Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bacon and Leek Quiche


When Psychgrad and I initially talked about sharing a food blog many years ago I don't think either of us thought it would open us up to as much experimentation as it has.  We also never really thought that the name - Equal Opportunity Kitchen would be as literal as it has become.  What I mean when I say that is that over the years, we've spent a fair amount of time talking about food, about ingredients, trying new things and pushing our limits.  I laugh at "R"'s attitude initially which was seriously about eating just about anything and if it was mac and cheese or cereal, it didn't really matter to him.

Slowly, "R" became more discerning about what he chose to eat and went from boiling a pot of water to make the mac and cheese to looking through recipes, to trying his hand at doing some of the cooking at home.  The best is that now "R" is an ongoing contibutor to the blog, fussier about what he eats and critical of how blog posts are written.  He certainly hasn't come out and said that he'd like to be the active contributor to the blog but then I'll get a link and some pictures with some direction about making sure it's all well represented on the blog.    I'm pretty sure that he secretly checks the blog reasonably often to see if we're posting enough and/or if I've posted one of his creations.

Today's post for  http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/bacon-and-leek-quiche">Bacon and Leek Quiche is another of "R"'s dinners.  I know he studies the recipes, creates a shopping list, goes out to do the shopping and prepares the whole thing himself.  He's not the guy that sits on other peoples' efforts.  He's a doer - a great attribute.


CRUST

  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  2. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  3. 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  4. 1 large egg yolk
  5. 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons ice water

FILLING

  1. 1 pound thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  2. 3 large leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  3. 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  4. Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  5. 8 ounces cave-aged Gruyère cheese, shredded
  6. 4 large eggs
  7. 2 large egg yolks
  8. 2 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
  1. In a food processor, pulse the 2 1/2 cups of flour with the salt. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and ice water and pulse until the pastry is moistened. Turn the pastry out onto a floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until smooth. Pat the pastry into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a floured surface, roll 1 disk of the pastry to a 12-inch round. Ease the pastry into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom without stretching. Trim the excess and use it to patch any holes. Refrigerate the tart shell for 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining pastry.
  3. Line the tart shells with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the tart shells for 30 minutes, just until dry. Remove the foil and pie weights and bake the crusts for about 15 minutes longer, until they are dry and golden. Transfer the tart pans to 2 sturdy baking sheets.
  4. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring, until browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Drain the bacon, leaving 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pan. Add the leeks and thyme to the skillet, season with salt and white pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the bacon and cheese.
  5. Divide the bacon-and-leek filling between the tart shells. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the egg yolks and heavy cream. Season lightly with salt and white pepper. Pour the custard into the tart shells and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through for even baking, until puffed and lightly browned. Transfer the quiches to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the rings, cut the quiches into wedges and serve.









I would eat this.






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Monday, April 27, 2015

Cheese Babka


I just returned from trip #3 to Poland.  This trip was quite different than the others.  We weren't on our genealogical journey this time; we were there for Actor Boy's marriage to the lovely "M".  If you believe in fate, this union is one to put in the journal.  Both AB and M were attending the same conference, she from Warsaw and he from Toronto and met in Montreal.  Although many say that long distance relationships are particularly challenging, this one seemed to thrive and after many cross Atlantic visits for extended periods at a time, they decided to tie the knot.

Each trip reminded me of my European roots; the phrases people use to describe things, the quirky shared history that summons both grief and uncontrollable laughter, words in a foreign language that I remember hearing my parents say and most familiar - the food.  I would often think to myself that I used to have this or a version of it at home. And the pastries - simple, plentiful (every street corner type of plentiful) and delicious.  It's easy to see how I developed a love for, no... love isn't exactly the word, it's more like obsession for European cuisine.  It started with Polish recipes and has now spread to the rest of Europe and moving into Asia.  I keep thinking that one of these days my European recipes on Pinterest will just explode but for the time being, we'll go through them one at a time.  It's a good thing there's a fair amount of overlap in European cuisine; often different names for the same thing with maybe just a little twist here or there.  Some recipes have ingredients that are similar but not the same as North American varieties so the challenge is always to recreate flavours with twists here or there.  Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

Today I decided to give the Cheese Babka a whirl.  Even the name "babka" is endearing - it means "grandmother" so we associate this sweet with a kindly old grandmother kneading and filling pastries for her family to enjoy.  What could give you a warmer feeling of home than that vision?  Afraid of yeasted doughs?  Don't be.  This recipe is so simple and the hardest part of the whole thing is waiting for the dough to rise.



Dough:

2 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 tsp and 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup 110 degree water
1 cup milk
4 oz. (1 stick) softened butter
1 tsp salt
3 large beaten egg yolks - reserve 1 egg white for basting top before baking
5 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

36 oz. softened cream cheese ***
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar

Crumb Topping

8 Tbsp all-purpose flour
8 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp cold butter

*** The cream cheese in this recipe is a dry curd cheese or quark cheese that's a full milk variety and when you mix it, becomes very smooth and cream cheese like.  Don't use the Philadelphia style cream cheese.


Prepare 3 - 9x5 bread pans (you can either spray them or grease with a little canola oil)

Preparation:

Stir the yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar into warm water.  Set aside until frothy.

Scald the milk and place in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer.  Add soften butter and stir to melt.   Add 1/2 cup sugar, salt, yeast mixture and the 3 beaten egg yolks.

Add the flour and knead until shiny and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat both sides; cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.  This could take a couple of hours.

The Crumb Topping

Mix the flour and sugar and cut in cold butter as you would for a pie crust until it's crumbly.

Assembly

Punch down dough and divide into three equal parts.  Working with one part at a time while covering the rest, roll into a large rectangle 1/8 - inch thick.

Spread dough with 1/3 of the cheese filling.  Fold the short sides towards the centre (about1 1/2 inches of dough) and roll up the long side away from you.( the way you would make a jellyroll)  Place into prepared bread pan.

Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with 1/3 of the crumb topping.  Repeat with remaining two dough balls.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until the dough rises above the rim of the pan.

Place the rack in centre of the oven and heat to 350 F.  Bake babkas for 40-50 or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Using a knife, loosen babka from sides of pan.  Cool completely in the loaf pan.

There's always some learning when we follow a recipe for the first time.  I learned:

1.  Make sure there isn't an overabundance of moisture in your final mixed cheese filling.
2.  Don't be impatient with the rising process.  It takes as much time as it takes and works better when your dough is in a warmer part of your kitchen.
3.  Just because you may like raisins, overloading the babka with goodness isn't always going to get you the outcome you're looking for.  I think I went a little crazy on the raisins.
4.  I didn't put the crumble on the top - I think having it there would have been a good addition  OR I can still put icing sugar over the top.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Roast Chicken and Spinach Panini



Not that long ago Psychgrad and "R" were having visitors for a few days.  I was asked what an appropriate gift would be for them.  Who knows??  But ... rather than ask them which is probably what I should have done in the first place, I said "get them a panini press, I'm sure they'd love it".  This was not a "my bad" situation but rather one of those moments that I probably should have thought about whether or not they had the space to store another appliance.  What I thought about was how simple and yummy it would be to create new flavours rather easily and open up a new sandwich world.

Well, I wasn't wrong!  "R" seems to have taken to panini making rather passionately and tells me that he's already made  Prosciutto and Pesto , Pear and Brie , Toasted Whole Grain Apple and Cheddar , and  Roast Chicken and Spinach

To me, the beauty is really in the flavour - choosing great combinations, putting them on wonderful bread and letting the magic create.  Ultimately, don't they all pretty much look alike?  I can't usually tell an Italian panini from a Cuban sandwich in appearance, but taste, well, that's a whole other story.

"R"'s Roast Chicken and Spinach Panini  looks absolutely "to die for".  I'm really not sorry I suggested this gift since I am planning a trip in the not to distant future and would be more than happy to have "R" demo several different sandwiches for my eating pleasure.







I want this right now!!!



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