Archive for March, 2012

Mimosa (deviled) eggs

29 March 2012

The trees are blooming in New York; it’s showstopping. Forsythias, exuberant magnolias, Callery pears like downy street clouds, vaporous cherry blossoms. And yet.

It isn’t time! I am still anticipating winter; the snow, the stews, the spiked hot chocolates by the fire. I have a notebook full for recipes longing for freezing temperatures: braised short ribs, slow-cooked duck, a quick spicy lentil soup if you’ve come home late from the cold. I see they will have to wait.

The year is creeping ahead, chives and tarragon have pierced my balcony beds, and so, submitting to nature’s infectious enthusiasm, I have embraced spring — but not, I admit, without a pinch of regret for a winter that wasn’t really.

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6 eggs

About 10 stalks chives

About 3 stalks tarragon

5 or 6 leaves parsley

3 tsps mayonnaise

2 tsps red wine vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Smoked Spanish paprika

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Fill a small saucepan (just about large enough to fit the eggs) with water. Bring to a boil. Add the eggs to the water one at a time, carefully, with a large spoon so they don’t hit the bottom and crack. Boil gently for 12 minutes. (I decided not to adopt the method Michel Roux uses in his book Eggs, which starts the eggs in cold water. However I have taken note of his advice to make sure the water boils gently, in order to avoid rubbery whites.)

Meanwhile, chop the herbs very very finely.

Once the eggs are cooked, strain the boiling water and add lots of cold water so they cool quickly.

Peel the eggs. Slice each in half lengthwise, carefully scoop out the yolks, and place them in a plate or shallow bowl.

Mash the egg yolks thoroughly with the mayonnaise, vinegar, finely chopped herbs, a pinch of salt, and a grind of black pepper.

With a small spoon, scoop the yolks back into the egg whites as neatly as possible.

At the very last minute, sprinkle a pinch of paprika on each egg.

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Cuban bread

20 March 2012

In his New Complete Book of Breads, Bernard Clayton doesn’t elaborate on this bread’s name; he does, however, call it “… a beginner’s dream.” And adds “Often I have used it in baking classes to demonstrate the ease with which good bread can be made.”

He might also have pointed out that this handsome bread is just the right measure of dense and chewy on the inside, with a soft but assertive crust on the outside, and that the rising time is only 15 minutes, which means the bread can be made from start to finish within an hour and a half, which is pretty great if — like me — you leave bread making to the last minute.

I first made it last September, realizing there was no bread in the house a bare ninety minutes before guests were to arrive for brunch. The name had also caught my eye and indeed it complemented well the baked eggs with cherry tomatoes, basil, and dash of balsamic vinegar I was serving that day.

Back then I hoped this sudden baking impulse would set the tone of a home-baked-bread–filled year, and perhaps even lead to realizing the sourdough fantasy I’ve been chasing.

Well, there hasn’t been much bread baking in the interim, let alone a sourdough adventure. Not a single loaf, in fact, until I baked this same Cuban bread for brunch again recently. It was well complemented, this time, by fried eggs with sautéed leeks and mushrooms atop grilled polenta (or that was the intention — the reality wasn’t quite so neat, but delicious nonetheless).

Happy spring!

***

From Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

5 to 6 cups white flour

2 packages yeast

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsps sugar

2 cups hot water (120°-130°F or 50°-55°C)

Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

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Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Place 4 cups of flour in a large bowl, add the yeast, salt, and sugar, and stir until they are well blended.

Pour in the hot water (using a thermometer is best here because if the water is too hot the yeast won’t work its magic, but, in the absence of such a device, a very unscientific gauge for right temperature is to place the little finger into the water and slowly count to ten. The water should feel quite hot at the end but below burning).

Beat with 100 strong strokes, or for 3 minutes with the flat beater of a hand mixer.

Gradually work in the remaining flour, half a cup at a time, until the dough is no longer too sticky and can be shaped into a ball. Kneed the dough for 8 minutes by hand on a floured work surface or in a hand mixer with a dough hook until it feels smooth, elastic, and “alive.”

Shape into a ball in a greased bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 15 minutes.

Punch down the dough, separate it into two equal parts, and shape each into a smooth round. Place onto the parchmented baking sheet and cut an X on each loaf using a sharp knife. Brush with water and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.

Place the baking sheet with the loaves in the middle of a cold oven and place a large pan with hot water on a grate below, and heat oven to 400°F (200°C). **The bread will continue to rise in the oven as it is heating.**

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread is a deep golden brown. To check for doneness, knock on the bottom crusts; the loaves should sound hollow.

Let cool before slicing.

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Figs, walnuts, and chocolate

9 March 2012

Always an arm’s reach and no cooking away from an excellent dessert, and most delicious when the figs are broken open and stuffed with walnut halves.

It’s what we had at home most nights when I was a teenager. Every evening dinner included a main course, a salad, perhaps cheese, and, invariably, yogurt — plain, with a generous spoonful (or two) of jam or honey. And when one (or two) yogurt(s) left us with a feeling of not enough, we grabbed the nutcracker, the figs, and procrastinated with dessert before getting back to our homework.

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Figs with mascarpone


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