Posts Tagged ‘brunch’

I Left My Heart in Belgium

Saturday Morning, something amazing happened. Despite getting to bed at an ungodly hour, I rose, bright and early, full of energy, and with only one thing on my mind.

Shocking, I know.

After the cast iron pan, this is one of the top Christmas wins this year. This cookbook, updated from the original home cook’s bible, The Gourmet Cookbook, is essentially an anthology of anything and everything one could desire to create in their home kitchen. From cocktails to casseroles, five course dinners to puff pastry, Gourmet Today has it all.

And that includes one hell of a breakfast section.

As kids, Saturday mornings spelt leisurely hours passed by watching the best cartoons that TV had to offer, staying in your pajamas way too long, and eating the “good” breakfasts. No frosted flakes and chocolate milk on weekends – no, Saturdays meant chocolate chip pancakes, french toast, fried eggs and bacon. Stuff that took way too long for mom and dad to whip up before school on a Wednesday. And so this Saturday, as I lay in bed, meandering through pages filled with Ricotta Cornmeal Crepes and Deep-Fried Poached Eggs, my mind wandered back to those good ol’ days.

Then I stopped. I had come across a recipe for crispy belgian waffles, and I couldn’t look away. Thoughts of powdered sugar and maple syrup filled my mind, and I sighed – we didn’t have a waffle iron. But then, I remembered a small device I had spotted in the back of our closet a few months earlier while digging for Christmas decorations. It’s probably a panini press, I thought. But on a whim, I got up to check, and sure enough, it was an old, dusty, cracked waffle maker from Cara’s college days.

One quick trip to the market downstairs and an aggressive scrub of the waffle maker later, I plated up these puppies for the guests in my apartment. They are fluffy, sweet, and have a crunchy crust on the outside. The homemade syrup was an on-the-fly creating that can be made with nearly any type of berry, and proved to be a delicious addition. And don’t be deterred by the use of seltzer, the “secret ingredient” – the effervescence is what you can thank for that crisp shell and fluffy inside, having the same effect as beer used in beer battered anything.

Belgian Waffles with Sweet Blackberry Sauce

This recipe takes about 25 minutes, makes about ten 4-inch Belgian waffles, and requires the following:

For Waffles 

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Slightly rounded 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups seltzer or club soda (a new bottle)
  • And, of course, a waffle iron

For Sauce

  • 2 cups of berries (blackberries, preferably)
  • 1 rounded tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • Water

To make the waffles, preheat the waffle iron, and at the same time, preheat the oven to 200 degrees – you’ll store the cooked waffles in here to keep them warm while the others cook up.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and eggs and whisk until smooth. Then add the seltzer, and stir well until combined. Be careful not to over-mix, however, or the seltzer will flatten.

Brush the waffle iron lightly with oil or spray with some non-stick cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the iron, using about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter for each 4 inch waffle. Cook until light golden brown, then transfer to the rack in the over to keep warm.

While your waffles are cooking, or after they’re made, you can make the berry sauce. This is very simple – you just add the berries, white and brown sugar to a small saucepan, and add enough water to cover the berries about halfway . Let this simmer over low heat until the berries start to break down. If you want the berries to maintain their shape, you can remove them once they start to soften (blackberries will turn from black to red as they cook; once they are red, you can remove them). If you want the berries to break down completely, creating a thicker sauce, leave them in the pan. Then, allow the remaining liquid to simmer, stirring often, until it thickens into more of a sauce or syrup. Add the berries back in, and spoon the entire mixture over your waffles. Serve with powdered sugar, and if you really feel like going the extra mile, a little more butter can’t hurt.

What better way to start your day? There’s a reason why they say breakfast is the most important meal…

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There’s a reason you always hear people saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whether it be your parents who have recited these words to you nearly every morning since childhood, engraining in your mind to eat your cereal or scrambled eggs before school, or some cheery-faced TV star smiling at you from a Kelloggs Corn Flakes commercial, it’s undeniable. Breakfast is perhaps the most innately human of all meals, kickstarting our bodies and brains and easing us into our action-packed days in a culturally comforting way. One NYU Food Studies professor has even found that when immigrants arrive in America, breakfast is the first meal in which they assimilate to our culture – immigrants from Bangali abandon their traditional Indian breakfasts in exchange for Corn Pops and orange juice, subconsciously revealing that breakfast readies us for the outside world in more ways than just provide energy – eating an American style breakfast actually served to socialize these immigrants to our particular culture. So, it rather goes without saying that if any meal holds the utmost significance, it is this one.

And if any city’s residents hold this to be true, it’s New Yorkers. In fact, most Manhattanites choose to spend their day of rest worshipping at the alter of Sunday Brunch, rather than some more traditional houses of worship. Sunday provides an opportunity for indulgence, and whether you brunch at a five-star restaurant, on the sidewalk aside a quaint cafe, or in the comfortable confines of your own breakfast nook, one thing is for certain – Sunday is one day to set the whole oats and skim milk aside, and give in to your sweetest, most satisfying food fantasies.

In keeping with this week’s theme of improvisation, the following post recounts a journey into how a Sunday morning of proposed pancakes evolved into a quite serious crepe situation, which was possibly the best surprise of all. As with the Acorn Dumpling improv, epic quantities of butter were involved, and glorious results were achieved. It is perhaps symbolic, if not ironic, that when double-zero-flour is used, I can be certain that some cooking curve balls will be headed my way.

“Pan-Crepes” with Banana Maple Filling

For bliss, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups of finely milled “double-zero” flour (note – this can also be made with all purpose flour, but I would use about half the quantity and then add more until the desired consistency is achieved. It should be much thinner than pancake batter).
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 bananas, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch circles

To start, combine all the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl, whisking the milk, eggs, and vanilla together so they are well combined.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and sugar. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and stir with a spoon to get rid of the lumps. Then stir in most of the melted butter and whisk until batter is smooth.

Heat a large, flat round skillet over medium low heat and swirl around a little melted butter to keep the crepes from sticking. Using a ladle pour the batter into the pan, cover the entire bottom of the pan with a thin layer of batter – just enough to coat the entire surface, like so:

As depicted above, the batter will start to puff up and bubble – once it looks nearly cooked through, this is the time to flip, just to get a nice golden crust on the other side. While I’m sure experienced crepe-makers have the skills to do this with a flick of the wrist, my fellow chef and myself found that sliding the crepe onto a round plate and then inverting it back onto the pan works well to get an easy flip.

When the crepe is done, it will look like this:

Slide the crepe gently onto a plate, and top with your sliced bananas and maple syrup (please pleaasssee use the real stuff, no Mrs. Butterworth here. This really makes a difference).

Now, for the good stuff…

Candied Pecan Topping

Candying pecans (or any type of nuts, for that matter) is a culinary technique that will instantly make your meal look, feel, and taste more gourmet, but is actually incredibly simple to do. Want to wow some dinner guests, but don’t want to break the bank? Serve some rich vanilla ice cream and then whip up a candied pecan topping on the stove a few minutes before your serve dessert – your guests will undoubtedly be impressed as you whisk a steaming saucepan of sugary goodness off the stove and drizzle the delicious topping over each sundae.

These nuts make just about anything taste good, but atop the maple-banana crepes, they were sort of addicting. It was a real blessing that we only whipped up about a half cup of these, or full-fledged diabetic shock would have most likely ensued. Just keep that in mind when making these – a little bit goes a long way ;) Also, it pays to have some help in the kitchen so one cook can make the crepes while the other makes the pecans – that way, when they get drizzled over your breakfast, they’re still steaming hot.

First, add about half a cup of pecans to a small sauce pan. Then, top with equal parts water and granulated sugar – about two tablespoons of each should do.

Stir the pot to dissolve the sugar and then bring to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer for about five to seven minutes, or until the sugar starts to carmelize and form a syrup that coats the pecans, turning them golden brown.

Once the pecans are done, they should look slightly dry and sugary – like candy!

Once these are done, wrap up your crepe blintz-style, top it with these pralines and some more maple syrup (if you dare!) and proceed to lapse into a sugar coma. And really, what better way is there to spend a Sunday, anyhow?

What’s your favorite Sunday Brunch?

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