Monthly Archives: November 2009

Egg-in-a-Hole Grilled Cheese

On Friday, while the rest of America (and maybe some of the rest of the world) was trying to figure out how to concoct the perfect sandwich from the previous day’s Thanksgiving leftovers, I was trying to find something that would appeal to my cold-starved body. There was no turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, or veggies to reheat. Most of all, there was also no extra slice of pie to eat for breakfast.

A few weeks ago, I had seen Aida Mollenkamp on The Food Network doing a show all about eggs. One dish she made was basically a twist on a bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll, the deli hangover staple. My brain decided that this Egg in a Hole Grilled Cheese was just the kind of food that my body was ready to tackle after several days of chicken soup and cold medicine.
I was surprised to see how many shops were closed in my neighborhood the day after Turkey Day. It was very quiet. Among the places that were open was the Italian deli. Knowing that I had eggs and butter in the fridge, as I was supposed to have made a pie to take to Thanksgiving dinner, I just needed to pick up bread, ham, and cheese.

I guess I sort of cheated a little bit to suit my own tastes, but this recipe is flexible like that. I used a Comté cheese instead of regular Swiss. They are cousins, so the flavor is similar. The deli had proscuitto cotto, which I used instead of Canadian bacon. I think that you could also substitute sliced ham and get the same effect. Bacon would make this sandwich too greasy and regular proscuitto would be too dry, but there are many various that you could do.
The honey mustard I used was Honeycup – also very good for Southern ham biscuits. It has a nice sharp-sweet tang with a bit of a bite, especially if you slather it on the bread the way that I do. I used a farm bread which worked well, but has as its downfall that you end up with lots of bread in the filling-to-bread ratio. I recommend using something more square-shaped.
Once you end up adding the cheese and ham and topping the egg side with the mustard side, you end up with something like this in the pan. Although not in the recipe, I realized that I needed to add more butter to the pan after I flipped the entire sandwich so that there would be some fat to cook the second side of the bread. Instead of adding the butter to the pan, which would make it turn brown instantly due to the now very hot pan, I buttered the non-mustard side of the bread after I placed that slice on top of the egg bread and before I flipped it to toast in the pan. This seems to work very well.

After a few minutes more, my lunch was ready. A softly cooked egg surrounded by gooey cheese and smoky ham all wrapped up in buttery, crunchy toast. I added a small side salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette to round out the meal. I wish I could eat more mid-day repasts like this, although not with the cold that my body is still fighting.
Buon appetito!

Spicy Red Lentil, Coriander & Coconut Soup with Chicken Dumplings

That’s the sickbed, to be specific. There’s only one thing worse than being all alone on a holiday weekend. Being sick and alone on a holiday weekend. That really stinks. For the past couple of days, I’ve been fighting off some nasty bug. So, I decided to pull the plug on my trip to see my family in Virginia for Thanksgiving.

This means no turkey, no stuffing, no Dad’s mashed potatoes, no pie, and none of the other treats that go along with that day. Oh, yeah, and no family either, which is a shame as some of my relatives whom I haven’t seen in a while were going to be at my folks’ house. Instead, I got to eat chicken soup, lots of soup, along with cold medicine and fluids.

A few months ago, when there were still lots of summer vegetables at the Greenmarket, I made a batch of one of my favorite soups to keep on hand. Peter Gordon’s Spicy Red Lentil, Coriander & Coconut Soup with Chicken Dumplings* is definitely not your grandmother’s chicken soup. Heck, it’s not my mother’s or my grandmother’s chicken soup.

Although the title says “spicy,” it is not hot in the sinus-clearing kind of way. Rather, it has layers of flavor from spices, vegetables, broth, and coconut milk, along with citrusy backnotes. It is comfort food for a different palate. It is light and hearty at the same time. The other plus is that it freezes well, so I can make it when inspiration hits and then keep it on hand for when I feel under the weather or for when I feel like I need a bowl of something warm and comforting.

Buon appetito e buona festa!

*I tried to find an on-line version of this recipe, but couldn’t locate it. I recommend tracking it down in his Sugar Club Cookbook, which I saw for sale on eBay for under $10.00. I was fortunate enough to be able to eat at that restaurant when I lived in London many years ago and had one of the top two vegetarian meals I’ve ever eaten.

Pumpkin Soup

Several years ago, I mentioned in a post that I really thought that Thanksgiving dinner (or really any great autumn menu) should start with pumpkin soup. A have a very good friend and recipe-testing buddy to thank for finding this one on line many years ago. It’s become my standby soup to make once the weather gets that cool-crisp fall feeling in the air. The benefits are that it makes quite a bit and that it freezes really well. I usually end up making maybe a couple of batches each cold weather season to keep on hand.

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyère Croutons is definitely in the keeper file. Originally, my friend and I made this with Cheddar Pumpkins that we got at our Greenmarket. A four pound-ish pumpkin will give you the eight cups of chopped vegetable needed for the recipe. This year, however, the pumpkins were either on the too big or too little side the weekend I was craving this recipe. Instead, I actually followed the directions (shock, I know) and made it with the butternut squash-acorn squash combo.

While the flavor was slightly different than that of the soup made with a Cheddar Pumpkin, it definitely mimicked a French soupe au poitron a bit more closely than a recipe made with the former. This is based upon my distant memory of having had it once a while ago when I was in France. Served in a modest portion, this dish would make an elegant (with the croutons, which I omitted here) and not-too-heavy starter. This is also a great excuse to whip out the immersion blender to avoid all the fiddling of pouring hot liquid into a regular standing blender.

I put my vote forward as I did in my post about pumpkin muffins to ban the overly-spiced, gluey pie that is usually found on tables across the land and to serve something a bit more interesting, and maybe in this case, something perhaps slightly more authentic, at the Thanksgiving table. As I’m one of the folks who will be pulling dinner together this year at my parents’ house, I might actually get my own way.

Buon appetito!

Sometimes I get so angry I have to come home and BAKE

It was one of those days at work. Actually, it’s been one of those weeks. Hey, really, who am I kidding, it’s been one of those years. I should probably be able to measure it by the number of times I’ve come home and just decided to start baking something on the spur of the moment, much like I did tonight.

The frustration has to go somewhere, and I can’t work out like I was a few months ago due to an injury. Rehab is incredibly slow, so there’s just no place for the extra energy to go. So, tonight, it went into trying out two recipes that I’d pulled from my food magazine binge this weekend.

Olive Magazine had a recipe for Fluffy Apple Muffins. I’m always on the lookout for good, simple breakfast recipes. This one ended up having nice flavor. I think that next time I’ll try pears instead of apples, as they are also in season at the moment, and because I now have a whole carton of buttermilk to use up. My only negative comment is that the parchment paper in the muffin tin seemed unnecessarily fussy to me.

I baked a few muffins that way and the rest the usual way in the non-stick tin that I have. Turned out the same to me, except that the non-paper baked ones had crunchier tops as they browned better. The paper rings might be nice for the food styling but were too fiddly and not needed. Cupcake wrappers or nothing at all will work just fine.

The next recipe I decided to tackle was a little more challenging for me, as I don’t really ever make these. BBC Good Food had a recipe for Smoked Salmon Souffles. These are mini-ones, so they don’t have the same flop-fear-factor that a regular big one will have. This seemed like a relatively easy thing to make, especially as it combines three of my favorite things: eggs, smoked salmon, and dill.

I did have to let them cook for a few minutes longer than the recipe called for in order to get their tops this golden brown. Unfortunately, when I went to plate one to show how they’d appear in final form, I couldn’t get it to hold together the way the one in the photo looks in the magazine. Guess I don’t have that magic touch, but I did manage to dump out the water bath in the sink and not have it spill in my oven or on the floor, something I consider a success.

These are definitely something that I can see being a nice starter for a dinner party or part of a brunch menu. They are simple to make, and as the recipe says, they can be prepared ahead and frozen. Topped with a little bit of smoked salmon and some crème fraîche, these will be my breakfast for the next few days

Buon appetito!