Unless the fathers in your life have a standing, unyielding menu for Father’s Day, it’s always a challenge to live up to whatever you cooked the guys the year before. The double challenge is making something that is substantial enough for the men but not over-the-top in calories for the ladies. To my mind, chicken and waffles always fits the bill for everyone. And you can eat as little or as much as your heart desires. See my May 10th blog for a Buttermilk Chicken recipe. This year, we’re offering two new dishes for our guys – Pecan French Toast Casserole and Crab Benedict. The father’s in your life will feel very loved if you offer them one. Delight them and make both!
Pecan French Toast Casserole (serves 4-6):
1 baguette, 24" long
6 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
½ tsp nutmeg, grated
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1 cup pecan pieces, ~3 oz.
¼ cup plus 1 tsp butter, divided
¼ tsp salt
1. Butter a 13“x9” baking dish/ Cut 20 1” slices from the baguette and arrange in a single layer in dish. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla and ¾ cup brown sugar. Pour evenly over bread.
2. Chill mixture, covered, until all liquid is absorbed by bread, at least 8 hours, and up to one day.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. In shallow baking pan, spread pecans evenly and toast in middle of oven until fragrant, ~8 min. Toss pecans in pan with butter and salt.
4. Increase oven temperature to 400F. Sprinkle pecans evenly over bread mixture. In small pan, heat butter with remaining ¼ cup brown sugar. Stir until butter is melted. Drizzle mixture over bread.
5. Bake 30-45 min. or until firm and browned on top.
Crab Hash & Poached Eggs with Spinach & Whole Mustard Sauce (serves 4):
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
8 large eggs
1 pound red-skinned potatoes, halved (about 3)
2 tsp plus 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
½ cup chopped fennel bulb
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped onion
½ pound lump crabmeat
1-½ tsp chopped fresh tarragon
½ cup minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
2 5-oz bags fresh baby spinach
2 Tbsp (¼ stick) butter
1. Make sauce: Boil cream in heavy medium saucepan over medium high heat until; reduced to 1 cup; watching closely and adjusting heat to prevent cream from boiling over, ~12 min. Whisk in lemon juice and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Note: Can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.
2. Make eggs: Bring large nonstick skillet of water to simmer over medium heat. Add vinegar. Crack 1 egg into small custard cup and carefully transfer to water, submerging cup to slip into water. Repeat wit 3more eggs. Poach eggs until whites are set and yolks are still runny, ~3 min. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to bowl of ice water. Repeat with remaining 4 eggs. Note: The eggs can be poached one day ahead; refrigerate in a covered bowl of ice water. At serving time, re-warm the eggs on a skillet of barely simmering water.
3. Make hash: Place potatoes in medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover by 1”. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, ~12 min. Drain. When cool enough to touch, peel potatoes. Press potatoes through potato ricer or mash finely with potato masher.
4. Heat 2 tsp oil in heavy medium skillet over medium high heat. Add fennel, all bell peppers and onion. Saute until soft, ~5 min. Add to potatoes. Add crab, thyme and tarragon; toss to distribute evenly, breaking up large crab pieces. Form crab mixture into 8 1” high cakes. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Note: Can be made 8 hours ahead; cover and chill.
5. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add shallots and garlic and stir until soft, ~1 min. Add spinach Cook until wilted, Stirring often, ~3 min. Keep warm.
6. Bring heavy large skilled of water to simmer over high heat. Melt butter with remaining 2 Tbsp oil in another heavy skillet. Fry crab hash cakes until browned and crisp, 304 min. per side.
7. Transfer 2 cakes to each of the 4 plates. Top with spinach mixture. Carefully transfer poached eggs to simmering water and cook just until heated through, ~1 min. Using a slotted spoon, place well-drained eggs atop spinach.
8. Re-warm sauce. Spoon over eggs and serve.
San Ramon Farmers Market:
No rain this weekend, so there were more vendors and I got to comparison shop between booths more. I also went later this week (~12:30) and, with no purposeful intentions to do so, I found several vendors willing to negotiate or reduce their prices to move the merchandise. A good strategy for your budget if you don’t mind getting some picked-over items or missing out altogether on something. At one vendor booth, I discover a lettuce blend of romaine & butter lettuces that is absolutely delicious. Called Baby Gems, the head is small and the leaves are super tender. See if you can find them yourself. They are perfect for the salad recipe below.
My kale recipes are expanding, thanks to www.365daysofkale.com. I’m really enjoying the nutty freshness of this powerful green vegetable. If you visit the San Ramon market, try the different kale varieties at the Dirty Girl vendor booth. Want to cook kale for the first time? Try out this recipe, which is sure to please:
Chopped Kale with Hot Pepper Vinegar (serves 4):
1 cup white vinegar
2 serrano chilies, thinly sliced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp ground caraway
¾ lb. kale, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a simmer. Put the serranos in a heat-proof bowl and pour the hot vinegar
over them. Let cook; cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet; add the onions and cook over medium heat until softened, ~7 min. Add the farlic and cook, stirring, until golden, ~5 min. Add the caraway and stir in the kale. Cover and cook over medium heat until the kale is sizzling, ~2 min. Uncover and cook until the kale is tender, ~2 min. Season with salt and pepper and toss with 3 Tbsp of the vinegar. Save the vinegar for other uses – it’s good with grilled chicken, pork or fish.
Cherries & Berries:
This is the perfect time of year to satiate your love of berries - strawberries, blackberries, blueberries (which seem to be getting harder and harder to stumble upon) and cherries. Technically, cherries are not berries but belong the same family as plums, apricots and peaches. Still, they come into season about the same time as berries and most people batch them together in their minds. Cherries are usually classified as wild/sweet cherries sour cherries although most of what we consume are the sweet cherries. Royal Ann cherries from Oregon and Michigan are specifically used to produce maraschino cherries for our exotic cocktails. According to Wikipedia: “Cherries contain anthocyanins, the red pigment in berries. Cherry anthocyanins have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in rats. Anthocyanins are also potent antioxidants under active research for a variety of potential health benefits.”
In our region, there are as number of varieties cultivated and/or sold:
* Early Robins: An early-season Rainier-like, light-skinned, sweet cherry; they contain very low levels of acid
* Rainiers: These are rare to find outside of Washington State; they have a pale, yellow-pink skin, with a very sweet, delicate flavor
* Bings: Popular Bings are dark-red firm and juicy cherries, usually larger than Raniers
* Lapins: These are harder to come by outside our region; they are big, firm, almost crunchy to the bite, and lusciously juicy.
* Sweethearts: The last to ripen in the season, Sweethearts have a hint more tang to their sweetness, and they're not as large as
Personally, I love the delicate flavor of Raniers when they are truly sweet but the ones I’ve bought over the last few years have lacked flavor of any kind. Instead, I’ve been buying Bings which are rarely disappointing this season. Here are two Bing cherry recipes, one old-time summer favorite (the Jubilee) and a new chicken salad recipe I just tried and loved:
Cherries Jubilee (serves 6)
½ cup white sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
¼ cup water
¼ cup orange juice
1 lb. Bing or other dark, sweet cherries, rinsed and pitted (or use frozen pitted cherries)
½ tsp finely grated orange zest
¼ tsp cherry extract
¼ cup brandy
3 cups vanilla ice cream
1. Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a wide saucepan. Stir in the water and orange juice; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking until thickened. Stir in the cherries and orange zest, return to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. While the cherries are cooking, spoon the ice cream into serving bowls.
2. Remove the cherries from the heat, and stir in the cherry extract. Pour in the brandy, and ignite with a long lighter. Gently shake the pan until the blue flame has extinguished itself. Spoon the cherries over the bowls of ice cream.
Chicken & Bing Cherry Salad (serves 4)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
2 Tbsp honey
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 pan-roasted chicken thighs, (with skin on/off as desired)
4 thick slices rustic bread, crusts removed and torn into ¾” pieces
1 lb. fresh Bing cherries, stemmed, putted and lightly crushed
3 heads butter lettuce, cored and torn into small pieces
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1. Whisk first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir; set aside.
2. Remove crispy chicken skin and meat and tear into pieces; discard bones. Set aside.
3. Heat chicken fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread to skillet and toast, turning frequently, until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper while still hot.
4. Place chicken meat in a large bowl. Add cherries, lettuce, radishes and chives; drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to coat well.
5. Divide salad between 4 plates and garnish with croutons and chicken skin.
So, from my reading and research about Venice, there will be much good eating during my week there. We have already arranged for a cooking class (a fish dish) while there and one evening a chef will come and cook-in for our group. Many Venetian dishes feature fresh sardines, herring, shrimp, eel and salt cod (baccalà). Of course, polenta, salami, cheeses, risotto and pastas are served regularly…some of my favorite ingredients. I can’t wait to taste all the flavors of Venice. 90 days and counting…