The Sensitive Kitchen

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Morning Strata

This breakfast casserole comes together easily the night before. In fact, not only can you put it together in advance, you are supposed to! In the morning, remove it from the refrigerator and preheat the oven. Then take a quick break from presents to pop it in to bake. Right around the time your family frenzy slows down, and people start asking what's for breakfast, it will be ready.

1 Tbsp each butter and olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced1 large bunch kale, stems removed, cut in chiffonade
6 c stale sourdough bread, cut in 1" cubes
8 eggs2 c milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 c shredded Italian cheese blend (mine has mozzarella, asiago, fontina and provolone)
1/2 c shredded Pecorino Romano or other hard Italian grating cheese

Butter a 9"x13" or deep 10"x10" casserole dish. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove to a large (5-quart) bowl. Add mushrooms in batches; cook in a single layer until beginning to give up their liquid, then stir. Remove to bowl. Add 3 tablespoons water; stir to bring up browned bits. When water boils, add kale; cover skillet and cook until wilted. Remove kale to a cutting board; finely chop. Add to bowl along with bread cubes.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Add milk; whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over bread-vegetable mixture. Layer ingredients in casserole dish as follows: 1/3 of bread-egg mixture, 1/2 of Italian cheese blend, 1/3 of bread-egg mixture, other 1/2 of Italian cheese blend, final 1/3 of bread-egg mixture, top with Romano. Cover with foil; refrigerate 8 hours or overnight to allow bread to soak up custard.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350. Remove casserole from refrigerator; let stand 30 minutes to allow to come to room temperature. (Reserve foil.) Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until nicely browned, then cover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until cooked through in the middle. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bourbon Balls

This is one of those cases where it doesn't pay to use expensive alcohol. I used a Trader Joe's brand bourbon, to fine effect. Make sure to leave time for these to age; 2 to 3 weeks is optimal.

1 c powdered sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 c bourbon
2 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 c vanilla wafers, crushed
1 c pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa. Stir in bourbon and honey. Add wafer crumbs and pecans. Roll into 1" balls; roll the balls in additional powdered sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

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Midwinter Chili

I made this chili to feed a crowd at our annual midwinter party. It requires only minimal prep work, which the cook does ahead, then cooks itself while you prepare for your guests. And it is quite tasty. We hosted 18 people, with plenty of other food available, and the crock was slicked clean.

3 c dried black beans, soaked overnight
About 6 cups vegetarian broth (I use this one)
6 poblano chiles, halved and seeded
1 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic to yield 1 Tbsp minced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp dried oregano, crushed between your fingers
3/4 tsp ancho chile powder
1 28-oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1 large sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and diced
1 6-oz can tomato paste 
1 Tbsp Sucanat or other natural brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
Toppings: cilantro, avocado, sour cream

Pressure-cook soaked beans in broth to cover on HIGH for 12 minutes, or simmer 1 hour over medium-low heat, until just tender.

While beans cook, place poblano chiles on a baking sheet in a single layer, skin side up. Broil chiles 5-6 minutes, watching carefully, until skin is blistered and blackened. Remove from oven; cover with a towel and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Peel chiles; discard skin. Chop chiles into 1/4" dice.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and celery. When celery softens, add spices. Saute until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, stirring to bring up browned bits from bottom of pan. Transfer mixture to a large slow cooker. Add sweet potatoes, half the poblano chiles, and black beans and their liquid. Stir in tomato paste.

Cook on HIGH for 6 hours or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in Sucanat and lime juice; taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Set out remaining poblanos for those who would like their chili a bit more spicy. Serve with desired toppings alongside. Serves 16-20.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

New England Clam Chowder

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 c onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
3 Tbsp flour
2 c vegetarian broth
3 6.5-oz cans chopped clams in juice
1 c heavy cream
1 bay leaf 
4 small russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, cut in 1/2" cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Smoked paprika and minced flat-leaf parsley
Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery; saute until softened, mixing often. 
While onion and celery cook, drain canned clams through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve liquid. Check clams for bits of shell. Chop clams if desired.
Stir in flour to distribute evenly. Add broth, clam juice, cream, bay leaf and potatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring until mixture thickens. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 20 minutes, stirring often, until potatoes are tender. Add clams, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until clams are heated through. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and minced parsley. Serve with sourdough bread. Serves 4.

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