Archive for the ‘Breakfast, Brunch, and Lunch’ Category

In Mexico, a torta is a sandwich. In many parts of Spain, it refers to a flatbread of some kind. These are similar enough as to not add to the confusion, but then the Germans and French had to confuse things by having their very similar sounding torte and tarte as meaning cake. The Italians, then, confused us all by using torta to mean a meat and cheese pie (like a calzone perhaps) or a quiche. Ah, those crazy Europeans.

Why, you may be wondering, am I talking about torta when the recipe has nothing to do with one? That’s a good question. My inspiration for this recipe was inside Cooking Light. It really bothered that they did not choose to correctly label their recipe as a frittata and instead chose to call this a torta “without the crust”. I just believe if you are going to be a cooking reference for millions of readers, you are better off giving them the vocabulary to talk about these things as well.

I digress.

This recipe utilizes no crust, so it really should not be called a torta. It’s a frittata. This is a quick and easy idea for breakfast or brunch. I prefer to cook a frittata in a cast iron skillet, but if you don’t have one, a regular skillet will do as well.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs red bliss potatoes
  • 1 c egg substitute (Substitute: 1c fresh eggs, scrambled)
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives (Substitute: green onions)
  • salt and pepper

1. Slice the potatoes thin and put in a pot of cold water and 1 tbsp salt. Bring to a boil and then cook for an additional 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes for several minutes.

2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a 10″ skillet (cast iron preferred). When smoking hot, place the potatoes in an even layer. Cook until the potatoes brown. Flip and repeat on the other side.

Note: The second picture is a good example of when turning is done too early. Most of my potatoes never got a chance to crisp up. There is nothing wrong with this, but a crispy potato adds more texture to the dish.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and chives together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the potatoes and cover the pan with a tight lid. Turn the heat down to low.

4. Cook for 10 -15 minutes until the bottom has browned and the eggs on top have set and begun to brown

Note: I was having a really hard time with my timing on this one. I pulled the frittata off too early. This is a good example of eggs being just set, but the good eats come if you cook it past this point to crisp up the egg and provide some additional texture.

5. Serve torta hot with romesco sauce.

For me, breakfast tends to be nothing more than a bowl of cereal served along a tall glass of orange juice because I simply do not make the time for anything more elaborate. This recipe removes this excuse by preparing much of the dish the night before and cooking while I get ready in the morning. I can tell you, there is nothing better than a fresh cooked roll to brighten up your weekday morning that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Save yourself a trip to the local doughnut shop and try this recipe just once. If you have any leftovers, bring them to the office. I can guarantee that you’ll be the hero for the day.

As a side note, for those keeping track of my proper culinary vocabulary usage, do not for a second be fooled by what you see as the final product below.  This is not a real danish. Yes, I know, it looks just like what you buy from the grocery stores. The Scandinavian specialty relies on a much flakier dough (closer to a croissant) and is not nearly as sweet. What American’s know as Danish was brought over in the early 1900s as a treat for President Woodrow Wilson’s wedding. This instead is closer to a sweet roll with jelly cooked into it.

Ingredients

  • 3 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c cake flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz jelly or preserves

1. Combine the milk and lemon juice and set on the counter for ten minutes. Heat gently in the microwave until the temperature hits about 125 degrees. If the milk is too cold, the yeast won’t activate, and if it’s too hot, the yeast will die.

2. Place the sugar, cake flour, yeast, salt, and 1 c of the all-purpose flour into a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle. Pour in the milk/lemon juice mixture and mix for two minutes on medium.

3. Add the butter and another cup of all-purpose flour and combine on low speed. Switch to the dough hook and turn onto medium speed. Add the remaining 1/2 c flour at a time until combined and the dough pulls away from the sides.

4. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and loosely cover. Let rise for 45 minutes.

5. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and form each into a 9 inch log. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs evenly into 7 cuts.  Place the rolls into two cake pans. With your thumb, press firmly into the center of each roll to form an indentation. Double wrap with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight to rise.

6. 30 minutes before you’d like to cook the rolls, take the cake pans out of the refrigerator and set on the counter to come to room temperature. Deepen the indentations again with your thumb and place 1 tbsp jelly into each. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

7. Cook the rolls for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown the sides are golden brown. Allow the rolls to cool for 5 minutes before eating. Trust me, molten jelly can ruin your day. If you would like an icing, combine 1c confectioners sugar with 1 tbsp melted butter and 1 tbsp milk. Drizzle over the rolls while still warm.

8. Serve warm.

Note: These will also freeze very well. To do so, allow to cool completely and individually wrap one or two rolls together. Place the wrapped rolls in a freezer bag. These will keep for up to a month in your freezer. Simply unwrap a roll and microwave for 15 – 30 seconds to take the chill out.

I want to apologize in advance to my friends at The Other Side of the Tortilla for this unauthentic classic Mexican dish.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 small flour tortillas
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 c Easy Tomato Sauce, warmed (or jarred)
  • 1c refried beans, warmed
  • 1/2 c queso fresco (optional)

1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a shallow frying pan over medium high heat. Put one tortilla in the oil and fry until browned, flip and brown the other side. Repeat with the other tortillas.

    

2. Place the warmed tomato sauce in a large bowl. Dunk the fried tortillas into the tomato sauce quickly. Place on a serving plate. Top the tortilla with 1/2 c of refried beans. Dip another tortilla into the tomato sauce and place on top of the beans. Repeat with the other set of tortillas.

         

3. Fry the eggs and place two eggs on top of the tortilla. Spread the tomato sauce liberally around the tortilla and place the diced avocado around. If you prefer, sprinkle the top of the dish with queso fresco cheese and cilantro. Serve warm.

Eggs are far and away my favorite breakfast food. Many people (myself included) have had difficulty cooking a flawless fried egg mostly in part to the inevitable flipping that is necessary if you want your egg whites cooked through. I’ve split the yolk far too many times to count or folded the whites into the yolk making an unappetizing, scrunched up breakfast.

The secret to perfect fried eggs lies in three things: 1) Proper heat 2)Breaking the Albumen (the thick white part) and 3) Time Maintenance.  If you can master these three principles when cooking eggs, your eggs will never fall apart on you again, and your eggs with come out perfect every time.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • non stick cooking spray
  • salt and pepper
1. Set a shallow, non-stick pan over medium heat (a 4 or 5 on the dial). Coat with cooking spray and let heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
Note: High heat is the enemy. The goal here is to preheat the pan to a perfect cooking temperature. Even if the pan stays on a little longer, the pan can never get hotter than the heat that’s coming out of the stove. A pan over high heat will keep rising in temperature.

2. Crack an egg into a small bowl. With a fork, scoop up the thick egg white that surrounds the yolk. This will pierce the membrane holding it together which will allow the egg white to spread evenly in the pan. Be careful not to pierce the yolk.
Note: This part is crucial. you may have to scoop up the white part three or four times to ensure it has separated. It will still be thick, but you should be able to see a difference.

3. Carefully place the egg into the pan and let cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a fitted lid. Let cook for 1 to 3 minutes until the egg whites are set to your liking.
Note: If you leave the pan covered for too long, the yolk will cook. This happens quickly so this is not the time to check your email, Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, iPad, iPod, or anything else you think you can multitask with.

4. Serve hot with toast or home fries. 

My wife gets and deserves all the credit for this one. One day I asked her to make some chicken salad with the leftover chicken breasts that I hadn’t used the night before. When I came back from work, she had prepared this exact recipe using only what we had in the house. This was far and away the greatest chicken salad I had ever tasted, and the next day, the flavor got even better. This is something that makes you legen – wait for it – dary (I’ve recently gotten hooked on How I Met Your Mother reruns) when unveiled at a family gathering, picnic, or anywhere that people gather.

The key to this entire dish is the sauteed onions that are allowed to cool and poaching the chicken breasts in chicken stock and vegetables. You could easily substitute a rotisserie chicken if you are short on time, but you should skip to step 2 if you choose to do so.

Ingredients (serves 4 lunch portions)

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion (half diced, half quartered)
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 3 c chicken stock
  • 1 c red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp fresh tarragon (substitute 1/3 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4c chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Place the chicken breasts, 1 half of the onion (quartered), 1 stalk of celery (chopped), the carrots, chicken stock, and a handful of parsley in a stock pot. The chicken stock should just cover the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Cook covered for 10 – 15 minutes.

    

2. Remove the chicken breasts to a cutting board and let cool. When cool enough to handle, cut into bite sized pieces.

3. While the chicken is cooling, dice the second half of the onion. Place a saute pan over medium high heat and place the onion with a couple tbsp of olive oil inside. Saute until translucent. Put the onions in a bowl and place in the freezer for 5 – 10 minutes.

     

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and dijon mustard until just combined.

    

5. Place the bite sized chicken breasts, chilled onions, 1 stalk of diced celery, and tarragon in a large bowl. Pour in 3/4 of the dressing and mix to combine. If the mixture needs more dressing, add it to taste. Finishing by adding the grapes and walnuts and combine all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 4 hours (overnight if possible).

        

6. Serve cold on lettuce cups, inside a sandwich, or however you like your chicken salad. Garnish with whole walnuts.

I love baked beans but I hate to wait for them. There’s the soaking, and the drying, and the mixing, and the baking for upward of 5 hours. A boy’s gotta eat and I can’t sit around all day waiting. Luckily, I have a pressure cooker that defies the rules of the kitchen and introduces intense amount of pressure that break the beans down quickly completing the meal from start to finish in around 30 minutes. This dish is sweet, sticky, and tangy and sure to become a family favorite.

If you don’t own a pressure cooker, I couldn’t recommend a piece of specialty kitchen equipment more. I bought mine to start canning my own preserves, but quickly found it had many more uses. It makes perfect risotto in under 10 minutes without ever needing to stand over the stove stirring, breaks down a pot roast to a perfect tenderness in around 40 minutes, and even makes chocolate cake. Cake, people! Cooked on the stove! If your in the market, I recommend the Fagor Duo. It’s made of high quality stainless steel, and has two pressure settings to maximize its uses.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 7 c cold water
  • 1 lb navy beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 1/4 c light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c (4 oz) tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp whole gain dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
1. Put the beans, water, bay leaves, and 1 tbsp olive oil in a pressure cooker. Secure the lid and bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure. Lower the heat to the lowest setting possible and cook for 15 minutes. Release the steam and drain the beans into a colander set over a bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid.
 
2. While the beans are cooking, saute the onion and garlic in a medium sauce pan over high heat. When the onion begins to brown, mix in the molasses, light brown sugar, tomato paste, mustard, and cinnamon. Turn the heat off and combine all ingredients.
 
3. Return the beans to the pressure cooker with the onion-molasses mixture and 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Secure the lid and bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Release the steam. If the beans are not tender, place the lid back on, but do not lock. Boil for an additional 5 – 10 minutes.
 
4. The sauce will thicken as it sits, but if you prefer, mash 1/2 cup of beans with a fork, return to the pan, and stir. Serve with hot dog slices if you wish.

Literally translated, a Croque Monsieur means “Crunchy Mister” or “Crispy Mister.” Truth be told, no one actually knows how the sandwich got its name or when it was first conceived. Essentially, this a ham and cheese melt that you could get at any local diner, but scaled up by melting the cheese on the outside of the bread as well as the inside.

This version updates the classic hot ham and cheese by topping the entire sandwich with mornay sauce (béchamel with cheese) and sauteed mushrooms, and baking the entire thing in the oven. Mornay sauce is a white sauce with parmesan cheese mixed into it. It’s delicious on pasta as well, so be sure to make extra for later.

Mornay Sauce Ingredients (makes 2 cups)

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Croque Monsieur Ingredients (makes 4 sandwiches)

  • 1/2 lb ham slices
  • 1/4 lb swiss cheese, sliced
  • 1/4 lb gruyere cheese
  • 6 oz crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp butter at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 loaf crusty bread

1. Start by heating the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (5 on the dial). Add the flour to the butter and continously whisk until the mixture becomes a pale golden brown. In cooking, this is called a roux (pronounced like Winne the Poo’s young kangaroo friend).

2. Mix the milk into the roux and whisk until combined. Add the bay leaf and turn the heat up to medium high. Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not boil or you will have a milky mess and will cry over spilled milk. Turn the heat down to simmer (a 2 on the dial) for 10 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a saute pan over medium high heat (7 on the dial). Add the mushrooms to the oil and saute until the mushrooms have released most of their juices and reduced in size. Set aside to cool.

4. Slice the bread into 1/3″ pieces. Butter the bread on one side and toast in a pan. You can also toast this much bread under the broiler. I have issues with the broiler and tend to burn things quickly, but if you have skill, this is a much quicker way.

5. The sauce should be done by now. A skin may have formed on the top. If this has happened, just whisk the skin into the mixture. Turn the heat off and mix the nutmeg and parmesan cheese into the sauce. Set aside.

6. Build your sandwich. Start with the bread, toasted side down. Top with ham, then swiss cheese, and then top with a second piece of bread, toasted side up. Press down on the sandwich to compress. Top the bread with enough mornay sauce to make you happy, then add the mushroom on top. Top the whole thing with the gruyere cheese.

Note: I used an inferior deli sliced gruyere here; a small block of gruyere grated would work better. You’ll can see in the picture below that the deli gruyere keeps it’s shape, while grated will melt together and ooze all over your bread.

7. Bake the whole sandwich in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheeses have melted and the top begins to bubble and brown.

8. Serve with sweet gherkins and whole grain mustard.