owner it is that you never ever change the litter brand. So I promised to go to Sam's Club.

This is like a movie - a very dull and commercially disastrous movie - in which two distinct plot lines move inexorably towards each other...

Along with the cat litter and the shipping container of diapers I bought a two pound bag of mini red orange and yellow bell peppers. Frankly they just looked too cute to pass up and I suspect that Patrick will be charmed. My question - I know this is a food blog; I'm getting there - is what do I do with them? Patrick will just eat them raw but I feel like the rest of us should live a little. I also have thawed chicken breast that can be used (although it doesn't have to be) and a well-stocked pantry (although I am running very low on other produce.)

Any thoughts? What would you do with the wee little things?

If you come up with something for which I have most of the ingredients (or a close approximation) I'll make it and post the results tomorrow.     


Jambalaya Mini Muffins

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Jambalaya Mini Muffins

3 T butter
1/2 c onion, very finely minced
1/2 c green pepper, very finely minced

1 c cornmeal
1 1/4 c flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt

2 eggs
2 c buttermilk

1 c cooked ham, very finely minced
1 c cooked Italian sausage, very finely minced

Preheat oven to 400°.

Melt butter and saute onion and green pepper until softened, then let cool slightly. In a large bowl whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt. In a large measuring cup beat eggs into buttermilk. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients all at once. Stir until just combined, taking care to break up any clumps. Gently fold in ham, sausage and vegetables.

Grease mini muffin pan (I use Pam!) Scoop a generous tablespoon of batter into each cup. Bake 15-16 minutes until tops starts to brown. 

Makes about 4 dozen mini muffins.

Notes: This comes, roughly, from the Junior League of New Orleans cookbook called Jambalaya. I had two Italian sausages in the freezer for some mysterious reason so I removed the casings and used them. Obviously andouille would be a nice sausage choice, as well, or chorizo. It is important to really mince the beejeezums out of the onion, pepper, sausage and ham. I used a chef's knife and the flat of my hand and whacked away. In the spirit of disclosure I had trouble getting the tops to brown properly and think in retrospect that I had the pans too far down in the oven... oh well. They tasted terrific anyway. Edward approved.  


Thirty Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

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Thirty Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 small onion, diced
1 c sliced celery
1 c sliced carrots
2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1.5 T butter
1/2 t salt
1 t dried tarragon

4 c chicken broth
1.5 c cooked, chopped chicken

1 c wide egg noodles
1 c frozen peas

Melt butter in a small stockpot. Add celery, carrots, garlic, onion, salt and tarragon and saute until vegetables soften, about fifteen minutes. Add chicken broth and chicken and simmer, covered, another fifteen minutes. Stir in egg noodles and simmer another 8-9 minutes until noodles are cooked but not mushy. Off heat stir in peas. Pepper to taste and serve.

Notes: I had half of the chicken leftover from Zingerman's so I made this specifically in the hopes that the tiny pieces of chicken and the soft noodles and carrots would be easy on Patrick throat. They were. 

A few things about this recipe. First, using a chicken broth you like is crucial because the soup does not have a long time to develop a whole lot of additional flavors. I love Swanson's Natural Goodness but to each his own. Sauteing the vegetables in butter rather than my usual olive oil is key, too, because it adds a richness that you miss with the quick cooking time. I used to cut cooked chicken into small cubes but I have started really mincing it for certain recipes. I think it works especially well in soups. Finally, I usually make twice this much but I had to adjust for the small quantity of chicken we had leftover.

This served Caroline, Edward, and Patrick for dinner and me the next day for lunch.

Addendum:

A couple people asked about the butterflied chicken in that last recipe. Because you are using a 3lb fryer rather than a larger roasting bird it really does fit into a cast iron skillet even after the backbone is removed and the two halves are flattened. My skillet (I am almost positive - I will check when I get home from the library. I am here "picking up books for Patrick") is only ten inches and it fit comfortably.

To answer another question the advantage to butterflying is the much faster roasting time. The chicken is able to cook through in just about an hour.

Hope this helps. 

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Zingerman's One-Pot Chicken

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A few weeks ago you offered a ton of wonderful suggestions about what to do with a whole chicken when it was too hot to turn on the oven. At the time I was craving this recipe for Zingerman's One-Pot Chicken but I have been forced to bide my time. Of course in Minnesota it always gets colder than you expect it will, sooner than you want it to and the upside is I finally got to make this recipe. And it is not the chicken I was so excited about it... it was the bread. The breeeeaaaaaaaad. Good grief but the bread part of this dish is amazing.

This is more of an autumn/winter recipe but it was fifty degrees here on Saturday so I went with it.

Zingerman's One Pot Roasted Chicken

whole fryer chicken, about 3 lbs, backbone removed

1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 large onions, halved and sliced into half-moons
2 c celery, sliced

zest from one lemon
1 1/2 t salt
1 t garlic, minced
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t red pepper flakes

1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

most of one French baguette, sliced 3/4" thick
juice from one lemon


Preheat oven to 375°. Butterfly chicken (ask the guy behind the meat counter to do this for you or it is east to do yourself: just cut along both sides of the backbone with a pair of kitchen shears .) Rub both sides of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and black pepper. Set aside. 

In a cast-iron skillet, heat olive oil until hot and then add the celery and onion. Saute about ten minutes. Stir in lemon zest, salt, garlic, pepper, thyme and red pepper flakes and cook another five minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add parsley.

Place bread in a single, tight layer in the now empty skillet. Spread onion/celery mixture on top of the bread. Put butterflied chicken on top and pour lemon juice over it. Roast for 60-90 minutes until thigh registers 160°.  

Notes: I originally got the link from alittle Julie and I am in her debt. It's a great combination of flavors and textures. I have had to play around with the red pepper amounts. Sometimes it has been overwhelmingly spicy and sometimes a little bland. Just so you know.

Do you have a favorite one-pot recipe?