Oh. My. Goodness. This is the most deliciously decadent thing ever. I don't even know whether to call it brunch or dessert, or both. Buttery brioche french toast, sweet pastry cream made with vanilla bean, and crunchy brûléed bananas topped with a drizzle of salted caramel. Total epic ridiculousness.
Step one is to make the vanilla pastry cream. Bring cream to a simmer with a vanilla bean and then let steep before adding to a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and flour and cooking until thick and creamy. It needs to cool completely and then chill, which is why we make it first.
The next step is to make the salted caramel sauce, which is a bit tricky if you have never made one before (I hadn't). You have to leave the sugar alone while it melts and colors, and watch carefully for the right moment. Then you add butter and cream. The caramel with pop and splutter like crazy, and ball up on the end of your whisk. You just have to keep whisking over low heat until it all comes together. Then add in your sea salt and let it cool.
While that is cooling, make your French toast using big, thick slices of brioche (a little stale is better).
BLOW TORCH TIME. This is seriously so much fun. Sprinkle banana slices with sugar and brown with a blow torch. Easy. If you don't have a blow torch, I'm pretty sure that you can use a broiler.
Merry Christmas, y'all! We went on a bit of a crazy roadtrip (which I will tell you about later, because there are restaurants involved) and didn't get back til late on the 22nd, which left us in a bit of a scramble to get ready for Christmas. We managed to get some outdoor decorations up (check out the wreath I made!), but no tree or anything indoors.
We also spent all our holiday money on travel, so no presents this year. But we did have a nice Christmas dinner (I mean, come on - how could I not, right?). Honey Baked Ham (going store bought on the main let me focus on sides); Spinach and Gruyere Strata; Sweet Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions; and Bacon Popovers.
And a Cranberry Raisin Tart with orange zest and spices for dessert.
Oh yeah, and breakfast! Can't forget Christmas morning sweets! I made these Cranberry Orange Rolls by Smitten Kitchen - yum!
I saw these guys at the Farmers Market and though, "What the heck are those?" So out came the phone and Google searching commenced. Garlic Scapes, as it turns out, are a shoot that grows out of the top of the garlic plant. They need to be removed so that the plant can focus on growing the bulb instead of flowering. This is fortunate, because the also happen to be insanely delicious. They taste like garlic, but without the bite, and can be used like scallions.
I bought myself a big handful and set about looking up recipes. The most common way to use them is in a pesto, so of course I did not make that... because I'm weird.
Instead, I made carbonara - with guanciale (cuz I'm legit) and peas (which put an end to my legit-ness, but I don't care cuz I love peas). You are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about, I don't blame you. Here is a link to a great article about the do's and dont's of real carbonara. TLDR (too long, didn't read for all you non-techies) - while bacon and pancetta are acceptable, guanciale is the best; peas are a definite don't.
I also made biscuits - with garlic scapes, Gruyere, and goat butter (another new obsession of mine).
We are coming to the end of asparagus season, but you may be able to get one more use in - and I recommend this one. An asparagus flavored custard with goat cheese and Gruyere, tucked inside a flaky puff pastry shell? Yes, please!
This Martha Stewart recipe uses the stalks and tips separately. The stalks get pureed into the custard, and the tips decorate the top of the tart.
The custard is made with asparagus, eggs, cream, and flour (I altered the recipe based on comments - adding more flour to help it set up).
The custard goes into a pre-baked shell, then the cheeses are sprinkled on top, followed by the asparagus tips.
The texture is gorgeous and the asparagus is definitely the star of the show. Yum, yum, yum - get out there and grab the last of the asparagus!
Here is a dish that is simple, easy, healthy, and totally delicious.
All you do is mix together cooked quinoa, wilted kale, caramelized onions, eggs, and cheese; then bake until set.
It sets up a bit like a frittata. So simple!
Quinoa and Kale Crustless Quiche
adapted from Food 52
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut into ribbons
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (or whatever you like)
3 oz reduced fat cream cheese (or Laughing Cow), cubed
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a 9" pie dish (either butter the dish thoroughly or spray with baking spray).
Rinse the quinoa. Combine the quinoa and water in a pan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer. This will take about twenty minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, start to caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large saute on medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Slowly cook until the onions are soft and browned. Remove the onions from the pan, and place them in a large mixing bowl.
Add the kale into the hot onion pan. On medium heat, cook until the kale is wilted and bright green, about two minutes. Allow the greens to cool. Squeeze out any extra liquid using a sieve or a clean dish towel.
Add the kale, quinoa, garlic, cream cheese and cheddar to the mixing bowl. Stir the ingredients so that they are evenly distributed.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs so that they are well combined. Pour over the quinoa/kale mixture. Stir until the egg clings to the greens. Add salt and pepper.
Pour the mixture in the prepared pie dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and the pie has started to pull away from the edge of the baking dish. This dish is delightful hot, but even better at room temperature.
I wanted to do a big Christmas dinner, but I didn't want to be in the kitchen all Christmas Day. I also wanted to try something different than the usual rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. So I decided to do dinner on Christmas Eve and to do some easy, low-prep dishes for Brunch on Christmas Day.
I ordered a half fresh ham through Whole Foods to try cooking a Christmas ham for the first time, but I made a few mistakes. I wanted to cook it in the slow cooker with brown sugar and cider to make a glaze, but I didn't realize that "fresh ham" is not really what we consider ham - without the curing or smoke, it is more like a pork roast - so I didn't really get the flavor that I wanted. I also couldn't get the whole thing to fit in my (very large) slow cooker insert, so I had to chop a chunk off - which actually ended up being a good thing because I roasted that piece and it came out better.
The recipe calls this "mac and cheese", but I feel like it is more of a "cheesy casserole". Either way, it is tasty and good for you - packed with protein rich quinoa and tasty veggies. You can make it even healthier by using fat free milk and fat free cheese. It is also totally customizable to your tastes!
Start by sauteing whatever veggies you want to use. I went with leeks and tomatoes as suggested by the recipe, but you could do onions or shallots, bell peppers, corn, spinach, anything you want.
Add the quinoa and allow to toast a little bit to get extra flavor.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated our 2nd Wedding Anniversary! We went on a lovely trip to Texas over the weekend, but our actual anniversary fell on a Tuesday. We had plans to eat at some very nice restaurants on our trip, so we decided to stay in on our anniversary and have a nice home-cooked meal. I made steak with compound butter, spinach and Gruyere souffle, and vanilla bean panna cotta with mixed berries.
Spring vegetables are delicate and fresh and I think that one of the best ways to utilize them is in a quiche. Fluffy eggs, creamy cheese, and flaky buttery crust - what's not to love? I used spinach and leeks this time, but zucchini and asparagus work great too!