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Archive for the ‘Breakfast and Brunch’ Category

Here at The Militant Carnivore Cooks for his Vegetarian Wife, we believe that health-conscious nutrition and irresponsibly wretched excess go hand in hand.  Thus, our scientists at TMCCFHVW Labs have created the Ultimate Multigrain Waffle:  It’s packed full of whole wheat flour, cornmeal and quinoa for all of the self-righteous fiber one could hope for at breakfast.  It also has a cubic s***load of butter thrown into it.  (That “c” that you see after the number “1” down below is not a typo.)

It’s not my fault:  The Joy of Cooking said it was OK.  I quote verbatim from its recipe for Basic Waffles:  “We give you three choices to prepare this recipe:  use 4 tablespoons butter for a reduced-fat waffle, 8 tablespoons for a classic light and fluffy waffle; or 16 tablespoons for the crunchiest most delicious waffle imaginable.”

That’s not really a choice at all, is it?

makes 15-20 waffles

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c butter, melted
  • 2 c cooked quinoa

Mix the first five ingredients (aka, the dry ingredients) together in a large mixing bowl.  In another mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and butter.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Stir in the cooked quinoa.  Preheat the waffle maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Make the waffles (my waffle maker uses a 1/3 c of batter at a time, and I like to use the darkest setting) and serve immediately, or keep warm on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.  Serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit or a savory ragout.  I would advise against putting extra butter on these waffles.

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Who knew that making waffles was incredibly easy?

For some reason, I thought waffle-making was an almost impossibly difficult task, involving seasoning and re-seasoning a finicky waffle iron that was as likely to burn your waffle to a crisp as produce something edible.  Maybe that’s never been the case, or maybe waffle iron technology has improved exponentially since the last time I checked, but I have to say that my new Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express makes waffle-making a snap.  The waffles come out perfectly—and quickly.  In fact, I can get waffles on the table in ten minutes from the time I think, “Man, I could go for some waffles this morning.”

In the month that I’ve had this thing, I’ve made waffles four or five times, never using the same recipe twice.  I made these savory waffles (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)  at my Lovely Vegetarian Wife’s request; I served them for dinner to company along with mushroom gravy and collard greens.  Who said that waffles were just for breakfast and maple syrup?

makes about a dozen waffles

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1 T sugar
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2c buttermilk
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 3 or 4 green onions, trimmed
  • 1 c smoked cheddar, coarsely grated

Preheat your waffle iron, following manufacturer’s directions.  If you want to serve all of the waffles at the same time, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  (All waffles are better hot out of the iron, though.  See if you can persuade your guests into being served one at a time.)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate and smaller mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, butter and mustard.  Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined (there should still be some lumps of flour in the batter).

Chop the green onions and stir them into the batter along with the cheese.  When the iron is ready, add a scoop of batter (my waffle iron takes 1/3 cup of batter).  Follow the directions for the waffle iron.  Serve immediately with any condiments, sweet or savory, that you choose.

(Full disclosure:  The picture below is of a plain buttermilk waffle, not a smoked cheddar waffle.  We were too busy eagerly devouring them to get a good picture!)

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OK, I’ll be the first to admit, the picture above does not look very appetizing.  But trust me:  This batter will produce whole-grain pancakes that you won’t even think of as “whole-grain pancakes”, but as a delicious breakfast treat which beautifully complements a range of sweet and savory accompaniments so well that you’ll find yourself making these some Sunday morning instead of your traditional, white-flour pancakes.  While they are certainly great with maple syrup, their hearty corn flavor combined with the nuttiness of the quinoa lends them to a range of Southwestern and Latin American flavors.  I’d happily serve a mess of black beans over the top of them, or perhaps use them as an accompaniment for a bowl of green chili or posole.

This is one of those recipes which sounds more complicated than it actually is.  Simply substitute some cornmeal for the flour in your favorite pancake recipe and stir some cooked quinoa into the finished batter.  If you have buttermilk handy, feel free to use it instead of the milk and lemon juice.  Finally, I just happened to have the tail end of a container of almond butter in the fridge, so I stirred it into the batter (and was pleased with the results).  If you have any peanut or other nut butter (preferably just ground nuts and salt), add it in place of the almond butter, or omit the nut butter entirely.

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 c fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T butter, melted (or 2 T olive oil)
  • 1 T olive oil (or 1 more T of melted butter)
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T almond or other nut butter, preferably freshly ground (optional)
  • 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • butter and/or olive oil for cooking the pancakes, as needed

Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, or its lowest setting.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients (i.e., the dry ingredients).  In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, butter and/or olive oil, milk, lemon juice, brown sugar and almond butter, if using.

Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon just until combined.  Stir in the cooked quinoa.  When the skillet is hot, add a pat of butter or a little olive oil to it.  (Butter tastes great, obviously, but burns quickly.  Olive oil is healthier and has a much higher smoke point, but it’s not, you know, butter.  I usually use a little of both for this and many other recipes.)  Ladle three pancakes into the skillet and cook until they are brown on the edges and the top is covered with bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Flip the pancakes with a spatula and finish cooking on the second side, about 30-60 seconds.  Transfer the pancakes to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you finish cooking the rest of the pancakes.  Serve immediately.

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I’m not proud of this.

In my defense, let me just say that I never would have done this of my own accord.  Karma, however, had other ideas:  No sooner had I written about the absurdities of bacon-infused vodka than a friend asked if I could prepare a batch of bacon-infused bourbon for a weekend trip we were planning to take with some college buddies.  The moral, it turns out, is never to say never.

I could continue my defense by pointing out that bacon actually plays very well with the vanilla and maple notes of bourbon, but I would just be rationalizing at that point.  The truth is that I took this request as a challenge and responded to it thus:

“Eww.  <pause>  That’s really gross.  <pause>  OK, let’s do it.”

serves a dozen college buddies

  • 1 lb. really good bacon
  • 1 750-ml bottle of really bad bourbon

Place the bacon on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.  Place the bacon in the oven and turn the heat to 400 degrees.  (If you start the bacon in a cold oven, it stays flat.  I don’t know why this is, but this is one case where you don’t want to preheat the oven.)  Bake, flipping the bacon over occasionally, until the bacon is brown and crisp on the edges and most of the fat has rendered, about 20 minutes.  Reserve the bacon for another use (such as breakfast).

Strain all of the rendered bacon fat through a sieve into a large wide-mouthed jar that can hold at least a quart of liquid.  Pour all of the bourbon into the jar.  Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously for about 15 seconds.  Let the bacon fat-bourbon mixture sit at room temperature for a few hours; every once in a while, give the jar a good shake.  Refrigerate the jar overnight.

The next day, use a spoon to remove any solidified fat from the top of the bourbon.  Put a funnel in the top of the empty bourbon bottle.  Put a coffee filter inside of a sieve and put the sieve in the funnel.  Slowly pour the baconourbon into the sieve, letting the filter strain out all of the fat.  You should end up with a bottle full of thoroughly de-greased liquor.

At this point, you can drink the baconourbon, but you may find (as we did) that it’s just not bacon-y enough:  Our batch tasted smoky with a faint meatiness that was familiar but not really recognizable as bacon.  In other words, we had basically made something that tasted like cheap Scotch.  We decided to hit the baconourbon with another round of bacon a week later (we wanted to wait for Sunday brunch, after all).  The second infusion of bacon fat made the bourbon profoundly, but not unpleasantly, bacon-y.

What to do with this stuff, then, besides take it to frat parties or make your friends drink it on a dare?  The mastermind behind this whole concoction, my friend, Dr. Mixologist, whipped up a batch of a surprisingly balanced and quaffable cocktail that he likes to call “Part of This Complete Breakfast”.  His recipe follows:

  • ~1/3 oz maple syrup
  • ~1/3 oz lemon juice
  • 2.5 oz bacon bourbon
  • 1.5 oz apple juice
  • 1 egg white
  • splash soda (helps create a nice foam on top)

Dr. Mixologist continues, “What I do is first combine the lemon and maple syrup with the bourbon to both dissolve the maple syrup and so I can test the sweet/sour balance, then add the rest of the ingredients with plenty of ice in a shaker and shake the hell out of it to fully mix the egg.  Finally strain over ice into a coupe glass and serve.”

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It’s September already??  Where has the summer gone?

To compensate for my prolonged absence from The Militant Carnivore, let me present a recipe for some pretty darn good cornbread.  It’s adapted from a recipe on Epicurious for green onion-jalapeño cornbread, a batch of which I recently sampled at a Southern food party.  I am greatly indebted to my friend both for bringing the cornbread and for pointing me to the recipe, because this is just fantastic.

While purists may complain, cornbread is good, but cornbread with stuff in it is even better.  Not being from a cornbread-centric region of the country, I am unfettered from any traditions dictating that cornbread should be unadulterated by any “mix-ins”, or that I should use white cornmeal only, or that bacon grease is the fat of choice for true cornbread.  (I do believe, though, that a cast-iron skillet is the only appropriate vessel for making cornbread—and for making many other things, too.)  When my most recent hankering for cornbread struck, I didn’t have any green onions or jalapeños on hand (or anything else, really—I suppose I should go grocery shopping), but I did have a half-finished jar of chipotles en adobo just miring on the door of the fridge.

I’ve come late to the chipotle game.  I only recently started cooking with them and have been pleasantly surprised by how much flavor can be delivered by a pantry item.  With their bewitching combination of smoke and red pepper, chipotles offer a lot of the same pleasure as pimentón, Spanish smoked paprika.  (I should probably stop describing pimentón that way:  After all, I could just as sensibly call paprika “Hungarian unsmoked pimentón“.)  The major difference (besides the fact that chipotles are HOT!) is that pimentón peppers are, of course, ground into a powder, whereas chipotles are canned or jarred in adobo, a vinegary tomato sauce.  That means you can chop up the chipotles and incorporate them into dishes as you would fresh peppers; you can also use the adobo as an ingredient as well.

makes 8 pieces of cornbread, so serves (ahem) 4

  • 3/4 c flour
  • 3/4 c cornmeal
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 c (4 T) butter
  • 2 large (or 3 small) eggs
  • 1 T lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 c milk
  • 1 c sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 c chipotles en adobo, roughly chopped, adobo reserved for another use

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the first six ingredients (those would be the dry ingredients) in a large mixing bowl.

Place a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Slowly melt the butter in the skillet, taking care not to burn it.

Add the eggs to a medium mixing bowl; stir in the lemon juice and the milk.  (You could also omit the lemon juice and substitute buttermilk for the milk.)  When the butter is melted, swirl the skillet so that the melted butter coats its sides, and then pour the butter, whisking all the while, into the egg-milk mixture.  Put the skillet back on the burner and turn the heat up to medium.

Pour the egg-milk-butter mixture over the dry ingredients; use a large spoon to combine.  Don’t overstir:  Just mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the liquid.  Stir in the grated cheddar and the chopped chipotles.

Pour the batter into the preheated, buttered skillet.  Turn the heat off under the skillet.

Put the skillet in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  When a skewer or knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean, it’s done.

Cut into eighths and serve with a drizzle of honey, or alongside a big bowl of black beans and a few Mexican beers.

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One of my favorite brunch dishes is salade lyonnaise.  Building off the theory that everything tastes better with bacon and a poached egg on top, it is one of the greatest salads around, but perhaps not one that is fit for weeknight dining, and certainly not one that is vegetarian-friendly.  Removing just the bacon for the non-meat-eaters or removing just the egg for the oophobes would throw the entire salad out of whack:  Bacon’s smoky saltiness complements the rich creaminess of eggs beautifully.  After all, bacon and eggs go together like, well, bacon and eggs.

I wanted a simpler, vegetarian salad that still highlighted the bracing bitterness of frisee with notes of smoke, salt, crunch and creaminess, all tied together with a tart vinaigrette.  Nuts were a no-brainer substitution for the crunch factor; blue cheese provided welcome creaminess and replaced some of bacon’s salt and savoriness.  To balance the blue cheese with some brighter notes, and to add the missing smoky element, my eyes turned to the bowl of cherries on the counter.  (I find myself making a lot of recipes with cherries and pecans, and that’s because they’re so damn good together.)  Ever since I got Seven Fires by the Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, I’ve been wanting to grill, sear and char everythingCooking fruit and incorporating it into savory dishes might be my new favorite culinary trick, and it works here:  The smoky charred cherries mingle beautiful with the vinaigrette and add bright treble notes to offset the bass of the blue cheese.

Best of all, it’s a much simpler salad to make than salade lyonnaise.  The pecans and cherries can be cooked in the same skillet, and that’s the only pan to wash up.  I’m not saying this will be the featured dish at a special brunch, but it can certainly be served as a quick and fast weeknight dinner, as well as a delicious side dish to heartier fare.

  • 1 head of frisee (and/or escarole)
  • 2 handfuls of pecans
  • 1 bowl of cherries (about 2 handfuls)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil, as needed (about 1/2 c)
  • 2 oz. excellent blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Stilton, Maytag, etc.)

Cut the root end off the frisee.  Wash and dry thoroughly.  Tear into pieces into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Heat up a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the pecans and toast carefully, shaking the skillet occasionally, until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Watch them carefully:  You don’t want burned pecans.

Add the pecans to the frisee.  Return the empty skillet to the burner and set the heat to medium-high.

Tear the cherries in halve and remove their pits and stems.  (I find it easier to tear and pit the cherries with my fingers than to cut them with a knife.)  When the skillet is good and hot, add the cherries cut side down.  Don’t touch them for a good 2 minutes:  Let them get a nice sear on them.  When they have some char on them, flip them over with a spatula and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.

While the cherries are cooking, make the vinaigrette:  Mash the garlic and a pinch of salt into a paste with the mortar and pestle, then stir in the mustard and the vinegars.  (I’m just about over balsamic vinegar, but here it adds a little sweetness that rounds out the dressing and bridges the cherries with the blue cheese.)  Whisk in enough olive oil to form a creamy vinaigrette.

When the cherries are ready, add them to the frisee and pecans.  Add the vinaigrette and toss the salad.  Crumble in half of the blue cheese and toss the salad thoroughly.  Transfer the salad to a serving dish, making sure some of the pecans and cherries end up on top of the salad, then crumble on the remaining blue cheese.  Serve.

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My mother-in-law recently gave me Seven Fires, an encomium to grilling over live fire by the Argentine chef, Francis Mallmann.  Seven Fires passes the crucial test of any cookbook:  It makes me want to cook.  Particularly, this book makes me want to cook an entire cow over a bonfire by a secluded lake in Patagonia, but, barring that, it makes me want to grill anything, anywhere.

So, the recent World Cup match between Argentina and Germany seemed like the perfect pretext for starting a fire at 7:00 AM and testing Mallmann’s infectiously presented philosophy that everything tastes better when grilled.

Since we don’t happen to own a grill (or a TV, for that matter), and since we are already in the habit of exploiting the generosity of our good friends, The Bearded Quaker and Nurse Lanois, we decided to host the game at their place.  They seemed a little taken aback when I showed up at their house the night before for the pre-game slumber party armed with clarified butter, crêpe batter and a dozen sausages, but, good friends that they are, they have learned to roll with my various eccentricities.

I figured that if I could grill panqueques, savory crêpes to be filled with dulce de leche, I could grill anything.  While I was out there, I might as well throw some sausages on the fire; there was no Argentine chorizo to be found, but some German bratwurst seemed like a noble and diplomatic concession to the opponent.  (My Lovely Vegetarian Wife is also of Polish heritage, so some kielbasa had to find its way on to the menu as well.  She would have been bitterly disappointed without it, I am sure.)  To round out this menu, I had been dying to try Mallmann’s recipe for burnt oranges with rosemary, a dish that he strongly urged should only be prepared outside due to the prodigious amounts of smoke it was sure to create.

Cooking, like all crafts, can be an act of self-discovery when it calls upon our resources and ingenuity to their fullest extent.  There were many uncertainties about my plans for an asado para desayuno (including whether my in-laws would disown me for coining absurd Spanish phrases like that):  Would I be able to fire up a grill at 6:30 in the morning?  For that matter, could I even wake up at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday?  Would I be able to adjust the coals sufficiently under a cast-iron skillet to control its heat?  Could I do this while also grilling sausages?  And would anybody else be awake to make me a cup of coffee??

The answer to all of those questions was “Yes”.  The crêpes cooked almost instantly and got gorgeous crispy edges; the oranges were sweet, jammy, nicely charred and herbal from the rosemary; the sausage was sausage (i.e., the single greatest food known to humanity).

The game, alas, did not go nearly as well as the breakfast.  According to my wife, we have banished this game from our collective memory.  It is not to be spoken of.

We drowned our sorrows with mimosas.

Panqueques con Dulce de Leche

serves a dozen hungry soccer fans

  • 1 1/2 c butter (Don’t worry—you’re not going to eat all of it.)
  • 3 c flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 c water
  • 2 c milk

Make the panqueque batter and the clarified butter the night before, or at least 1 hour in advance:  Melt all of the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Combine 1/2 c of the melted butter, the flour, eggs, water, milk and a hefty pinch of salt in a blender; blend on high speed until thoroughly mixed.  Refrigerate.

Finish clarifying the butter:  Skim off and discard any foam from the top of the butter.  Carefully pour off and reserve the melted butterfat, leaving the milk solids in the bottom of the pan behind.  Discard the milk solids.  Refrigerate the clarified butter; it will solidify in the fridge.  If you want to melt it before using it, simply microwave for about 20 seconds.

Using charcoal (or, even better, hardwood), build a hot fire.  Pile the coals to one side of the grill so that they reach up almost all the way to the grill rack.  Place a flat cast-iron griddle on the grill rack directly over the coals.  Cover the grill and allow the griddle to preheat for about 10 minutes.  (Alternately, simply heat up the griddle indoors over medium-high heat.)  When a drop of water evaporates instantly on the griddle, it is ready.

Stir up the pancake batter in case it has separated.  Put a tablespoon of the clarified butter on the griddle, spreading it around to coat the griddle evenly.  Ladle about 1/4 c of the batter onto the griddle, spreading it around with the ladle to form a thin layer over the whole griddle.   The panqueque will cook very quickly:  When the edges are brown and firm, flip the crêpe.  Cook for about 15 seconds more on the second side until the pancake is cooked through.

Transfer to a plate.  Put a heaping spoonful of dulce de leche on the panqueque and spread it around.  Roll up the pancake like a jelly roll.  Repeat with the remaining panqueques, adding more clarified butter to the griddle before each one.  Serve with…

Naranjas Quemadas con Romero (Burnt Oranges with Rosemary)

  • 6 oranges
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

Preheat a cast-iron griddle for ten minutes over a hot wood or charcoal fire (or, if you have a stove with a powerful exhaust fan, heat the skillet over high heat).  Meanwhile, peel the oranges and slice them in half through their “equator”.   Place the sugar on a plate.  Strip the rosemary leaves from the sprig and add them to the sugar.  Press the oranges, cut side down, into the sugar.

When the griddle is hot (a drop of water will evaporate instantly), put four of the orange halves, cut side down, onto the griddle.  Add a little more of the rosemary-sugar mixture to the griddle between the oranges.  Cook the oranges over high heat without moving them until the edges brown and start to blacken.  Carefully flip the oranges and cook on the second side for 1-2 minutes more.  Serve along side panqueques con dulce de leche and grilled sausages for brunch, or with a little sweetened yogurt for dessert.

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