Sunday, May 31, 2009

Corn Dog Casserole

I've made this recipe before, but hadn't posted it because I couldn't get any good pictures off of it. I don't know what exactly changed this time, but the pictures for this round are worthy enough for me to throw on this blog. This recipe is exactly as it sounds - in the end, you have something that tastes like cut-up corn dogs in a casserole. Childish? Maybe. But it's definitely delicious, and easy to put together to boot.

2 cups thinly sliced celery
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups sliced green onions
1 1/2 pounds hot dogs
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 packages (8.5 oz. each) corn bread/muffin mix
2 cups (8 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and saute celery for 5 minutes. Add green onions, and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Place into a large bowl and set aside. Cut hot dogs lengthwise into quarters, then each quarter into thirds. In the same skillet, saute the hot dogs for 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Add into the cooling vegetables and mix to combine. Set aside 1 cup of this mixture. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, sage, and pepper. Add all but the one cup of hot dog mixture, then stir in corn bread mix. Using a large spoon, bring it all together, then add 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Spread evenly into a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Top with the reserved hot dog mix and remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Yields 12 servings.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baked French Toast with Pralines

I've been delaying my postings for far too long. I originally baked this breakfast over 6 weeks ago, but haven't gotten around to posting until now. My brother and sister-in-law don't live too far away from me, and I made this the week that my niece was born. I knew it'd be a struggle for them to find time to bake or cook with a newborn on their hands, so I asked my sister-in-law what her favorite breakfast was, and ended up making this baked french toast.

This recipe is based off Paula Deen's Baked French Toast, and is an easy way to make a large batch of french toast at once, covered with a sweet praline topping.

French Toast:
Dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whole milk
8 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups half and half
1 loaf (16 oz.) sourdough, cut into 1-inch slices

Stale bread soaks up the liquid better, so if time permits, let the slices sit out overnight covered with a tea towel. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish, and place the sourdough slices into the dish, making sure slices don't overlap. Into a large bowl add the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, milk, half and half, and eggs, then mix until combined. Pour over the sourdough slices and cover with foil. Refrigerate at least 8 hours. Remove from refrigerator to warm to room temperature, preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread praline topping over bread. Bake, still covered with foil, for 45 minutes.

2 lbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine all ingredients until a homogenous paste forms, then spread over the french toast before baking.

As you can see, this is fairly easy to put together, especially if you know that you're going to bake it ahead of time. This is one of those dishes that could be a treat for a holiday morning, or just a really good weekend breakfast. Scoop some ice cream on top, and you might just have dessert too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vegetable Strudel

The May Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prauge by Rick Rodgers. However, I took another turn on this dessert and decided to make a more savory dish, using some vegetables I had leftover in the house. What I ended up with was an onion-based vegetable strudel.

The recipe for the strudel dough itself is easy, and after you let it sit for a sufficient amount of time it's simple to pull extremely thin. I washed off a flat table in our living room and went to work stretching it ever-so-gently. I made sure to get the center thinned out first, so there was extra dough around the edges as I pulled further, giving me more to work with.

You can see that the edges are a bit thicker, so they can still be pulled further. Working from the center out, using hands on both sides of the dough (one on top and one on bottom), going in a circle from the center, I was able to get the dough roughly 2-feet by 3-feet. At that point, it was tissue-paper thin. Enough so I could clearly see my hands through it.

Then I simply topped with the ingredients I had on hand, rolled, and baked. I threw in a few extras to make sure it'd be good and tasty, but I was surprised at how easily strudel could come together - it always seemed much more complicated to me.


Strudel dough:
1 1/3 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to coat the dough
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Knead together all the ingredients, smacking harshly on a flat surface occasionally to get rid of any air bubbles. If the dough feels too dry, add water by half-teaspoons. After everything has come together, continue kneading until a soft ball with a rough surface forms. Shape into a ball and lightly oil the surface, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to sit at room temperature for 90 minutes. After it's sufficiently rested, lightly flour a clean, large working space (at least 2-feet by 3-feet wide) and begin pulling the dough from the center out. There are some videos online that can demonstrate this better than words can.

3 large onions, sliced thickly
2 large shallots, diced
Large bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 lb. carrots, sliced thickly
6 medium stalks of celery, sliced thickly
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 fresh sprigs of oregano, leaves pulled and chopped
Worcestershire sauce to taste

Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Top the pulled strudel dough on one side with the filling, working in layers to ensure that all the slices will have a little bit of everything. After adding it all together, carefully fold over the dough with filling inward towards the remaining dough. It's okay if a few holes appear in the dough here - they'll be covered up by the remaining layers of dough as you continue rolling. Continue rolling the dough onto itself until it has all been used up, then shape so it can fit onto a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the outside begins to turn golden brown and the vegetables inside have softened. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

This can easily be either a main or side dish, and the variations you could make on it are nearly endless. You can fill it with choice vegetables of your own, and different varieties of cheese. You could add some pre-cooked beef, or even put in some sauce. Whatever you feel like putting into this, a strudel is a great way to combine all your ingredients into something that comes out with a flaky crust, and becomes easily transportable.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chipster-Topped Brownies

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Beth of Supplicious. This is the first time I think I've had a late entry to TwD, but I'm just going to back-date it since technically they were done on Tuesday. Around midnight, that is. I tried to squeeze it in on time, but the brownies didn't cool fast enough for me to get a good cut before I went to sleep.

This recipe was definitely one for sweet teeth. What could be better than brownies covered with chocolate chip cookie dough, then all baked together? I ended up cutting this into very small pieces because it's so rich, and I'm sure it's going to take a while for this to be gotten through at work. This is definitely a lot of chocolately sweet goodness.

Back to why I ended up posting this a day late - I was gone on an awesome camping trip with a group of friends for the past 6 days. We drove from San Diego to Redding, then set up camp near Trinity Lake. Nine guys, a lot of booze, hiking, exploring, and of course great food. I came up with the menu and did most of the cooking (what can I say, it's my hobby). I was surprised at how well most of it turned out - chicken foil wraps, beef stew with dumplings, pizzas, chili, country-style breakfast skillets to name a few. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera with me for fear that something would happen to it, so I'm not going to be able to post up any of those recipes or the pictures of that food. Next time, I suppose.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 94-95

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fresh Mango Bread

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Kelly of Baking with the Boys. This was a new treat for me - I had never heard of mango bread, let alone attempt to make my own batch. Come to think of it, I don't think I'd even bought a whole mango before I set about baking this bread. Regardless, the end product was ultimately delicious, and makes for a great breakfast bread.

In this bread, Dorie brings together both fresh mango and raisins, giving the bread a light fruity flavor. I don't know how other mango breads taste in comparison to this one, but if they're anything similar, then I'm surprised they haven't spread more. I now have no reason to shy away from the mangoes when I see them in the grocery.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 45

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto

This month welcomes the birth of the Daring Cooks group. Linked with Daring Bakers, Daring Cooks is very much the same premise, but everyone cooks a specific meal rather than baking (which usually focuses on dessert). The selection this month was ricotto gnocchi, from Judy Rodgers' cookbook, The Zuni Café Cookbook. It didn't turn out quite as photographic as I had hoped, but it offered itself as a pleasantly light and delicious meal.

There's a nice Italian restaurant not too far from my house, and I've often ordered their gnocchi with pesto sauce. It's such a wonderful combination that I decided I'd try it out on my own. This gnocchi is different from the standard sort (using potatoes is standard, from what I've seen at least) in that it uses ricotta as the base, but I still figured the pairing would go well together. As far as the process went of actually cooking the formed gnocchi, I found that letting the gnocchi sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours really helped them hold their form. I was having trouble with them breaking apart, even after adding extra eggs and letting it sit for an hour or so in the refrigerator.

16 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 heavy pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Flour to form the gnocchi

At least a day before you want to cook the gnocchi, place the ricotta cheese over a cheesecloth, placed into a wire mesh sieve, suspended over a bowl to catch the moisture. This will drain off a lot of the excess water that's held inside the cheese. If you skip this step, your gnocchi will fall apart easily while cooking. Once the water has been wicked away (about 24 hours in the refrigerator), place into a food processor and pulse a few times until smooth. Add the eggs, butter, nutmeg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt. Pulse until everything is combined and smooth. Fill a shallow bowl with flour, and drop 2-3 teaspoons of batter into it at a time. Very gently roll it and shape it until it has an even coating of flour, then drop into a boiling pot of water. Once the gnocchi begins to float, boil for an additional 5 minutes, then gently remove from the water bath and set aside to cool. Do a practice gnocchi first, then if it holds up to the strain of boiling and removal, continue to cook gnocchi 5-6 at a time, such that the pot doesn't become overcrowded. If the gnocchi falls apart, try to add an extra egg white or allow the batter to firm up in the refrigerator. Once gnocchi are cooked, while still hot, serve with sauce of your choice.

Basic pesto sauce:
4 cups Italian (sweet) basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon salt

In a food processor, process the basil until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides as needed. Add the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt. Pulse until sauce comes together - it will be thick. Serve on top of the hot ricotto gnocchi.

I ended up keeping a lot of this for myself, but I was able to share a bit of it with a couple people, and the reviews were actually better than I had expected. I thought that I may have over-done it with the amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano, being in both the gnocchi and in the sauce, but it seems that it was a much-welcomed flavor. This first daring cooks challenge was interesting, and I'm looking forward for more to come.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tartest Lemon Tart

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Babette of Babette Feasts. Unfortunately, this is one of the few recipes that I've made from this book that I wasn't a big fan of. Instead of it being a very tart lemon tart, it just tasted like a...bad lemon tart. I'll blame it on the not-perfectly-fresh lemons, and assume that Dorie's recipe was tried and true, because that seems to be the case most of the time. However, if I made this again, I think I'd play it safe and use the lemon juice + lemon pulp, but leave the lemon skin out of it. It just gave it a bitter taste...not tart at all. Maybe I was reading the directions wrong in putting the whole lemon in there?

The top bubbled a bit more than I had expected as well (I took Dorie's warning to heart and placed down a sheet of foil, because I figured there'd be some spillage), and it was hard to take a relatively pretty picture. I tried covering it with powdered sugar, but it just didn't look right, so I went the route of making it brulee - getting to play with my blowtorch again was a happy side effect.

Anyways, this recipe was a good idea, and I'd be interested in trying something similar again...just not this one in particular.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 336

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mom's Meat Loaf

What a better way to celebrate Mother's Day than a tribute to one of the great American past-time meals, made by moms across the country? This is the meat loaf my mom used to make for me when I was younger, and I recently made a double-batch so I'd have enough to share. I'm sure there are plenty of people who had some bad experiences with meat loaves in their childhood, and I've heard several complaints about meat loaves being too dry or bland. However, if you follow this recipe, you're sure to get moist and tasty meatloaf that will be happily devoured.

2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup finely crushed saltines
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
Dash of pepper
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

(Again, in the photograph are the supplies for a doubled recipe, making two loaves)

Preheat oven to 350ºF and set out an 8-1/2" by 4-1/2" loaf pan (not greased). In a large bowl, beat eggs until just together, then add milk, saltine crumbs, onion, salt, sage, and pepper. Add the beef and mix well, using your hands to bring everything together. Shape roughly into a loaf, then place into the loaf pan and pat down until it takes shape. In a small bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until everything has been brought together. Spoon 3/4 of a cup of this sauce onto the top of the meat loaf. Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until there is no longer any pink in the center of the loaf. Remove from oven and drain off any excess fat. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the remaining sauce. Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tiramisu, and good luck?

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Megan of My Baking Adventures. This tiramisu cake is made with a yellow cake batter instead of ladyfingers, and syrup is poured over the cake rather than letting it outright soak.

A few weeks ago, you might remember, my oven broke down, so I had to cook everything on the broiler setting. Not long after that, two of the four coils on the top of the oven burned out, so that had to be fixed. Then around two weeks ago, there was a leak behind our wall, so the oven was pulled into the middle of the kitchen and I had to do all my mixing and whatnot in the living room. Last night, our cable/internet went out. I swear, it's a conspiracy. The cable/internet provider said it was going to be out for 3-4 days at least, so I'm having to type up this while at work. After a heavy sigh, I started baking this cake, and while making the batter, cracked my very first double-yolked egg! Hopefully, since that's a sign of good luck, fortune will begin to turn my way in the baking world.

I ended up making this cake twice. I got response that the first cake ended up tasting a bit dry for a tiramisu, so for the second batch I more than doubled the amount of syrup, adding an extra little helping of amaretto. To my disappointment, my first bite into it showed it was still dry. I'm used to having a very wet tiramisu, so maybe it's just a matter of opinion, but next time I'd probably soak the layers much more thoroughly than Dorie indicates. Overall though, the dessert is very tasty, and the frosting is exceptionally good (made with an extra couple doses of amaretto).

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 266-268