Tag Archives: brunch

KID in the KITCHEN: French Toast Casserole (make ahead!)

30 Dec

We are a fútbol-loving family ( fútbol = soccer in the U.S. and football in most other English-speaking countries except the U.S. where football — rather inexplicably – means gridiron a.k.a. that sport with the helmets and shoulderpads. There’s also Australian rules football, which is actually a form of rugby, but never mind that right now). We particularly follow the English Premier League and support Chelsea, in case you were wondering. We watch it a lot at home, but watching soccer in the U.S. has ceased to mean spectator-in-exile. Increasingly in America you can find people with whom to watch.

This is part of the spread...Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

This is part of the spread…Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

So that creates opportunities to invite folks to brunch or lunch (EPL matches are played at GMT and so rarely go later than 5 p.m. here in NY) with fellow travelers at home. Buffet-style is best, because the footie runs continuously for two 45-minute halves and if — like me — you are the hostess but really want to watch the action too, you want to get everything done before kick-off and then sit right down with the guests for the first half.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

So, we invited friends for the 9 a.m. Southampton v. Chelsea fixture this past weekend. In addition to bagels and cream cheese, tortilla española, gravlax, ham and cheese, and mango-prosecco mimosas, my little guy made French toast. Since it would have been insane to try to make French toast to order at game time, we chose a recipe he could do the night before and pop in the oven for 40 minutes before everyone arrived. Thus this French Toast Casserole recipe we adapted ever so slightly from Love, Pasta, and a Tool Belt. It was super-easy, sweet and delicious and has a bread pudding sort of texture and was loved by one and all.

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

To do it with kids, make sure you have the ingredients, measuring implements, and other equipment at the ready before you get the kids going. It is a breeze!

2014-12-28 13.06.06 french toast casseroleFrench Toast Casserole

Ingredients:
1 stick salted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
12 slices white bread

Directions:
Melt butter and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon until well-blended. Spread half of the brown sugar mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 rimmed baking pan. Lay six pieces of bread over the sugar mixture. Spread the remainder of the brown sugar mixture over the bread trying to make it pretty even. We used a butter knife to spread, but a stiff spatula would also work.
Place remaining six pieces of bread on top. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over the whole thing evenly. If, like us, you forget to put on the second layer of bread, you can lift the already covered slices one by one and slide the unsoaked slices underneath and it will work out just fine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Heat oven to 350°F and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Allow to rest and then serve up!

 

Kid’s Party Snack Alternative: Bagel Buffet, Starring Cream Cheese Two Ways!

26 Jun

My pizza party days are over. I used to like the occasional slice, but once you have a kid and start attending kids’ parties with alarming frequency, the whole pizza thing becomes tedious (and hard on the waistline), except for the part about not having to figure out lunch for your kid for a day. I like that part a whole lot.

Mind you, I have served pizza at a number of Leandro’s parties. Three regular pies, sliced in 16ths, for the kids. Another one or two pies for the parents. Guilty as charged.

Cream cheese with chives

By the time they get served, the waxy cheese is getting hard, the crust is soft, and chewy and the sauce, whatever it was, is gone. Besides, regular slices bore the hell out of me. Call me a snob, but if you lived in Italy for a couple of years and ate wood stove-crispy thin pies (slice? Cosa e? Ma scherzi.…) topped with seasonal veggies and homemade sausage with a carafe of the charming local plonk most Friday nights out with your charming boyfriend who didn’t mind your bit of flirting with the charming Italians who owned the place….well, a leaden slice of regular from a box choked down to the soundtrack of overexcited preschoolers and bounce-house kiddie-pop might also feel somewhat wrong to you.

Maple-Walnut Cream Cheese

Anyhoo, I wanted to change it up just a little this time around. It’s not just the pizza thing; it’s that I like to cook and entertain and this seemed to me to be an chance to manifest my own self in a more public forum than usual. It is all well and good to set yourself up as a food blogger because your child has been indoctrinated to believe that what you are making him is good stuff. It’s quite another thing to lay it out there for public tasting and scrutiny.

And of course, the other reason is that in my universe, you honor your guests by serving them nice food.

We celebrated Leandro’s birthday at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach. The time was from 10 am-noon on a Sunday. If you have ever been in downstate New York on a Sunday morning, you will understand that bagels are the only appropriate response. It’s like the venerable five o’clock cocktail, only heavier on the carbs. So I went with pre-sliced mini-bagels from Seaford Bagel – convenient, but with ample opportunities to prepare a few spreads of your own.

Buffet table note: cheese and ham slices and mustard and mayo rounded out the buffet. Not one of my 50 Shades of Martha moments on the decor, but it worked well enough. A Box of Joe, juice boxes, and bottles of water completed the spread.

In my own defense, I am not completely bonkers and did not bake the main event: The “birthday cake” was cupcakes, ordered from Stop & Shop. Yes. A chain grocery store. Did you really think I was going to bake an effen cake!?! They were, by all accounts, delicious, topped with butter cream and decorated with Spiderman, Hello Kitty and other rings. Eternal thanks to the wisdom of Marianne/Madrina, for her bagel shop and cupcake source recommendations.

Among the spreads were tuna salad and egg salad (click to get those recipes from earlier posts), and the following two easy cream cheese variations. The maple-walnut spread was especially popular (and so easy it’s almost embarrassing). The kids mostly ate straight-up butter or cream cheese. But the parents and big kids who came to show solidarity were All Over the buffet table and even made a few to-go bagels. (Hector and Sean, I am naming names!!!). We also had plenty of bagels left over to pack in the cooler for our glorious, post-party beach afternoon.

I hope you’ll try them next time you want to bring up your bagel buffet game without killing yourself. Don’t pay for store-made. These are too simple and the praise too gratifying.

Thanks to all of you who came and made this day one of Leandro’s best and most memorable ever. I will eat your party pizza every time and enjoy your company, so don’t fret or hesitate to invite us to the next one. Leandro needs the break from his mom’s obsessiveness!

Cucumber slices are an easy dress-up for cream cheese and chives or tuna salad

Cream Cheese with Chives

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs chives, chopped

1 tsp green onion, chopped fine (including white part!)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Chill at least a half hour for flavors to incorporate.

Maple Walnut Cream Cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs real maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (if you actually have maple extract, you can use it here)

½ cup chopped walnuts, plus walnuts for garnish

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, syrup and extract. Stir in the walnuts and chill for at least 30 minutes. Turn the cream cheese into your serving dish and garnish with whole walnuts.

Fast track Spanish-style tortilla (camping friendly, no potatoes)

22 Jul

I love me some camp stove scrambled eggs, but it is not hard to step up the game a bit and make something fancier and more satisfying, even in the minimalist camp kitchen. The following recipe makes for rocking outdoor breakfast/brunch eggs: a cross between an omelette and a tortilla.

This is where you learn that it doesn’t have to have potatoes to be a tortilla…this one celebrates the zucchini season, but amps up the wow factor with a bit of spicy chorizo. It does justice to that big appetite that the outdoor life gives you, but cuts cooking and prep time in half.

(Love that fresh local flavor: my eggs come from Makinajian Poultry Farm in Huntington. It is hard to mess up eggs when they are that good)

Take your omelette to a new level....

Shortcut tortilla for camping

6 eggs, lightly beaten

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ medium onion, peeled and diced

½ medium zucchini, diced

3-4 oz Spanish (hot, dry) chorizo, peeled and diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Set aside the lightly-beaten eggs in a large bowl.

Heat half the olive oil until fragrant in an 8 or 9 inch skillet, then add onion and zucchini and sauté until tender. Remove from heat and stir vegetables into the egg mixture.

Wipe skillet (leaving a bit of grease) and add chorizo, cooking at medium until it begins releasing its oil. Then add to egg mixture and allow to rest five minutes. In the meantime, wipe the skillet and add remaining oil. Heat the oil on medium high until fragrant and add egg mixture, seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper.

Once the bottom of the egg mixture begins to set, shake pan to loosen and lower heat to medium. Cover and cook five minutes or until the whole egg mixture looks mostly set. Uncover and place a flat plate on top of the egg mixture and carefully turn skillet over so tortilla comes out. Slide tortilla back into the skillet and cook the other side till set. You may flip it several times until completely set.

Flip finished tortilla out of pan and onto plate. Allow to cool somewhat before cutting into wedges and serving.

Tortilla española (Classic Spanish potato and egg frittata)

14 May

For parties, picnics or brunch!

One of my favorite dishes ever, tortilla española, is picnic and party portable, light yet filling, subtle yet hearty and includes just four basic ingredients (plus salt). It also looks beautiful in a sturdy, wholesome farmhouse way. I eat it warm or cold, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch (or a midnight raid on the fridge). It keeps — refrigerated – for a couple of days, but honestly, tortilla española never lasts that long in my house!

Spanish people (from the Iberian peninsula) are quite — and rightly — proud of their culinary traditions. Serving your home-made tortilla to a Spaniard is kind of like serving your spaghetti marinara to an Italian from Italy: there is a good chance you will be damned with faint praise, or met with an unsuccessfully concealed sniff of a European nose that tells you you just don’t get it. But I have served my tortilla to Spaniard after Spaniard and the invariable response has been a request for seconds and a lot of praise, so I think it’s a winner. ¡Olé!

This is a pretty easy dish, but does require some derring-do for the flipping (unless Rosaria turns up with her fancy tortilla flipper one day soon!). I am including a list of equipment here so that you can set yourself up for success without scrambling for stuff. Thanks to Ashley for chopping and for writing down the exact proportions while I measured and stirred.

Equipment

non-stick pan and lid (the pan should be at 9-10 inches across; the cover doesn’t have to be the exact fit. I like an oversized lid myself)

spatula

colander

large mixing bowl

bowl to catch drained oil

large flat plate for filling

Ingredients

1 Cup olive oil (or half olive oil, half neutral vegetable oil)

2 baseball sized onions, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch rings (rings may be halved)

3 medium potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into relatively uniform 1/2 inch slices (Russett or Yukon Gold preferred. New potatoes should not be used)

8-10 fresh eggs (a bigger pan requires 10)

Heat oil until liquid and fragrant and layer potatoes and onions in the oil. Lower heat to medium and cook vegetables until tender (if they start to brown, lower the heat more), turn occasionally.

Open bottle of prosecco or other refreshing white wine and begin drinking (This is Ashley’s contribution to the recipe).

In a large bowl, gently beat eggs. When vegetables are tender, drain into colander, reserving oil. Put drained vegetables in egg mixture and stir to cover, adding 1/4-1/2 tsp salt. Allow to rest for five to ten minutes.

Clean pan and heat a small amount of the reserved oil into pan (non-stick pans should require little more than a rub of oil) at medium-high. Save reserved oil for another dish.

Pour egg mixture into pan and allow to cook at medium high until a crust forms on the art of mixture that is in direct contact with the pan. Cover and lower heat to medium low, shaking occasionally. When mixture is relatively firm CAREFULLY lay plate face down on pan and turn tortilla onto pan (this is where liquid can come out; I do it over the sink). Slide tortilla back into pan, uncooked side down. Continue cooking until it slides easily in pan.

You may flip a few more times to improve shape, then flip onto plate, allow to cool for at least ten minutes, slice pie-style and serve with salad or cut into squares for a buffet or appetizer (stick with toothpicks for hors d’oeuvres).

 

Party Snacks: Tortilla Torcal, a Spanish egg frittata with chorizo and ham

21 Dec

Today I lived my owned sour grapes fable. You remember: the Aesop story about the fox who can’t reach a bunch of grapes that are taunting him from a high vine. In the end, the fox gives up and consoles himself by saying, “Those grapes were probably sour anyway.”

Well, the tortilla flipper is probably overrated anyway.

Like the fox, I won’t find out whether this wondrous invention is as tasty as it looked on the online pages of a Spanish product vendor. It looks like two skillets hinged together that make flipping a classic Spanish tortilla (savory stovetop egg pie) easy. Like, you won’t burn your forearms as you upturn the eight not-quite-cooked eggs onto a plate and then slide the tortilla back into the skillet and you won’t make a goeey, cementy, eggy mess as the uncooked bits goop out of the skillet…

Nah, what would be the fun of that? Why take a muscle-y, down and dirty, daredevil sacrifice for the sake of food and turn it into a clinical, tidy, bloodless, soul-less operation?

Never. Not even if I could spare $50 to purchase another piece of kitchen equipment I have no room for.

So, screw the tortilla flipper. Or unscrew it. Or unhinge it. Forget it.

The tortilla itself, however, is a worthwhile enterprise. This is a case where the “easy” in “Hot, Cheap & Easy” is relative. A relative lie, actually. Making a Spanish tortilla takes time, patience, some strength and a set of stones. However, when you make a good one, your guests will lavish you with praise, something I am quite fond of.

And since I can make it the night before an event, it’s handy and portable.

The classic tortilla española is potato and egg, but this one, inspired by Penelope Casas’ recipe for Tortilla Torcal in her book Tapas makes it a mightier, spicier dish that really dresses up a tapas night.

Tortilla con chorizo y petit pois

1/2 cup olive oil

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

8-10 eggs

1/4 tsp salt (optional, reduce or leave out if the ham is very salty)

1 small onion, chopped fine

1/4 lb. spicy Spanish-style chorizo sausage, peeled and diced

1/4 Cup ham steak or other cured/fully cooked ham, diced

1/4 Cup frozen peas, cooked

 

Heat the oil in a skillet and add potatoes, lower heat and cook potatoes slowly, turning frequently. When they start to brown, they are more than done. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly with the salt. Drain the potatoes, reserving the oil. Add the potatoes to the egg mixture and mix just barely (this gets the temperatures even).

Heat one tablespoon of oil to the skillet and sauté the onion until tender. Add the chorizo and the ham and cook just until the chorizo begins to release its oil (it will get bitter if allowed to cook more). Add the peas and cook for another few minutes. Stir very gently into the eggs and let sit for at least five minutes. Meanwhile, make sure your skillet (9” or 10” made of a material that is not too heavy!) is really clean, then heat two more tablespoons of oil and pour in the egg mixture. When you see the egg begin to cook on the edges, lower heat to medium low and cover. Allow to cook for ten minutes, until the center is thickened.

This is where it gets challenging. Get a plate that will fit smoothly to the edges of the skillet. The plate should be flat-surfaced, with no changes in levels. Take the skillet to the sink, put the plate on top and, with your hand firmly on the plate, turn the skillet over so the tortilla turns onto the plate (this is where the goo can scald your forearm, if you are unlucky or not careful). Then slide the tortilla back into the skillet, wet side down. Put back on heat and cover, continuing to cook until done (another five minutes or so). In the meantime, wash and dry the plate. When the tortilla is done, flip it back onto the plate and behold its golden loveliness.  

Allow to cool (I actually refrigerate overnight after it cools, wrapping in foil or plastic wrap or both). Serve at room temperature, or warm; it’s good at any temperature. I usually cut into squares for a tapas party and stick the squares with toothpicks to get people started.

 NB: Penelope Casas and other Spaniards prefer their tortillas a bit juicy inside. I find that Americans are too concerned about salmonella for that (and probably rightly so), so I cook it through. If you know your egg source, you should be fine cooking it rare!

Also, I really, truly thought the tortilla flipper was cool, but I think I am way cooler for doing it Old School. Sour grapes? You make the call.

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