Purging and the Sunday Brunch Recipe

We bought our house for two important reasons – the master bedroom is on an entirely different floor from the kid’s bedrooms, and the kitchen is huge. Actually, the fact that the kitchen is huge plays a slightly more significant role than our bedroom being separate from the kid’s rooms. But only slightly.

Me being the pack-rat that I am the huge kitchen presents something of a problem, because the larger it is and the more counter/cabinet space it has, the more crap that I’ll never, ever use in a million years can be crammed into it. And I am a kitchen gadget/arcane ingredient JUNKIE.

I have spices in my cabinet that have only been used once, and are most likely no longer potent, because I can’t bear to throw them away. I have some sort of ginger/citrus tea goop in my pantry that’s never been opened because the sweet little old lady who runs the Asian market I frequent gave me a sample of it, and I bought it because 1) she convinced me it was THE cure for the common cold and 2) I’m a sucker for sweet little old ladies. (There’s one little old lady at my neighborhood grocery store who’s job it is to hand out samples and coupons for the most useless crap they sell; she goes out of her way to hunt me down because she knows I’ll buy whatever she is pushing – all she has to do is mention her bursitis and I develop the spine of a dying jellyfish.)

However, my OCD tendencies won’t let me go more than six months before I just can’t stand the sight of the jumbled mess that is my pantry and freezers, and I wake up one morning with the burning, driving desire to JUST GET RID OF IT ALL. This presents something of a problem because that jumbled mess represents hundreds of dollars of still edible yumminess. And while I may be an arcane ingredient junkie, Beloved is a “waste not, want not” junkie, so I have to find something to do with it all.

Today was one of those days. And needless to say, our menu for the next couple of weeks is going to be interesting…I have NO idea what I’m going to do with that jar of habanero-spiced pickled beets that was such good buy 9 months ago; as far as I know, there is no existing recipe for Mexican Borscht.

But enough of that; I had a request for Monkey Bread for the Sunday Brunch recipe. Here it is, or at least the most recent incarnation of it – I’ve found that as my bread-making skills become more honed, the more I tweak my bread recipes. At any rate, it’s pretty darn good, as The Young One will be more than happy to attest to. That’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for you.

Monkey Bread

Dough

1 1/4 cups warm water – about 85 – 110 F

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2 1/2 cups bread flour

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk

1 packet (1/4 ounce) OR 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Sugar Coating

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cups (at least) brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Icing

2 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup milk

Spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with vegetable spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the ingredients for the dough in the order they’re listed, starting with the water and ending with the yeast. If mixing by hand, stir the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until well mixed. If using a stand mixer, mix together on low speed with the paddle attachment until well mixed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (such as the counter) and knead briefly; shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 20 minutes.

Unwrap the dough; sprinkle more flour on the counter, and knead it for 10 minutes, adding flour a half-tablespoon at a time if the dough is sticking to the counter and your hands (it should, however, be tacky – just not sticky). After kneading, place it in a glass mixing bowl that’s been lightly oiled. Turn the dough to cover it in oil, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Prepare the sugar coating: melt the butter in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

When the dough is doubled in bulk, turn it out onto the counter, and deflate it slightly by flattening it with your hands. Tear off a piece approximately 1 inch in diameter and roll into a ball, keeping the bulk of the dough covered with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Dip the ball of dough into the butter, then roll in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place the sugar-covered ball of dough into the Bundt pan; repeat until all the dough has been coated and placed into the pan, stacked on top of each other. Don’t worry if the balls of dough aren’t exactly the same size – that’s part of the fun.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden. Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; invert onto a serving plate and cool for 10 more minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle over the bread. Pull off pieces of the bread to eat. Nom nom nom nom nom.

Note: Most bread recipes call for bread flour exclusively. However, I’ve found that a mixture of bread flour and regular all-purpose flour makes for a lighter, fluffier bread in this instance.

Chiles Stuffed with Scrambled Eggs and Cheese Sauce, and Zucchini Blini

Sunday BrunchI’ve noticed that lots of people have themed posts for certain days of the week, so I thought I’d do a “Sunday Brunch” spotlight sort of thing. Since it’s a regular occurrence at our house and all.

Anyhoo, today I made Poblano peppers stuffed with scrambled eggs and covered with a nice cheese sauce and zucchini pancakes. Oh, and bacon. I’m a tad peeved with myself because I forgot to take pictures but I was too intent on actually eating it. This is good stuff, and neither dish is difficult to make.

Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Scrambled Eggs and Covered with Cheese Sauce

Serves 2

2 medium Poblano chiles, roasted

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon butter

3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

3/4 cup packed shredded Chihuahua cheese (Mozzarella can be substituted)

Bring cream to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat; whisk in cheese. Boil sauce until reduced to about 1/2 cup, whisking occasionally, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast and peel the peppers, leaving the stems intact. Cut a slit down the side of each and remove the veins and seeds.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat until it foams. Whisk the eggs and scramble in the butter until softly set. Spoon into the chiles, plate and cover with cheese sauce. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Blini

2 – 3 medium zucchini

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable oil

Shred the zucchini; place it in a paper towel lined colander and press out as much moisture as you can.

Mix the zucchini with the rest of the ingredients – except the vegetable oil – in a large mixing bowl. Heat a large skillet over high heat until it nearly smokes; add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Drop the zucchini mixture into the hot skillet by heaping spoonfuls, flattening them slightly with the back of the spoon; they should be about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Fry them until brown, about 3 minutes per side, using care when flipping them. Drain briefly on paper towels, then serve immediately.

Makes 6 – 7 blini.

Roasted Red Pepper and Pablano Quiche and Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

I am a firm believer in Sunday brunch. My family loves it and will begin requesting special dishes days in advance, although their individual requests don’t change much from week to week (I can guarantee if I ask Beloved what he wants for Sunday brunch, he’ll answer with “Eggs Benedict”). This week I made one of MY favorite brunches, although no one else turned their nose up at it: Roasted Red Pepper and Pablano Quiche and Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls, with a side of bacon and pan-fried sweet potatoes. Okay, so the Young One turned his nose up at it, but he turns his nose up at 90% of all things edible.

When I got up this morning, I wasn’t quite in the mood to make what I’d planned, mainly because I hadn’t had any coffee. Beloved suggested that we merely make omelets, since we had boocoos of chopped vegetables left over from the pizza we’d made last night for dinner, saying that the quiche would be too much trouble. He changed his mind once he took a bite, though!

The quiche is derived from several recipes found in The Joy of Cooking and The Pie and Pastry Bible, and the rolls are a slightly tweaked recipe from the out-of-publication Settlement Cookbook. The ease of the cinnamon rolls should make up for the time the quiche takes.

Roasted Red Pepper and Pablano Quiche

Crust

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold

4 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 -5 tablespoons ice water

Whisk the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Break the shortening into large chunks and the butter into small pieces, then add to the flour mixture. Cut the fat into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or by cutting in with 2 knives. Periodically stir dry flour up from the bottom of the bowl and scrape clinging fat off the pastry blender or knives. Some of the fat should remain in pea-sized pieces; the rest should be reduced to the consistency of coarse crumbs. The mixture should seem dry and powdery, not pasty or greasy.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of ice water over the flour and fat mixture; using a rubber spatula, cut with the blade side until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls. Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula – if the balls of dough stick together you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle another tablespoon of ice water over the dough. Cut in the water, again using the blade of the spatula, then press with your hands until the dough coheres. (Cut in the last tablespoon of ice water if necessary.) The dough should look rough, not smooth. Press the dough into a round, flat disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate, trimming the dough 1 inch beyond the edge of the pie plate then tucking it under the edges and crimping. Refrigerate the crust for at least 10 minutes.

Position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Smooth a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over the bottom and sides of the the crust, flaring the excess foil, like an awning, over the crust edge to keep it from overbrowning. Fill the liner with raw beans or rice, or metal pie weights, banking the weights against the sides if you do not have enough to fill the crust to the brim. Bake the crust for 20 minutes with the weights in place to set the pastry. Carefully lift out the foil with the weights inside. Prick the crust thoroughly with a fork, return it to the oven and bake until it is lightly golden brown all over, between 5 and 10 minutes.

Whisk together 1 large egg and a pinch of salt and brush the inside of the crust with it. Return the crust to the oven until the egg glaze sets, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the crust, set aside and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.

Filling

1 medium pablano pepper

1 medium red bell pepper

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Roast the peppers by placing them in a shallow, foil lined dish directly under the oven broiler until they char. Turn them and continue roasting until they are charred all over; wrap them in paper towels, then seal them in plastic storage bags and let them sweat at least 10 minutes. (This is a good time to start pre-baking your crust).

Remove the peppers from the plastic and paper towels, then peel and remove the seeds and veins; dice and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt pepper and cumin.

Spread the peppers in the bottom of the prepared crust, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the peppers. Gently pour the egg mixture over all – it should come up nearly to the top of the crust. Carefully place the quiche in the oven, making sure the filling doesn’t drip down between the crust and pie plate.

Bake until the filling is browned and set, 35 – 45 minutes. Let it rest at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Whole Roasted Red Pepper and Pablano Quiche

The Whole Quiche

Slice of Quiche

Slice of Quiche

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

2/3 cup milk

1 – 2 tablespoons melted butter

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or 2 knives very well. Make a well in the center and pour all the milk in at once. Stir with a fork only until all the flour is moistened – the dough will be rough. Toss on a lightly floured board or counter, and knead for 20 seconds. Roll the dough 1/4 inch thick in a rough rectangle, slightly longer than wide, and brush with melted butter. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl, and sprinkle it evenly over the buttered surface. Roll like a jelly roll, away from you, and slice 3/4 inch thick. Place, cut side down, on a lightly buttered cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, in a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of confectioners sugar with 2 tablespoons milk and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla. Drizzle over the tops of the hot cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls