Your Thanksgiving leftovers

This year’s Thanksgiving feast could only have been more low key if we’d gone the TV dinner route. My mother-in-law wasn’t able to visit, so I planned to simply roast a chicken and serve a few veggies for the two of us, but ended up doing even less than that when our neighbors invited us to share dinner with them. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve lived here for four years as of this weekend (which reminds me, this blog just turned three!) and haven’t managed to get to know them yet. I blame Gil for not introducing me around when I moved.

Not wanting to go empty-handed, I pulled out the bag of almost-overripe persimmons I’d been storing for a couple of weeks and got to work on an upside-down cake that sounded like a perfect ending to a Thanksgiving meal — with two sticks of butter, it was possibly the most indulgent cake I’ve ever made.

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I did a quick google search when the idea for the cake hit me (my standard approach, since very few ideas are truly new), and found only a couple of recipes. Joanne Weir‘s parmesan flan has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past two years, so I opted for her version of the cake and came away very, very happy indeed.

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Her secret for keeping things light and airy in such a rich cake? Whipping the egg whites, then folding them into the rest of the batter. Even so, the cake was much more soufflé-like in the pan than I expected:

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Anyway, we had a wonderful time with the Edwards family and I feel like I finally have friends in the neighborhood, which is no small thing. They’re a creative family, into drawing, painting, photography, music, fashion…so you can imagine how much I enjoyed myself. Oh, AND I finally got a house tour with details of the major renovation they did last year! So we have lots of inspiration for our own house project, whenever we start.

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The next day, I roasted the Zuni chicken (with bittersweet pimenton added to the salt & pepper rub) originally intended for Thanksgiving and made a bread-based dressing with roasted acorn squash on the side. Nothing terribly exciting, but repurposed as breakfast this morning, I fell in love:

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I pan-fried some of the leftover dressing, served it atop a thin drizzle of gravy and topped it with a fried egg. “X + egg = heaven” is undefined for Gil, so I waited till he was running an errand to work it up. (How anyone can snub a runny egg yolk over just about anything is beyond me, but hey, in sickness & in [mental] health, etc…)

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For Saturday’s dinner, there wasn’t a hint of Thanksgiving left over in the leftovers, though I forced myself to use the contents of my fridge and pantry in a stab at eating down the house. We ended up with a North African-inspired couscous dish that took maybe 30 minutes to make, but had a great depth of flavor mainly because it relied so heavily on leftovers.

To start, I made a quick harissa paste and set it aside for the flavors to develop while I worked on the rest of the meal. I hit the freezer for a package of caramelized onions, which I browned in some olive oil, then added two thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and reinforced the warm spices from the harissa — ground cumin, caraway seeds and ground coriander — in the sizzling oil. When the spices were fragrant, I added a package of Israeli couscous, bite-sized pieces of dark chicken, chopped roasted acorn squash, leftover chicken stock and two tablespoons of harissa paste. Only 15 minutes later, we were sitting down to a meal I wouldn’t even mind making from scratch someday.

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I hope you add had a filling and fun-filled Thanksgiving. Now I need to figure out a way to work from home, because the last four days spent with all of my boys has been too good to miss again for 13 hours a day or more.

recipes and sweet doggy pictures after the jump

Continue reading “Your Thanksgiving leftovers”

Redo weekend

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Sometimes it’s a good idea to revisit old favorites. I’ve been really blah with overtones of meh lately about pretty much everything including preparing meals. Like Milli Vanilli, I’ll blame it on the rain, but that doesn’t make the prospect of cooking any more exciting. So what’s a girl to do when her hair is permanently frizzy, she hasn’t seen the sun in days and can’t be bothered to update her cooking blog? Declare a Redo Weekend!

The day started with an update to the cornmeal blueberry pancakes I first tried last summer. With so many gorgeous berries at the market right now, it seemed a shame to limit the pancakes to blueberries, so I halved the batch and did a strawberry version as well. Couldn’t decide which I liked more, so I just alternated them on the plate and doused the stack with maple syrup.

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Cut to two hours later.

After waking from my sugar coma, I got to work on another old favorite: tongue tacos and refried beans. Mmmmm-hmmmm. I’d picked up a three-pound behemoth at the Snoep Winkle Farm booth a week earlier and it had been weighing heavily on my mind. I tweaked the old recipe pretty heavily, doubling the beer in the braising liquid and adding hefty amounts of toasted cumin and coriander seeds.

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After braising, I set the tongue aside to cool. Then came the peeling, which didn’t skeeve me out nearly as much this time around.

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It still wasn’t pleasant, mind you, but my toes didn’t curl at all. PROGRESS!

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While my hands were still covered in tongue juices (am I not the most enchanting creature ever?), I shredded the meat before cooking it down a second time with onions, additional spices and even more beer.

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The tongue tasted heavily of beef as you’d expect, but turned silky and tender in a way no other cut can. We had the tacos with and without salsa because, again, it was too hard to decide which way was better.

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No picture of the refried beans because I’m just not that good of a photographer, but they were creamy and delicious. I used borlotti beans (an odd choice, I’ll admit) from Rancho Gordo cooked in the usual way — onions, garlic, cumin, beer, beef broth, salt & pepper — until they were soft, then fried them with some bacon fat and onion, mashing them down as they simmered. It might be too soon for another Redo Weekend, but I’m really tempted to do this again for the 4th.

Inspiration has been peeking around the corners for me this week, so I hope to have something new for you soon. But in the meantime, enjoy the weekend and try a redo if you need to.

A short tale of two breakfasts

Breakfast is a subject I take seriously. Most mornings I start the day with some sort of heart-healthy cereal because let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger. But on weekends, that sensible thing flies right out the window, especially when I’m waking up to a frosty morning.

And nothing says weekend breakfast like eggs — they’re so delicious and versatile. Saturday morning, the last of our farmers’ market eggs provided the base for a refrigerator frittata — we had leeks, potatoes and a big bag of spinach hanging around, so into the pan they went along with some pecorino romano and good, fruity olive oil. Just the thing to get us going.

Our Sunday ritual continued with taking Rufus to the 9am (!) greyhound hike at Wawayanda State Park, so I decided to make another big breakfast to keep the chill out of my bones on the long trek. One of my favorite things about eggs is that you can poach one and add it to just about any leftover, and presto –  instant brunch! So that’s how I polished off the last of my leftover aloo gobi experiment from a few nights earlier. So good, and it really kept me going on the long hike. I’m not saying this breakfast was the reason I felt energetic all day, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

Another bread pudding recipe

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I know, I know, broken record — but it’s that time of year again, isn’t it? The farmers’ market had loads of beautiful organic apples, so I consulted with the seller and bought a few opalescents. Isn’t that a great name, by the way? It seemed impossible to go wrong making brunch with them, like the whole affair would be graced by their jewelled name.

So I started with my basic bread pudding recipe and changed the blueberry filling (everything from blueberries down in the ingredient list), adding caramelized apples instead. I peeled, cored, and sliced three small opalescents, sautéed them in a couple tablespoons of butter, then added about a tablespoon of brown sugar (they were the tiniest bit tart), a few heavy sprinkles of cinnamon, and a whisper of mace. Once the apples started to brown and caramelize in the pan, I added them to the bread mixture, then set it to bake. About 45 minutes later, I opened the oven to find an airily puffed and browned bread pudding that seemed more like a virtuous apple pie than anything else.

This’ll be my go-to recipe for the fall into winter, I think. Gil and I agreed that the blueberries I favor in summer can sometimes be a little overwhelming, but the apples were a perfect marriage with the rest of the pudding. I won’t be kicking the bananas foster version to the curb anytime soon, but this one was more brunch, less dessert — perfect for a girl lacking a sweet tooth.

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It isn’t always about bread pudding

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With lots of time to cook on weekends, I like to skip the healthy yogurt of my weekday mornings and indulge a little. During summer, my go-to brunch moves from bread pudding to more seasonal fare — roasted tomatoes and asparagus with soft scrambled eggs. No one respects the egg more than a French chef, so I pulled my old, battered copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking from the bookshelf to make sure I’d get them right. Ordinarily, I’d just get to cooking without consulting a cookbook, but if you’ve ever had French-style scrambled eggs, you know how important it is to cook them just so — the end result should be soft, creamy, curds custardy in texture and positively rich with butter.

Turns out, it’s really quite a simple recipe. You start with a cold pan and cook over very low heat while stirring constantly, which is basically the exact opposite of how I usually make scrambled eggs. But the extra effort is definitely worth it.

As Julia would say, “Bon appetit!”

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “It isn’t always about bread pudding”

A heavenly brunch

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Sunday brunch has long been my favorite meal of the week. It’s a huge deal in New Orleans, and I’d always indulge whenever I found myself there after a long night of doing what college kids do on Saturday night. (No, never Bourbon Street — we had some standards.) Once I moved to the working world after grad school, my cravings went unsatisfied; I was the hardest-working woman in St. Louis on Sundays, you see. After my gig as minister of music at a local church, I went straight to my day job for a double shift of putting the catalog to bed for the week. Saturday brunches just weren’t the same, somehow, so I sucked it up until I moved to NY and got to enjoy the boozy brunches offered all over the city.

Sadly, there aren’t any places in Ringwood for a proper brunch, so I’m left to my own devices when the mood strikes. And strike it did this very morning. So, inspired by a Mario Batali recipe, I decided to make use of lovely hen of the woods mushrooms from Trader Joe’s and tomatoes from my friend Mew’s garden (lucky duck, her yard gets plenty of sunshine and no deer at all).

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I didn’t want the typical scrambled/fried/poached egg and bacon axis — though a side of bacon was a no-brainer — and remembered a baked egg recipe from Orangette I’d been meaning to try. (Btw, she’s getting married today — let’s all send good thoughts her way!) Apart from my ramekins being too small (which later spelled disaster), it seemed like an easy enough recipe to attempt in my morning-addled state.

I washed the mixing bowl thoroughly to remove any speck of grease and set the whites to whipping. As the stand mixer was doing its thing, I grated the cheese and greased the ramekins. It all went smoothly, though I made a couple of extras just in case my previous bad luck with meringues/soufflés continued.

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While a couple of yolks went Frank Lee Morris on me, the other two remained where they should’ve and put a fine spin on the typical eggy brunch dish. The yolks were blanketed with creme fraiche and nestled into delicate clouds of cheese with the faintest crunch on the edges. Yummmmmm…

Despite the rich cream, this was the most ephemeral of brunch dishes and one I’ll definitely try again, only next time with larger ramekins.

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “A heavenly brunch”

I believe there will be a banner that says, “Welcome, Amy!”

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Those of you who check out this site from time to time may know of my obsession with bread pudding. It’s all I can do NOT to make one every weekend with whatever variants of bread and fruit we have lying around, but I’ve been health-conscious of late. I don’t think we’ve indulged since before Passover, which is far too long for someone like me.

So when I read about Broadway Panhandler‘s Bread Pudding Recipe Exchange Week Taste Off this morning at the always-informative Megnut, I could barely contain my excitement. Meet me there Wednesday? It’ll be amazing. I always imagined myself as more of a BBQ judge, but only because I didn’t know bread pudding competitions existed.

Check out the recipes link in the right column for a few of my favorite bread pudding recipes.

Update: Attend the Taste Off at your own risk. (via The Agitator)