Throwback Thursday: 3 Easy Recipes from The Food Lab

Throwback to November 2017, when the Food52 Cookbook Club was tackling J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s epic first cookbook, The Food Lab. We absolutely loved this book, so much so that we perpetually have it on reserve at the library on both our library cards and whenever it’s our turn to have it checked out, we welcome it home with a little hug.

Several recipes from The Food Lab were highlights on our Thanksgiving table (including the broccoli cauliflower casserole, the green bean casserole, the cranberry sauce and I’m sure there were more) but we’ve also made several others (eg pasta alla Norma, eggs florentine, biscuits and gravy) and the list just keeps growing.

The recipes in his book vary between simple and complex and we love the science sections where he explains a different ingredient or technique in depth. Here I’m going to tell you about 3 of our favorite simple recipes…

The Fry Sauce: My gosh is it good. And dead simple. Seriously, you chuck stuff in a bowl and stir it together. The first time we made it we used the dill pickle juice, but decided we wanted the texture relish offers so ever since we replace it 1:1. On burger night we usually buy frozen chips that we cook in the oven, and it has now become our standard condiment that we serve with them.

Similarly, the garlic croutons: Kenji says to use a good quality bread loaf, but one night I needed a salad and all I had was lettuce, store bought dressings and cheeses in the fridge so I thought if I had croutons we could make a caesar style salad. The only bread I had left was frozen wholemeal bread ends that I normally use for breadcrumbs (or often end up as my breakfast or lunch, cos you know, I’m a mom and that’s how I roll) so I cut them up and tossed them through a mixture of oil and garlic and a few other seasonings and baked them in the oven for about 20 minutes and voila! They were so addictive I kept coming back hours after dinner had finished and ate every last one. So good!

Lastly, his maple sage breakfast sausage. This recipe has changed my world. No seriously. Australia knows nothing of American style breakfast sausage and they are the poorer for it. And I have for ages been lamenting not having Jimmy Deans here. We have this delicious breakfast casserole recipe that I usually make at Christmas and special occasions and I’ve explored a few alternatives in the past but never been too convinced until I tried using this. And if you just buy pork mince like I did and omit the bacon, it is seriously no more than mixing the ingredients by hand in a bowl and leaving it in the fridge to marinate before frying it off in a pan. Dead set it is the bomb. We’ve used this in his biscuits and sausage gravy recipe and once when we had leftover mince we turned it into sausage and biscuit breakfast sandwiches (again something we don’t get here in Australia) and I feel instantly transported to America when I’m feeling a bit homesick even after almost 19 years.

There you have it, three reasons to get your hands on The Food Lab, or at the very least, follow J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab column on Serious Eats.

Bouchon Bakery: Pithiviers

I had grand plans to make madeleines and macarons this month. Grand plans. But then I made this apricot tart because our tree was so full of fruit and it left me with extra pastry and extra almond cream and I simply couldn’t let it go to waste. So I poured over the Bouchon Bakery cookbook looking at every recipe that incorporated almond cream (the leftover pastry has been frozen) and saw this recipe for Pithiviers, something I’d never heard of before but was instantly intrigued by. Puff pastry from scratch. Frangipane that is creme patisserie and almond cream whisked together. I can use up the mixed dried fruit that was leftover from our Christmas pudding. I am in!

The puff pastry was obviously the most time consuming, mainly because of the refrigeration time in between folds. You take a simply pastry dough and fold it around a butter block, roll it and fold it again several times (refrigerating for a couple hours between each fold) in order to create this gloriously layered pastry.

For the pithiviers you cut out two 9 inch circles, pipe the filling one of them, then use an egg wash to seal the second one over the other. Egg wash the top and use a pairing knife to draw a design on top (I went with the flower that was described in the book).

This left me with about 600 grams of pastry so I put it in the fridge to use in another recipe.

For the filling I had to make a creme patisserie which is not really new to me, but the method was. Everything was whipped together in the mixer before it went on the heat, where normally you need to be super careful about scrambling the eggs when you incorporate it into the flour and milk and sugar.  I was also surprised that they used custard powder, but love how rich and yellow the creme patisserie became with it in there. I reserved the amount called for in the recipe and saved the rest for another day (more on that soon).

Then I simply put it back in the mixer with the almond cream and after they were mixed thoroughly together, I added about a cup of brandied dried fruits and folded it in. I then tried to pipe a nice spiral on the bottom pastry but ended up smoothing it into a mound because the dried fruits made it quite splotchy.

It bakes for almost 2 hours and in the last few minutes you brush a sugar syrup on top to give it a lovely glossy sheen. It looked beautiful and tasted amazing – Aaron said if I used an apple filling instead of the frangipane/fruit mixture it would taste just like his favorite apple turnovers (there is a recipe for such a treat in this book that I may have to surprise him with at some stage).

I’m really glad I found this recipe and look forward to working out how to use up that creme patisserie and puff pastry in the next few days. Bon appetit!

Pasta with Zucchini and Vegetarian Sausages in Butternut Pumpkin Sauce

So what happens when it’s 5 pm and you realize you forgot to grocery shop over the weekend and you need to come up with dinner quickly? You look through the freezer and fridge and pantry and see what you can conjure up that might go together…

Zucchinis from a friend’s garden which we diced up, seasoned and fried off in a bit of olive oil in a large non stick frypan…

Field Roast Smoked Apple and Sage Vegetarian Sausages which we also diced up and added to the pan to cook with the zucchini…

…and Butternut Pumpkin pasta sauce which we poured over the top and simmered until the spiral pasta (not pictured) was cooked. Then we drained the pasta and stirred it through the sauce and served it all up into bowls with grated parmesan and red chilli flakes on the side for those who were game.

A meatless dinner that I never would have planned, but now that we’ve had it, I’d totally plan to make again!

 

Classic Challah Bakealong

Once a month, King Arthur Flour hosts a Bakealong encouraging their readers to have a go at a common recipe and post it to Instagram. This month marks their 17th challenge, I’ve participated in well over half of them, and it is challah!

I’ve made challah a few times as part of the Food52 Baking Club, but this recipe was a lot different, definitely easier, with the added challenge of braiding the dough as six strands. So of course, I had to do it.

Basically, you put all the dough ingredients into your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead into a ball.

Then remove it and knead it into a smoother ball and place it in a greased covered container until almost doubled (it took mine twice as long to rise than the recipe suggested).

Then you weigh it into six equal portions, roll them into long ropes and braid them using the technique provided. I watched the video and had to work upside down in order to follow along, but now that I’ve done it once it seems so much simpler than the pictures made it seem.

Brush on the egg wash and bake. And here’s where it took my bread almost 2 hours to cook because one of the elements in our oven died. *crying* It is still yum, still edible of course, but the crumb is nowhere near as nice as it should be and I’m really not happy that I’ve now got to work out what to do without a working oven for the near future. HELP!

Throwback Thursday: Cinnamon Rolls from Bravetart

Throwback to November 2017 when Food52 Baking Club tackled the new Bravetart book by Stella Parks and the recipe that caught my eye upon flicking through the book – cinnamon rolls! Or rather, recipesince if you count all the variations there are 8 varieties of cinnamon rolls you can make from the one base recipe. Now of course, I wasn’t going to do this back to back over the course of a month, the waistline is not that forgiving, but I’ve set myself the challenge to make every variety over the next 12 months for birthdays and certain holidays.

The base recipe is pretty simple for a cinnamon roll recipe – you combine some basic dry ingredients in your mixer bowl then melt some butter and stir through yogurt and milk to bring it down to a lower temperature (I’m guessing so you don’t kill the yeast) and then add it to the mixer bowl and knead until well combined and elastic (about 20 minutes). Then you put it in a well greased covered container and let it rise until doubled (about 90 minutes) before rolling out and filling with whatever filling you’ve chosen to make and then turning it into scrolls. What I love most about this recipe is that at this point you can refrigerate them and pull them out while the oven preheats the next morning so you can have fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The icing is easy as well, and Stella recommends you put it in a zip lock bag and cut the corner and squeeze the icing out all over the cinnamon rolls straight out of the oven.

These cinnamon rolls are sooooo light and fluffy and really aren’t as labor intensive as you might think. For my son’s 12th birthday I made the apple cinnamon variety (which can be seen in photo directly above and below) which replaces butter for the cream cheese in the icing and adds some apple to the filling. He loves apple anything and he was more than impressed with these!

Below are my two previous attempts from last year: the pumpkin variety for Thanksgiving breakfast…

…and my first attempt at the start of November, the basic cinnamon roll recipe to see if the endeavor would be worthwhile.

Stay tuned for the other 5 variations over the coming months. =)

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Quiche Lorraine

This month the Food52 Cookbook Club is tackling Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. I’ve had this book for several years and really haven’t delved into it much so was keen to see why it’s so popular. For my first recipe, I chose Quiche Lorraine. Now I always thought quiche was a mixture of eggs, cream/milk & cheese with various fillings in a pastry crust but wouldn’t you know, Quiche Lorraine has no cheese. I was shocked!

So what goes into making the iconic Quiche Lorraine? Well, the pastry is super simple, basically flour, salt, sugar, butter and water. (I used all butter rather than 1/4 shortening because the shortening is recommended for American flour. And let’s face it Crisco is ridiculously expensive here.) Mix it together, shape it into a disc and freeze for an hour before rolling it out and partially blind baking in a pie plate. Piece of cake!

The filling is similarly breezy – dice up and lightly cook some lean bacon in a non stick frypan (Julia says you can blanch the bacon in simmering water to remove its salty smoky flavour but we skipped that step). Meanwhile combine the eggs (only 3!) with the cream and milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put the bacon in the shell and pour over the egg mixture. Then dot the top with some diced butter (this is what helps it brown on top) and chuck it in the oven for half an hour.

It turned out light and custardy rather than eggy and cheesy and while Aaron was looking for the cheese (he loves nothing more than cheese and bacon and egg) I thought it was just lovely for a hot summer day with the leftover salads from yesterday’s bbq. Now what to make next?!

Potato salad

Today’s Meatless Monday post is a guest post by my husband, Aaron. It is a family recipe for potato salad, which was my dad’s recipe, but my mom taught Aaron how to make it after my dad died more than a decade ago. It is one of our summer staples.

Potato salad

G’day! This is one of my favourite things to have in summer – Jen’s dad’s potato salad. Aussie potato salad is usually heavy on the dressing (Aussie mayo which is usually too vinegary), and the potatoes are usually diced to, literally, the size of a die, and  only just cooked through, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process. And bacon. Aussies love a good bit of bacon in their…well, in anything, really. This recipe throws a lot of those things out of the window, but it makes the potato the star, which it should be. And there’s no bacon, which makes it perfect for Meatless Monday!

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 kg washed potatoes, DO NOT PEEL, diced in about 1 inch cubes  (we usually just get the cheapest ones)

6 hard-boiled eggs (that’s too expensive)

1 celery stick (well, probably only half of one), very finely diced

1/2 – 1 cup mayonnaise (try to get American mayo!)

1 Tbspn American mustard

celery seed

salt and pepper

Method

Boil the potatoes (or cook in a pressure cooker for about 20 mins once the cooker is pressurized, then allow to cool naturally) until a fork easily goes into them.

Potatoes in pressure cooker

Slice the eggs with an egg slicer (I usually slice the egg, rotate it 90 degrees in the slicer, then slice it again) and add to a large bowl with the celery, a few shakes of celery seed, the mustard and mayo.

All ingredients except potatoes

Mix these together, then add the drained potatoes and mix (carefully, as the potatoes should be very soft and warm) until well combined, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving (or don’t…).

And there you go. This recipe goes great with anything BBQed, or even just by itself.

In My Kitchen, January 2018

Food, food and more food…that pretty much sums up Christmas time in our house. Where to start?!

I got a couple of cute $2 cookie stamps at Coles and just had to try them out on some soft gingerbread tiles with rum butter glaze.

Speaking of cookies, this is only a portion of the cookie baking I did to give away a dozen filled trays like the ones above to school staff, church, family friends, etc.

Then there was the head to head battle of the buche de Noel recipes to see which I preferred – and the result, I’ll be Frankensteining the one I make next Christmas. =)

There was our last day of school tradition making a homemade gingerbread house then completely covering it in lollies that we crack open on New Years Eve.

A Christmas Eve dinner to remember: our first ever standing rib roast with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, glazed carrots and brussel sprouts, with a lovely red wine jus…on the dinner set that we use all December each year that is starting to become too small (place setting wise) for our growing family.

Our drowning gingerbread man trifle that we ate for Christmas Eve dessert while watching Carols by Candlelight.

Christmas morning orange and cranberry pluckets for breakfast.

Too many apricots, sadly rotting faster than we can eat them or otherwise use them. This photo is from one small section of our abundantly fruiting tree.

My cookbook haul from our local library last month next to my Tupperware Santa containers that house leftover baking that didn’t make trays, just in case you need something to go with your cuppa.

 

Thanks to Sherry’s Pickings for hosting the In My Kitchen link up for this month. To learn more, click on the logo to the left.