Croque-Monsieur Breakfast Casserole

A family Thanksgiving tradition: Before Susan and I head over to a relative’s home for a wonderful Thanksgiving family get-together and delicious dinner, we host our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren for breakfast, gift-giving, watching the Macy’s Parade and the dog show.

“Is that present for me?” one of the grandchildren asked.

In years past I have made quiche, frittata and sushi. Susan found the recipe for the casserole online and suggested it would be extra special and delicious. And it was.

Reading from The New York Times:

“This French classic needs little introduction, but if you haven’t had it in baked form, you’re in for a treat. Think upscale ham sandwiches drenched in egg custard and cheese, melted to a deep golden-brown. There are no tricks here, save for the addition of two extra yolks for maximum French-toast tenderness. Serve it warm, or at room temperature — a fitting breakfast feast that’s welcome any time of the day.”

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • 1 (10- to 12-ounce) day-old or stale baguette, sliced 1/2 inches thick
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 ounces French-style or thin-sliced deli ham
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (packed 1/4 cup)
  • Parsley, leaves torn, mustard, and cornichons, for serving (optional)

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees and generously butter a 9-by-13-inch (or 1 1/2- to 2-quart) baking pan. Butter the slices of bread on one side and spread a thin layer of mustard on the other side. Arrange, shingled, over the bottom of the pan, buttered side up; you may not need all the bread. Drape evenly with ham.
  2. Whisk together milk, half-and-half, egg, egg yolks and pepper. Pour evenly over the bread and ham. Sprinkle with Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses, allowing the ham to peek out in places. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (for the bread to sop up the milk) or up to overnight. Bake until the custard is set, and the bread and cheese are golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to set 20 minutes before scattering evenly with parsley. Scoop and serve warm or at room temperature, with mustard and cornichons.

Here is our Thanksgiving Breakfast table:

Here is a closer look at the Morning Glory Muffins.

And here we all are:

Here is the menu:

Susan Loves Short Ribs

Braised Short Ribs with Onions, Curry Leaves, and Unsweetened Coconut Flakes.

Susan loves salmon, too. Pasta and meatballs. Haddock.

She loves all the meals I make. I am the chef. She is my Sous Chef. Or, if you prefer, my “Sue Chef.” In fact a few days ago she came home from food shopping with a some dry salami, olives and sweet peppers to add to the pizza I was making that evening.

She’s always finding recipes for me. Clipping them from newspapers and magazines and finding them online. She found the Short Rib recipe in Bon Appetit magazine when she was at The Lift having her hair cut and colored.

Quoting from the magazine:

“Two ingredients make these braised short ribs stand out: fresh coconut and curry leaves. Unlike dried coconut, the fresh stuff doesn’t need to be toasted to bring out its natural nutty and sweet flavors (though dried will work just fine here in a pinch). Fresh curry leaves impart a subtle citrusy, nutty, lemongrass-like taste unlike anything else and are an excellent contrast to the richness of the ribs. They are readily available online if you can’t find them at a local market. This is our answer to the classic big, meaty braise.”

Ingredients:

3lb. bone-in beef short ribs

Kosher salt

2 Tbsp. ghee or clarified butter

3 large onions, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 2″-piece ginger, peeled, finely grated

¼cup tomato paste

3 Tbsp. garam masala

3 Tbsp. ground coriander

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. ground turmeric

3 sprigs fresh curry (about 30 leaves)

½ cup fresh or frozen grated coconut or dried unsweetened coconut

2 lb. medium Yukon Gold potatoes, halved lengthwise

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Cilantro leaves with tender stems and lime wedges (for serving)

Preparation

Step 1

Pat short ribs dry; season with salt. Heat a dry Dutch oven over medium. Cook ribs until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer ribs to a plate with tongs.

Step 2

Preheat oven to 350°. Add ghee to fat in pot and heat until melted. Add onions, garlic, and ginger and mix to coat. Cook, stirring, until onions are softened and starting to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt, cover pot, and cook until onions are golden, 8–10 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden brown, 15–20 minutes. Most of the water will have cooked off at this point and there might be some bare spots where the onions could start to burn. If this happens, stir in a splash of water. The liquid will dissolve the cooked-on bits, which onions will reabsorb. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are deeply browned and almost blackened around the edges and very soft, 8–10 minutes.

Step 3

Add tomato paste, garam masala, coriander, paprika, cumin seeds, and turmeric to onion mixture, season generously with salt, and cook, stirring, until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes (you should have a thick dark brown paste). Add curry leaves, coconut, and 3½ cups water and mix to make a thick braising liquid. Return short ribs to pot, nestling in so they are covered in some liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover pot, and braise in oven until liquid is thickened and meat is tender and falling off the bones, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Step 4

Meanwhile, arrange potatoes, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour in 1½–2 cups water so it covers baking sheet in a thin layer. Cover with a double layer of foil, crimping sides very tightly to seal.

Step 5

When ribs have cooked 1 hour, slide potatoes on a rack just below pot and bake until a fork slides easily through them, about 45 minutes. Let potatoes cool 5 minutes.

Step 6

Increase oven temperature to 500° (or as high as your oven goes). Using tongs, lift up foil at 1 corner; pour off water into the sink (foil will hold back the potatoes). Remove foil and drizzle oil over potatoes; season generously with salt and pepper. Let sit until cool enough to handle, then toss to coat. Turn potatoes cut side down again.

Step 7

Roast potatoes until skins are golden and cut sides are deeply browned and crisp, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a large shallow bowl or platter.

Step 8

Serve reserved short ribs with cilantro and lime wedges and roasted potatoes.

Do ahead: Ribs can be braised 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

Note: I skipped steps 4, 5, 6 and 7. Instead, I cooked the potatoes, and some carrots in the same pot with the short ribs.

Bon Appetit!

Fig & Goat Cheese Pizza

So delicious!

Heat cast iron pan in oven while oven preheats. Take pan out of oven when done preheating. Lightly oil pan. Spread dough in pan. Be careful! Lightly oil dough. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Take pan out of oven. Spread caramelized onions over dough (Yes. I made caramelized onions, too!), along with figs (I used 5, halved and cut into thirds.) and crumbled goat cheese (I used about 4 ounces.) Put back in oven and bake for about 5-7 minutes.

Enjoy with some arugula. YUM!

This Past Weekend

Pizza Margherita
Peach & Raspberry Cobbler by Susan
Clematis
Zinnia
Local Farm Stand Corn
Freddy
Morning Glory
Roses and Garden Statue
Japanese Stake and Spinach Stir Fry
Bruce’s Garden
Corn Raspberry Muffins

Herb-Crusted Haddock

This is delicious. Herb-Crusted Haddock with Tomato Maple Salsa. Served with Asparagus with Lemon Chive Sauce.

All recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks–both a wonderful cookbook and garden design book, by Ellen Ecker Ogden.

The Haddock recipe called for a Fresh Fennel Salsa but I forgot to buy the fennel when I was grocery shopping so I made the Tomato Maple Salsa, which was out-of-this world!

Ellen writes:

“In Vermont we add maple syrup to everything, including fresh tomatoes and herbs for a fresh, tangy salsa. The sweet syrup tames the acidity of tomatoes, add the small bite of hot peppers and it is an explosion of flavors. Don’t be daunted by the list of ingredients, it all comes together quickly.”

Ingredients

6 medium vine ripe tomatoes (3 pounds)
2 sweet peppers, finely diced (2½ cups)
2 medium onions, finely diced (2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
1 Habanera pepper, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 Jalapeno pepper, minced (2 tablespoons)
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 lime (1 to 2 tablespoons)
1-teaspoon sea salt
1-teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Trim the tops off the tomatoes and gently squeeze out the juice and the seeds from the interior cavities. Discard the insides and coarsely chop the tomato flesh into half-inch pieces and place in a large bowl. You should have about 5 cups of chopped tomatoes. Add the sweet peppers, onions, and garlic and set aside.
  2. With a paring knife, trim the tops off the Habanera and the Jalapeno peppers; slice them in half and remove the seeds. (Be careful not to touch your eyes or your face and clean the cutting board, knife, and your hands carefully when done!) Slice and finely mince into very small pieces, adding them to the tomato and sweet pepper.
  3. Add the herbs, juice from the lemon and the lime, salt, and cumin; finally, pour in the maple syrup and soy sauce. Mix together well, taste, and add seasoning. Place salsa in the refrigerator overnight so the flavors can blend. You may need to drain some of the liquid from the salsa that has accumulated overnight. Salsa will keep for up to a week.

I baked the Haddock at 375 for about 20 minutes. It was coated with a mix of:

1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh savory, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper

I roasted the Asparagus as I baked the haddock. The Sauce recipe follows:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • Zest from 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon
  • Fresh chives, about 1 tablespoon chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound asparagus ( 12-16 spears), tough ends snapped off

In a medium bowl, mash together the cheese and yogurt until smooth. Whisk in the lemon zest, chives, cumin and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

We loved these recipes from Ellen so much so that a few days later I made a version of her Tarragon Chicken Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing!

Dry January

The final days of January 2021 are upon us.

The final days of Dry January 2021 are upon us.

Pictured here a “Virgin Bloody Mary.” It tastes pretty much like a Bloody Mary, less the vodka, of course.

I bought the Bloody Mary mix (Agalima Organic, The Authentic Bloody Mary Mix) back in October thinking we might have one or two on Thanksgiving and on Christmas. In years past, family traditions included a large pitcher of Bloody Mary mix next to a bottle of vodka on a counter.

Because of Covid there were no family get-togethers and no Bloody Mary mix on a counter next to bottle of vodka.

We never did have a Bloody Mary or two but come Dry January, I enjoyed a Virgin Bloody Mary or two.

The month, Dry January, is really about wellness and it feels fine and healthy to enjoy the month without wine at dinner—or a Bloody Mary! I think we will keep it up. Within reason.

Of course, Dry January is all about living an alcohol free month—not dessert-free.

And we have enjoyed a few spectacular desserts.

Susan made this delicious Berry Cake!

Susan also made Fika, a Swedish chocolate treat!

I made a Banana, Blueberry, Chocolate, Coconut, Walnut Bread which was so good!

And a few days ago, Susan made an outstanding Orange and Chocolate cake!

I haven’t lost much weight but once it warms up outside (It was 2 degrees this morning with a wind-chill of -12!) and I start walking again I am sure the weight will start to disappear and I will get back to my college wrestling weight class.

Cheers!

Susan’s Birthday

Yesterday, Friday, January 8th, was Susan’s birthday. When I woke up on the day before, the 7th, I thought the 7th was the 8th.

Before she woke (on the 7th), I scrambled to wrap her present and make her card. (See Freddy above sniffing at her card and present.) Soon she came out of the bedroom and I said “Happy Birthday!” She said, “Today’s not my birthday. It’s the 8th.” I said, “Today is the 8th. Come. Let’s look at the calendar.” Sure enough it was the 7th. This confusion a sign of the times. To misquote a song by Chicago, “Does anybody really know what day it is?”

I know tomorrow is Sunday because the Sunday New York Times is delivered. And Wednesday is garbage day because I see that our street is lined with barrels filled with garbage. And Friday is Brooks and Shields (Now Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart since Shields recently retired). But other than that I am never sure of the day or date. Or time! This a sign of the pandemic and being in quarantine. I need a calendar!

Susan opened her card first upon waking on the 8th, a picture of our kitchen table which I think says much about who we are, our interests, our love of books and beauty. And it reminds me of a painting by French Impressionists. I enjoy still lifes of our home.

Years ago, I wrote:

This is
A Place
A Table
Round, of grace
A flowered tablecloth
A bowl of lemons and limes
Apples and oranges
We hold hands
Thank You God
For these gifts
We are about to receive
From your bounty
Through Christ our Lord
Amen.
A table of grace.
We then enjoyed a cup of coffee and soon I made us bacon and blueberry pancakes.
I spent much time organizing my photos of Times Square @ 1980s for my book, “Famous People Famous Places“. I am happy that I have made great progress on the project since reading about myself in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review section a few weeks ago (See previous post).
This is how the organization comes along. First I printed contact sheets of all the photos, cut them into “negs” and placed them on a large paper board.
Then I spent many hours looking at the images, determining an order, a sequence that made sense to me.
I then took these negatives and taped them into my journal so that I can reference them as I upload to Blurb.
During lunch, Susan suggested we order out for dinner. We often do order out for pizza on Friday nights. But after I walked Freddy in the afternoon, I returned home cold and thought there’s no way I want to go out later for a pizza. So while Susan napped in the late afternoon, I made a birthday dinner for her (It was her birthday!): Roasted Chicken Thighs with Pears and Dried Cranberries; Wild Rice; Carrots.
The recipe is based on one from Taste of Home:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each) (I used 2 skinless boneless chicken thighs)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (I used 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (I didn’t use.)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (I didn’t use)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar (I didn’t use)
  • 2 medium unpeeled pears, each cut into 8 wedges (I used 6 canned and drained pear halves)
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
  • Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until a thermometer reads 165°, 8-10 minutes. Remove. (I roasted the chicken thighs in oven at 375 for 45 minutes)
  • Meanwhile, stir together next 5 ingredients until blended. Pour into skillet; add pears and dried cherries. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until pears are tender, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet; simmer, uncovered, until heated through, 3-5 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with additional minced rosemary (I warmed pears, stock, vinegar, cranberries on stove top)
After dinner, we watched Brooks and Capehart and then a fascinating documentary of James Beard. I had forgotten he had a great gift for writing. I once had two Beard books (He wrote 18.): “Beard on Bread” and “The James Beard Cookbook.” I lost them in one of my moves. I will have to see if I can find a few in a used book store.
The show brought home to me the fact that I need, I am called, to again write. To write about food. To write about art. To write about life.
To tell stories. Which reminds me; did I ever tell you the story about the times I had lunch at the Four Seasons bar?

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan over Fettucine

This might be the best pasta recipe I have ever made. It’s based on one from Melissa Clark. I made a few changes which I note below.

Melissa writes: “Studded with salty olives, pancetta and Parmesan that gets golden and crisp at the edges, this is roasted cauliflower at its brightest and most full-flavored. You can serve the caramelized florets either as a vegetable-based main dish or a hearty side to roasted meats or fish, or big bowls of pasta. The recipe calls for using a package of finely diced pancetta that practically melts into the sauce. But if you prefer a chunkier texture, you can dice it yourself into 1/2-inch cubes, and add them with the cauliflower. Or, to make this vegetarian, just leave the pancetta out.”

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 1 3/4 pounds), trimmed and cut into bite-size florets (about 8 cups)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • cup olives, crushed, pitted and chopped (I used Castelvetrano olives.)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely grated or minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds (I used cumin seeds.)
  • ½ cup shredded (not ground) Parmesan
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or mint leaves and tender stems, for serving (I didn’t have so I used fresh chives.)

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet (I used a cast iron pan) and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well coated. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olives, garlic, lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt. Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, whisking well.
  3. After the cauliflower has roasted for 15 minutes, add pancetta and cumin seeds to pan and gently mix to combine. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, until cauliflower is tender, the pancetta rendered, and cheese is golden brown and crunchy. (I added #4 to the cast iron pan for a few minutes.)
  4. Spoon olive dressing all over roasted cauliflower while still hot and toss to combine. Taste, and add more salt, red-pepper flakes or lemon juice, if needed. Scatter parsley over the top before serving. (I used fresh chivies.)

Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Plums and Red Onion

Susan found this recipe for me.

Based on the following recipe from Melissa Clark of The New York Times. According to the newspaper:

“Beautiful to behold and easy to make, this sheet-pan dinner combines sweet plums and soft red onions with crisp-skinned pieces of roasted chicken. Toasted fennel seeds, red-pepper flakes and a touch of allspice add complexity while a mound of fresh torn herbs crowns the top. If good ripe plums aren’t available, you can substitute another stone fruit including peaches, nectarines or pluots, though if your fruit is very sweet, you might want to add a squeeze of lemon at the end. Serve this with rice pilaf, polenta or warm flatbread for a festive meal.”

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • Large pinch red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into parts (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs.)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups ripe, soft plums, pitted and cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced from root to stem in 1/2-inch wedges
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • cup torn mint, basil or cilantro leaves (or a combination)
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving

Preparation

  1. Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour seeds into a mortar and pound with a pestle until coarsely crushed (or lay seeds on a cutting board and pound them with a can or jar).
  2. Put the seeds into a large bowl and stir in lemon juice, zest, garlic, honey, allspice and red-pepper flakes.
  3. Season chicken generously all over with salt and pepper and add to the bowl, turning the pieces to coat them with marinade. Mix in plums and thyme sprigs. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the chicken pieces, plums, and thyme sprigs on a rimmed baking pan. Add onions, spreading them out around the chicken and plums. Season plums and onions lightly with salt. Drizzle everything with olive oil.
  5. Roast until chicken is golden and cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, removing the white meat if it’s done before the dark meat.
  6. Transfer chicken pieces as they are done to a platter. Spoon the plums and onions around the chicken. Drizzle a little of the pan drippings over the chicken and serve, garnished with the herbs and flaky salt.

I served this with Israeli Couscous with parsley and mint.

I believe I am making the world a better place with beautiful photography. If you are looking for beautiful portrait, nature, or documentary photography, or someone you know is looking for photography that helps to create a more artful and beautiful life, please contact me.

Honey Mustard Cilantro Baked Chicken Thighs with Veggies

This is based on a recipe from Joyful Healthy Eats. She called for using thyme which I have growing in my garden but it was raining cats and dogs and I had a bunch of cilantro in the fridge so I used that instead. A big plus; this is a one pan dish!

Ingredients

  • 4 bone boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 1/2 cups cut green beans
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 red pepper, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper to season

Honey Mustard Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon course stone ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. To a large bowl roasting pan add green beans, sweet potato, red onion, red pepper, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat everything with seasoning.
  3. To a small bowl add course stone ground mustard, Dijon mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic clove, fresh cilantro, salt and pepper. Whisk to mix everything together.
  4. Pat chicken dry. Then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Using a pastry brush, evenly brush the the honey mustard mixture across all 4 chicken thighs.
  5. Place seasoned chicken thighs in roasting pan and spread veggies out around the chicken breasts. Be sure to put them in a single layer and not to crowd the pan.
  6. Place the roasting pan bake for 45 minutes. Stir veggies at 25 minutes.
  7. Serve.

Delicious!

I believe I am making the world a better place with beautiful photography. If you are looking for beautiful portrait, nature, or documentary photography, or someone you know is looking for photography that helps to create a more artful and beautiful life, please contact me.