By Chef Judi Gallagher –
It is cold out, brutally cold for most of the United States and Canada. This is the time to make a hot pot of tea, put on those comfortable pajamas and think delicious warming foods and beverages. Who says you can’t have cinnamon rolls for dinner or eggs benedict with thyme hollandaise and cheese Danish? When I was a child growing up in Connecticut, I always loved breakfast for dinner. My mom would make homemade salmon cakes with fried eggs on top and home fries. She even let us drink orange juice on those night, what a delight.
February is a month for heartier foods. We often think of soups and stews, but breakfast or brunch is becoming so mainstream that many fine dining establishments are offering hash with poached eggs. (Remember The 21 Club?) Doesn’t a goat cheese and smoked trout frittata with crème fraiche and fresh snipped chives sound tempting, especially with a basket of warm biscuits and baked stuffed tomatoes? Who cares what time it is or if the sun is out. Perhaps your sweet tooth needs a fix with mascarpone stuffed French toast topped with warm apple, cranberry compote and a spiced hot chocolate?
Light candles, turn on that oven and bake some pastry treats and embrace the coziness of griddle ham steaks and banana nut pancakes. I have compiled a few of my favorite breakfast-brunch-dinner recipes. To add a little extra, think about breakfast paninis, shots of creamy mushroom soup next to a platter of sliced sirloin with grilled mushrooms and scrambled eggs – just divine.
Open-faced Grilled Steak Sandwiches with fried eggs
(Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman Cooks. Makes 6)
3 large red bell peppers
1 2-pound beef tenderloin, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried herbs de Provence
6 ciabatta rolls
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 pound Brie, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups (loosely packed) watercress
6 over easy eggs
Fresh chives, minced for garnish
Char peppers over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides, turning occasionally. Transfer to medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and cool. Peel, seed, and cut peppers lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Brush beef with oil; sprinkle with herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Brush rolls with melted butter and grill in sauté pan until lightly brown Grill beef or roast in oven to desired doneness, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes for rare. Transfer beef to plate. Let rest for one hour before slicing. Slice beef. Cut rolls horizontally in half. Spread mayonnaise and mustard over cut sides of rolls. Arrange beef, Brie, watercress, eggs, and bell pepper strips on top of grilled roll. Serve open faced.
Sausage, Kale and Feta Frittata Bites
(you could pass these bites on a tray or set them out of the buffet table)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
12-ounce bunch baby Kale, Swiss chard or organic baby spinach, stems and center ribs of Kale removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
8 ounces mild Italian sausages, casings removed, sausage broken into 1-inch pieces
8 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 1/2 ounces)
½ cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
2 drops hot sauce
4 scallions, chopped, white part only
Preheat oven to 325. Spray 8 x 8 x 2-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add Kale or Swiss chard and cook just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain. Finely chop kale, then place in kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Set chard aside. If you opt for spinach slightly sauté about 30 seconds and drain. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to skillet and sauté until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add sausage and sauté until brown and cooked through, breaking up with fork, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Whisk eggs, cream, hot sauce, salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend. Add chard or other greens and cooled sausage mixture, add feta and scallions and sun-dried tomatoes; stir to blend.
Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Bake frittata until set in center, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer baking dish to rack and cool frittata 15 to 20 minutes. Place platter atop dish with frittata. Using oven mitts, hold baking dish and platter firmly together and invert frittata onto platter; place another platter atop frittata and invert again so that frittata is right side up. Cut frittata into 20 pieces. Transfer frittata pieces to platter. Garnish each piece with parsley; serve warm or at room temperature. I often use cupcake papers to serve, this allows your guest to catch any crumbs and avoid grease on their hands.
Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes
(note: You don’t have to use fresh blueberries out of season. Stores such as Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market sell frozen all-natural fruit, no additives. My lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes are so popular that I routinely make them for friends any time of the year and any time of the day or night.)
2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tsp pure lemon extract
2 cups pancake or waffle mix
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup lemon curd
Fresh blueberries to garnish
Stir 1/3 cup of water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in the honey. Set aside and keep the honey syrup warm. Using a rubber spatula stir the remaining 1 2/3 cups of water and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the pancake mix and stir just until moistened but still lumpy. Stir in the ricotta into the pancake mixture, then stir gently to incorporate the ricotta but maintain a lumpy batter. Fold in the blueberries.
Heat a griddle over medium heat. Brush with the melted butter. Working in batches, spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Spread a thin amount of lemon curd and serve with Blueberry Sauce.
Homemade Blueberry Sauce
3 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1½ tablespoons cornstarch dissolved into 3 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon vanilla
Place 1½ cups blueberries in a small saucepan. Cover with water and add sugar. Heat over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a low boil and blueberries just start to break apart. Add dissolved cornstarch to saucepan and bring mixture to a rolling boil. Turn heat down and simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until sauce reaches desired consistency. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, if the sauce gets too thick. Remove from heat. Add remaining blueberries and stir gently. Serve warm or cold.
For the dough:
1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
9 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
For the filling:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more as needed
1/4 cup ground cinnamon for sprinkling
2 cups granulated sugar, plus more as needed
For the maple icing:
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon maple flavoring or maple extract
For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat; do not boil. Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute. Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. Remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining 1 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl.
Remove half of the dough. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 by 10 inches, with a long side facing you.
To make the filling, pour 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar. Beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly toward you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. Don’t worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls will be divine. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together.
Transfer to a cutting board and, with a sharp knife, make 1 1/2-inch slices. One log will produce 20 to 25 rolls. Pour a couple of tablespoons of melted butter into several pie pans or baking dishes and swirl to coat. Place the rolls in the pans cut-side up, being careful not to overcrowd.
Repeat the rolling-sugar-butter process with the other half of the dough and more pans. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover each pan with a kitchen towel and let rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towels and bake for 13 to 17 minutes, until golden brown.
While the rolls are baking, make the icing: In a large bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, butter, coffee and salt. Splash in the maple flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add more sugar, butter or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be thick but still pourable. While the rolls are still warm, generously drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top. As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing’s moisture and flavor.