Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You Say Fritatta, I Say Crustless Quiche

I can't think of a time where I don't want a quiche. The lightness of the egg, the freedom to throw whatever you'd like into it as long as there's dairy and something you naturally crave - simple ham and cheese, the shrimp and asparagus, the lobster and sour cream. I mean really, if you can make an omelet, you can make a quiche.

Most of us always have the ingredients around. Walk over to your fridge and take a look. I bet you have everything that you'd ever want, well maybe except the crust. Well if you don't have a crust, then you have the makings of a fritatta!

9 eggs
handful of thin asparagus ~1/2 cup
1/2 cup Black Forest ham, thinly sliced and diced
2/3 cup of whole milk
ground pepper
1 cup of grated sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 350.

Clean and break your asparagus. For those that have never done this, hold the stalk in your hands and slowly bend it. It will break in the correct area and provide the best tasting portion for you. It may seem wasteful, until you try to cook the entire stalk and get some rather fibery parts. Really the last thing you need are overly chewy chunks of asparagus in this dish.

Once you have broken apart these tasty treats, roughly chop them into smaller portions and set aside. Stack and dice the ham into very small pieces so that they will evenly distribute into the egg mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, combine and whisk, eggs, milk, and half of the cheese together. Once everything is smooth, mix in your pepper and set aside.

Heat the butter and oil in your ovenproof skillet on medium high. Just as the butter and oil begin to smoke, toss in your asparagus and cook for four to five minutes (or until bright green). Once you reach this point, toss in your diced ham and cook for another three minutes.

Pour asparagus and ham into the egg mixture and lightly combine. Some people pour the egg into the hot pan, but I prefer this method to prevent as I find it easier to spread the meat and vegetable around in the bowl and away from the heat. Too much activity in the pan can scramble the eggs when you really just want them to set.

Once mixed thoroughly, return to pan and reduce heat to medium low and pour remaining cheese on top. Allow the egg mix to cook for approximately another 10 minutes to set. As the mixture becomes somewhat solid, remove from the stove and place in the oven and cook for 20-5 minutes or until golden brown.

As you remove the dish, the fritatta will puff up and look like it will break free from the confines of the skillet but have no fear. As it cools, it will reduce back to its normal size. This should take 5 minutes. Waiting will also allow the cheese to continue to melt and spread and allow you time to make a side salad or some garlic toast.

Slice and serve.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Apple, Cheddar and Thyme Turnovers


1 tart apple
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 package of frozen puff pastry -- thawed
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon of chopped thyme
1 bowl of water


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core and chop the apple into very small portions.

Slowly melt butter in a small saucepan and set aside once it's thoroughly melted.

Spread out the two sheets of puffed pastry and cut into 12 squares. If the puff pastry begins to get too doughy, place it back in the fridge for ten minutes. Place 1/2 teaspoon of cheese, 1 teaspoon of apple and a pinch of thyme in the center of each square, brush the edges with a scant amount of water and fold over into a triangle. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining squares.

Brush the tops of the turnovers with the melted butter and if you have extra cheese you can sprinkle atop as well.

Bake the turnovers for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve while they are still warm.

Curried Butternut Squash Samosas

What you need:

1 butternut squash
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 diced white onion
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 tablespoon of curry power
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 egg
1 package of wonton wrappers
canola oil for frying

Optional Items:

Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Chinese Hot Mustard

What you need to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and filaments. You can certainly clean and wash the seeds and roast them in a light sprinkling of olive oil and salt. It really would be a shame to throw out this great protein snack. Lube up the squash halves with one tablespoon of olive oil and bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until the the flesh of the squash is easily punctured with a fork. remove from heat and let cool. Once you can handle them easily, scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl.

Heat up the remaining olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan and saute the onions and garlic until they are soft. Shouldn't take more than seven minutes. be sure not to burn the garlic or everything will come out a bit too acidic. Remove from heat and stir in the curry powder. Once this is completely blended, add the butternut squash in sections. Continue to mix until smooth and then add in the sugar and salt.

Let this mixture rest some and taste it. Gauge whether you need anything more to bring out the tastes you like. Too many cooks forget to taste things along the way and run into problems of over salting or sadly under salting. Now I like to let this rest in the fridge for an hour or two so that the mixture is completely cooled before I start assembling them in the won ton wrappers, but you can really just jump right in.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg until it's blended completely. Take out your won ton wrappers and place roughly two teaspoons of the mixture in the center of the wrapper and seal it up. I've found that using a melon baller really does the trick with these items. Try to remove all of the air pockets with either the back of the spoon or your thumbs. Brush the edges with the egg batter and repeat until you've filled all of the wrappers.

Now before you start frying, clear out in area where you can use a cookie rack with paper towels underneath. Fill a deep skillet with the canola or vegetable oil and heat on medium high until very hot. Work in small batches and remember to never toss anything into the grease and carefully fry each samosa for 2 minutes on each side. Remember to only turn them once.

Once they begin to turn golden brown remove them for the grease and let them cool on the racks. Think of these just as you would when you are making bacon -- get them out before they are done and let them finish cooking on the rack. Cook the remaining samosas in this fashion and serve immediately.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Simple Pleasures Really are the Best

Every now and again I remember to let the food dictate my process. Sometimes I get ahead of myself trying out a new recipe or process and forget what I'm even eating.

This was not one of those times.

Simple, flavorful and unabashedly exactly what you'd expect it to be.

Roasted Pork Belly with Acorn Squash.

Few words would trigger an auto drool feature in the modern eater. Take some time to think about those six words. Let images of crackling and soft meat resting in its juices come to your frontal lobe. Think about your fork splitting up the tender meat and how it'll feel when you break through that slightly resistive coating and get to the moist meat within.

What do you need to get here?

Three hours to be exact. Now this sounds like a long time, but really this is how you let the food speak and become the star. This isn't about the presentation, but know that liking the way something looks certainly increases the enjoyment of your meal.


One pound of pork belly - split in two equal sizes
Two tablespoons of olive oil

One white onion - thinly sliced

Half of bottle of white wine
- I prefer Sauvignon Blanc
Salt and Pepper

One acorn squash


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Examine your pork belly and trim off excess fat. You really do not need anything more than a centimeter on the top of either piece. You should also try to make sure that both sections are as close to identical for even cooking.

With a sharp knife, slice thin lines down the fat of the bellies to allow for the juices to run away and rend down. Be sure not to cut all the way to
the meat. This also makes the finished product look oh so nice.

Thinly slice your onion so that you have a series of rings. I prefer using a mandolin for consistency and ease. Place these rings on the bottom of your roasting pan. You can also use a aluminum foil lined cookie sheet if you'd like. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of your olive oil on the onions and lightly add salt and pepper.

Rub salt and pepper on the pork belly and then drizzle the remaining olive oil on the pork. Really massage the meat with the mixture as it will really make a difference in the end. Place the pork belly pieces on the onion and roast for fifteen minutes.

You are cooking at this high heat initially to create a nice crust. After fifteen minutes reduce the heat to 325 and now we just settle in and wait. Once another 45 minutes has passed, carefully remove from the oven and drain the fluid from the pan. Return to oven and pour in wine but NOT on the meat.

Cook for another hour, drain and return to oven for final hour.

While this is happening, slice and clean your squash into equal parts. There should be roughly 6 portions. Remove the seeds and strings from center and cover in remaining olive oil and salt. Place on a baking sheet and cook along with the pork bellies for the final hour.

Remove the meal from the oven and cover the pork in foil and rest for ten minutes.

Plate and enjoy.