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Archive for Father’s Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Sweet Or Savory French Toast

French Toast Recipe

French Toast Casserole

Savory French Toast

Top: French Toast smothered in sautéed apples (photo courtesy Peapod). Center: French Toast Casserole: even easier than regular French Toast (photo courtesy Driscoll’s). Bottom: Savory French Toast (photo courtesy Castello Cheese).

 

Making perfectly round pancakes is not among our cooking skills. Long before we discovered the gadget known as a pancake batter dispenser, we’d switched to the easier and foolproof French Toast: eggs, milk, white bread or challah, and a pinch of cinnamon.

Even easier is Baked French Toast (center photo), also known as French Toast Casserole and French Toast Soufflé. Place slices of bread in a baking dish, pour the egg-milk mixture on top, and bake. The benefits: it’s neater (no soaking the bread by hand), all servings are ready at once, and it looks elegant when brought to the table.

Here’s a recipe that elevates French Toast, substituting brioche for regular bead and sweetened condensed and evaporated milks for whole milk. You can fry it in a pan or bake it in a casserole dish. Yummers!

Today we recommend two special recipes for Father’s Day: a sweet French Toast with sautéed apples (“Apple Pie French Toast”—top photo) and French Toast with a variety of savory toppings (bottom photo).

THE HISTORY OF FRENCH TOAST

The dish known in the U.S. as French Toast has roots at least as far back as ancient Rome, where it was a sweet dish. Pain perdu (lost bread), the modern French name for the dish, was once called pain à la romaine, Roman bread.

You may read elsewhere that that French Toast was a food of the poor, a way to scrape together a meal from stale bread*. However, recipes from ancient and medieval times denote that it was fare for wealthy people.

Those recipes used white bread, a luxury, with the crusts cut off (even more of a luxury). Costly ingredients such as spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg), sugar and almond milk are found in numerous recipes. The cooked bread was topped with costly honey or sugar. And cookbooks themselves were the province of the privileged: Only wealthy people and clergy learned to read.

Poor people ate brown bread, much cheaper because the wheat endosperm did not have to be milled and painstakingly hand-sifted through screens to create refined white flour. (Ironically, this whole wheat bread was more nutritious.)
 
RECIPE #1: COOKED FRUIT TOPPING FOR FRENCH TOAST

It’s easy to toss fresh berries onto French Toast. We also like diced mango.

But for an Apple-Pie-Meets-French-Toast effect, make a quick cooked fruit topping. You can make the topping a day in advance, set it on the counter to warm to room temperature as you make the French Toast, and give it a quick zap in the microwave.

You can substitute two cups of bananas, blueberries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, etc. for the apples.

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon butter (more as needed)
  • 3 large apples (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, etc.), peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes (yields 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat; add the apples, cinnamon and salt. Cook for 5-6 minutes until tender, then stir in the maple syrup. If you prefer very soft apples, cook them for 10-12 minutes before adding the maple syrup.

    2. COOK for 1 minute more. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
     
    SAVORY FRENCH TOAST

    Ditch the maple syrup or other sweet condiments. Even if you like sweet French Toast, you’ll like it savory, too.

    Here’s the basic recipe, topped with sautéed cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan. Our favorite variations:

  • Blue cheese and sautéed apple slices with a pinch of thyme to garnish
  • Feta and Kalamata olives with an oregano garnish
  • Ham and cheese French Toast sandwich
  • Sautéed onions and chicken livers with a pinch of sage (Dad’s favorite)
  • Smoked salmon, caviar and crème fraîche with a pinch of dill (Mom’s favorite)
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    *The poor used stale bread for crostini (toast) or topped it with soup (the dish was originally called “sops,” referring to the bread or toast used to sop up the hot food), stew or melted cheese (a “Welsh Rabbit”) to soften the bread and make a meal.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Steak With Three Sauces

    Our friend Andy welcomes the opportunity to visit Denver, so he can pop in at Vesta Dipping Grill, known for the variety of creative sauces it offers with its entrées (here’s the current menu).

    For Father’s Day, forget the Worcestershire or A-1 and treat Dad to a choice of three homemade steak sauces. It’s like “steak three ways.” Here are a Baker’s Dozen of suggestions.
     
    HERB SAUCES FOR STEAK

    These quick herb sauces require no cooking: Toss everything into a food processor and pulse (purists can get out the mortar and pestle).

  • Chimichurri Sauce. The steak sauce in Argentina, chimichurri is made from parsley, garlic, green or red chile, olive oil, red wine vinegar. You can add other herbs. Mario likes cilantro, Emeril likes oregano and basil. Recipe and more.
  • Gremolata. If you want bright herb flavors without heat or tang, make gremolata. This simple condiment from Italy consists of fresh chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic—zingy without being spicy. Recipe and more.
  • Pesto. The “original” is made from basil, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, but there are many variations that switch out the herb, nut and cheese. Recipe and more information.
  • Salsa Verde. Layers of flavor without heat, this Italian herb sauce is made from chopped chives, mint and parsley with capers, chopped anchovies, garlic and lemon juice. Some recipes add tomatillos. Recipe and more information.
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    Ribeye Steak With Sauces

    This 32-ounce steak is served with three sauces and a head of roasted garlic at The Fillmore Room in New York City.

  • Shallot Vinaigrette. Use your best vinegar and olive oil, minced shallots and parsley or other herb of choice. As a bonus, serve it warm. Recipe.
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    Mushroom Sauce

    Mushroom sauce with red wine is a classic steak sauce (photo Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

     

    CLASSIC FRENCH SAUCES

  • Aïoli. Aïoli is a Provençal garlic mayonnaise that is typically served with seafood. But it’s delicious with steak, too, and is also a yummy dip for French fries. Recipe.
  • Béarnaise Sauce. Thick and creamy like aioli but laced with tarragon and shallot instead of garlic, this pairing has been revered by French steak lovers for centuries. Recipe.
  • Compound Butter. Another innovation of French cooks, compound butter has been flavored with anything the cook likes, from anchovies to Cognac to Roquefort cheese. The butter is rolled into a log, and a slice is cut to top a steak. The heat from the just-cooked steak turns it into a flavored butter sauce. Recipes.
  • Mustard Sauce. Mix Dijon mustard with crème fraîche and gently heat this creamy, tangy steak sauce. Recipe.
  • Mushroom Sauce. Different interpretations include mushrooms with beef stock and brandy or wine, to a cream sauce with a Dijon accent. Recipe.
  • Peppercorn Sauce. Another creamy classic, this steak sauce is made with heavy cream, chicken stock, red wine vinegar and green peppercorns, simmered briefly.
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    MORE STEAK SAUCES

    There are many more options, but we’ll conclude today with global influences:

  • Try Asian-style sauces, such as Black Bean Sauce with Five Spice Powder and Teriyaki Sauce from BBC Good Food, and Green Sriracha Sauce from Food and Wine.
  • Go South-of-the-Border with Poblano Sauce (add puréed poblanos into garlic mayonnaise (aioli), Mole Sauce or Smoky Ancho Chile-Almond Sauce from FoodAndWine.com.
  • You can also make Piri-Piri Sauce with this recipe from Emeril. Piri-Piri is from Africa; Peri-Peri is the version brought back home by Portuguese sailors, and became the Peruvian version of Chimichurri. Both get their heat from fresh chiles.
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    Happy grilling, happy saucing!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Homemade Pork Rinds

    Homemade Pork Rinds

    Pork Rind Garnish

    Pork Cracklings

    Top: Don’t these homemade pork rinds look so much better than store-bought? Photo and recipe courtesy PaleoLeap.com. Center: Pork rinds are also a delicious garnish for soups and salads. Photo courtesy Culinary Vegetable Institute. Bottom: Pork cracklings are made from the skin and fat; pork rinds are the skin (rind) only. Photo courtesy Padaek.com. Check out the recipe.

     

    As we think ahead to Father’s Day, we’re mulling over some homemade versions of popular snack foods from potato chips to pork rinds.

    Pork Rind Appreciation Day, established by Rudolph Foods (which sells pork rinds), is held on Super Bowl Sunday. But we like the idea of homemade pork rinds and a cold beer on Father’s Day.
     
    PORK RINDS VS. PORK CRACKLINGS

    Pork rinds (chicharrónes) are made from pork skin, with the attached fat removed.

    That’s the difference between pork rinds and pork cracklings. Cracklings (called grattons in Cajun cuisine) include the fat that adheres to the skin. Because of the extra fat, cracklings are greasier, denser and a bit chewy. Pork rinds are airy like cheese puffs, and they dissolve in your mouth.

    Here’s an idea: Buy pork belly to make grilled pork belly or pork belly skewers, and turn the skin into pork rinds. You can also buy the skin only from butchers (it’s quite inexpensive).

    Be sure to use skin within three days of purchase, as its high moisture content means it can spoil quickly. The finished pork rinds will keep for a long time if cooked long enough for all the fat to be rendered out.

    Check out this video.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PORK RINDS

    Here’s a recipe for homemade pork rinds from Paleo Leap, which serves it as a crispy Paleo Diet snack with dilled mayonnaise or tartar sauce.

    Some pork rinds are deep-fried. Others, like this recipe, are roasted (the difference between roasting and baking).

    With homemade pork rinds, you control the salt. You don’t need to use any salt at all; the pork rinds will still be delicious. You can supply a salt shaker for those who must have it.

    Or, you can choose another seasoning. Garlic? Pepper? Curry?

    Ingredients

  • Pork skin
  • Optional: salt
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper to make clean-up easier.

    2. SLICE the skin into 1″ x 2″ strips—longer if you like—and place the strips on the baking sheet. Roast for 1-1/2 hours, then taste a piece. Many recipes call for 3 hours, but Sébastien Noël of Paleo Leap advises: “…most of the time they’re ready after 1.5 hours. You want them to be crispy but you don’t want them to be hard as a rock.”

    3. REMOVE from the oven and cool until they’re warm to the touch; enjoy them warm.

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    Scrunchions, popular in Newfoundland, are pieces of fried fat (no skin).

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Pancakes & Maple Syrup Substitutes

    Some people like to serve pancakes with a garnish of berries. But at The Mission restaurant in San Diego, a creative cook embedded the fruit in the pancake itself.

    You can do it easily:

  • SLICE fresh berries in 1/4-inch pieces.
  • SPOON the pancake batter onto the griddle or pan.
  • ADD the sliced fruit while the batter sets. If you work quickly, you can add them in a circle; but random scatters are just as tasty.
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    No berries? Use dried fruit (dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc) or dice any other fruit you have on hand (apples, bananas, pears, etc.).

    While the The Mission serves the pancakes with conventional maple syrup, consider these…
     
    ALTERNATIVES TO MAPLE SYRUP

  • Apple butter, bourbon butter, maple butter, strawberry butter or other compound butter
  • Fruit yogurt (you can mix jam or preserves into plain yogurt)
  • Honey
  • Jam, marmalade, preserves
  • Other syrup (berry syrup, brown rice syrup, cinnamon syrup [recipe below], molasses)
  • More fresh fruit
  • Plain yogurt, sour cream or mascarpone
  • Whipped cream or heavy cream
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    For plain pancakes consider:

  • Applesauce or other puréed fruit
  • Dessert sauce (caramel, chocolate)
  • Fruit compote or sautéed fruit
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  •  
    You can also mix up a creative syrup; for example, honey with raisins, diced apples and/or chopped nuts.
     
     
    RECIPE: CINNAMON SYRUP

    This is delicious on French toast, pancakes and waffles; along with fruit salad, ice cream, un-iced cakes, etc.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Splash of lemon juice
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    Preparation

     

    Pancakes Embedded Fruit

    Sautéed Apple Pancakes

    Peanut Butter & Jelly Pancakes

    Fun with fruit, in and on your pancakes. Top: Embedded berries (photo courtesy The Mission restaurant | San Diego). Center: “Apple Pie Pancakes,” topped with sautéed apples (photo courtesy PotsAndPans.com). Bottom: Topped with peanut butter and jelly or preserves (photo courtesy Krusteaz).

     
    1. HEAT the water and the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the liquid begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

    2. ADD the cinnamon and lemon juice, stir thoroughly, and let cool or serve warm.

      

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    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Dutched Cocoa Powder

    Top: Sweet and salty, chocolate and caramel: How can you resist? A recipe and photo from The Baker Chick. Bottom: Dutch process, or Dutched cocoa, is processed with alkali to neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity. It is milder in flavor and lighter in color than non-Dutched cocoa powder. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Thanks to The Baker Chick for helping us celebrate National Chocolate Caramel Day, March 19th. We made her wickedly good Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies.

     
    RECIPE: SALTED CARAMEL PRETZEL BROWNIES

     
    Ingredients For 24 Brownies

    For The Pretzel Crust

  • 4 cups small pretzels, crushed into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
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    For The Brownies

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
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    For The Toppings

  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Fit a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper. Overlap two sheets, including two tabs that hang over the sides, so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan.

    2. ADD the crushed pretzels to the bottom of the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Set aside while you make the brownie batter.

     
    3. WHISK together the cocoa powder and boiling water in a large bowl, whisking quickly until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Add the oil, melted butter, eggs, yolks and vanilla, whisking after each addition. Add the sugar, mix until well-combined. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the batter and then fold in, mixing until smooth and well incorporated while not over-mixing.

    4. POUR the caramel sauce over the batter in lines going vertically, then horizontally. Use the tip of a knife or skewer to swirl the batter back and forth.

    5. BAKE for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

     
      

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