Caramelized Apple Pancakes

applepancakes2

People who live in warm climates aren’t allowed to eat pancakes.

It’s true: pancakes are for cold winter mornings, still in your pajamas, curled around a space heater and holding your coffee mug close to your face. Pancake batter is basically cake batter and the only way you can justify eating cake at the start of your day is to keep warm; so Floridians, stay away. This recipe is for those of us who saw our breath this morning.

Continue Reading

Easy French Toast

IMG_1.JPG

There are three kinds of people in this world: pancake people, waffle people, and people who like French toast. I’d put myself in the middle category: I’m a waffle person. I like the texture of waffles, I like the little holes that catch the syrup, and I love the way they smell when they’re being cooked.

But I don’t own a waffle iron so I only get waffles when I eat out; which leaves only two options for Sunday morning breakfast: pancakes or French toast. And for some reason, until last week, it was only ever pancakes–buttermilk pancakes, strawberry pancakes–but just pancakes, never anything else. “Why don’t you make French toast?” Craig asked last Sunday when we both said we didn’t want pancakes; I scratched my head and couldn’t come up with a good reason not to. “Ok,” I said. “Let’s have French toast.”

Continue Reading

Burnt Sticky Buns

IMG_1.JPG

What’s there to say when you burn your sticky buns? It’s a pretty unkind thing to do. On a Sunday morning, you pique everyone’s interest with rumors of sticky bun making; then you roll them, pop them in the oven, and fill the apartment with a wonderful smell. And then you burn them. What kind of a person are you? Not a very good one, I imagine.

Continue Reading

Weekend Breakfasts

IMG_1.JPG

Weekends are for making breakfast. I used to think weekends were for going to brunch, and we still do go out to brunch every now and then, but I’ve started to embrace the simplicity, comfort and relative cheapness of making those same dishes at home.

Take the dish you see above: that’s called a dutch baby; a big, puffy, baked pancake. I got the recipe from The Joy of Cooking, but Molly has a pretty gorgeous looking one on her site too (click here.) Whichever recipe you choose, it couldn’t be simpler: you mix melted butter, eggs, flour and milk (or in Molly’s case, half-and-half), pour that into a skillet and bake in the oven. I’d recently purchased a cast iron skillet, and there was something especially satisfying about making a dutch baby in a cast iron. How much would this be if you had this at a restaurant? I’m guessing, at least, $12. At home, assuming you already have milk, eggs and flour in your fridge, it’s free.

Continue Reading

Strawberry Pancakes

IMG_1.JPG

I never liked pancakes growing up (the syrup made them too soggy, I preferred waffles) but I like them now mostly because they’re easy to whip up on a Sunday morning, especially if you have one of the following dairy items on hand: buttermilk (most preferable), regular milk (also preferable) or, as I learned today, sour cream and half and half (not preferable, but certainly good).

Yes, to make pancakes you just mix a bunch of dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) and then a bunch of wet ingredients (milk or buttermilk or sour cream, eggs, melted butter), and then you add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, heat some butter in a nonstick skillet and fry up the pancakes a few at a time. Only, as I discovered today, you can also add a mystery ingredient. Sometimes the mystery ingredient is chocolate chips, other times the mystery ingredient is coconut. Today the mystery ingredient was strawberries!

Funny how when you have an impulse to do something, like add strawberries to pancakes, you look for validation that your idea is ok online (at least I do). I Googled “strawberry pancakes” and saw several recipes and I knew it was ok. And sure enough, after making them and eating them, it was more than ok: it’s a terrific way to use up seasonal strawberries that you bring home from the farmer’s market and don’t know how to use.

I figure at this point in the post you’re probably wondering: “are you going to give us a recipe?” And normally, I’d say: “No, just do any pancake recipe you like and add sliced up strawberries at the end” but instead I AM going to give you a recipe in the style of Star Wars opening credits. Enjoy!

Continue Reading

Tuesday Techniques: Home Fries

IMG_1.JPG

Last week I started a series called Tuesday Techniques, a series where I cook my way through Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques the same way that Top Chef Judge Tom Colicchio did at the start of his career. Already, I’m on shaky ground: (1) my Tuesday techniques posts always show up on Wednesday, but Wednesday Techniques doesn’t have quite the same ring to it; (2) this week I didn’t really use the Pepin book to work my chosen technique, I chose the technique first and picked up the book later.

The technique I chose was “home fries.” I chose home fries because it was Sunday morning and I was going to make scrambled eggs and there were Yukon gold potatoes sitting on the counter. Now my normal Sunday breakfast fare is scrambled eggs with homemade biscuits or buttermilk pancakes. I don’t make home fries, normally, because the truth is I don’t know how to make home fries. They’re a staple on your plate at a brunch restaurant, but I always take them for granted. Often they’re disappointing: limp, greasy, under-seasoned.

So this Sunday I began my research. I did lots of Googling, I did open the Pepin book but his recipes for fried potato balls and soap-shaped potatoes didn’t really fit the bill. He did speak eloquently about my chosen ingredient, though: “The potato is probably the greatest food contribution that the New World made to the Old….The potato is a versatile vegetable; it can be boiled, sauteed, baked, fried, steamed, broiled, stewed and so on.”

The secret to making home fries, I soon discovered (after all my research) is a combination of two of those techniques: boiling and frying. First you boil, then you fry. It’s that easy.

Continue Reading

Polenta Power

IMG_1.JPG

In the Chelsea Market, on 9th Ave., there’s an Italian goods store that features rows upon rows of imported treasures from Italy. There you’ll find salt-packed anchovies, genuine San Marzano tomatoes, even white truffles for several hundred dollars a pop. Every time I go in there, I marvel at the goods and then I leave empty-handed: I never know what to buy.

Recently, though, I was determined to buy something. I toured around the store and there, in the back corner near the meat counter, I spotted it: real, Italian polenta. When I say “real” polenta I mean not instant polenta. Everywhere else I’ve ever bought polenta–Key Foods, Whole Foods, Union Market–only sells instant. I wanted to experience the real deal, the kind that cooks for 45 minutes. And so I left the Italian goods store with not one but two packs of genuine Italian polenta.

I wish now to describe to you the difference between instant polenta and “real polenta.” If this were the SATs, it would go something like this:

1. Instant polenta is to regular polenta as…

(a) Care Bears are to polar bears;

(b) sitting in a massage chair at the Sharper Image is to spending a week at an Arizona spa;

(c) table for 1 at the IHOP is to table for 20 at The French Laundry.

(d) All of the Above.

The answer is D and if you haven’t yet made REAL polenta at home you get a D in my book. It’s such a shocking thing–it’s so much creamier, sultrier, sexier than instant polenta, I feel like a polenta virgin who just spent a night with Sofia Loren in a bordello. What? I don’t know. Polenta power!

So the dish you see above is polenta for breakfast. It comes from Lidia Bastiniach’s book “Lidia’s Family Table” and it’s as hardy a breakfast as you could want, especially as the weather gets colder. You cook the polenta for 40 minutes with 5 cups water to 1 cup polenta and a pinch of salt, plus a few bay leaves. Lidia has you stream the polenta into the water when it’s cold, whisking all the way, and then turn on the heat–I’m not sure what that does, but it certainly produced excellent polenta. You must stir as it goes–every few minutes or so–or it’ll stick.

Once it’s cooked through, you add a cup or two of grated Parmesan (yum!) and half a stick of butter (double yum!) And here’s the real smacker (smacker? Adam what kind of word is smacker?): once in the bowl, put an egg yolk on top and the residual heat will cook it. Grate over more cheese, some pepper too and you have a breakfast of champions. Italian champions. Like Rocky—cue Rocky music.

If you want polenta for dinner, do as Alice Waters says to do in her new book “The Art of Simple Food.” Get a baking dish, layer in polenta, tomato sauce, fresh mozarella, and Parmesan and make a polenta lasagna. Bake in the oven til golden brown on top, like here except this didn’t get really gold:

IMG_2.JPG

But what a dinner. Diana came over that night (remember Diana? She was my old roommate) and all three of us dug in with abandon. It was messy–it was hard to make pretty on the plate–but it was oh so good.

And so, I hope I have convinced you of the power of polenta. Real polenta, not that mamby pamby instant kind. If you’re going to make polenta, make the real thing. It’s worth it.

A Killer Breakfast

IMG_1.JPG

There is no greater triumph for a home cook than to make something spectacular out of food you already have on hand. Case in point: the dish you see above, Chorizo scrambled eggs and fried fingerling potatoes–assembled, with no premeditation, in a matter of minutes.

How did I do it? Easy. I took Chorizo that I had leftover from the Arroz Con Pollo I cooked last week and, after peeling off the skin, cut it into cubes. I heated some olive oil, added the cubes, fried them up a bit–poured off some excess fat–and then added 3 eggs slightly beaten. I immediately lowered the heat to barely a whisper of a flame and stirred around until the eggs were hardly cooked. Salt, pepper, all done!

As for the potatoes, I took the fingerlings and cut them vertically. Then I coated a skillet with olive oil, turned on high heat, waited a few minutes and carefully placed the poatoes in face down. I left them like that for a long while–10 minutes–and after lifting one to make sure it was a dark beautiful brown, I started tossing them all around and continuing to cook until a knife went through easily. At that point I added lots of salt and pepper and tilted on to a plate.

Not the healthiest breakfast in the world, but one that’ll put a big smile on your face. And if you’re smiling at breakfast, imagine what you’ll be doing at dinner. No wonder it’s the most important meal of the day.