I don’t think of us as “fancy” people. To be sure, our pantry is chock-full of ingredients from various parts of the world, but that’s more about variety than any attempt to impress. That being said, I do have a culinary philosophy: if I’m going to take the time to make something, I’m going to try to make it well. With childhood favorites, that’s even more important because they can so easily not live up to our memories of them. Meatloaf, that all-American classic, is no exception — and making a really good one requires a little thinking outside of the box.
The croque madame is a quintessential dish in the French culinary canon. Essentially a ham and cheese sandwich, this beauty is elevated by two generous layers of creamy béchamel, broiled until bubbly and golden, and topped with a perfectly fried egg. With a little help from our friends at Le Creuset, we’ve used both their new recipe book and their bakeware to put together a perfect brunch dish.
We’ve mentioned before in the blog that there are certain kitchen items that we can’t do without. We just can’t, we’d be lost and flailing. A microplane for fine grating, a silicone spatula for mixing cake batter: these critical objects are non-negotiable. Another, of course, is a good, heavy, enameled cast iron skillet. You can pre-heat it on the stove to get it to a high temperature for quick cooking, you can transfer it to an oven or broiler for a finishing step, and if you take care of it, it will last forever. Also, if you choose well, it can be beautiful enough to be the centerpiece on your table.
We’re always keen to find new ways of using our pan, and when Le Creuset asked us to make a recipe from their new cookbook (which you can buy from their site through the link) our decision wasn’t hard: we wanted to make our favorite Parisian lunch, croque madame.
Sticky toffee pudding is a hallowed British dessert which translates to American as “warm date cake drizzled with toffee sauce”. Either way you say it, it’s a deliciously rich and comforting treat, perfect for a chilly evening.
This is a line that (I will pretend) gets thrown at me on a regular basis by drive-by shouters at Nerds Farm: “Oy, mate! You, nerd with knife! I thought you were British! Where’s the sticky toffee pudding, eh? Call yourself a food blog?” Well, firstly, no, I don’t call myself a food blog, and secondly, ha, joke’s on you, fella, because I’ve been making sticky toffee pudding on a weekly basis, and damn good pudding it’s been, too, I just haven’t blogged any of it. I’ve been told this kind of churlish behavior is unnecessarily cruel to our readers, so at last, here is the proof of the pudding, be it both sticky and toffee-flavored.
Almost from the beginning of this blog, there have been a number of recipes that we’ve wanted to make, but have lacked the time, ingredients, or frankly, the willingness to tackle. Pork pies are one of those recipes. For any of our readers who are unfamiliar, the traditional British pork pie is a hearty, venerated and highly portable vittle served cold and protected from the elements with a robust pastry shell. Between the layer of meat and pastry is a set aspic jelly. At this point, our carnivorous Brit readership (alright, Nathan?) will be slavering and ready for the recipe. More trepidatious American sensibilities might be juggling with the concepts of “cold pork”, “robust pastry” and “aspic jelly”. Fear not, Brad, buddy, all will be explained. Oh? You’re not? Well, you kind of look like a Brad. You just do. Sorry.
Tortilla chips don’t get no respect. Most often bought in bag form and dipped into hot cheese, their potential to form part of a tasty meal is overlooked. Combine home-made chips, salsa verde, spicy chorizo and eggs, serve up with fresh radishes and vinegary pickled onions, and you have yourself a chilaquiles dish that’ll make you think twice the next time you’re tempted in the snack aisle.
Note: This recipe is part of our ongoing series with Serious Eats.
We’ve been fascinated with tomatillos ever since we first grew them in our deck herb garden a few years back. We bought two seedlings from a farm sale, and watched them grow and develop their papery husks, like hanging lanterns, eventually to get filled out by the fruit within them. Unfortunately, one plant was unceremoniously trampled by a backyard chicken, so we didn’t get quite the yield we would have liked – but fortunately, pollination had already taken place (tomatillos, unlike tomato plants, cannot self-pollinate, so you’ll need more than one to grow fruit). We had enough to make ourselves a really tasty salsa verde – the green cousin of a tomato salsa. Tomatillos share the same growing season as tomatoes, so at the beginning of summer we’re still too early for local varieties, let alone in our backyard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find them at the grocery store.
Salsa verde is packed with tomatillos, chilis, and love-it-or-hate-it cilantro (guess which way we go?), and you can add as little or as much heat as you like by varying the variety and amount of hot chili peppers. We usually opt for jalapeños, but if you want a little more fire you can look for serrano peppers. This time, we decided to use the sauce, not as a dip, but as a base for chilaquiles – a Mexican dish combining freshly-made tortilla chips with salsa and toppings – kind of like nachos, but saucier and paired with eggs.