Sunday, May 15, 2016

Super Easy Mini Frittatas

The Chef and I, we really aren't morning people. Likewise, we aren't big breakfast people either, unless we're having breakfast for dinner- I can get behind that idea! When you're serving breakfast for dinner however, a bowl of oatmeal or cereal and toast is not going to cut it. You need something more substantial. When my kids were young I used to love making breakfast stratas and casseroles, especially on the weekends and holidays. They all have their own homes and traditions now, and I don't have to feed big crowds anymore. Sometimes though, I get a craving for some really lush breakfast food.

We all know we should start the day with a good breakfast, and driving thru the fast food place for a biscuit of fat and a cup of bad coffee isn't the way to go. Again, these little frittatas fit the bill to perfection. You can zap em in the micro on the way out the door and have a mess-free road snack or heat them up at the office and make everyone else jealous!

These mini frittatas are perfect for us. The leftovers freeze great, reheat in a snap and make great picnic foods. They are perfect for a light lunch on the deck, with a nice chilled glass of wine and make good party foods too- just make teeny ones in mini muffin cups for a bite-size appetizer. They are super easy to mix up and are so versatile. Use your favorite cheese. Use whatever vegetables you like- broccoli is delicious, and of course, spinach, kale or other greens. I like to add some diced sweet red or orange bell pepper for a pop of color if I have one around. Let's make frittata!

To make Easy Baby Frittatas you will need-
  • 1 small bunch fresh asparagus
  • 1 package fresh mushrooms
  • small bunch scallions
  • 1/2 lb sliced bacon
  • 1 bag shredded hash browns (thaw if frozen)
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheese (Colby Jack is great)
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche, sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 9 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons fines herbes*
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • cooking spray
* For the herbs, you can use fresh or a dried fines herbes mix, such as Penzey's. If you use fresh, plan on 2-3 tablespoons minced and combined fresh parsley, chervil, chives and thyme.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice off the asparagus tips; set aside. Slice the tender parts of the stems and set aside. Chop the mushrooms in small dice. Slice the scallions. Heat a couple tablespoons oil in a skillet. Saute the asparagus stems, mushrooms and scallions for a few minutes until the mushrooms are softened. Add the asparagus tips; remove from heat after a minute. Set aside to cool.

Slice the bacon into lardons. Cook in heavy skillet until browned and crispy. Remove and let drain on paper towel.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the vegetables, bacon, cheese, creme fraiche, herbs and season with salt and pepper. 

Spray cups of muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide mixture among cups. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the eggs are set. Remove and let cool slightly. Remove from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Besides making these yummy little breakfast treats I also got to play with my new mini Santoku knife by Joseph Joseph. I talk about knives all the time and everyone who knows me KNOWS I am deeply obsessed. I found this knife in a little gourmet store in the city and figured I could spend a few bucks on a new toy and see how I like it. 

The handle feels great in my hand, and for a small knife, it has a great deal of "heft." They also designed the handle to have a built in stand to keep the blade from resting on dirty surfaces, or dirtying clean surfaces.

The blade is colored so we'll have to see how durable the color is over time. The edge is beautifully sharp, as I'd expect from a new knife, and chopping was very easy. It feels thinner than some of my other knives, so I'm anxious to see how that compares. I am actually surprised that I got so much weight behind this small knife. Looks can be deceiving, I tell ya!

The knife also comes with a sheath to protect the blade- that's a huge bonus for me. So many inexpensive knives do not have covers and can be dangerous to store and difficult to keep sharp. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The NAUGHTIEST Bacon You Could Imagine

The bacon craze endures. In fact, it shows little to no sign of slowing down. There is bacon in everything, on everything and flavoring everything, so bacon ending up in a sweet preparation should be no surprise at all. It's easy enough to bring the sweet and the savory together into one delicious bite- lay some bacon slices on a baking sheet, sprinkle with brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, jelly, whatever you like and pop in the oven for 15, 20 minutes. You'll have crispy crunchy sweet and savory slices of heaven in no time. Simple enough that your kids can do it (with some supervision using the oven and moving hot pans around) and you won't have too many people turning down a slice or four.

But just think about this for a moment- what if you up the ante a little? We have the savory, the salty, and we will have the sweet, but let's get this kicked up big time. How about savory, salty, sweet, creamy, nutty and boozy? Interested yet? I thought you might be.

So let's start out in style- boozy. You don't need a big bottle of hooch sitting around. All you really need is a cute airplane bottle. Ok, so I get it, if we're comparing per-ounce prices the airplane bottle is not the most cost efficient way to purchase alcohol, but it IS the best way to get the best whiskey you can find and it's all you need for this recipe! It's perfect! What in the world is the booze doing in this bacon treat? Let me tell you, dazzling your taste buds, that's what. Combined with butter and brown sugar and brought to a boil it transforms into a whiskey-infused candy coating that gets tossed with some finely chopped pecans for the most ridiculously naughty treat I have ever made-

Chocolate Covered Bacon with Maple Bourbon Pecan Brittle

Be still my heart, you might be saying. I had a group of taste testers for this recipe and this was hands down the BEST sweet treat ever to come out of this kitchen and sure to become a special occasion treat for many years to come. It's not hard to do, so let's start with the brittle.

2 tablespoons butter (NOT margarine)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 "airplane bottle" whiskey of choice*
1 cup pecan halves, finely chopped (chop after measuring)
2 lbs bacon (regular cut, not thick cut)
1 lb milk chocolate

*Use whatever whiskey you like- I chose Jim Beam Maple Bourbon. You can use any dark whiskey you like.

In a medium saucepan combine the butter, brown sugar and whiskey with a good pinch of salt. Heat over medium heat to melt the butter and sugar, then increase heat and boil for several minutes until it starts to turn syrupy. 

Stir in the pecans and continue to boil until thickened. 

Line a sheet pan with foil, butter it or use cooking spray, then pour the nut mixture out onto the sheet pan, spreading thinly. Allow to cool completely. You can make the brittle ahead of time it you like. 

Unless it's terribly humid it will hold just fine at room temperature. When ready to dip the bacon, buzz the brittle in a food processor until crumbled. Pour into shallow bowl or pie plate and set aside.

When it's time to cook the bacon you definitely want to take my advice here. Cooking bacon is not hard but if you chose to fry it, you won't have as successful a finished product. The only way I ever cook bacon is to bake it. 

Start by unwrapping 2 1-lb packages regular sliced bacon. Cut the entire hunk of bacon in half crosswise. Line rimmed baking sheets with heavy duty foil and arrange the half slices in the pans but don't overlap them- they will stick together. Pop the bacon into a 350 degree oven and bake 15-20 minutes until evenly crisp and browned. Remove and drain on paper towels to cool. Repeat until all bacon is cooked, dumping the fat as necessary. Cooking the bacon this way ensures even cooking and the bacon stays nice and flat, unlike the unruly curly mess you get from pan-frying.

Melt the chocolate. I used Wilton candy melts and melted in the microwave. You can use whatever brand of chocolate you prefer and melt in the microwave or in a double boiler.

Line a couple sheet pans with parchment paper. Dip each piece of bacon into the melted chocolate, shake slightly to remove the excess, covering half the slice of bacon on both sides. Then dip the bacon into the crushed brittle, turning over to cover both sides. Place on parchment lined sheets and chill until set.

This is probably one of the most decadent grown up treats I have ever made. The bacon is salty and savory and crispy, the chocolate is smooth and sweet and creamy and the pecan brittle is toasty and crunchy with a hint of whiskey. It's just so ridiculously good, and you need to make this for yourself!