Sunday, January 29, 2012

Egg Salad

Here's my favorite ingredient in another starring role…

But first, big thanks go out to The Kitchn for including my Cheesy Masa Cornbread in their Delicious Links and BlogEats for featuring my Semolina Crackers.

Mom's Egg Salad
Printable Recipe

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon canola oil
1 large yellow onion, julienned
8 hard-cooked eggs
½ cup sliced green onions
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add ¼ cup of the oil and the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until caramelized.* Let cool.

In a large bowl, mash the eggs with a fork or potato masher until the desired texture. Toss in the caramelized onions along with their oil, green onions, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 4. This is my mother's version of Russian Jewish egg salad, but my baba, like any good Jewish grandmother, made it with chicken schmaltz and cracklings. Don't be shy with the black pepper—it really needs a generous quantity. Often used as a filling for baked Russian pastries called pirozhki.

*For information on making and using caramelized onions and everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores now.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cornier Cornbread

My husband loves cornbread. I love the idea of cornbread. But usually it’s a false promise—rarely does it deliver the earthy, corny flavor I crave. So the last time I was whipping up a batch of cornbread to go with some chili, I got to thinking…Certain chili recipes rely on masa harina for thickening…Masa has big flavor, and masa and chiles are the perfect pairing…Why not make a side of cornbread using masa harina instead of cornmeal?

Turns out it works beautifully well. The result is a thoroughly satisfying cornbread, and I may never go back to cornmeal cornbread again.

Cheesy Masa Cornbread
Printable Recipe

2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the baking dish
6 ounces masa harina
4 ounces all-purpose flour
½ ounce sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces milk, at room temperature
6 ounces buttermilk, at room temperature
4 ounces cheddar, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Whisk together the masa harina, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, buttermilk, and butter in a medium bowl. Add the egg mixture to the masa harina mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the cheddar. Transfer to the baking dish and spread evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges of the cornbread start to shrink away from the baking dish and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly, cut into portions, and serve.

Serves 6 to 8. Masa harina for tamales, which has a coarse texture, is best here. This cornbread happily straddles the lines between Southern, Southwestern, and Mexican food, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to a big bowl of Real Texas Chili.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cheese and Crackers

If there's one certainty in the world of food, it's that fine cheese must not be served with mediocre crackers. It is a universal truth, and everyone knows it. Yet we serve artisan cheese with store-bought crackers all the time. It’s a shame. It’s a disgrace. It's an injustice against cheese. Why would we spend so much effort (and money—good cheese is expensive) on selecting the perfect cheese, only to debase it with crackers that taste suspiciously like the cardboard box they came in? Crackers ought not be an afterthought—they should be delicious in their own right. The crackers must be worthy of the cheese.

And these are.

Semolina Crackers
Printable Recipe

6 ounces semolina
6 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
6 ounces warm water
1 ½ ounces extra virgin olive oil

Combine the semolina, flour, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Add the water and ¾ ounce of the oil and mix until a rough dough forms. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Cut the dough into quarters and form each portion into a ball. Wrap each portion separately in plastic wrap and let rest for about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion of dough to an 11×14-inch, 1/32 to 1/16-inch thick rectangle. As you work, transfer the rectangles to parchment-lined baking trays. Lightly brush the rectangles with the remaining ¾ ounce oil and sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer crackers to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Break into irregular pieces and enjoy with or without cheese.

Yields about 12 ounces. Crackers keep for about a week in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place.

For flavored crackers, mix 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nigella seeds, or fresh rosemary needles into the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Luck for the New Year

Happy New Year, dear reader! How did you bring in 2012? I spent New Year's Eve with my parents at their home in Texas eating Purple Hull peas (along with some blackened snapper and Fried Okra). Why Purple Hull peas? Well, in the South eating Black Eyed peas is a New Year's tradition that's said to bring good luck. As I didn't want dried Black Eyed peas and frozen fresh Black Eyed peas weren't available, I went for the next closest thing—another variety of cowpeas. By the time they're cooked, you can hardly tell the difference anyway.

So have a bowl of Purple Hull peas for luck, and may your 2012 be full of prosperity, happiness, and joy!

Stewed Purple Hull Peas
Printable Recipe

1 slice bacon, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds thawed frozen Purple Hull peas
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
5 cocktail tomatoes, diced
Several drops Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large, heavy pot pan over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bacon and fry, tossing frequently, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until rendered. Add the onion and sauté for 8 to 9 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the peas, cayenne, bay leaf, and enough water to cover by about 1 ½ inches. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the peas are cooked through. Discard the bay leaf, stir in the tomatoes and Tabasco, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 8 as a side dish. Black Eyed peas can be substituted for the Purple Hull peas. Use fresh peas in the summer when they're in season. The peas will be tender and creamy when they are cooked through. Good served over white rice or cornbread for soaking up the pot liquor.
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