Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Strawberries

It's kind of hard for me to believe that it's not even June yet and strawberry season is about over here in the Midwest. When does that ever happen? I knew we had to get to the fields to pick some berries before the season was officially over. We chose one of the hottest days we've had this year (fail), went on one of the busier days (fail), got lost and relied on our GPS rather than our common sense (fail), and forgot water bottles (ultra-fail). Couple that with being told that it was already going to be "a tough pick", we came into the field defeated.

Not to be deterred, we listened to our children whine for over an hour while my husband and I scoured the thistle for berries. Our haul? 11 pounds of sweet, sweet berries. And their taste made all the blood, sweat, and bleeding ears worth it. I follow a number of food blogs, and one universal theme kept recurring: I had to try roasting fresh picked strawberries.

There appear to be two different methods when roasting berries: higher heat for a shorter time, or low heat for a longer time. I had the time, so I went with low and slow.

And the result? Swoon.

My girls and I loved them. My oldest actually did the happy food groan when she was eating them and said how much she loved the warm berries with the cold ice cream. My youngest polished off her sundae in record time and then both girls headed over to the stove to eat berries directly off the cookie sheet. I was even warned not to eat all the leftovers myself. Me?! Do they think I have no self-control around such deliciousness? They know me too well. :)

Roasted Strawberries
  • 2 1/2 lbs small fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup demerara sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 225°F. Wash, drain and hull strawberries. Divide berries in a single layer on one or two baking sheets  (I lined mine with parchment paper for easier clean-up). Place in the oven and slow-roast for 45 minutes. Strawberries will not release much juice during this part.

Remove from oven and sprinkle sugar evenly over the berries. Season lightly with salt and pepper (optional), and stir gently. Return pan(s) to oven and roast about 30 minutes more.

Remove pans from oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes. Strawberries will release more juice during this resting period. Transfer to a bowl or jar and use a spatula to scrape all of the sauce from the pan. Enjoy warm, or refrigerate until ready to use.

Will keep up to one week in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. In addition to all the yummy recipes linked above, I would recommend eating these berries on some pancakes or waffles, in a bowl of oatmeal, or just out of the jar.

Source: Simple Bites

Per Simple Bites: This is the basic recipe, but feel free to get creative by adding a splash of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of cardamom, or what ever complementary flavor you like. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kentucky Hot Brown

Saturday marks the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, and possibly the 50-ish year that people are going to be celebrating with a mint julep in one hand, a fork full of Kentucky Hot Brown in another, while the Derby pie waits anxiously for a hand to free up. I love food holidays.

The Hot Brown is a rich dish steeped in rich history. This open-faced sandwich was developed in the roaring 1920's by Fred Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, and was his answer to the flappers' fourth meal. Tired and hungry from a night of dancing, they would head into the restaurant for a bite to eat. Wanting to provide some variation from the standard egg and ham sandwiches they served, he developed this thing of beauty.

Mornay Sauce
Sliced Tomatoes
Sliced Hot Turkey Breast
Crusty, Toasted Bread

In that order.

It became one of his signature sandwiches and is a beloved part of Kentucky history to this day. It is also the perfect main dish to serve come Derby day.

Kentucky Hot Brown
Yield: 4 Sandwiches
  • 4 slices of toasted Texas Toast, or toasted French or Italian Bread
  • 1 lb. sliced turkey (on the slightly thicker side), warmed
  • 8 slices of roma tomatoes
  • 8 slices of thick-sliced bacon, cooked
  • Mornay sauce (can be made ahead)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Paprika and parsley (optional)
For each sandwich, place one slice of toast on an oven-safe dish. Divide the turkey evenly over the bread.
Take two slices of a Roma tomato and set them alongside the base of each turkey and toast.
Pour enough Mornay sauce to cover the dish. Add a handful of cheddar cheese to the tops.
Place entire dish under a broiler. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove it from the broiler.
Place two pieces of crispy bacon on top of the sandwich. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley (optional).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Croque Monsieur

I believe any meat/cheese sandwich is improved by serving it on grilled or toasted bread. The crunchiness of the bread often creates a lovely textural balance to the creamy cheese and tender meat. My husband is a man of simple tastes who could (and sometimes does) eat the same meal every day and be perfectly content. His sandwiches are just as delicious on untoasted bread, thankyouverymuch. For that reason, I always feel so loved when he offers to grill my sandwich. For him, it's a real act of love. :)

This is the toasted sandwich's slightly saucy cousin, pinky high in the air. It's your standard ham and cheese, but elevated to new heights by switching out the usual Swiss cheese for a creamy, nutty, and utterly delicious Gruyere cheese. The sandwich is then topped with a creamy Mornay sauce and broiled, just until bubbly. If you've never tried a Mornay sauce, it is incredibly similar to a bechamel sauce, except with the addition of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.

All put together and topped with some fresh chives, this sandwich is a thing of beauty.

Another beautiful thing?

Leftover Mornay sauce.

Which just happens to be the perfect sauce for Kentucky Hot Browns.

Oh yes. Just in time for the Kentucky Derby this Saturday. I'll be sharing that recipe with you tomorrow. In the meantime, here's how you make the sauce and assemble the sandwich:

Mornay Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk (I used 1% with no problem)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c. (approx. 2 ounces) finely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 c. (1 ounce) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, salt, and cracked peppercorns, and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft, but has not begun to color. 2. Remove from the heat, and add the flour in 2 batches, whisking to combine it with the onion and butter. Return the pan to the stove, and over low heat, cook a few minutes, until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn't brown. Remove from the heat, and slowly whisk in the milk and add the bay leaf. 3. Return the pan to the stove, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the taste of raw flour is gone and the mixture is thick, smooth, and silky. If it's too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you'll need to whisk in a little more milk.

4. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce. Wash and dry the pan, and pour the sauce back into it. Over low heat, add the two cheeses, a little at a time, stirring until they are completely melted. Or, 5. Add the cheese into the bowl, then transfer sauce into clean pan. 6. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon.

*I found leftover sauce will keep fine for 2-3 days if refrigerated. Reheat gently over low heat.

Croque Monsieur
Serves: 4
  • 8 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced into 24-32, 1/16"-thick slices
  • 12 ounces smoked ham, such as Black Forest, sliced into 12-16, 1/16" thick slices
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
Adjust the oven rack to the upper position, and preheat the broiler. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Set half of the slices of bread buttered side down, and cover them with the Gruyere cheese slices, folding them back in toward the middle if they extend past the edges of the bread. Place 3-4 slices of ham in an even layer over the cheese, and put the top slice of bread over the ham, buttered side up.

Grill the sandwich, either in a pre-heated panini maker, or a heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron skillet, until golden on both sides.

Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and spoon the Mornay over them, leaving a 1-inch border of bread. Heat under the broiler for a minute or two, until the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle the chives over the sandwich and serve.

Source: Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book