Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bacon Cheddar Quiche with Caramelized Onions

Honestly, quiche is the best dish to take along to dinner parties and potlucks. You can serve it warm or at room temperature, it's quick to make, and you can make it as trashy or as fancy as you want! Quiche doesn't discriminate between the rich or the broke: it is delicious for all.

Anyway, for a friend's party, I wanted to make something savory and cheesy. So, a quiche with some of my favorite ingredients was obviously in order. I used the base recipe in this post, and improvised the rest. I also made 3 of these, so just adjust accordingly to make one quiche

I started by roasting a pack of Brooklyn Cured bacon (you can use whatever kind you like) in a 400 degree oven.

Just lay the strips on a foil/parchment/silpat covered baking sheet, and let it roast til it's nice and crisp. Make sure you keep an eye on it, it'll happen faster than you think.
Of course, I drained the delicious bacon fat that remained, and it'll be put to use somewhere else (biscuits and gravy, perhaps?).

While that was going on, I diced up a huge Spanish onion, and a medium red onion. It was what I had on hand, and I also love the extra sweetness that red onions have when they're caramelized.

I put the onion in a wide skillet over medium heat with two pats of butter, a swirl of olive oil, and began saute-ing. After about 5 minutes, I sprinkled a hearty pinch of sea salt to draw out a lot of the onion's natural water. Then, I turned the heat to medium low, and let the caramelization begin.

As you're using your spatula to turn the onions, you'll notice that they will start to turn translucent. Then, after about 5 minutes, they'll start to turn a little golden at the edges. I obviously don't walk away from the stove, but I don't go crazy agitating them. Once I noticed the bottom of the pan getting too dry, I stir the onions around and then I added a little bit of water to loosen the onions from the pan. I did this about every 5-10 minutes as I prepared the other ingredients.

The whole point of this is to brown all of those natural sugars in the onion and intensify their sweet flavor. This may take more or less time depending on what type of onions you're using because they all have different amounts of sugar. My batch took about 45 minutes. Once the onions were deep brown and soft, I added freshly cracked black pepper, a tiny bit of sea salt, and about two teaspoons of dried thyme, for a herbal note. Oh! I added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, too....because it makes the onions even more brown and delicious...and because I'm extra.

For the actual quiche bases, I beat 6 eggs with pepper, salt, and some nutmeg (freshly grated, if you please).

Then, I poured in three cups of half and half. If you're feeling more indulgent, you can totally use heavy cream.

To complete the trio of fillings, I grated about 2 and a half cups of sharp cheddar cheese. The kind I used happened to be on sale, and from Wisconsin. I hear that's where happy cows really come from.

Clockwise, from left to right: Caramelized Onions, egg and cream mixture, cheddar cheese, crispy bacon
Now, I didn't have time to make my own crusts, so I just used ones from my grocery's freezer section. I like the Pilsbury-Pet Ritz brand. 3 crusts, for three lovely quiches.

Start by putting down a layer of the caramelized onions. Just make sure they evenly cover the bottom of the crust, because you want there to be onions in every bite. Then, crumble up the bacon with your hands, and put down a layer of that.

And finally, a good handful of the cheese. Reserve about a half cup of cheese to put on top on the quiche toward the end of its baking. Give the egg mixture a final whisking, just to make sure everything is combined, and pour it into the crust.

Make sure the eggs are settled evenly around the filling, because the mixture will expand as it bakes. Bake the quiches in a 350 degree for 40 minutes...pull them out at this point and sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Return them to the oven and bake until the cheese on top gets bubbly and brown (2-3 minutes). Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving. You can eat it warm, or cold.

I am a simple girl with simple needs....bacon, caramelized onions, and cheese. Get on this quiche, folks!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BabyCakes's Madeleines

Instead of normal Christmas gifts, I had thought it would be nice to give my friends some tummy warming baked goods. For my friend Tana, I had decided to make her something out of the latest BabyCakes cookbook: BabyCakes Covers the Classics by Erin McKenna. We've really taken to this adorable little bakery, which happens to feature a lot of gluten-free and (GASP!) vegan delicacies. I got this cookbook a couple of months ago, and I've been itching to make something tasty from it. After many hours of page turning, I finally decided upon the adorable looking madeleines.

Madeleines are basically little plump cookie cakes. Most recipes are usually flavored with lemon or vanilla, but when I worked at Balthazar Bakery, they rotated pistachio and chocolate too. All of them were incredibly moist and delicious. And who could resist its cute scallop shell shape? Just waiting to be dunked into a hot cup of chocolate or tea.

Now, the ingredients list did look a little daunting, but you can find all of this stuff at Whole Foods or any well stocked supermarket/health food store. Personally, I used all three resources, and got everything I needed at a reasonable price.

Makes 24 Madeleines.

1/2 cup melted refined coconut oil or canola oil (I used canola oil because it's less pricey. I used a great coconut baking/cooking spray to grease the pans. You can use the canola to do that too. Refined coconut oil doesn't have a strong coconut flavor, so don't worry if you're not a fan.)
1 1/4 cups white or brown rice flour
1 cup vegan sugar
1/2 cup potato starch (NOT POTATO FLOUR)
1/4 cup arrowroot
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegan powdered sugar (I couldn't find this for the life of me. So I didn't use it.)

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Brush 2 madeleine trays with coconut oil (or you can use the canola oil, or in my case, your trusty coconut oil spray) and set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, vegan sugar, potato starch, arrowroot, baking power, salt, xanthan gum, and baking soda. Add the 1/2 cup coconut oil (or canola), applesauce, and vanilla and stir with a rubber spatula until the batter is smooth. Gradually add the hot water, stirring constantly, until incorporated.

Drop a rounded tablespoon of the batter into each mold, gently spreading it to fill the mold (make sure you fill them so they'll rise up nice and plump). Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the trays, and bake for 6 minutes more, or until the tops of the madeleines are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand in the trays for 15 minutes. Place the cooled madeleines on the prepared baking sheet and dust the tops with the powdered sugar.

Look at how beautiful and brown they came out! The coconut oil gives the cookie a beautiful, crunchy, buttery crust. Next time, I'll use coconut oil in the batter, too. Inside, the cookie was moist and fluffy, with a fragrant vanilla aroma.

A dozen of these were nicely packed away in a holiday box for Tana...and the other dozen? Well, those stayed right at home with me. And they were delicious dunked into a big cup of hot cocoa. Try them!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year's Day Treat: Pioneer Woman's Blackberry Cobbler w/Honeyed Greek Yogurt

After a night filled with drunken New Year's Eve revelry, my friend Tana and I decided to spend New Year's Day in the most lazy and relaxing way possible. We slept in, made a super tasty brunch of Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, ate pita chips with huumus and black pepper Boursin, and watched a lot of television. We watched Anthony Bourdain's The Layover, which is pretty damn awesome, and The Pioneer Woman's cooking show on Food Network. Most of you know of my love and affection for all things PW, so I was excited to finally watch the show. It was just as adorable as I'd hoped it would be, and one of the recipes in particular was piquing my interest. 

The finale after their scrumptious looking pot roast sunday dinner was a buttery blackberry cobbler. It was golden and cake-y, probably closer to a buckle (made with fresh fruit and a cake batter) than a traditional cobbler. But since she made it, she can call it whatever she likes! Tana and I had bought Greek yogurt and blackberries to make little parfaits....but I figured that the fruit would be better put to use making a delectable dessert instead. 

The recipe is so easy, you could probably make this blindfolded, but you probably shouldn't. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and while that's heating up, butter a baking dish. We used a 9 inch cake pan, and that seemed to work fine. Then, take a cup of self rising flour (Now I know most of you don't have this in your kitchen...I know we didn't. Thanks to the interwebs, I found a recipe to slap together your own.) and mix it with a cup of sugar in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in a cup of milk and 1/2 a stick of melted, unsalted butter until it's all combined. Pour the batter into the baking dish, and then scatter 2 cups of blackberries all over the top. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of sugar over the top for a little sparkle and crunch. Pop it in the oven for an hour, until it's golden and puffy.

We used raw brown sugar because it was what we had on hand the result was even more delicious. It was a deep golden brown with a chewy/crunchy crust, and I think it went well with the blackberries. 

We didn't forget the Greek yogurt though! I mixed some of it with a little bit of honey, and dolloped its creamy deliciousness right alongside the cobbler. See? HEALTHY. And just in time for the new year.