Sunday, January 26, 2014

"Healthy" Caramel? Color Me Skeptical...

sweet potato caramel

When I saw this on the bon appetit blog, I thought, "Wow! Caramel sauce with no refined or processed ingredients? I have to try this!" Well, I tried it, and came away disillusioned. The recipe seemed simple enough: roast 3 pounds of potatoes in a little water, then let drain into a saucepan. Cook down the resulting liquid.

Here are the potatoes, ready to go into the oven:

Here are the roasted potatoes, draining in a cheese-cloth-lined strainer:

And, after an hour and a half of roasting, an hour of draining, and another half hour of cooking down the liquid, here is what I got:

A third of a cup of syrup (never got to a caramel-y state of thickness) that still tastes overwhelmingly like sweet potato.  At least I had enough mashed sweet potato to make sweet potato pancakes (just add some of the mashed potato to your regular pancake batter) and sweet potato biscuits.  :-)  As for the "caramel sauce", I'm still skeptical, but I saw enough promise to try it again -- roasting the sweet potatoes uncovered for longer to concentrate the sugars more might do the trick.  It just seems like a lot of time to take up just to make a small amount of caramel sauce.  Still not sure what I'm going to do with the small amount of syrup I have, though.  It seems a shame to just waste it.  Simple syrup for a cocktail, perhaps? Send me any thoughts you have!  :-)  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Savory Dutch Baby

This one's another entry in the "I'm not sure what to make, so I have to punt" dinner.  I had a bunch of egg yolks left over from the meringue experiments (see previous post), but I didn't feel like scrambled eggs, so I thought about a savory dutch baby.  A dutch baby (or oven pancake, pfannekuchen, etc.) is a simple mixture of egg, milk, flour, and salt (sometimes you add sugar for a sweet version) that's poured in a hot, buttered pan.  It's baked at a high temperature and gets all beautiful and puffy.

I've made these before, but only the sweeter version, served with either sauteed apples or maple syrup, and usually for Sunday breakfast.  This time, however, I had some cheese and bacon (what a surprise!), so I thought, "Maybe I should just add some of those and make it a savory dinner."

Let me tell you what.  It was GOOD!  A little side salad, and you've got a light dinner or lunch.  Plus, it's really easy.  Try it.  You'll like it!

Savory Dutch Baby with Bacon and Gruyere

2 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp bacon bits
handful of shredded gruyere cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (F). Put butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet (you can use a pie plate or other oven-safe 9-inch skillet) and put in the oven to melt.  Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk and flour until smooth.  When the butter is melted and the oven is pre-heated, pour the egg mixture into the skillet.  Return to oven and bake for 18 minutes.  Pull out the skillet and sprinkle the bacon and cheese on the pancake.  Put the skillet back in the over for 10 more minutes, or until the pancake is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Remove the skillet from the oven, cut pancake into four pieces.  Serve with a simple side salad.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Two for One: Making weeknight meals easier

I am all about easy prep and quick weeknight meals.  An easy way to make dinner happen is to prep ingredients ahead of time, then all you have to do is throw everything together and voila! Dinner is done.  For example, this week I made a sausage and cheese strata, but cooked all of the sausage (one pound's worth) and saved the other half to put in a soup later in the week.  Similarly, I bought a whole head of savoy cabbage, but used it three ways (in a citrus slaw with roasted salmon, in soup, and as a side dish).  Makes easy work for weeknights AND it's economical.

Here's what I did:

I cooked all the sausage, along with half a chopped up onion and 4 oz. of chopped, fresh mushrooms. Beause there was some great crispy bits of sausage left in the pan, I put half a cup of water in the hot pan to scrape up all those bits of flavor, then put everything in a bowl and stored it in the fridge for later.

When it came time to make the strata, I ended up only using about 1/3 of the sausage, which I scattered over a mixture of 4 eggs, 1 1/3 cups of milk, salt and pepper, 5 slices of thick-cut bread (cut into 1-inch cubes) that had soaked together for about 15 minutes.  On top of everything, I scattered some grated cheddar cheese, then baked it in a buttered 8-inch by 8-inch pan at 375 for about 30 minutes (until the top was golden brown in places and the cheese was all melted).

The next night, I took half a head of savoy cabbage (it was a large head), sliced it into 1/2 inch thick slices, then sliced those slices across into 2-inch lengths.  I also took a whole onion, cut it in half length-wise, then sliced across in thin (1/4 inch) slices.  I tossed the cabbage and onions with salt, pepper, and some olive oil and roasted it on two large baking sheets in the oven at 400 degrees for 12 minutes (some of the cabbage might get dark brown, and that's okay), tossing the veggies once about halfway through.

With one pan of the cabbage, I tossed it with a little soy sauce and sesame seeds and put it away for a snack, some lunch or for a side with another dinner later in the week.

With the other pan of cabbage, I added that to a 4-quart pot, which was already simmering with 32 oz. of chicken broth and the rest of the sausage mixture that I made the day before, with a little bit of dried coriander (about 1/4 teaspoon) and dried marjoram (1/2 teaspoon).  After I added the cabbage to the pot with the other ingredients, I let them simmer together for about 10 minutes, just to let the flavors unite.

And there you have it!  Actually, the original recipe I was using was supposed to have some sweet potato in it, but I forgot.  It was okay, though, because it was still really tasty and even my picky eater liked it!