Huevos Rancheros…Southern Style!

Huevos Rancheros…Southern Style!

My chef “friend”, Grant Allen, from New Zealand had a post on his Facebook page last week. He showed off his evening supper, a classic combination of beans and eggs with sides of hash browns and bacon. It looked pretty darn good! This traditional breakfast food (we all love breakfast for dinner, don’t we?) reminded me of the Full English breakfast we enjoyed in London several years ago. This one includes bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding which is a combination of…. well, let’s just call it another type of sausage.

Then, I got to thinking about the combination of eggs and beans, and my hungry brain went straight to Huevos Rancheros. If you are unfamiliar, this is a dish that tops a lightly fried tortilla with black beans, cheese, and a fried egg, sloshed with a spicy red sauce and garnished with salsa, sour cream and avocado.  It’s a spicy bite of South in your mouth. A yum, yumm of a dish!

As you might expect, with my brain on an egg and bean train, my trip to the market this past Saturday got my (pepper) juices flowing. I mean, the peppers and tomatoes were just gorgeous, see?!

And the inspiration came. Why not create a dish inspired by the others with a truly unique Southern flare? And here you have it.

Baked beans spiced with onions and peppers, topped with hand-grated cheddar cheese, sautéed ham in mustard-maple butter, fried eggs and garnished with diced avocado and (farm fresh, of course) chopped tomatoes. This is a great dish to share with friends, especially when most (if not all) of the ingredients are probably sitting in your pantry and fridge. But, it’s also a great binge-watching dish, as it will take you some time to eat your way through a large portion!

 

Southern Style Huevos Rancheros

serves 2 large or 4 small portions

30 minute cuisine

For baked beans:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 slices bacon, diced

1 bunch green onions, tough tops removed, cut into thin slices, about 1 cup

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced

1 (16-ounce) can baked beans, drained

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

For the tortilla:

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 (10-inch) spinach tortillas

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

8 slices deli ham

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, about 1 cup

4 large eggs

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

1 small tomato, diced

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, jalapeno pepper and onions and cook until the bacon begins to crisp, and the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain as much liquid as you can from the baked beans and pour them into the skillet. Season with some of the salt and pepper, stir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the beans while you cook the ham.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully lay one tortilla into the oil. Cook for a few seconds. Use tongs to turn the tortilla to the other side. Cook for a couple seconds more and transfer to a large platter. Repeat with the second tortilla and transfer to a second platter. Add the butter, mustard and maple syrup to the same skillet. Stir together to melt the butter. Add the ham slices to the pan (you can do this in batches). Cook until the ham begins to brown and crisp on the edges, turning several times, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Spoon half of the beans onto one tortilla. Top the beans with half of the shredded cheese. Arrange four slices of ham on top of the cheese and beans. Repeat with the second tortilla. Crack the eggs into the same skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the whites of the eggs are set, and the yolks remain runny, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer two eggs onto each tortilla. Top with diced tomatoes and avocado.

 

 

 

Scrumptious Possibilities = Peach Empanadas

Scrumptious Possibilities = Peach Empanadas

I have a recipe in my book Canvas and Cuisine for Fried Peach Hand Pies. It’s good… really good. However, I came across a recipe for peach preserves that included a vanilla bean and smidge of bourbon in place of my cinnamon-spiced version. So, I gave it a try and I’ll tell you what…. good went to gooder, it was so darn good.

Then I saw another recipe for fried pies that uses prepared pie dough in place of my puff pastry dough. And, guess what? This too is knock your grammar socks off-gooder! Then we top these dainty fried pies with a peachy glaze made from the peels and pits of the ripe peach. Well, I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Now, you will say to me, I’m not going to spend all this time makin’ peach preserves and fryin’ pies. And, I’m going to say to you, why the heck not!

I mean, there’s bourbon involved for god’s sake!

You can make the preserves in minutes and allow them to cook themselves over the next hour or so. You can put together the pies well in advance of frying, and let them hang out in the fridge until your craving ramps up to speed. You can fry those pies in minutes… literally minutes. There’s not even a lot of clean up. Let the oil cool, pour it into a container and use it again down the road…when you want to go from good to gooder 😉

Peach Preserves

Made into Peach Empanadas

Yields about 2 cups Preserves

About 20 to 24 hand pies

For preserves:

10 to 12 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces

1 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and halved

⅓ cup bourbon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

For Fried Pies:

Peach peels and pits from 10 to 12 ripe peaches

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 (14-ounce) box refrigerated pie dough (2 crusts)

1 large egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water

Vegetable oil for frying

For Peach Glaze:

Juice from peach peels and pits, about ½ cup

1 ½ to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Peel the peaches by placing them in boiling water for several minutes and then transferring to a bowl filled with ice water. Reserve the peels by placing them in a large bowl. Chop the peaches into small chunks. Transfer the pits to the bowl with the peels. Stir ½ cup sugar into the bowl with the peach pits and peels and let sit for 20 minutes.

Place the diced peaches, 1 cup sugar, vanilla bean and bourbon into a deep pot, like so:

Sprinkle with salt. Stir together and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the peaches break down and the consistency of the preserves is syrupy. (I used a potato masher to break down the peaches after about 30 minutes and then continued to cook for another 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is reduced into the peaches). Cool the preserves and store in an airtight container.

Strain the peach peels and pits into a bowl to get about ½ cup juice. Whisk some of this juice into 1 ½ to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar. Continue adding juice until you get a peach glaze that is pourable and looks like the photo below:

Roll out the pie crusts on a well-flour surface. Use a round cookie cutter (about 3 or 4-inches in diameter) to cut circles from the dough. Place a teaspoon of peach preserves in the center of one dough circle. Brush the egg wash (beaten egg with water) around the edge of the circle. Fold the circle in half and use the tines of the fork to seal in the filling. Place the pie onto a rack and refrigerate until ready to fry.

Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot to 375. Gently drop the pies into the oil and cook until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use a wire spider or slotted spoon to transfer the pies to a rack over paper toweling to catch the drips. Continue until all the pies have been fried. Drizzle the warm pies with peach glaze.

 

 

 

Blackberry Season Calls for a Jam Session!

Blackberry Season Calls for a Jam Session!

It’s that time of year, mid-summer, when blackberries are ripe for the pickin’! Just last week, I found blackberries the size of quail eggs at the local farm stand. When I went back this week, sadly they were gone. I guess all those berry pickers have scarfed up the ones, so recently come to market…To stop my wails, the very kind lady let me know the berries will make a return in three weeks! Yay oh yay!

In the meantime, she suggested homemade preserves to see me through the dry spell. That’s when I found a lovely jar of blackberry jam! I gathered up all the jam I could hold, and came home to my kitchen to create a snack treat for my nieces and nephews, coming for a visit.

The result was this lovely, crumbly, streusel-like bar with the richness of farm grown blackberries. And, yes, they were a hit!

If you’re in the North Carolina area, check out these local U-pick farms with berries galore!

 

Blackberry Jam Oat Bars

Yield about 16 (2-inch) bars

30 minute cuisine

 

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup unsalted butter, melted, 2 sticks

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Zest from 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

2 cups Blackberry Jam

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a square baking pan with vegetable oil spray.

Stir together flour, oats, melted butter, sugars, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a bowl. The dough will be coarse and crumbly.

Stir together the jam and cornstarch in a bowl.

Press half of the dough into the bottom of the pan. Spread the jam/cornstarch mixture over the top. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the jam. Bake until the top of the bars begin to turn golden brown and the jam is bubbling, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the bars in the pan. Cut into squares.

 

 

What to Feed Your April Fool? How About Dinner for Breakfast?

What to Feed Your April Fool? How About Dinner for Breakfast?

There are so many savory breakfast classics that seem better suited to dinner, am I right? Steak and eggs, Quiche Lorraine, a mound of white grits that could be your April Fool’s Day mashed potatoes in the right light….

I wasn’t sure how to usher in the first Monday of this month. To help me brain storm, I got out my bullet journal. Bullet journals are trending lately. It differs from keeping a regular old diary, in that you just make lists and outline your goals in fun colors, adding little drawings in the margins.

Ideal bullet journal entries are grocery lists and recipes. When I embarked on note taking for Jorj.com’s Monday offering, I drew a Spanish sun first. Light was streaming through my kitchen window, warming my skin. I thought of the chapters in my new cookbook that were inspired by mine and my co-author, Sue Fazio’s trips to Spain.

I then decided that a perfect, savory dinner for breakfast is the Tortilla Espanola. In Spain, it’s just a tapa, but on April Fool’s Day in my house, it’s dinner!

You can make it in a cast iron skillet – any skillet – but be warned. It’s HOT!!! There are a lot of fiery bites on tapas plates. I guess the thought is the more blazing your taste buds, the more you require a swallow of chilled aperitif to put out the flames.

SANGRIA, anyone? Oh, and April Fool’s Day Tip – maybe make one side of the tortilla extra spicy and tell people to take their chances, wink, wink…

And remember – all days of the year, not just 4/1/19, this is a terrific dish for a pot luck. It’s good old-fashioned comfort food!

Tortilla Espanola

(Potato Torte)

serves a crowd

40 minute cuisine

5 to 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Vegetable oil for frying

2 large yellow onions, diced, about 3 cups

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 3 tablespoons

6 large eggs, beaten

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Chopped, fresh parsley

Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice the potatoes into thin rounds. Place the potatoes into a colander and toss with salt. Pour enough oil to come halfway up the side of a deep skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. You will know that the oil is ready when you place the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and you see bubbles. Fry the potatoes in the oil until they are tender in the middle and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes. You can do this in batches so that you don’t crowd too many slices into the pan. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer the potatoes onto a paper lined baking sheet.

Carefully add the onions and garlic to the oil. Lower the temperature to medium low and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer to the baking sheet holding the potatoes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully pour all but 2 tablespoons of the oil into heat resistant bowl. (When cooled, you can strain and re-use the oil for another recipe.)

Place the eggs into a large bowl using a fork to blend.  Gently slide the potatoes, onions and garlic into the bowl. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper and gently blend trying not to break the potato slices.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Pour in the potato and eggs using a spatula to spread evenly in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds to brown the (soon to be top) of the torte. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the center is set, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use the spatula to gently loosen the edges from the pan as it cooks. Shake the skillet to make sure the center is setting. Turn off the heat. Take a plate, that is large than the skillet and place it upside down over the skillet. With one hand on the plate and the other on the skillet handle, invert the pan so that the torte comes out and onto the plate. There might be a little loose egg around the edges. Use your spatula to scrape any bits back into the torte. Gently slide the inverted torte back into the pan and turn the heat to medium. Cook until a tester inserted into the center of the torte comes out clean, about 5 to 6 minutes more. Transfer the torte to a clean platter and keep warm. The torte can be served warm or at room temperature.

Spring Break Breakfast Buffet & Entertaining Ideas

Spring Break Breakfast Buffet & Entertaining Ideas

Through Easter Sunday on April 21st, schools are closing and people (families with young kids as well as college students) are traveling for Spring Break. If you’re lucky enough to play host to your grandkids, nieces and nephews or just good friends, you’re going to need some breakfast ideas.

I say this because it’s hard to get in the car and bring home donuts, when your driveway is blocked by Aunt Edna’s SUV. You may have to lay out a buffet for those in the group with other plans – like a family member who didn’t get time off and is on their way to work. Here’s a full proof menu for everyone – especially the adults who need to be well nourished before they head to Disney, the park, or the beach.

My Maple Hazelnut scones from Canvas and Cuisine are yummy. You can make them ahead and bake them in 20 minutes, so they are warm out of the oven.  The artichoke and fennel strata (same cookbook) is a perfect brunch dish, and it goes great with SUNDAY BEST candied bacon.

You can prep the bacon the day before. Dredge it in brown sugar. Put it on the oven rack and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or more, depending on thickness of bacon. Make a lot!

Flatbread breakfast bar

Lay out some flour tortillas and bowls of scrambled eggs and/or chopped veggies, herbs, sour cream and guac for a flat bread breakfast bar.

I recommend Bloody Marys for the drinks! Use Charleston Bloody Mary mix and pickled okra for garnish. You can find both the drink mix and jars of okra at most grocery stores.

An Idea for Grandparents with Kids Underfoot

On an idle day, when there’s not much planned and the little ones seem restless, work on rock painting together. You can pick up a rock painting kit with as many as 7 stones inside for a pittance at places like Target or Hobby Lobby. Have the kids paint up a storm, and then leave behind one of their personalized rocks at each place you tour or visit during their vacay! When they return next year, you can always check to see if it’s still there!

Maple Frosted Hazelnut Scones

makes 12 scones

30 minute cuisine

For Scones:

½ cup old-fashioned oats

½ cup hazelnuts

2 ¾ cups pastry flour

1/3 cup natural cane sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

¾ cups heavy cream

1 large egg

For Frosting:

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons maple extract

1 tablespoon brewed coffee

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the oats and hazelnuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely chop. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Pulse to combine. Add 1 cup butter pieces to the bowl. Pulse to form coarse crumbs. Whisk together the milk and egg. With the machine running, pour the liquid through the feed tube. The dough will come together around the blade.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. The dough will be sticky and that’s okay! You can add a bit more flour to make the dough easier to handle while you use your hands to form the dough into a rectangle about ¾-inch thick and about 8-inches by 9-inches. Use a knife to cut the dough into 6 rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 2 triangles. Use a spatula to transfer each triangle onto 1 large or 2 smaller parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until the scones puff up and just begin to turn golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool scones on the baking sheet.

For the frosting, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, milk, melted butter and maple extract. You want the frosting to be thick but pourable. Drizzle the frosting on the scones. Store scones in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

 

Artichoke and Fennel Strata

serves 6 to 8

40 minute prep, at least 2 hours to chill, about an hour to bake

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces mild Italian sausage (if you buy these in links, remove the casings)

1 small fennel bulb, tops trimmed, cored and chopped, about ¾ cup

1 (16-ounce) loaf brioche bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 (14-ounce can) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, squeeze dry and chopped

8 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated, about 1 cup

2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, about ½ cup

4 to 5 green onions, thinly sliced, about ½ cup

1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sausage and fennel. Cook until the sausage is browned and crumbly and the fennel is soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Place half of the bread cubes into a large baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover the bread with sausage and fennel. Top with artichokes. Place the remaining bread cubes over the top.

Whisk together the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Stir in the cheeses, green onion, mustard, parsley and herbes de Provence. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour this custard over the bread cubes. Push down the top bread so that all the ingredients are completely submerged in the liquid. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or as much as overnight; this will allow the bread to absorb all the liquid and the flavors to merge together.

When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the strata from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Cover the strata with aluminum foil. Bake until the strata begins to set around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the strata is puffy and golden, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Let the strata rest for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Break Bread on Mardi Gras Day with This Twist on King Cake

Break Bread on Mardi Gras Day with This Twist on King Cake

This year, New Orleans is striking up the Mardi Gras band on March 5th, and you know what that means: Lent is starting and Easter is just 40 days away. I love the colors, flavor, parades and pageantry surrounding this time of year – but I can’t get to Louisiana for Fat Tuesday this go around. That’s why I’m devoting this week’s post and next Monday’s to the signature dish on Mardi Gras Day: KING CAKE!!!!

Instead of that classic cake, I took its yummy ingredients and turned it into something perfect for sharing with family and friends. Today it’s bread and next Monday, get ready for some King Cake Cookies, Jorj style!

The Fancy Sprinkles Company was my muse.

A while back I ordered some Fancy Sprinkles made just for Mardi Gras. I put on my thinking cap on what to do with them, and came up with my own Mardi Gras Bread recipe. It’s a sweet treat you can serve at breakfast with cinnamon honey butter, for lunch with peanut butter and jam, or after dinner for a late night snack. Anytime is the perfect time for this bread.

This recipe makes two loaves – one for you and one to wrap up and give to a lucky friend. Give them a big hug and wish them a happy Mardi Gras! Spring is on the way!

 

Mardis Gras Bread

Yield 2 loaves

2 ½ hour cuisine

For Bread:

2 envelopes active dry yeast (about 4 ½ teaspoons)

5 ½ cups bread flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

For Filling:

8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 egg

½ teaspoon dried grated lemon peel

For Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yellow, purple and green sprinkles

Stir the yeast in a bowl with ½ cup warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Place the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to combine. With the motor running on slow, add the yeast and 1 ½ cups more warm water. Once the flour is moistened, increase the speed and mix until the dough forms around the hook, about 5 to 8 minutes. Increase the speed again and continue to mix adding in the butter just a bit at a time. Mix until the dough is tight and shiny, about another 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead for about 2 to 3 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a bowl sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic and set in a warm, dry place to rise.

Place the cream cheese, ½ cup granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, egg and lemon peel into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix to combine.

Spray two 9x5x5” loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Check the dough after 45 minutes. The dough should spring back slowly when you poke your finger into it. Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Take one ball of dough and use your hands to spread into a 10×6” rectangle. Spread half of the filling onto the dough. Roll the dough (jelly-roll style) over the filling. Place the rolled dough into the loaf pan. Repeat with the second ball of dough. Again, cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Check the dough after 30 to 45 minutes. The dough should rise to about ½-inch from the top of the loaf pan. Place the pans into the oven and bake until the tops are deeply golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer from the pan to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and buttermilk. Stir in vanilla extract. The glaze should be thick yet pourable. Drizzle the glaze over the loaves. Shake sprinkles over the glaze.