Monday, February 1, 2010

What's better than Breakfast?

Question: What's better than Breakfast? 
Answer: Breakfast for dinner.

My wife and I were having the very familiar "What's for Dinner?" conversation, and going round-and-round in circles.  Should I make pasta again?  How about polenta?  Do we have any ground beef?  I don't feel like eating that.  We just had that last week...etc.  All the while Oprah was playing in the background and Alicia Silverstone was talking about how great it is to be a vegan and how meat is evil and veggies will let you live to be one-hundred years old.  She started talking about egg alternatives; tofu/soy eggs or something like that.  That's when my wife and I both got a craving for eggs.  So into the kitchen I went to create a breakfast feast.  I took some bacon out of the freezer, and following a tip from America's Test Kitchen, I laid it on a baking sheet, stuck it in a COLD oven, and cranked the heat to 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  In the meantime I made Mickey shaped pancakes and fluffy scrambled eggs.  I put up a pot of coffee and by the time the coffee was finished brewing the bacon was crisp and the house smelled like a roasted pig.  This was a perfect dinner.
Alicia Silverstone's head would explode!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


There are few breakfast items I enjoy more than blintzes.  I remember these were a big treat when I was a kid.  I would order them every time I got near a Jewish Diner.  I vaguely recall the blintzes at the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan.  More recently I got my blintz fix at Dairy King (next to Deli King in Lake Success), but alas, I haven’t gone there in years and I think it is now closed.  So, I had to make blintzes on my own.  A little research dug up the fact that blintzes are nothing more than cheese crêpes.  I’ve made crêpes before so this should be easy.

My wife does not enjoy traditional blintzes.  She finds the texture to be less than desirable.  I think she disapproves of Farmer’s Cheese, the traditional filling, so I made a substitution of ricotta cheese.  The end result is a somewhat creamier filling, but also a tad more runny.  It’s still delicious, and it won’t stop me from making them over and over.

First step is making the crêpe batter.  This can be done the evening before and allowed to sit overnight; it makes for a more tender crêpe.

Dump the batter ingredients in a blender and mix well.  Make sure to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides.

Put the batter in a cup overnight.  You could let it sit for an hour, but I prefer this because it’s easier in the morning.  The next day just give it a quick stir and you’re ready to go.

All great foods start with butter.

Spoon about a 1/4 cup of batter and swirl it around until the pan is coated.  When the edges are golden and the center looks “dry” you are ready to flip.  The bottom should look lacy and browned.

About 30-45 seconds on the other side should be long enough.  You just want to brown both sides.  Repeat until all batter is gone and you have a stack of crêpes.

On a side note, one day I’m going to make a Crêpe Cake (also called Mille Crêpe even though it doesn’t use 1,000 crêpes but only 20).

(See the 2005 NY Times article The Way We Eat: Building a Modern, Multistoried Dessert By AMANDA HESSER for more details on the Mille Crêpe.)

Back to blintzes!!!

Ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sugar.  Any questions?

You can add an egg or yolk if you want a richer (and firmer) filling, but I opted out.  Also I added vanilla.  I like the way my blintzes turned out and I’m not changing now.

Mix these together until smooth.

Put a dollop in the center and make a envelope.  (Hint: Think burrito)

An army of blintzes.  Ready to be refried!

(You didn’t put the butter away yet, did you?)

Heat them on medium heat with a bit of butter.  The crêpes should get hard and crispy.  Carefully turn them until they are crispy all the way around.  The filling should be very hot at this point.

Serve with more sugar and a dollop of sour cream.

(Putting two on a plate makes it seem like I care about serving size, but truthfully, there are never leftovers.)

Have a great breakfast!

Basic Crepe Recipe
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Measure all ingredients in to blender jar; blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Blend for 15 seconds more. Cover and let sit for 1 hour. (This helps the flour absorb more of the liquids.) Makes 12-14 crepes.

Blintz Cheese Filling
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese
1 egg (optional)
3 tbsp powdered sugar (use granulated if it's all you have, but then let it sit for a while to let the sugar dissolve.)

Make the Crêpes
Pour 1/4 cup batter into a hot buttered 8” pan.  Swirl the pan to coat.  When the edges are brown and the center looks “dry”, flip the crêpe and cook for another 30-45 seconds.  Repeat until all the batter is used.

Make the Blintzes
Put about a tablespoon of filling on the crêpe and make a burrito.  Repeat until all the crêpes or all the filling is gone.  Then fry the blintzes in a pan with a bit of butter until the outside is crispy and the center is hot.  Serve with granulated sugar, sour cream or fruit preserves.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Poached Eggs

This morning I wanted eggs.  One of the nurses I work with was talking about poached eggs on my last shift, so I decided poached was the way to go.  The process is actually pretty easy.

In a small skillet or saucepan boil some water, salt and vinegar.

As soon as it boils take the pan off the heat.

Immediately, and gently, ease an egg or two into the hot water.

Slap a cover on the pan and wait peeking!

Time out 3 minutes for runny eggs, 4 minutes for medium firm, and 4 1/2 for a firm yolk.  (I like mine runny.)

Here they are...

Fish them out with a slotted spoon.  (You may need to separate them if the stick together.)

Let them drain well that way your toast won't get soggy.

Salt and pepper them and enjoy with toast to dunk.


Poached Eggs
Table Salt
2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
2 large eggs (each cracked into a separate cup)
Ground black pepper
1.  Fill a skillet or saucepan with water (near the rim for a skillet, about 2 inches for a saucepan)  Add a teaspoon of salt and the vinegar and bring it to a boil. 
2.  Remove from heat and quickly lower the lip of each egg cup into the water and tip the eggs in.  Cover and wait.
3.  With a slotted spoon, carefully lift each egg out of the water and drain.  Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pasta Dough

Pasta dough is one of those things that seems harder than it really is.  All you need is a pasta machine and in no time you'll be enjoying wonderful fresh pastas.  I made a cheese lasagna on Christmas.  Lasagna noodles are the easiest because once you roll them, they are pretty much done.  Let’s get rolling!

Start with flour (I use unbleached all-purpose), eggs, salt and water.  That's all that's in pasta.  You can use a stand mixer, but it is not necessary.  I actually prefer getting my hands dirty with this – it feels very old school.

 This was a double batch so I used 8 eggs.  Make sure there are no shells…

…and whisk them in a bowl (or measuring cup).  This makes them easier to incorporate into the dough.

Combine your flour and salt. Create a well in the middle of the bowl.  This is for the eggs to sit in.  Pour your eggs into the well and mix them with a fork, slowly pulling more flour into the middle.

Does it look like this yet?  Great.   Keep mixing.

When it gets stiff it's time to start kneading with your hands.  If it seems the mixture is too dry add water one teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.  What is the desired consistency?  You may need some trial and error to figure it out.  It should be a solid feeling dough but not too sticky.

Eventually you will need to dump the dough on a cutting board to knead even more.  You should knead for 10 minutes or until your arms fall off.

Finished!  Now the dough (and you) need to rest for at least an hour.  This helps the gluten relax and creates a more silky pasta, not to mention it makes it easier to roll out.

This is my go-to pasta machine.  It was my wife's grandmother's machine.  I have two other new machines, but they don't work as well.  This machine also has built in fettuccine and spaghetti cutters.

To roll, start on the thickest setting.  Grab a ball of dough and flatten it.  Run it through the machine.  Fold it in half.  Run it though the machine.  Keep folding and rolling about seven to ten times.  This also helps the gluten relax.  Then, turn the dial one number at a time and run the dough through.  If it sticks your dough is too wet.  Flour it.  Eventually the dough will be very thin and very long.  If you need to cut it in half to make it more manageable, that’s ok.  Hang the rolled dough to dry for about a half hour.  (If you are making cut pasta let dry, for an hour, on a rack or coil it in “nests” for easy storage.  Then freeze it in a zip lock.)

Keep rolling until all your dough is gone.  Here is the finished pasta.  If you don’t have a drying rack, you can use a clean dish rack or let them dry on a floured dishrag.
There is no need to boil this pasta for lasagna.  (If making cut pasta, boil time is 3-4 minutes – much less than dried.)
Pics of my Christmas lasagna to follow shortly…

Happy pasta making!!!

Pasta Dough

Makes: About 1 pound   Active Time: 40 Minutes   
Start to Finish: 1 ½ hours

3 cups unbleached flour
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in stand mixer until it forms a ball.  (Or follow the above “manual” directions.)  Add water drop by drop if dough is too dry (crumbly) or flour it the dough is too wet.  The dough should be firm but not sticky.  Process for 15 more seconds to knead.  Transfer to a floured surface and cover with an inverted bowl for an hour.  (This makes the gluten relax and rolling easier.)
The dough can be made 4 hours ahead and refrigerated, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
Hand roll or use a pasta machine to shape.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mexican Pizza and Breadsticks

Back on my second post I made pizza. Tonight was a great night to use up some leftovers. I made a batch of pizza dough and topped it with the Mexican from the day before. My Mexican Feast consisted of spiced beef, Spanish rice, cheddar cheese and onions that were sautéed until they were a sweet brown chutney. This I piled onto the pizza dough with a "sauce" made of enchilada sauce, thickened with cornstarch. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes and then broil till brown and bubbly. I didn't have sour cream but it was still good.

What did I do with the second half of the pizza dough? I’m glad you asked. Press it flat, (but not as flat as the pizza pie), cut it into strips and roll each strip in Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with garlic powder. Let it rise for another 10-15 minutes before baking and then, into the 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Yum! Dip into tomato sauce or you favorite salad dressing. My wife prefers Creamy Caesar.