Friday, April 24, 2009

English Muffins

(Photo by Steve at Pulp Kitchen)

Bill asked for Eggs Florentine for his birthday breakfast last weekend, so I made my first-ever-English muffins as the foundation. MAN! The result was so wildly superior to those little cardboard mass-produced things, I couldn't even believe it. Nooks! Crannies! The whole nine.

(They're also incredibly easy to turn out, but please don't tell that to Bill. You just mix everything up and leave it to sit overnight. They cook on the griddle in the same time it would take to make pancakes. Ssshhh...he thinks I did something really fancy...)
(Adapted from the blog "Winos and Foodies")

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees)
1/2 cup warm milk (same temperature range as the water)
2 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, place yeast, sugar and half the water. With a fork, whisk until yeast is dissolved and cover with a towel for at least five minutes. Mixture should start to foam. Add remaining water and milk and cover for another five minutes.

In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. Add in yeast mixture. With a rubber spatula or your hands (or with a dough hook in the bowl of a standing mixer), gently mix ingredients, until just combined. Pour onto lightly floured work surface and knead for up to 8 minutes, or let the stand mixer do all the work if you are using one. the dough will be very soft.

Place dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic and a tea towel. Allow to double in size, at least 90 minutes, or alternatively, overnight.

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Roll into a rope at least one inch thick. You'll want no more than 8 or 9 pieces from the dough. Roll each piece into a ball and roll in cornmeal or rice flour. Place on a baking sheet and top with a second baking sheet for a second rise, about 20 minutes.

When ready to cook, heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease or use an oil spray.

Allow to cook on first side for about 10 minutes; you'll notice puffing and the first side getting golden. Flip onto second side using a spatula, and cook for about the same amount of time. Place cooked muffins in a tea towel to keep warm.

Open with a fork or serrated knife, and toast for best nook-and-cranny action.
These freeze beautifully for later use.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tangy Creamed Spinach

Of course, then I had to figure out the "Florentine" part of the eggs Florentine. I decided to go with a sort of faux creamed spinach with a poached egg on top, and no hollandaise. The creamed spinach was killer, and I'll make it again and again. I did miss the hollandaise, though, so next year I'll either have to work that out OR I'll make the creamed spinach a littler wetter, pile it into a broiler pan with a couple of indentations for the eggs to nestle in, and bake the eggs right on top with some parmesan and a little cream...We'll see.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt a tablespoon or so of butter and saute one small onion, finely diced, with 2 cloves of minced garlic until everything is soft and translucent. Stir in 16 ounces thawed and drained frozen spinach, and one crumbled beef boullion cube. Stir in 8 ounces sour cream, 1/4 cup parmesan (or more to taste), salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

This keeps well and is a good base for eggs florentine, or as a side dish or as a stuffing for fish fillets, etc...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Southern Black-Eyed Peas

It is a sad fact that there is less and less soul food to be found in Harlem. I mean - in Harlem restaurants, at any rate. The old restaurants have mostly gone out of business, many of them just over the last year. Bill and I found this out the hard way, when I was craving biscuits one Sunday morning last fall, and we pounded the pavement for an hour, only to find that virtually all of our old haunts had closed. (Thank god for Margie's Red Rose Diner. I'll cry my eyes out when those screen doors close for good.)

The following week an article about the death of soul food in Harlem appeared in the NY times, with this beautiful photo by Chester Higgens, Jr.

M&G diner is/was just a few blocks from us, and Bill used to refer to it as his "office." The diner managed to stay open for 40 years, but is now permanently closed, and I guess we'll be turning out our own biscuits and salmon cakes and black-eyed peas from now on.

2 quarts water
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked for at least 6 hours ahead of time, unless you are using a pressure cooker
1 large ham hock
3 slices uncooked bacon, diced
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cover and boil gently until peas are tender, stirring occasionally. This takes about 1 hour on the stove. I've also done it in the pressure cooker in much less time - you just have to be really careful not to overcook the peas which can happen easily. If using a pressure cooker, use a little less water and add a little oil so the beans won't foam up and clog the valve.

Remove the ham hock to a cutting board. While the hock is cooling, partially mash the peas to thicken the liquid. Continue to simmer the peas, uncovered, to reduce the liquid by half for a thick but still soupy consistency. Taste for seasoning AFTER the liquid has reduced down to the finished consistency.

While peas are simmering, cut any edible meat off the cooled ham hock, discarding everything else. Return the chopped meat to the peas.

Serve in bowls with biscuits for dipping.