Broke and full. Success!

It’s the day before payday, which is always bleak. Well, bleak in that we can’t indulge our usual gluttonous passions – no beer, no wine, all out of eggs, and a dwindling supply of vegetables on hand. The fridge is sparse at the moment. But it’s after nine, and I’ve got bread in the oven for tomorrow’s meager breakfast before our bank balances nudge ever so slightly into the positive. And we’re full, most of a pot of soup gone, all of yesterday’s meatload depleted.

Nick said it was the best soup I’d ever made, which put me in a bit of a pout, because I like to think that my specialty, my sumptuous sweet potato and coconut soup with lemongrass and red curry spices, is far better, more interesting, more favourable. Tonight’s soup was hobo soup, essentially. A head of cauliflower that’s been tucked in the back of the fridge for three weeks, maybe a month. An onion, some garlic. The remainders of two cartons of chicken stock, about three cups. The rest of the non-sour milk, maybe a cup and a half. A small round of that delicious Boursin cheese. Salt. Pepper. Cayenne. And that’s that, simmered until the cauliflower softened, then blended with my awesome new hand blender.

Ever notice that a meal of just soup is kind of sad, no matter how good the soup? Me too. I had just enough butter left on hand for a half-batch of baking powder biscuits. Once they came out of the oven, I sliced them, and stuffed them with the remaining meatload  from yesterday, with a sprinkling of cheese.  We are fat and sassy. We are full and content, Star Trek TNG on TV, a loaf of soda bread in the oven smelling our space up real nice.

Tomorrow, I will buy groceries for the next few days, bake brownies for Nick’s bake sale (he’s not 7 … he’s 27), and life will return to normal. We will have beer again, and possibly wine. But for now, we’ve enjoyed a lovely evening. Am pleased. Tra-la-la!

Dutch Babies: Good to Eat

Nick asked me the other night to tell him my favourite thing to eat. Choose one thing? Who am I to say that a beautifully roasted duck breast and a chewy, buttery lobster tail aren’t equally worthy, or that peanut butter cookies, wonton soup, Filet-o-Fish sandwiches, or beet carpaccio aren’t equal and each distinguished in their own right? I couldn’t pick one. But, if I had to pick a favourite thing to eat in the morning, it would be Toad in the Hole – Yorkshire pudding with sausages and onions baked in, all fluffy and crispy and meaty. Yorkshire pudding on its own is pretty fantastic.

So Nick got me thinking about my favourite things, and among my favourite things: Yorkshire pudding. Right. I believe we established that. A few weeks ago, we made a brunch date with two lovely friends, Aimee and Evani, and so while planning a mid-day stat-holiday feast, visions of puffed batter were dancing about in my head.

I had two savoury dishes on the menu already – tortilla with cucumber and avocado salsa, and “potato stuff,” which is a genius of a thing that comes from every kitchen of every person I’ve ever met’s mother (1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, 1 cup sour cream, 2 cups grated orange cheddar cheese – don’t use white, it turns out gross-looking, and most of a bag of hashbrowns, stirred together and baked covered in a Corningware dish for 30 minutes at 450°F).  So, no Toad.

Ooh! I forgot to mention – I bought some lovely fresh free-range happy-UBC-farm-chicken eggs the other day, so I had another reason to make something Yorkshire-puddingy.

Anyway, so I thought – why not add a bit of sugar and top them with a warm raspberry-lemon compote and way too much whipped cream? It turns out such a thing already exists and has a name (with or without any version or variation of the compote or anything else) – and it’s a fairly awesome name at that – who doesn’t love joking about eating babies?! “I can’t think of a better use for them!” “Hahaha!” Ahem. You want the recipe? Of course you do. It’s quite simple/excellent/fun to make fun of babies.

I scraped a little bit of vanilla bean into mine, because I have some (though, since Nick tossed the lid to the container during a mad clean-freak sweep of the kitchen, they may all dehydrate before long). You can use a teaspoon-or-so of vanilla extract if you’ve got it. Almond extract or a little maple syrup would also probably be quite tasty.

Dutch Babies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • Butter

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Butter six ramekins and place them on a baking sheet, and toss them into the oven.

In a single bowl, combine your flour, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. You used the butter to grease your ramekins, remember? Don’t worry. You won’t need it again. Work quickly, whipping everything together – make sure you don’t leave lumps. If your vanilla bean refuses to spread out and act normal, go in manually – use your fingers to separate the blobbies – that’s what they’ll look like: little black blobs, sort of like frogs’ eggs, but less gross.

When your batter is ready, pull the ramekins out of the oven and divvy the batter up between them. This recipe makes just enough for six. When the batter’s in, put it all back into the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. Monitor their cooking via the oven light: You are not allowed to open the oven door until they are done. They will go flat, and then your brunch guests will not be as impressed.

When they come out of the oven, don’t wait too long to serve them. Drizzle them with a bit of sauce, and serve with whipped cream. For my raspberry sauce, I used two cups of frozen raspberries and the zest and juice of one lemon, reduced until the mixture was thick and nearly jammy in texture – I started them in a pot over medium-low heat about an hour before I had to serve everything, and didn’t watch them too closely, just stirred them occasionally.

I was quite pleased with the way these turned out – I think the eggs were really what made them. The yolks were a fantastic golden colour, and imbued the Babies with a very springy yellow hue. I wish I had a camera to show you! I will get one soon, I promise. And then I’ll make them again, and post pictures, and you’ll be all, “wow, those are lovely. It’s a good thing she’s a baker and not a breeder, because her real life Dutch babies (well, half-Dutch, which is funny, because she’d totally have gone Dutch on the genes for those whippersnappers) would probably not be nearly as good-looking.”

I wonder if it’s necessary to mention that brunch means you can get drunk during the day without everyone shouting “ALCOHOLIC!” and pointing at you. Nap time!

UPDATE: Toad in the Hole is shown on This is why you’re fat. Goddamn it.

Another meat fest, now featuring potatoes au gratin!

Yesterday, Nick bought a barbecue, which I think means that “we” got a barbecue, so I may be out of luck for a birthday present. I think this decision, which has been long in the works, was largely influenced by a burger on a cooking show we saw on Friday that involved two hamburger patties smooshed together, but not before being stuffed with a handful of cheddar cheese and some chopped bacon. Apparently, an improved version of this will be on the menu tonight, with Nick “doing the cooking,” which mostly means that I’ll assemble and prepare all the food, but Nick will man the fire and flip things and bask in all the praise. I’m hoping that Nick isn’t planning on “doing the cooking” for my birthday next weekend …

Being something of an attention whore, and not content to let Nick take all the glory for the feast, I’m planning some sumptuous sides, in particular Jeffrey Steingarten’s potatoes au gratin dauphinoise, the recipe he detailed in It Must Have Been Something I Ate (required reading). Steingarten attests that a true gratin contains no cheese; these should take on a cheesy taste through the cooking process. And my, they do! I add bacon to mine, because anytime I see a recipe containing half a cup of butter and a cup and a half of cream, I figure it’s probably going to be a contributing factor in my inevitable coronary, so what the hell, right?

I’ve made these in both a glass pan and an enameled cast iron pan, and I liked the cast iron better, which is what Jeffrey Steingarten advises – it makes for a crispier bottom. Butter the pan thoroughly, on all sides.

Potatoes au Gratin Dauphinoise á la Jeffrey Steingarten

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 lbs thinly-sliced potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped (optional)

Using a good dollop of the butter, grease the inside of your pan on all sides. Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a pan on your stove, bring the milk, salt, pepper, garlic clove, and nutmeg to a boil. Remove from heat and turn off the element.

Line your pan with potatoes and bacon (if you choose … but I don’t know why you wouldn’t).

Put your pot of milk and spices back on the stove – bring it to a boil once more. When it’s come to a boil, pull the clove of garlic out, and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes.

Bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat, and turn off element.

When the potatoes come out of the oven, bring the cream to a boil once again. Pour the boiled cream over the potatoes, and dot the whole thing on the top with the remaining butter.

Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

The last time I made these, they were perfectly crispy on the top and bottom, and delectably creamy on the inside. I figure that eating them caused me to gain eight pounds. Since we’re having these again tonight, with burgers stuffed with cheese and meat, I bet I’ll be adorably chubby by bedtime. Also, am wondering where to buy those pants with the adjustable waistband.