Friday, February 28, 2014

Orange Brunch Strata with Cranberries and Walnuts

This tasty brunch dish for 12 is very easy to make. It is the pièce de résistance of all the brunch dishes I’ve printed this week. This recipe contains almost every ingredient as those that appeared earlier this week, and also uses almost exactly the same method as yesterday’s recipe for Overnight Caramel French Toast.

A “strata” is a layered dish that is often served for brunch. With eggs, bread, and cheese in it, it may also contain layered meat and vegetables. 
As in a quiche, some stratas mix everything together (Real men do eat quiche! If you’re under 40, the reference may be lost on you. There, there, possum … you’ll be old soon enough).

You’ll find another excellent strata indexed in this blog under Brunch: Strata (Ham, Cheese and Spinach). It contains the same combination of bread, cheese, and eggs, with the extra muscle of meat and spinach. Today’s is a sweet, less robust strata thats sure to please almost everyone (see Note). 

Orange Brunch Strata with Cranberries and Walnuts:

12 oz. (375 g) cream cheese, softened

1-½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
9 eggs
3 c. light cream (10-to-12% fat content)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12-to-13 slices fluffy white bread (not a baguette or artisan bread)
1 c. dried, sweetened cranberries or “craisins,” divided
½ c. chopped walnuts
1 c. orange marmalade
¼ c. orange juice

The night before … Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and zest. Add one egg at a time, beating between additions. Add cream, sugar, and vanilla. Batter will be lumpy, but do your best. Spray-grease a 9x13x2-in. (23x33x5 cm) glass baking dish. Place 6 bread slices close together, trimming thinner bits at the edges for a tight fit. Pour 1 c. egg mixture over bread. Sprinkle with ½ c. cranberries. Top with remaining bread, as before. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Loosely cover strata with cello wrap, pressing palm lightly onto bread so that both bread layers absorb milk mixture. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

In the morning … Remove plastic and bring strata to room temperature before baking. Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Sprinkle strata with walnuts and remaining cranberries, lightly pressing them into top layer of bread. Bake 35-to-40 nin., or until strata is puffed, firm at the center, and golden. In small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm marmalade and ¼ c. orange juice. Transfer strata from oven to wire rack, cooling 5-to-10 min. Serve hot, with orange sauce on the side. Yields 12 portions.

Note: Be sure to ask your guests about any food sensitivities they may have. It seems a quarter of the world is on a gluten-free diet, a quarter is lactose-intolerant, a quarter can’t eat nuts and seeds, and the rest can’t have sugar. That’s when you turn to gluten-free bread, almond or soy milk, and a natural sugar substitute such as sweetleaf stevia, which tolerates heat and can be baked in recipes.  You may have to ask guests on a complex diet to bring a brunch selection they can tolerate and enjoy. So ask about food sensitivities before you plan your menu, The last thing you want to hear is: “This is a great party! By the way, I’m a vegan.

Tomorrow: This one’s pretty special! Herbed Butter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Overnight Caramel French Toast

If you love caramel, you’ll find this recipe delicious. If you aren’t a caramel fan, you will be by the time you’ve licked all 10 fingers after trying this dish. As with my Stuffed French Toast with Orange-Pecan Filling, this recipe requires a thick - not thin - French baguette. The well-soaked bread should remain in the refrigerator overnight. Pop it into the oven about an hour before you expect to seat your guests for brunch.  

Overnight Caramel French Toast:

1-½ c. brown sugar (see Note)
¾ c. butter or margarine
 c. golden corn syrup
8-to-10 slices French bread sliced 1-½ in. (4 cm) thick
4 eggs
2-½ c. whole milk 
1 tbsp. vanilla
Dash salt
Dash nutmeg
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

The night before …

In a medium saucepan with a heavy base, stir together brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat for 5 min. or until mixture begins to bubble, stirring constantly. Pour hot syrup evenly into 9x13x2-in. (23x33x5 cm) glass baking dish. Lay bread slices close together in syrup. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. Pour over bread slices. Cover and refrigerate 8 hr. or overnight. 

In the morning …

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over bread using a shaker or sieve. Bake 45-to-50 min or until mixture is puffed and set at the center. Serve at once.

Note: If you’re a novice cook whose recipes don’t always work out, see my indexed post titled How to Measure Ingredients Accurately. In it (among other things), you’ll learn that brown sugar should always be packed into your measuring cup or spoon. And take heart! Everyone has cooking failures now and then.

Tip: To avoid the last-minute hassle of getting everyone to the table (invariably at the very moment Uncle Morrie decides to familiarize himself with the bathroom), head for the table early (Are you in there, Morrie?). That way, you can linger over champagne cocktails and coffee, serving this dish a few minutes later (We thought youd died, Morrie!) just the way it’s meant to be served - hot, puffed, and golden (We were ready to break the door down!). Nuff said, Dollinks.

Tomorrow: Orange Brunch Strata with Cranberries and Walnuts.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Super Simple Batter-Dipped French Toast

Vinnie Corleone, son of Michael: “Yo! Why don’ your people an’ my people set up a meetin’ so we can talk turkey? No dead horses in the bed, no nuthin’! Capiche?” 

Nicole: “Instead of turkey, why don’t I serve you my Super Simple Batter-Dipped French Toast for brunch?” 

Vinnie: “Yeah? … Yer okay fer an ol
 broad! So that means I’m stayin’ over?”

Nicole: “I’d rather have a dead horse in my bed.” 

Vinnie: “Whaddya say?”

Nicole: “I’d rather have a main course, instead.”

Vinnie: “But I’m still on fer the Super Simple Batter-Dipped French Toast, right?”

Nicole: “Not if I kill you, first.”

Vinnie: “Whaddya say?”

Nicole: “Not if I thrill you, first.”

Vinnie (to himself): “I knew the broad wuz nuts about me ...”

*   *   *

Everyone loves brunch - even mobsters! (Frankie’s just dived to the bottom of his bowl. He thought I said lobsters.) Make this for the bad boys (or bad girls) in your life, and they’ll eat right out of your hand! But give them a plate, anyway.

Super Simple Batter-Dipped French Toast:

1 c. pancake mix
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 c. milk
2 eggs
12 slices day-old white bread

Preheat lightly greased skillet or griddle to 350 deg. F. In a large mixing bowl, combine pancake mix, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk together milk and eggs, adding all at once to dry ingredients. Using an electric beater, beat combined ingredients until no lumps remain. Transfer batter to pie pan. Dip both sides of each bread slice into mixture, allowing excess batter to drip off. Drop battered bread onto hot griddle or skillet until golden, flipping only once. Serve hot, with butter, maple syrup, and fresh fruit on the side.

Tomorrow: Overnight Caramel French Toast. Vinnie’s not invited.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nicole’s Stuffed French Toast with Orange-Pecan Filling

If you check the dictionary definition of decadence, this is what youll find. This week we’ll be serving up three very different kinds of French Toast and an Orange-Brunch Strata with Cranberries and Walnuts. So here’s the first recipe! Brunch, anyone?

Nicole’s Stuffed French Roast with Orange-Pecan Filling:

8 slices French bread (see Note), each sliced 2-½ in. thick
4 oz. (125 g) cream cheese, softened
¼ c. chopped pecans
3 tbsp. orange marmalade or apricot jam
3 eggs
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
½ c. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
Icing sugar (“confectioners” or “powdered” sugar), as required

Preheat oven to 475 deg. F. Starting at the edge of each thick piece of bread, use a serrated knife to cut a pocket midway into the slice. Combine cream cheese, pecans, and marmalade or jam. 
Carefully open the bread pocket of each thick slice, spreading ⅛ of cream cheese mixture into it. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, zest, orange juice, and vanilla with a whisk or hand blender. Pour into pie pan and dip both sides of bread into mixture.

Brush melted butter onto 9 x13-in. (23 x 33 cm) baking pan. Transfer dipped bread slices to pan and bake 6 min. Turn over and bake a further 4 min., until golden. Dust with sifted icing sugar. Serve hot with maple syrup and (optional) bacon and sausages.

Note: Use a thick baguette, not a thin one.

Make-Ahead Note: This 
dish freezes well. Lay stuffed, dipped bread slices on parchment-lined cookie sheet in the freezer for 2 hr. Transfer to labeled, covered plastic container to continue freezing up to one month. 

Tomorrow: Super Simple Batter-Dipped French Toast.

Dinner Party Series: Brunch

Strictly speaking, brunch isn’t a Dinner Party.” I’ve nonetheless indexed it under that listing because brunch is often a chance to shmooze with overnight guests. My brunches are rarely fancy, though I do remember hosting a couple of upscale brunches to which our women guests (and I, as cook) wore evening dresses, the men wore tuxedos, and everyone drank champagne -  orange juice, optional. That was then. This is now, as they say.

Brunch is fun - no matter how simple the menu. For the far more casual weekend meal below, Ron and I served freshly squeezed orange juice, a variety of fruit, scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages, store-bought shredded hash browns, raisin toast, and plenty of coffee and tea. Easy? Definitely. Especially when Ron does the cooking.

Note the serving plate: Whether your table sits two, four, or more, a long plate (rather than several small ones) is a space-saver. Long table? Use two long plates. A very long table? Bring on the maid, multiple plates, the fine china, and the crystal, honey! Now note the table center. Keep it small, Dollinks. Your guests should be able to see one another.

If your brunch leans more to the light lunch side rather than a substantial breakfast, a simple salad makes an excellent accompaniment to the meal. You’ll find plenty of choices in this blog, indexed under Salads.

For those of you anticipating some recipes a little more challenging than the brunch in these photos, the recipe above and those over the next several days should satisfy your inner Martha. Two of these brunch recipes are made the night before, which doesn’t usually work for me (I’m off to catch my zzzzs shortly after our house guests hit the sack). The others are made in the morning, before our house guests arise. As a casual host, I normally get out of bed later than they do. Shocking? Live with it).

The blogs to come and the one immediately above offer brunch suggestions for those of you who are peppier and more gracious than I am in the morning. Pass the coffee pot, please.

This casual table setting offers cheerful  
simplicity. Note the paper napkins.

Add a little parsley - a last-minute touch!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Yukon Orange Bread

This quick tea bread has a fascinating history. Only the most fortunate of late 19th C. prospectors carried some of this delicious bread in their packs as they joined the stampede to the Yukon gold fields. Of the 100,000 who set out for the promise of riches, just 30,000 to 40,000 made it to their destination and only 4,000 struck gold. The early settlers baked this bread in wood-burning stoves as unreliable as a politician’s word. Bake it in your trusty oven and youll know you’ve struck gold!

Yukon Orange Bread:

Zest from 2 medium oranges, finely grated
⅓ c. water
1-¾ c. granulated sugar, divided
1 egg
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¾ c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. In a small covered saucepan, simmer peel in water 5 or 6 min., or until peel is softened. Stir in 1 c. of the sugar. Simmer, covered, 15 min. or until slightly thickened. Remove cover, stirring occasionally, during last 5 min. of simmering. Transfer from pot to small bowl. Cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, beat egg, gradually adding remaining ¾ c. sugar. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to egg mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mixture will be stiff. Add cooled orange-peel mixture, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. Pour into greased 8x4x3-in. (1.5 L) loaf pan. Bake 50-to-55 min., or until top is golden. Test doneness with a bamboo skewer poked at the center. Before transferring to rack, cool in pan 1 hr.

Tomorrow: Brunch. It’s not your Momma’s breakfast, anymore.

Capture the zest of two oranges. Simmer. Add sugar later.

Beat egg, slowly adding remainder of sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add dry ingredients alternately with
milk, beginning 
and ending with them.

Smooth top of batter before placing loaf in oven.

Test with a skewer. This fragrant loaf baked to perfection!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Love at First Bite: Rated PG-13

                             CENSORS WARNING: 

Romeo and Juliet … Napoleon and Josephine … Antony and Cleopatra … Kim and Kanye (maybe not Kim and Kanye) … Great pairings, all! For most, it ended badly. Time will tell for Kim and Kanye, whose love is so private and pure that it shines brighter than the 15-carat engagement ring on Kim’s fingerBut this isnt a treatise about romance. It’s a brief essay about love. 

Have you ever tried these veggie pairings? When you do, you will fall in love! 

First: Broccoli and spinach. Combine. Steam. Nutmeg - just a dash. Wow! You want I should draw you a picture?



Second: Carrots and parsnips. Combine. Steam. Butter - lots of butter. That’s all she wrote, Dollinks.


- Google Images

Tomorrow: That wonderful Yukon Orange Bread I falsely promised to print today. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

These Really Cut the Mustard!

As regular readers know, I recently learned that you can make delightful mayonnaise in a food processor or blender without having to hand-beat it. Making mayo in a machine is fun! (Check the Index for How to Make Mayonnaise) And now to making mustard! It, too, is fun, quick, and easy! The six blogs that follow below provide some excellent choices.
Tomorrow: An easy, tasty recipe well over a century old … Yukon Orange Bread.

Ron’s Mustard Sauce

This simple mustard sauce is the best Ive ever tasted! Ron serves it with hot-smoked salmon, salmon sandwiches, or ham. This recipe comes from an elderly woman who has since passed away.

Ron’s Mustard Sauce: 

¼ c. powdered mustard
¼ c. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 egg
½ c. mayonnaise

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the mustard, vinegar, sugar and egg. Cook until thickened. Cool to room temperature. Stir in mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate up to 6 weeks.

Dijon-Style Mustard

Are you a Dijon mustard fan who gasps at the price? This faux Dijon rates high!

Dijon-Style Mustard:

½ c. cold water
1 c. powdered mustard
1-⅓ c. dry white wine
1-⅓ c. white wine vinegar
1 small onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, crushed or minced fine
2 medium-sized bay leaves
8 whole allspice
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. dried leaf tarragon

Stir water into mustard powder until no lumps remain, letting stand at least 10 min. to deepen flavor. In large enamel or stainless steel saucepan, combine wine, vinegar, onion, garlic, bay leaves, allspice, salt, sugar, and tarragon. On medium heat, boil mixture until reduced by more than half, 15-to-20 min.

Pour vinegar mixture through a wire sieve into mustard paste, pressing out all juices and trapping onion and bay leaves. Cook in stainless steel double boiler (see Note) over simmering water 10-to-15 min. or until mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Mixture will continue to thicken as it cools. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Yields 1-½-to-2 c. mustard.

Note: No double boiler? Improvise by placing a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water. Cook as above. 

Fluffy Cream Mustard

Calories, wot? But delicious calories! If its an ultra-creamy mustard youre seeking, this is the one.

Fluffy Cream Mustard:

½ c. heavy cream (whipping cream)
1-to-2 tsp. prepared mustard (yellow ballpark mustard)
½ tsp. lemon juice 
Salt and pepper to taste

Whip cream, folding in combined mustard, lemon juice, and seasonings until no lumps remain. Serve as an accompaniment to meats, fish, and chicken.

Microwave Mustard Sauce

Your microwave is more than a place to reheat coffee! It’s excellent for cooking sauces (and other stuff!) like this.

Microwave Mustard Sauce:

½ c. dairy sour cream
½ c. yogurt
1 tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
1 tsp. liquid honey
6 drops hot pepper sauce
2 tbsp. finely chopped green onion
¼ c. finely chopped red pepper (“capsicum”)

In an 8-cup microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, combine sour cream, yogurt, mustard, honey, and hot pepper sauce. Microwave at medium power 2-½ min., whisking once, until mixture is hot. Whisk until smooth. Stir in green onion and chopped pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. This sauce is a great accompaniment to meats and fish.

Ethel’s Famous Mustard

Ethel’s Famous Mustard
Ethel, whoever you are and wherever you are, I’ve lost your vital stats. I scrawled your recipe on a scrap of paper at least 15 years ago - a clue that your mustard was keen. And then I tucked it away. No date! No place! No hint who you are! A country inn vaguely comes to mind, but I can’t be sure

Regardless, a tip of the hat to Ethel, whose mustard is sweet, tangy, and very, very good. The original recipe made a lot - another clue that Ethel was or is the proprietor of a country inn. I’ve cut the recipe in half for normal family use. Or don’t: You may want to make a large batch to serve in your own country inn!

Ethel’s Famous Mustard:

½ c. powdered mustard
½ c. rice wine vinegar
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. butter (no substitutes)

In small glass bowl or measuring cup, stir mustard into vinegar. Cover and set aside 2 hr. Whisk in eggs and sugar. Transfer to heavy saucepan. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat just until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat when thickened. Stir butter into hot mustard. Label and refrigerate in covered glass jars. Yields 1 c. 

Whisk beaten eggs into mustard mixture.
Whisk in sugar; cook until thickened. Add butter. Chill.

Basic Homemade Mustard

This is easy. So am I. That didnt come out quite the way it was intended ...

Basic Homemade Mustard:

2 tbsp. powdered mustard
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
⅓ c. cold water
1 tsp. granulated sugar
Salt, to taste

Combine mustard and flour, gradually adding water to make a smooth paste. Cook over medium heat, stirring until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar. Salt to taste. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pork-Filled Buns

As an excellent accompaniment to soup, salad, or Chinese food, these Chinese-style pork-filled buns are one of my old favorites. When I prepared these buns yesterday, I filled them with boned slivers of pork from the barbecued pork ribs Ron had made the day before (see Note). Thus, these buns easily qualify as a Plan-Over.

Pork-Filled Buns:

To Prepare the Buns:

2 lb. (1 kg) fresh or frozen pizza dough (see Further Note)
Canola oil, as needed
Cold water, as needed
2-to-3 tbsp. melted butter or margarine, divided

If using frozen dough, thaw 1-to-2 hr. at room temperature, just until dough is workable. Allow thawed or fresh dough to rise in a medium-sized bowl with a light brushing of canola oil of keep dough from drying out. Let rise in a warm place away from drafts (I use the top of the fridge), covering bowl loosely with waxed paper, before using in this recipe.

To Prepare the Filling:

1 tbsp. curry powder, divided

¼ tsp. cayenne
¾ tsp. sugar
6 tbsp. soy sauce, divided
1-½ tsp. finely minced fresh ginger root
3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced fine
½ lb. raw pork or leftover cooked pork (in short slivers with a width of ¼ x ¼-in. (.6 x .6 cm) to ½x½-in. (1.2 x1.2 cm)
1-½ tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
3 tbsp. cold water
1 tbsp. canola oil
½ c. onion, chopped fine

Read recipe through and have all ingredients assembled before proceeding. Combine 1-½ tsp. curry powder, cayenne, sugar, 3 tbsp. soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Add pork to soy mixture, stirring until coated. Set aside. In small bowl, combine remaining 1-½ tsp. curry powder and starch. Add water and remaining 3 tbsp. soy sauce, stirring until starch dissolves. 

If using raw pork: Heat oil in large, heavy-based skillet over high heat. Add pork mixture and cook, stir-frying constantly, until pork is lightly golden and no pink remains. Stir in onion, sautéing just until translucent, 2 or 3 min. Add starch mixture to skillet, stirring just until sauce thickens, about 30 sec. Transfer to bowl to cool. Punch down risen dough, proceeding as recipe directs.

If using cooked pork: Heat oil in large, heavy-based skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, sautéing just until translucent, 2 or 3 min. Add pork mixture just until pork is heated through. Add starch mixture to skillet, stirring just until sauce thickens, about 30 sec. Transfer to bowl to cool. Punch down risen dough, proceeding as recipe directs.

With a lightly floured knife on a lightly floured work surface, cut dough into 20 equal pieces, rolling each into a small ball. With a lightly floured pin, roll each piece into a small round about 4 in. in diameter. Place 2 heaping tsp. of filling at each round’s center, bringing edges of dough together to pinch up edges. Dab edges with a little water to hold dough together and seal in filling. 

Lay buns seam-side down 2 in. apart on parchment-lined baking sheet or in greased bun pan. Lightly cover with sheet of waxed paper. Let rise in a warm place away from drafts (I use the top of the fridge) about 20 min., until buns have increased in size. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Brush risen buns lightly with butter or margarine. Bake about 20 min. or until golden. Brush with a little more melted butter. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yields 20 buns.

Note: You’ll find Ron’s fabulous rib recipe indexed as Main Dish: Pork (Barbecued Pork Ribs/Ron’s).

Further Note: Italian bakeries often sell fresh (or frozen) pizza dough. Years ago, it was common to find bread dough in the freezer compartment of the supermarket. Trends change: Its harder - and sometimes impossible - to find that product today.

Prepare soy sauce mixture ...

Adding peeled, fresh ginger ...

And barbecued pork.

Chop onion finely.

Sauté it.

Trim those buns, baby! Cut dough 
into 20 buns while you're at it.

Center 2 tsp. filling on each round.

Using a little water, pinch edges together.

All four edges!

Loosely roll into a ball with lightly floured hands.
Bake, seam-side down, about 20 min.

A delicious bun - with a scrumptious secret inside!
Tomorrow: Six great recipes that really cut the mustard!