Sunday, March 21, 2010


Remember those epic snowdays we had last month? I know, it's hard to recall now, seeing as the weather has been absolutely gorgeous the last two weeks (aside from the past three days, that is).

On Wednesday, with no classes and no work, I decided to invite people over for dinner. I made this quiche-like dish for three friends and myself. It really hit the spot. It was homey, filling and filled with all kinds of delicious things--ham, cheese, potatoes, broccoli and heavy cream. There were only four of us, and for a recipe that supposedly feeds 10, we found ourselves with only one piece leftover.

It don't think I've done enough to extol the virtues of quiche. It's great warm, but still good at room temperature. This means if you have notoriously late friends, there's no need to wrestle with when to throw the quiche in. Quiche is also one of those meals that's great at all times of day. I love it at breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner (sometimes even as a late-night snack). There are also an infinite number of flavor combinations. I've covered zucchini, bacon and gruyere with a hashbrown crust but I also love tomato and goat cheese and anything with onions.

But here, at the request of either Craig or Derrick (I can't remember who asked me), is the recipe for the Ham-and-Potato Bake:

Ham-and-Potato Bake
serves 4 hungry boys
Everyday Food

Butter, for pan
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 baking potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled
10 ounces sugar-baked ham, thinly sliced (less than 1/4 inch thick)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen broccoli, thawed and squeezed dry with paper towels (I had broccoli in the fridge, so I steamed it briefly and used it)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-round cake pan (at least 2 inches deep). Line bottom of pan with a parchment-paper round. (My 9-inch-round cake pans aren't this deep, so I used my 8x8" pyrex. It worked perfectly, but its not as pretty.)

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and cream; season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice potatoes (less than 1/4 inch thick); drop into egg mixture.

Lifting potatoes out of egg mixture, arrange half the potatoes in pan. Layer with ham, broccoli, cheese, and remaining potatoes. Pour egg mixture over top. Press down firmly so that potatoes are fully submerged in egg mixture.

Cover with foil; bake until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Uncover; continue baking until golden and set, 30 to 45 minutes more.

Cool 15 to 20 minutes in pan. Run a knife around edge, and carefully invert onto a plate. Peel off parchment. Reinvert, top side up. Slice with a serrated knife.

Friday, March 12, 2010


When I entertain, the choice of salad is usually a no-brainer for me: Pear, Gorgonzola and walnut salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Done.

That's pretty much the recipe. But this past time around, I was under the impression that my dressing had gone bad (actually, it was just too cold) and I needed to make my own balsamic. Luckily, I had a bottle of Balsamic vinegar stashed away that typically only makes an appearance when I need a quick way to dress up a side vegetable (try it! It's also a great way to deglaze a chicken pan). Now, it wasn't a bottle of the Cinnamon Pear Balsamic or the Honey Ginger White Balsamic I tried at Garces Trading Company the other night with Nina, but it was good.

You wouldn't be wrong to assume that dressing or vinaigrette is just oil and vinegar. In fact, you can even use just vinegar. But this recipe uses Dijon, which is one of my all-time favorite ingredients. Actually, one of best tricks for a vegetable side (write this down) is to make a vinaigrette from red wine vinegar, olive oil and Dijon, along with any herb you might have on hand, and toss it on green beans. It's also great on pasta, especially with basil.

Feel free to up the amount of balsamic, as I did.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
makes about 3/4 of a cup

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, and garlic. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Must love brownies.

At the beginning of the new year, Joy the Baker did a retrospective of her last two blogging years. She said this:

"I’ve been on the other side of love too. The break-up side. Yea…. not as awesome as love. The break-up side of love requires a lot of chocolate pudding. More than you might think actually. True.

Shut up. I made donuts."

It totally hit home for me. But instead of pudding, I'm talking about brownies.

I make it a point to never get too personal here--one of the many reasons Laura and I live together is that if I want to bitch and moan, I just call her into the room. It works for us. Being that Laura has been in Morocco, I have just been eating a lot of my feelings.

Break-ups suck, especially when the situation is complicated. Over the past few months, I have listened to the "Break-Up" episode of This American Life (you can listen here. It is so, so worth it. Phil Collins is interviewed) a million times. And then there were the baked goods.

Banana chocolate chip muffins? Yes. Homemade bread? Yes.

But when I read this recipe for brownies, I knew this was it for me. Simple and full of chocolate and butter.

These brownies don't require you to melt any chocolate. When you have melted chocolate in the batter, there's extra cocoa butter and refined sugar that surely the recipe accounts for, but wouldn't it feel better to know everything that goes into your brownies? Flour, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla and butter--that's it for these guys.

I was musing the other day about qualities I'm attracted to. This was inspired by a commercial for Colonial Williamsburg, which sounded like a really great vacation. Aside from "wants to vacation in Colonial Williamsburg", I added "must like brownies". Maybe I'm looking for someone who is more like these brownies--uncomplicated, a little gooey, and rich (only joking. But the brownies are, in fact, rich).

Best Cocoa Brownies
from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as I used)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. [Note, many people who have tried this recipe have found that this step works just fine in the microwave. Couldn't test this because we don't have one, but it sounds like it would work.]

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (I go further and throw mine in the fridge or freezer for a while; it’s the only way I can get them to cut with clean lines.)

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.