Sunday, October 28, 2018

Savory French Toast from Home Made Christmas #AbramsDinnerParty

Whoop, whoop, another fun (and free) book for my participation in the Abrams Dinner Party.

This time the book is Home Made Christmas by Yvette van Boven. When I saw the title, I thought it might be about making Christmas food gifts.

Nope, this is about food you might serve during the holidays.

There are plenty of dinner ideas, along with sides and desserts, but I got stuck on the idea of making the savory French toast. I mean, I like plain French toast, and I generally don't make it super-sweet (although I do love it with maple syrup) but this sent the savory meter all the way over to the no-way-is-this-sweet side.

The recipe includes mustard, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and cheese. So, if you happen to like savory breakfasts, you'd like it. But I had it for lunch. Because it seemed to make sense.

The best thing about this recipe is that it opens the door for all kinds of savory variations. I mean, I wouldn't make it with anchovies, but you could change the cheese, add more heat, or add some herbs and spices. It's not completely unlimited, because the ingredients would have to be able to either soak into the bread or stick to the outside. But it could be fun to fiddle with.

This called for a salad of fresh herbs on the side, but I skipped that and just had the French toast. And while this is meant to be savory, I can see how a tart jelly or jam could work with this. Probably not maple syrup, but something fruity. Maybe even cranberry sauce, hmmmm?

I also didn't cut the bread into shapes with a cookie cutter. Cutting the bread into triangles after cooking was as fancy as I wanted to be. But yeah, for a holiday breakfast, they'd be fun cut into shapes.

Wentelteefjes, or Savory French Toast (the Dutch version)
Adapted from Home Made Christmas by Yvette van Boven

4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon mustard
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A few drops of Tabasco sauce
6-8 slices of good-quality white bread
Butter, for frying

Whisk the eggs, milk, cream, and mustard until foamy, then stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper, a little Tabasco, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. (You can do this the night before, if you want to save a little time, and save yourself from early morning measuring.)

Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl.

Place two slices of bread in the bowl - or really, as many as you can fit at one time, whether it's one or 4 - and let the bread soak for a minute or two.

Heat a nonstick frying pan on medium heat, with a small pat of butter. Cook the bread slices for about 2 minutes per side, until they're golden brown. Let them drain on paper towels as you continue cooking the rest of the sliced.

Sprinkle with a little extra cheese and serve with a green herb salad.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Kentucky Butter Cake

When I got the book Cake!, my first instinct was to make one of the coffee cakes. I absolutely adore all kinds of coffee cakes, and they're usually not too sweet, so they're great to have with coffee in the morning. They're also nice for dessert. They're like, all-purpose cakes.

Pecan Pie Coffee Cake sounded particularly appealing. I love nutty coffee cakes a lot.

But then I saw the Kentucky Butter Cake in the Bundt Cake and Pound Cakes section.

That sounded good because I have a bazillion Bundt cake pans, and I love pound cake.

But, alas, pound cake has been my white whale ever since I moved to high altitude. The first one I tried to make here boiled out of the pan. After I got over that trauma - like, several years later - I tried other recipes. While they mostly were fine cakes, they weren't as dense as I wanted them to be. They were more like sponge cakes than pound cake.

Bah, humbug.

As I eyed the Kentucky Butter Cake recipe, I saw that it was pretty similar to pound cakes I'd made in the past, with one very interesting difference. Instead of beating the butter and sugar together, and instead of beating egg whites or yolks to add air, this recipe called for chucking everything into a bowl together.

Wow. I love a recipe that's not fussy.

So I decided to give it a try.

Oh, and the other great thing about this recipe is that all the ingredients were in even numbers. It's not that I have some kind of mystical affinity for even numbers. However, it made the recipe easy to cut in half. As much as I like cake, I didn't want a whole pound cake for myself. So, I cut the recipe neatly in half and I baked it in a loaf pan. And it worked perfectly.

And it was almost a perfect pound cake, the way it lives in my memory. It was a little paler in color and not as yellow as some I've made, but that's not a big deal. And the texture wasn't perfect. There were a couple of larger air bubble holes here and there. Not enough to ruin the texture, and certainly no a flaw in the recipe. But if this is the only issue that high altitude caused, I'm giving this one a high five.

I didn't make the glaze since I was happy with the sweetness of the cake without it, but for a party or special occasion where this is being served as dessert, the glaze would certainly add something extra to the cake.

While I cut the recipe in half, here's the original. Get yer decorative Bundt pan ready.

Kentucky Butter Cake
Adapted from Cake! by Addie Gundry

For the Cake
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for the pan
2 cups granulated sugar
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the Glaze
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
Caramel sauce, warm, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan (I always use the baking spray that has flour in it).

Beat the flour, sugar, butter, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder and baking soda with your stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or with a hand mixer. Start on low for about a minute, then increase to medium, until it's smooth.

Pour the batter into your pan and bake for 65-75 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

When the cake is done, start the glaze. Place the granulated sugar, butter, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.

While the cake is still warm in the pan, poke it multiple times with a wooden skewer, then pour the glaze over the cake.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan, then invert it onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with caramel sauce before serving.

Did I mention that I got this book for free? Yeah, I think I did. But I'm saying it again. Free to me. It's great to be me.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Juk (aka Congee) #AbramsDinnerParty

When I got the book Korean Home Cooking from Abrams books (free, because I'm participating in the Abrams Dinner Party) I was really curious. What's Korean home cooking like?

If that sounds weird, think about cookbooks you own that focus on cuisines you know well. Think about what you cook at home or what your mom made when you were a kid. There are some cookbooks that feature home cooking - those recipes you'd find at anyone's house - and then there are recipes that would only show up for holidays, or that are normally found on restaurant menus.

My mom made a few things that I thought were traditional foods, until I got older and realized that I never saw them at anyone's house, and I never saw them in restaurants. They were homey and comforting and really good, like her tomato soup or her cabbage and tomato stew.

So, anyway, I was looking forward to seeing what I'd find here. I was totally surprised to find a breaded chicken breast that would have been totally familiar to most people. It looked good, but I decided to make what is actually a very common Korean dish - juk, also known as congee. This is the kind of dish you'd make if someone wasn't feeling well, either physically or emotionally. Basically, it's a rice porridge.

If you never had congee, think of it as something like risotto, but cooked even more than that, so the rice is even softer and breaks down a little more. Totally yum.

Juk (Congee)
Adapted from Korean Home Cooking by Sohui Kim

2 cups short grain rice (sushi rice is recommended. I think Arborio would work, too)
5-6 cups anchovy stock or water (I used chicken stock)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 thick slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions for garnish
2-4 soy marinated eggs, poached eggs, or soft boiled eggs (optional)

Okay, I have to make a confession here. I cheated. I tossed all the congee ingredients into my rice cooker and pressed the "porridge" button and sat back and waiting until it was done. Yeah, sometimes I'm lazy, but I also know that rice cookers are ubiquitous in Korean kitchens, so I don't feel too guilty.

Here's how, if you don't have a rice cooker"

Put the rice, 5 cups of water/stock, salt, pepper, ginger, and soy sauce in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 35 minutes.

Uncover the pot, discard the ginger, and add 1 more cup of stock. Let it cook for another 10 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and the rice is soft and tender.

Serve in bowls. Sprinkle with the scallions and drizzle on more soy sauce. Add the cooked egg to each bowl, if desired.

I actually opted for TWO eggs in my bowl the second time I made this, and skipped the scallions.

Just in case you missed it, I'm getting books for free from Abrams Books, just so I can tell you all about 'em.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Green Olive Dressing #AbramsDinnerParty

Once again, I'm working with Abrams Books to tell you about their cookbooks. I had a blast doing this last year (and I collected a lot of cookbooks!) so I was more than happy to sign on again.

One of the first books I got was Matty Matheson, A Cookbook. The author, in case you hadn't guessed, was Matty Matheson.

The book follows his culinary life, with the first recipes being family favorites, moving on through culinary school, and then finally through his restaurant years.

I settled on one of the family recipes, and this one is from the section about his inlaws. As much as I love eating at restaurants, and I like making complicated recipes when I'm in that mood, I'm always curious about recipes that have been passed down through families, particularly when they're nothing like the things I remember from my own family.

I know, salad dressings seem pretty simple, but I'll bet this one is quite different from ones you've made before. And I'm a sucker for salad dressings. If I pick up a cookbook at it has a recipe for salad dressing that looks interesting, it's a pretty sure bet I'll give it a try.

This was tasty and well-balanced. While it's meant as a salad dressing, I think it would be lovely on top of fish, as well.

I made one little "oops" with this dressing. The instructions say that you shouldn't let it emulsify. It's supposed to be chunks of olives and stuff floating in a vinegar and oil dressing.

I don't know if the issue was me being heavy-handed with the blender, or if my blender was just too overpowered to not emulsify this, but it started emulsifying pretty quickly, and then I just said the heck with it and blended it until it was almost smooth.

I can see how chunky bits of olive would be appealing, but I thought it was fine as its smoother version, too. This made just about a pint of dressing, so it's plenty for a party and it ought to keep well in the refrigerator for at least a few days.

Green Olive Dressing
Adapted from Matty Matheson, A Cookbook

2 cup pitted Cerignola olives
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 green onion, chopped
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 bunch parsley, leaves chopped
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper
Salad greens, because if you're making dressing, you'd better make a dressing.

Put the olives, garlic, green onion, lemon zest and juice and olive oil into a blender. Pulse several times until it becomes frothy and lumpy, like a tapenade. Keep pulsing, but don't blend, since you don't want it to emulsify.

Pour this into a bowl and add the shallot, parsley, vinegar and canola oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Just to make sure you know, I'll be getting all these books for free.