July 29, 2012

Breakfast at home: Breakfast Dog!

Okay, okay. Not a recipe, more of a serving suggestion, really, but in the spirit of the recent spate of breakfast-at-home posts, I couldn't really resist.

Here we have basic bakery hotdog buns filled with European wieners, scrambled eggs, grated aged cheddar, and green onions. You could use ketchup, be we chose sriracha for a little extra kick. Of course, you could tweak the contents to your heart's delight.

For optimal results, I suggest gently steaming (or microwaving) the buns briefly just before filling, which makes them tender and pliable enough to grip all of the fillings.

This was embarrassingly delicious. I would make it again in a heartbeat, if I had the buns and wieners at hand.

July 27, 2012

Breakfast at home: Blintz-ish Casserole

I was looking for an at-home breakfast to make that stepped outside our regular fare, and stumbled across this recipe for a baked casserole that somewhat resembled a giant blintz. Since our breakfasts are usually savory, except for the odd pancake here and there, it was definitely outside our repertoire. Just to be safe, we added some bacon on the side to ensure we didn't collapse from an all-sweet breakfast.

The casserole was pretty easy to put together - it was ready to go into the oven by the time the oven had finished pre-heating. Essentially, you mix up a crepe-like batter, and layer it in a greased casserole dish with a ricotta-based creamy layer baked right into the middle. On its own it is mild and perhaps slightly bland, but with fresh raspberry sauce spooned overtop (and some bacon on the side), it's both unusual (for us, anyway) and kind of fun.

Now, I think a true "blintz casserole" would involve making up individual blintzes and baking them in a sauce, but the name does sort of capture the spirit of the ingredients, if not the labour-intensive work ethic.

Blintz-ish Casserole
Adapted from The Big Book of Breakfast by Maryana Vollstedt
Serves 4

Filling
70 grams cream cheese (light is fine)
200 ml ricotta or drained mild cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Batter
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup orange juice

Fresh Raspberry Sauce
1 cup raspberries*
1 tablespoon sugar (or simple syrup)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon brandy (or orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier)

Prepare an 8" square baking dish by buttering it, or spritzing it lightly with canola oil. Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Mix together the filling, using an electric mixer, and set aside. If you want an extra bump of flavour and you have a lemon lying about, stir the zest into the filling. A touch of nutmeg might also be nice, but don't go overboard.

In a medium bowl, mix the butter, sugar and eggs and beat well. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and orange juice, and beat until smooth. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Gently spoon the filling over the batter, in small dollops, smoothing together gently into a single middle layer. Pour the remaining batter over the top, making sure all of the filing is covered. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Cut into squares, and serve with raspberry sauce spooned over.

To make the raspberry sauce, mash half the berries with the sugar in a small saucepan. Combine the orange juice and cornstarch, and mix until smooth. Add to the crushed berries. Heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thick, and the cloudiness from the cornstarch is gone. Remove from the heat, and stir in the whole berries and the brandy. Allow the sauce to cool while the casserole cooks, and serve in a dish or sauceboat for people to serve themselves. Leftover sauce makes a great smoothie base, too.

*Obviously, you can pretty much substitute the berry of your choice here: blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, huckleberries - peaches or nectarines would be nice, too.

July 02, 2012

Breakfast at home: Biscuits & Gravy

One of my favourite breakfast foods from the USA is biscuits and gravy. Not a lot of places up here offer it, and of those that do, well, they tend to do it fairly badly - gluey, gloppy stuff, usually without much in the way of sausage meat, sometimes with unanticipated and unwanted alternative seasonings. This is a pity, because anyone ordering biscuits and gravy is not likely to want to be surprised by avant garde seasonings - certainly not without warning.

Biscuits and gravy is a hot, filling breakfast, it's also comfort food at its finest. It doesn't need to be lethally rich, either, especially if you're serving alongside eggs. Easy on the fat - there's plenty of flavour to go around.

I like the name "Sawmill Gravy", but while most people seem to accept pretty much any white sausage gravy as "sawmill", I understand that name belongs more properly to the lumbercamp style of gravy, conditions of which necessitated the use of tinned, evaporated milk. I've also heard "cream gravy", but since I use milk, I'll just stick with "White Sausage Gravy". It's pretty simple, and very delicious.

Make up biscuits according to whatever biscuit bible you adhere to, and make the gravy while they bake up in the oven.

White Sausage Gravy
Serves 4

2205-340 grams pork breakfast sausage
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 1/2 cups milk (I use 1%)
sprinkle granulated onion
black pepper to taste

Remove casings (if any) from the sausage and break it up into little chunks (chop it with a chef's knife, if you like). In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook and stir the sausage until it's turned the lightest shade of gold, and rendered its fat out. Continue to break down the sausage pieces as you go. Modern sausage can be quite lean, but if you have richer sausage, spoon out all but about a tablespoon. If your sausage was quite plain, you may want to add a tiny pinch each of leaf oregano or marjoram, ground sage, and ground thyme but don't go overboard. The pork should be the star of this show.

Sprinkle the flour over the sausage, and stir it through, scraping the bottom of the pan, until it starts to turn light butterscotch in colour. Then, while stirring constantly, add the milk a little at a time, working the sauce to keep it smooth and lump free. If free-handing makes you nervous, switch to a whisk. Don't pause in moving your spatula or whisk until at least half the milk is incorporated, and then you'll have a little more leeway.

Once all of the milk is in, continue to cook over medium low, so that everything is bubbling gently until the sauce is thickened. Sprinkle the granulated onion over, stir it through, and then taste for salt. I never add extra salt, because there's enough in the sausage, but your mileage may vary, as they say. Grind some black pepper over the pan, turn the heat to low, and continue to stir occasionally. Give it a final taste to adjust the seasonings, split your hot biscuits open, spoon the gravy over, and serve right away. A little extra pepper on top never hurts, either.