Archive for the ‘Year-round’ Category

Savory oat, leek, and pecorino scones

17 December 2012

DSC_0061

English purists wouldn’t accept these as ‘scones.’ Scones are plain, eaten at tea time, with strawwwberry jam and clotted cream. I’ll worry about that in a few months. I’m still firmly implanted stateside and not above studding scones with currants (ha!), dried cranberries and apricots, almonds, gruyère, walnuts, or even caraway.

I could have named these differently, of course, but they are scones because I made them using a scone recipe. From England. It’s a recipe I copied when I lived there many years ago, when I was ten or so. It’s the second oldest recipe I collected, just after that of the banana cake.

These scones were a happy accident. Leo had a performance at school last week, which was to be followed by a potluck breakfast. As often — or always — happens, at first I wasn’t sure what to bring, then decided I’d pick up something easy like juice since Thomas was in London and I alone with the children all week; later I realized too many parents were already planning to bring juice. So for once, just this once, I wouldn’t bring anything. It’s OK to do that once. Of course the night before, filled with guilt, I felt I absolutely had to bake something, and must make do with whatever was in the house.

So these scones happened. I tasted one just a few minutes out of the oven, with butter melting from the warmth. It was really good. And better still with a little citrus jam — er, ‘marmalade.’ Cold, the next morning, the scones were not quite the hit. It seems people prefer sweets in the morning.

I would insist that these scones, which are very quick to prepare, should be made just before breakfast (or brunch) and eaten immediately, warm, or, if later, toasted.

*

Makes about 16 scones

I used za’atar to add zest and depth of flavor, but I realize it’s not necessarily a house staple (I just happened to have some) and could be substituted with chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme even better! — is that not helpful?).

1 1/2 cups butter
3 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
6 tsps baking powder
2 tsps za’atar
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup coarsely grated pecorino
1 long or 2 small leeks
Zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and butter generously.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and za’atar.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and add the milk and melted butter. Combine this with the oat/flour mixture until all the flour is absorbed.

To clean the leek remove the coarse outer leaves, rinse thoroughly under running water, opening up the inner leaves slightly to make sure no sand remains. Slice the leek very thinly.

Add the leek, ground pecorino, and lemon zest to the dough. Stir to combine well.

With a large soup spoon, scoop out balls of dough and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake for 22 minutes. The outside should be starting to turn golden and feel slightly resistant to the touch but not firm (it will become harder as it cools).

Serve quickly, while still warm, with delicious butter and orange marmalade…

(These scones are really very delicious when warm, so they should be eaten immediately, or toasted or reheated in the oven later.)

Grilled pork chops with fennel, sage, and pimentón

13 September 2012

I have a dilemma, and it involves pork.

As I may have mentioned, a few years ago I discovered Flying Pigs Farm at Union Square market. Before then I never bought pork (ham and bacon excepted), but since I’ve become more than a little fond of the animal, largely encouraged by a pretty remarkable recipe for slow roasted shoulder.

As I may also have mentioned, last November a real local butcher, Harlem Shambles, opened in our neighborhood.

So I have a problem of fealty: where should I buy pork now?

Rather than resolve this question just yet I’ve embraced this sudden begging supply of excellent pork and expanded my pork-cooking horizon further; I’ve been making pork chops. We’ve grilled them and, due to uncooperative weather gods, have seared them in a pan. Both work very well; key are the quality of the pork, and seasoning that respectfully complements the flavor of the meat.

They were amazing, I thought. Whether here or there, another great reason to buy pork.

***

Serves 4, one pork chop per person

4 (1 inch-thick) all natural and preferably heritage breed pork chops
1  1/2 tsps fennel seeds
1 tsp coarse sea salt
8 sage leaves
Smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)

*
Take the pork chops out of the refrigerator and prepare the rub at least 45 minutes before cooking.

In a mortar, crush the fennel seeds with the sea salt.

Rub the chops on each side with the spices and add a sage leaf in the middle. Let sit at room temperature. *Meat cooks more evenly if allowed to come to room temperature.*

Just before cooking — on a grill or in a pan faintly coated with olive oil — sprinkle some smoked Spanish paprika on each side of the chops.

Cook the chops over very high heat so they become beautifully brown on the outside without having time to dry up inside. It’s difficult to give an exact cooking time but it should be approximately 4 minutes on one side and 3 to 4 on the other.

As always, let the meat rest in a warmish place 5 to 7 minutes before serving. The chops should be faintly pink inside and very juicy.

*

Related posts

Slow-roasted pork shoulder

Pork rillettes

Ratatouille

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

26 July 2012

During the first couple of weeks the persistent Breton drizzle rarely abated, the rolling clouds swept from deep coal to lighter greys, with barely a glint of blue. We went on foggy walks through swampy fields, tore out weeds under the rain, wore thick sweaters, spent evenings by the fireplace. There wasn’t much outdoor cooking.

And when it is too wet to grill mackerel on an open fire, the next best thing is to slather the fish with mustard on both sides and bake it in the oven. This is how we always prepared mackerel in the family. Short of outdoor grilling, it is the best.

Fish is pretty easy going and doesn’t need much in terms of preparation; the tricky and single most important thing is the cooking time. It is very easy to overcook and that ruins everything. This is particularly acute with mackerel: well cooked it is succulent, overdone it becomes heartlessly dry.

I usually count one mackerel per person, but here we’ve found very small line-caught mackerel that were barely enough for one, and occasionally I’ve seen mackerel large enough to be shared. When I’m not sure I seek advice from the fishmonger.

One medium mackerel per person, whole but gutted
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme
Olive oil
Hot Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Season the gutted belly cavity of the mackerel with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper; stuff with a sprig of thyme.

Drizzle a little olive oil onto a baking dish large enough to hold all the mackerel.

Slather a thin layer of mustard on both sides of each fish, place into the baking dish and slide into the oven.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes; this depends on the size of the fish, naturally, and larger ones could take a few minutes longer. **As it is absolutely essential not to overcook fish, rather risk having to pop it back into the oven for a minute if it is still raw inside (the flesh would still be slightly translucent).**

Serve immediately, preferably with mashed potatoes.

Spelt buckwheat buttermilk pancakes

5 June 2012

I expect everyone has an opinion about pancakes.

Pancakes must be light and fluffy, of course, but they must have character. I don’t make plain white flour/milk pancakes, if I can help it. Every Sunday (right, every Sunday *on which I make pancakes*), I experiment. Spelt, oat, whole wheat, buckwheat; buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, ricotta; orange and thyme; fruit, nuts, coconut; … . Some improvisations are better than others.

This recipe strikes just the right balance. There isn’t much buckwheat and that’s how it should be. Just a little heft, tempered by the tang of cultured milk.

***

I used white and whole spelt flours though regular wheat flours would also work. The key here is a small proportion of whole grain and a little buckwheat.

4 Tbsps butter

1 1/2 cups (175 g) white spelt flour

1/2 cup (75 g) whole spelt flour

2 heap Tbsps buckwheat flour

2 Tbsps sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) cultured buttermilk

Coconut oil for the pan (I use coconut oil to cook pancakes. It works perfectly because it doesn’t burn.)

*

Melt the butter and let cool to room temperature.

Into a large bowl, sift the flours together with the sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In another, smaller bowl, beat the eggs well with the fork before adding the buttermilk and finally the melted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and mix swiftly, just enough to combine completely (a few bumps are nothing to worry about, it is important not to overstir the batter).

Grease griddle (non-stick pan) and place over high heat. Once the griddle is hot, pour little puddles of batter (the size is entirely up to you, but keep in mind that they will expand quite a bit), reduce heat to medium, and stay close, checking constantly until you start noticing bubbles popping up. Turn over the pancakes with a wide spatula and, within barely a minute, the pancake is ready. To make more pancakes, repeat process, adding a little oil every time to make sure they don’t stick.

The pancakes can be kept in a covered pan in a 250°F (120°C) oven for a little while if you want to make all the pancakes first and serve them at once.

*

Related posts

Orange thyme pancakes

Crepes

Banana cake

Cuban bread

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)

*

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.

*

Related posts

Basic | Sweet pie crust

Banana cake

Stollen


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