Brunch burritos

Brunch fodder … mainly because it takes a few steps to pull these together, a bit more time than most people have during the week, but you can make these anytime you wish. Breakfast for dinner anyone?

Folding the medium-sized flour tortillas piled with filling simply takes the better part of your conviction

Have ready a half sheet pan (rimmed baking sheet) lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat or brush lightly with melted butter or vegetable oil or a combination of both

Ingredients here make 3 burritos

Serving size: 1 per person

Ingredients
4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon (I’m on an Applewood bend right now)
7 large eggs, preferably organic
House salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon rendered bacon fat
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
3 medium flour tortillas, preferably organic
4 ounces extra sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
4 scallions, green and light green parts finely sliced
Chili sauce or hot sauce or ketchup or favorite salsa
Sour cream, for serving

Method
Cook the bacon in the method of your choice until it reaches your desired texture. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels or brown paper. Strain the rendered fat through a sieve into a ramekin and set aside

Heat the oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit (if you haven’t already because you roasted your bacon)

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and discard the shells. Season with salt and whisk in the heavy cream until thoroughly combined

Add 2 teaspoons of the bacon fat to a non-stick skillet and heat over medium high heat until it just begins to smoke. Pour the eggs in an even flow into the center of the pan. As the eggs start to coagulate draw them to the center of the pan with a small non-stick spoonula, continue to stir the eggs as they turn opaque. When the eggs are almost done pour them out onto a rimmed plate, break up the curds, season with freshly ground black pepper and cover the eggs with a flat piece of aluminum foil

Char the tortillas on the grate of a gas burner until they puff and get lightly charred; conversely, toast them on a baking sheet in the heated oven for a few minutes

For final assembly and service
Divide the cheese evenly across the tortillas followed by an even distribution of the eggs. Divide the scallions evenly across the eggs. Season the eggs/onions with the sauce of your choice. Cut/snap the bacon into quarters and put 3 slices in a row across the eggs/onions. Fold the bottom of the tortilla up (with the fillings) up towards the center, not quite half way up, and then fold in the sides to cover the filling completely. Transfer the burrito to the prepared half sheet pan, seam-side down (turning them over). Cover the burritos (not the pan) tightly with foil and bake for 7 to 10 minutes to heat them through and  to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and transfer burritos to plates. Serve with sour cream for dipping

2 Flatbread for The Golden Globes

Having tried pita for a short rib flatbread-type appetizer recently I wondered why some companies call them ‘pita’ while others say ‘pocket pita’. ALL pita have a pocket. Redundant much? While the pita I bought had very good flavor, cutting them into wedges revealed the double-layers and made eating the appetizer harder than it could have been.

Today I’m using Naan

Flatbread 1: Shrimp ‘scampi’ with white wine poached shrimp, great olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, Manzanilla olives, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and freshly ground black pepper layered on Naan that has been marked on both sides on a gas burner

Flatbread 2: Barbecue chicken with rotisserie chicken pulled and sauced with smoky barbecue sauce, quick pickle red onion, crispy Applewood smoked bacon bits and toasted sesame seeds layered on Naan that has been marked on both sides on a gas burner

Flatbread 2 might get some baby arugula because I have it on hand

Champagne or other favorite sparkling wine is always a good choice when you are serving foods with different flavors that a single wine might not be able to bring together.

Enjoy The Globes, or The Globs which is what they’re called around here!

Clam & fennel chowder

Mother Nature must like Chicago in the world of winter, so the idea of a big bowl of chowder remains a great weeknight option even as we approach the middle of April

The foundation of any good soup is a mire poix (onions, carrots and celery) that is well-cooked to bring out the flavors which in turn flavors the soup

In my version of Clam Chowder, fennel bulb replaces the celery, but less you think “Mr. Celery” has gone mad, fresh celery leaves are included in the saute and the chowder is garnished with the same

If you don’t have rendered bacon fat on hand, cook 3 slices to get 4 tablespoons of fat; then, if desired, garnish the chowder with the diced bacon

Ingredients
4 tablespoons rendered bacon fat
2 cups diced onion
2 cups diced fennel bulb
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons House salt
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
1/3 cup fresh celery leaves, plus additional for garnishing
4 cups peeled and diced boiling potatoes
1 quart clam juice, warmed in a saucepan
8 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups Half & Half
3 cups cleaned and trimmed chowder clams, about the same dice as the potatoes
Pinch of cayenne, optional

Method
Heat the bacon fat in a large Dutch oven until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent. Add the fennel, carrot, thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the simmering clam juice and celery leaves and stir to incorporate. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the carrots are tender, 10 to 12 minutes

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, sprinkle in the flour and whisk to combine and cook for 3 minutes. Add a ladle-full of the stock to the roux (the butter-flour mixture) and whisk to incorporate. Add the roux to the soup and stir to incorporate and simmer until the chowder has thickened, 2 minutes

Add the Half & Half and the clams (and cayenne if using), stir to incorporate and simmer for 2 minutes. Taste for salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne

Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish with fresh celery leaves

Dessert Monday: Eton Mess

Dessert Monday: Because you have to have something to look forward to on Monday

Eton Mess is a classic English dessert (“pudding”) created by student rugby players at Eton College where it is, to this day, traditionally made at their annual Cricket competition against Harrow School

The dessert consists of meringues, heavy cream and, typically, strawberries, though versions with berries and even bananas have been known to exist. It comes together in a matter of moments making it a terrific last-minute dessert

The first time I ever had meringues I hated them. I found out later it was because the person who made then for me made it improperly. I missed out on many meringue desserts because of that initial singular incident. I actually like meringues (the cookie, not the stuff that is usually piled way too high on a lemon tart … for which I whip cream if I top it with anything) and this is one of my favorite applications … strawberries and cream with meringues

Ingredients
3 cups strawberries
1 cup raspberries
3 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons kirsch
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 meringue cookies

Method
Hull and core the strawberries and cut them into quarters. Tumble them into a bowl with the raspberries, sugar and kirsch. Give everything a big stir and let the fruit macerate at room temperature

Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and whip to incorporate

Break the cookies into pieces, shards and dust into the whipped cream. Add most of the macerated fruit and some of the juices, leaving some behind to top each serving

Gently fold everything together then mound in rocks glasses or Champagne saucers or juice glasses. Top each mound of Eton Mess with a few berries and the juices

Serve Eton Mess immediately

Cinnamon sugar cashews

Nuts are de rigueur at any party and shouldn’t be thought of just as holiday fare

When I’m putting together a party I want to make sure that I have a variety in the way things are served; that is, I don’t want everything to be served on a toothpick or a piece of toast. Varying each thing you serve and the way it is served adds interest and fun

One such thing to consider is a bowl of snack sized crackers or nuts that you have taken the time to add your own special touch. When serving such snacks in a communal bowl, be sure to add a spoon or two so that guests can serve themselves and keep the bowl of nibbles from becoming contaminated

These cashews are pleasantly crispy with a warm sweetness

Recipe can be doubled

Ingredients
1 egg white, whisked until very frothy
1 tablespoon water
3 cups salt roasted cashews (substitute almonds, pecans, or walnuts as desired)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine grey sea salt, then to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional, then to taste

Method
Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper

Add the egg whites and nuts to a large bowl and stir to coat evenly. Add the sugars, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne, if using, and stir to coat evenly

Turn nuts out onto to prepared pan and spread them into an even layer

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until very fragrant (do not roast longer than 30 to 33 minutes or the cashews may burn) Coating may appear quite soupy and wet in the center of the tray even when cashews are ready to be pulled from oven. While it may seem they should bake longer so the coating dries out more, trust and believe that it will firm up dramatically as cashews cool

Remove cashews to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes (see Note)

When nuts are cool enough to handle break apart into clusters

Serve Cinnamon sugar cashews in a decorative bowl with a sugar or teaspoon so guests can scoop and serve themselves

Leftovers, if there are any, can be stored in airtight containers and will keep for at least 1 month

Note: Extra crispy and crunchy cashews can be achieved by leaving the nuts on the pan, uncovered, at room temperature overnight

Recipe of the week: Steakhouse macaroni & cheese

What makes this mac n cheese recipe all ‘Steakhouse’? Its multiple cheeses and crème fraiche for extra-richness and smoked paprika for a hint of smokey heat

Ingredients
1 pound dried bite-size pasta tubes
6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
6 tablespoons flour
1 bay leaf
1 fresh nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, then to taste (see Note)
4 cups half & half
1 1/4 cups crème fraiche
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grey sea salt, plus extra as needed
3 cups freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
1 3/4 cups freshly shredded aged cheddar cheese
3/4 cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Method
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 4 quart square baking dish

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente

Melt the butter in a 4 quart sauce pan. Whisk continuously and sprinkle in the flour. Continue to wish and cook until the roux starts to take on a lightly golden color. Add the bay leaf and, whisking continuously, gradually pour in the half and half and cook until smooth. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, 14 to 16 minutes. Season with freshly grated nutmeg, cayenne and freshly ground black pepper. Retrieve and discard the bay leaf. Whisk in the crème fraîche and salt and bring the mixture to a simmer

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups each of the Gruyere and Cheddar until melted

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir in 2 cups more of the Gruyere and the 3/4 cup mozzarella. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish, and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining Gruyere and Cheddar evenly over the top and finish with an even sprinkling of breadcrumbs

Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the oven and cook until it is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and let sit for 10 minutes

Serve Steakhouse macaroni and cheese very warm with a vinaigrette salad and Chenin blanc

Note: Smoked paprika is readily available in every major grocery store. If you cannot find or do not have smoked paprika, substitute ground cayenne pepper

 

Method of the week: Wedge salad

The recipe is in the method: make the dressing, cut the lettuce, dress the lettuce. Easy peasy

Method
Puree 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup blue cheese crumbles, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 peeled shallot, zest from 1 lemon, juice from half the zested lemon, 3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a handful of parsley, a big pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade … conversely, mince the shallot and parsley and whisk together with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl

Cut 2 chilled Boston lettuce into quarters. Plate 2 wedges among 4 chilled salad plates and divide the dressing over each serving

Press 3 hard cooked eggs through a fine mesh strainer with the back of a dinner tablespoon (you just made an egg mimosa)

Garnish the wedges with egg mimosa and crispy bacon

 

Dessert Monday: Almost-flourless chocolate cake

Dessert Monday: Almost-flourless chocolate cake

Because you have to have something to look forward to on Monday

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter, for pan
3 tablespoons cocoa, for pan

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), finely chopped
1 cup butter, cut into 1/4 inch dice
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Special equipment
Springform pan

Method
Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour with cocoa a 10 inch springform pan

Stir chocolate and butter together in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan over low heat until chocolate  melts and mixture is smooth. Beat eggs and sugar together in large bowl until well blended and mixture begins to thicken

Sift flour and baking powder over eggs and gently fold in. Gently fold in chocolate mixture. Pour batter to prepared pan

Bake cake 20 minutes then, carefully remove pan from oven and carefully over pan with foil. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs still attached, about 30 minutes longer. Uncover cake, place on a cooling rack and cool to room temperature, 3 hours (cake will fall as it cools)

Cut around perimeter of cake and release ring mold

Cut Almost-flourless cake into wedges and garnish with 10X sugar, Any berry coulis, whipped cream, fresh berries, or nothing at all

Tom’s Tips: Super Bowl 50

Tom’s Tips are my favorite techniques and tips from the kitchen

Still at a loss as to what to serve at your Super Bowl party? Maybe you’ve grown weary of chili (the national dish for The Super Bowl) but don’t despair your party can still be the hit of the neighborhood (especially since everyone will be at your place!) I have a boatload of party-approved, easy-to prepare dishes and drinks that will make yours the party everyone will remember. You can make it doubly easy on yourself by sharing this list and assigning your friends, family and neighbors the task of preparing them. Now that’s a Super Bowl party worth cheering for!

Main courses
Chili – I’m not leaving this out just because you might be ready for something new. My Texas chili is true of form – meat and spices – and requires overnight refrigeration so you still have time

Pizza – You can achieve pizza dough AND pizza sauce in as much time as it takes to order for delivery and it could very well become your favorite

Calzones – Take pizza to the next level by turning your pizza dough into calzones

Di rigueur – if you serve nothing else, you need to at least have some pickles and some cheese … in the following formats, please. It doesn’t show much in the way of caring if you open some jars and unwrap a block of cheese and call it ‘snacks’

Relish tray

Cheeseboard

Hors d’oeuvres – A little fussier, but I’m into that – individual appetizers to serve on big platters

Potato skins

Deviled eggs

Kettle chips with bacon and blue cheese

Buffalo wings with homemade blue cheese dressing

Bacon wrapped dates

Fried cheese sticks with marinara

Shrimp scampi stuffed mushrooms

Dips – Don’t forget the dip!

Cold spinach dip with pineapple bread

Baba ganoush

Hot artichoke dip

Crab Rangoon dip

Creamy sausage dip

Two sandwiches

Famous Turkey Swiss with olive salad sandwich

Stromboli

Three Salads

Deli mac salad

Deli potato salad

Chopped salad

Drinks – beer is an easy go to, just don’t fall into a false-sense of needs by ordering a keg unless you’re hosting at a college fraternity or have over 100 people imbibing

Homemade ginger ale

Any juice Mimosa

3 way on the beach

Margarita

Dessert – Some guests just won’t forgive you if you don’t have something sweet, especially if their team doesn’t win

Best of class brownies

Chocolate covered pretzel rods

Chocolate chip cookies

Marshmallow cereal bars

Peanut butter balls

Go Team!

Pork tenderloins with Chimichurri sauce

I became smitten with Chimichurri sauce, an Argentinean herb sauce, at my favorite 5411 Empanada food truck a couple of years ago. I love dunking my baked spinach empanadas into herbaceous garlic-oil and savoring it. Sometimes I need 2 orders of their delicious sauce, but I haven’t quite figured out why or when that is

After a couple of years of eating someone else’s Chimichurri sauce, I decided to start working on my own version. The key elements are parsley, garlic, cilantro, oil and vinegar. Getting that balance of ingredients correct makes for a delicious Chimichurri

This pork tenderloin dish is a great weeknight main course, but it would also be a great salad using leftovers tossed with your favorite fresh lettuce leaves or a delicious hors d’oeuvres arranged on crostini

Ingredients

For the Chimichurri
1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 teaspoon grey sea salt
Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch red pepper flakes, then to taste

For the pork tenderloin
2 16 ounce pork tenderloins, silver skin and sinew trimmed, skinny end tucked under, entire tenderloin tied in 2 inch intervals with cotton kitchen string, extra string trimmed
2 teaspoons grey sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Special equipment: 13 x 9 x 3 disposable aluminum roasting pan

Method
Set oven rack in upper third of oven, 5 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit

For the Chimichurri
Grind the ingredients for the Chimichurri into a sauce in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade or in mortar and pestle. Cover and set aside at room temperature. Make ahead: Chimichurri can be made up to 4 hours ahead kept at room temperature

For the pork tenderloin
Mix the salt, pepper, canola oil and baking soda together in a small bowl. Rub the tenderloin all over with the salt mixture. Set the rubbed tenderloin inside the center of the 13 x 9 x 3 aluminum roasting pan with an even amount of space between and all around them

Turn heated oven to broil; transfer roasting pan to the oven and set a timer for 5 minutes. Turn the tenderloins over and roast another 9 to 12 minutes or until the tenderloins registers 130 degrees Fahrenheit

Remove the pan from the oven, tent with foil and let the tenderloins rest for 10 minutes (carryover cooking time will allow the pork to reach 140 degrees, the proper temperature for pork tenderloin … so letting the pork rest is key)

Cut the strings off the tenderloins and slice on the bias into 3/4 inch slices

Arrange 3 slices on each dinner plate and dress lightly with Chimichurri; pass additional sauce at the table

As an hors d’oeuvres for your cocktail party
Slice a sourdough baguette into 1/4 inch slices, place on a half sheet pan and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper; bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden; remove from oven

Once the pork has rested, slice into 3/8 inch (between 1/4 and 1/2) slices. Schmear a scant 1/2 teaspoon Chimichurri across each crostini (baked sourdough slices) and center a slice of pork atop the sauce; top the pork with a drop of extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground rainbow, pink and/or black pepper

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