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Smokey Croque Monsieur

September 15, 2021

Last week I took out the last of our cheese bread from Riley’s Market that I bought on our last trip to Pemaquid. This bread is legendary. It is the perfect combination of fluffy white bread that is almost like challah or brioche, and it gets craggy (is that a word?) when you cut into it, and when the little craggy bits sticking out get toasted they yield the perfect crunchy bite with the softness of the doughy bread. On top of that, there is sharp cheddar cheese swirled throughout the bread. The little spots melt a bit when they are toasted, and well you all know how good melted cheese is. I might just have to work on a recipe for this bread. In the mean time, I thought about what I could do with this beauty.

One of my favorite things to do with challah is to make french toast (especially with egg nog at the holidays – my husbands favorite breakfast!) so I thought about making a savory french toast which led to croque monsieurs.

I wanted to put a twist on it, and when I saw smoked gruyere at the store, I knew it would match so well with smokey ham.

Guess what?

It really did. These were delicious – I know all croque monsieurs are, with their wonderful mix of textures and creaminess and toasted bread and you can’t go wrong with the original. But these had their own character and made me think this would also be delicious with smoked gouda or any smoked cheese, and those might even be easier to find, so don’t hesitate if you go that route.

These sandwiches are very easy to make, with a basic béchamel sauce the only ‘cooking’ necessary. It comes together so easily, and the melted cheese in it just adds to the smokey creaminess.

It is just basic assembly after that, and it is one of those dishes that is very simple but the combination makes something magical. The hit from the Dijon mustard is also the best kick and makes these mouthwatering.

Don’t worry if you can’t find cheese bread – these ingredients will be delicious with any white bread. And there will be plenty of cheese either way.

This hot and gooey sandwich came out of the oven and my family was hovering around it, waiting to dive in. It is easy enough for a weeknight dinner but fancy enough for a special meal too. They are great for parties with tiny bread or cut into fourths.

I hope you try these and love them! Or put your own spin on it – use smoked turkey, or add your favorite veg like spinach or kimchi so that it feels like a reuben. Or just stick with the classic which is classic for a reason.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

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Smokey Croque Monsieur

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups hot milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch nutmeg

12 ounces Smoked Gruyere or Smoked Gouda, grated (5 cups)

(Note: the original calls for ½ cup parmesan but I omitted to keep it smoked)

16 slices white sandwich bread

Dijon mustard

8 ounces baked or black forest ham, sliced but not paper thin

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter/flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated smoked Gruyere. (Note: if making the original add the ½ cup parmesan).
  3. To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
  4. Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

 

 

Pane Cotta

January 15, 2019

I first saw this dish called Pane Cotta on the author Jane Green’s Instagram page – she had it at a restaurant and it was so good she went home and made it and posted a rough recipe of it! It translates to Baked Bread, it’s an Italian peasant meal (read: rustic and delicious). 

This was one of the most original things I’ve eaten lately, with totally surprising flavors and textures that worked so well together. The braised escarole mixed with the pancetta and leeks were all somewhat delicate, then mixed with the sharp saltiness of the melted cheese, the meatiness of the white beans (you can use any kind here) and cubes of herby, garlicky bread…

The recipe calls for herbs and garlic and it’s really forgiving – I just sprinkled on some garlic salt, olive oil, and thyme. While the bread is toasting, everything else cooks in the same pan. First you cook some pancetta, then in the same pan you add some butter and some leeks…

Then you braise some escarole in chicken broth, and add some white beans…

Then the thing that really ties the whole dish together is the cheese. I tasted it a little with just parm, and just asiago, then with both of them together, and I liked them combined. But don’t let having only one kind of cheese keep you from making this because its just delicious.

Oh, I forgot to tell you the best part! My kids loved it. This seems like it should be a grown up dish, but really its just a twist on things kids love anyway – bread and cheese. If your kid won’t touch anything green, then I can’t speak for them, but mine will and they asked for seconds.

Like many peasant dishes, it was meant to use up left overs, and I think that is what this dish will be for my kitchen – an amazing way to use up a loaf of bread that is starting to get hard. But really it is nice enough to bring to a pot luck or serve for company, or just to have a nice side dish for a roast over the weekend.

Hope you try this soon, it is such a special dish, and will transport you to Italy for a minute or five, I promise.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Pane Cotta (printer version here):

Ingredients:

3 cups day-old bread, torn up into crouton sized pieces

2 T. olive oil

2 minced garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic salt

Fresh herbs, salt and pepper

8 oz. pancetta, diced

2 leeks, sliced (white and light green parts only)

2 T. butter

1 head of escarole, rinsed and torn into small pieces

1 cup chicken stock

1 can white beans, rinsed

1 cup of parmesan and/or asiago (I used ½ cup of each)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Place bread on cookie sheet, and toss with olive oil, garlic salt (or minced garlic), fresh herbs if desired, salt and pepper.

While that bakes, cook pancetta on medium high heat until browned, then remove and set aside. Place butter in same pan, and add sliced leeks. Saute until soft, then remove from pan and set aside (can put them on same plate as pancetta). Add escarole with a cup of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid on for a few minutes until escarole is soft. Mix in a can of rinsed white beans, and add all the other ingredients (bread, pancetta, leeks, etc) to the same pan. Top with grated parmesan and/or asiago cheese, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

 

Peach Brioche Bread Budding

September 13, 2017

Peach season is winding down, and you may be looking for ideas on how to use up the last of your bushel (if you haven’t already eaten every last one in its wonderful naked form).  This dish marries two of my favorite things: seasonal fruit and bread pudding.

I fell in love with bread pudding after trying it at some of the quintessential New England restaurants in the area. If you have never tried this rich, comforting dessert, I would try to rectify that immediately. Once I learned how easy (and frugal) bread pudding was to make I was hooked. Don’t let the title ‘Peach Brioche’ slow you down AT ALL because you can use any good bread that you were smart enough to throw in your freezer or that you have on hand that is stale – french bread, sour dough, challah. All good. Typically recipes require the bread to be stale so that it soaks up the milk/cream/egg mixture better. It seems to be the perfect consistency when it has been in the freezer for a few months too.

I got into the habit of grabbing a loaf of brioche whenever I saw it at the store because it makes the best french toast – I love having a loaf in the freezer. So when I saw this recipe for bread pudding from a farm up north (that I can’t remember the name of, sorry farm!), I knew I wanted to make it with brioche even though they suggested french bread or sour dough. This decision did not disappoint – the brioche made it so velvety, rich and decadent, I would go for it every time.

But bread pudding is so flexible that use whatever bread vehicle you have on hand. In that spirit, when I went to make this I realized I didn’t have whole milk or cream, which really make the dish so rich, thick and custard-like. But betting on how flexible bread pudding is I went ahead and just used the milk I had in the fridge (skim or 1%). It was still so so good, soft and fluffy with just milk, so don’t let a lack of cream stop you from making it either.

The star of the dish though is fresh peaches. Our neighbor gave us so many we couldn’t eat them fast enough.

I love how the maple syrup and cinnamon are such light, subtle notes in this dish. I would never have though to pair them with peaches and yet they all have such a mellow, delicate, sweet perfumes that they help elevate this dish. Feel free to adjust the maple syrup to more or less depending on how sweet you like it (or just serve it with some on the side and eaters can adjust to their preference).

If you don’t make it in time for peach season, the fruit in this dish is very versatile – try pears and cranberries with perhaps white sugar as the sweetener, or plums and brown sugar, or even bananas and caramel or chocolate. But if you still have peaches, trust that this dish does justice to this fruit season that closes out summer and ushers in fall.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Peach Brioche Bread Pudding (printer version here):

Ingredients:

Brioche, French, or Sourdough Bread, cubed  (about 8 cups)

3 c. peaches, peeled and cut into chunks

8 eggs

3/4 c. maple syrup 

2 c. whole milk (can use skim or 2% it will just be less creamy)

1/2 c heavy cream (can replace with milk it will just be less creamy)

Dash of cinnamon

Crumble Topping:

3/4 c. flour

3/4 c. maple or lt brown sugar

½ t. cinnamon

1 stick butter, cut into small cubes

 

Directions:

Grease bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Line bottom with cubes of bread crumbs. Lay peaches on top.

Mix together all wet ingredients: eggs, maple syrup, milk, cream, and cinnamon. Pour over top of bread and peaches. Soak all night, or 4-6 hours if necessary.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 min. While it is cooking mix together crumble topping: flour, light brown sugar or maple sugar, cinnamon, and butter cubes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add crumble topping.  Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with extra maple syrup if desired, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.

 

20 Ideas for Cooking with Apples

October 16, 2016

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Happy fall weekend everyone!

Can you even believe how gorgeous it is outside? I am pretty sure God decided to balance out our everlasting winters with just magical fall weather in New England. I feel like I am inside of a magazine (probably Martha Stewart’s? Maybe Real Simple?) every time I go outside.

Yesterday our good friends Matt & Heather and their sweet girls met us to go apple picking. We met at a farm just over the border of Massachusetts called Cider Hill Farm and I am so smitten I am getting their winter CSA.

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They have lots of free range chickens and they have this little tunnel they run through from their coop to an open pasture that we dubbed the chicken superhighway. I will forever have the image of them running through the fields as my image of happy, free range chickens.

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We picked so many apples and I am so excited to find ways to use them. Since it appears that everyone on the planet went apple picking this weekend too, it seems a little round up of apple recipes are in order.

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1. If you follow me on IG you might have seen my story this morning where I made this for pancakes this morning. Pretty much my all time favorite go-to apple recipe. Just sauté 3 peeled & sliced apples over medium-high heat with 3 T. butter and 3 T. brown sugar, plus a pinch of salt and cinnamon.

2. My friend Kirsten wowed me with the very easy app/dessert at book club where she had a brick of cream cheese with two inches of Carmel on top served with sliced apples that you dip into both and I *might* just eat half the apples we pick tomorrow that way. I found this example of it if you need a visual. So good!

3. This Apple Rose Tart is just beautiful. I saw a new French version of The Chef’s Table on Netflix and in my very rough college French I would say I understood about 25% of it, but I understood that making roses out of apples is awesome. Can’t wait to try it. And it is gluten free!

4. This recipe for Chicken Breasts stuffed with Apples and Goat Cheese seems like a very easy weeknight dinner.

5. Fennel and Apple are such a great combo, and I am a sucker for an apple slaw of any kind. This one looks like it would be great paired with pulled pork or chicken.

6. I follow Wednesday Chef on Instagram and her German Sunken Apple Cake recipe looks heavenly.

7. Something about Jaques Pepin just inspires me over and over again. So naturally, his country apple galette with store pizza dough caught my attention.

8. When Smitten Kitchen declares that her mom makes the best apple cake, I’m going to take her word for it. This recipe is my #1 recipe I hope to try with our weekend haul.

9. I have seen a few versions of this apple fritter recipe around the web, some slice the apples into rings, others wedges. All I know is these look heavenly.

10. I vow that this is the year I will make my own chutney. Ina Garten’s apple chutney looks like a great one, but Food & Wine’s Apple, Bacon and Fennel Chutney is singing some kind of siren song to me as well.

11. These baked apples look amazing, and my kids would love them with big scoops of vanilla ice cream.

12. If you want to see how a real Mainer makes apple pie, check out this recipe.

13. When I was growing up we had a now-defunct chain restaurant that served these amazing German Pancakes with apples, and my parents actually let me order them for dinner. I promise to make these beauties for my kids and surprise them with a breakfast for dinner that they will remember.

14. Any version of grilled cheese with apple is drool-worthy, but this one looks amazing.

15. This Chicken Apple Burger is totally making it onto our dinner rotation.

16. Fall = Soup. So this Sweet Potato and Apple soup with a side of blue cheese & crackers or this Curried Sweet Potato Apple Soup needs to happen.

17. This Asian-inspired pulled pork sandwich with apple slaw has me drooling. It looks so different, with soy and mushrooms.

18. These Apple and Sage pork chops from William-Sonoma look like a dream dinner.

19. This Apple Cider cocktail looks like happiness in a glass. But if you are still curious there are 15 more apple cocktailhttp://www.seriouseats.com/2015/09/apple-cocktails-fall-entertaining.html ideas where that came from.

20. I think we should end with this little video from Julia Child with apple desserts who reminds us that apples are the temptation of Eve but we can still use them to make a love tart tatin.

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Happy Fall! xoxo Katie

6 Ingredient Zucchini Tart

August 17, 2016

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It’s that time of year again, when gardeners and CSA members ask themselves: what else can I do with zucchini?

If your garden is anything like ours, then you might have blinked and then looked down to see one laying on the ground that is roughly the size of a baseball bat:

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^ An offering to grandpa. I love how Andrew looks like he is paying homage with all his might.

I’ve seen a ton of recipes around for zucchini (I’ve added my favorites at the end of this post!), but in true Humble Onion philosophy that simple ingredients make the best food, I wanted to make a light zucchini tart with simple ingredients. So I gathered up these:

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My number one way to use up garden veggies is just to sautee them with a bit of garlic and either serve them as a side dish or toss with sausage, ground beef and tomato sauce to serve on top of pasta. But zucchini is such a special ingredient I wanted to come up with a recipe that really showcased it’s simple goodness.

Enter puff pastry, which just makes everything special. I usually keep some in my freezer (it is so great for party apps on the fly). I rolled it out, then scored a one-inch boarder around the edge and pricked the middle with a fork so it wouldn’t puff up.

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I sautéed some onions with thyme that is over flowing in my herb pot, and then sprinkled some gruyere cheese over that. In case we didn’t all need a reminder that sautéed onions make anything delicious, here is Exhibit A:

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Then coat the top with a little olive oil and sprinkle the whole thing with salt, pepper, and cook at 350 for 30 minutes or until crust is brown. And of course, I added more cheese on top, because why not?

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Whatever you do, don’t announce that you’re bringing this to something like, say, your final tennis league round robin and then taste it with your husband when it comes out of the oven and is warm and gooey, because if you do, you will have to bring some cheese and crackers and fruit instead since you will have eaten it all. Hypothetically speaking, of course!

The next time I made this (which was 2 days after the first time because it is so good it hurts) we dolloped goat cheese all over the top and it was AH-mazing. It was for my best friend’s house warming party and I honestly don’t think there is a better way to welcome people into your house then cutting up a piece of this tart and giving it to them.

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(Cook’s Note: I did try to get the water out of the zucchini the first time by salting it and letting it sit in a colander for an hour and rinsing it, which I usually do for eggplant and zucchini, but I suspected this was unnecessary and the second tart proved me right when I omitted this step and it was a perfect velvet texture. Just in case you thought about it, I thought I would save you the angst.)

I’m going to layer my next one with tomato/zucchini, just waiting on some tomatoes to turn red. The bottom line is you really can’t mess up something so simple, but you can add whatever you want to it – summer squash, eggplant, all the ingredients for ratatouille – and it will still be amazing. Have fun with it.

So if you have any late summer bounty laying around, you know what to do with it! Just call me when it comes out of the oven and I’ll be right over.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Other Zucchini Recipes I love:

{Tomato and Zucchini Gratin: if you can handle the old blog post pics, this is still my favorite}

Zucchini Parmesan from Alexandra Cooks (she has a ton of links on this for more zucchini recipes too).}

{Baked Zucchini Fries: these are next on my list to make! Or these crisps which are a close variation.}

{We make this zucchini salad with pine nuts when we go to Maine every year}

{Ina’s Zucchini Pancakes – my daughter loves these!}

Even as I added these, this tart remains my favorite. No bias here, obviously.

6-Ingredient Zucchini Tart (printer directions here): 

1 large zucchini, cut into circles or sliced lengthwise

1 small onion, diced

1 garlic clove, diced

1 sprig of thyme, about 3-4 sticks

1 package puff pastry

2 oz. grated gruyere cheese

Olive oil, salt and pepper (since they are staples, not counting them as ingredients)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Let puff pastry thaw according to package (1 hour at room temperature when fully opened, or overnight in the fridge).

Put saute pan over med-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions with a pinch of salt and cook, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic, stir frequently, cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add thyme and pepper, and cook till onions are browned a little, about 5-8 more minutes.

While onions cook, roll out one piece of puff pastry on clean surface with a rolling pin. (One sheet makes 3-4 servings, for 6-8 servings use two sheets and add more cheese).

Add cooked onions in even layer to pastry. Then add gruyere cheese to cover. Finally add zucchini in co-centric layers, and coat with olive oil using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Alternate Variations:

//  Add dollops of goat cheese to top of tart

//  Use tomatoes, summer squash or eggplant in any combination with zucchini

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

May 27, 2016

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We are so excited to have a long weekend with slow mornings, and time to linger over coffee, cartoons and these muffins. There is something about rhubarb, with its bright, slightly sour flavor that perfumes everything it touches. And the strawberries right now are so incredibly delicious and sweet that I had to add these to this recipe (the original one from Saveur had just rhubarb and almond flavors, but I’ve adapted it here without nuts and with strawberries).

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Whenever I use rhubarb, I always think of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I love everything about this book, where the author writes about a year of living with her husband and two children on a farm where they only eat what they can grow or get within a 50 mile radius (in Southern Appalachia, this excludes grocery stores or box stores of any kind).

When the author’s 50 birthday takes place in the summer of their year of eating seasonally, they served their birthday guests huge vats of strawberry rhubarb crisp instead of birthday cake, and of course its completely delicious.image

When I made these muffins, I thought about that scene, because this recipe is really so versatile that it could be easily made into a delicious breakfast coffee cake (or birthday cake as the case may be) just by adding 15-20 minutes of cooking time. It is also very reminiscent of strawberry rhubarb crisp – which I posted here awhile ago – since it has a streusel topping. I love having another way to use strawberry and rhubarb together other than dessert. (Not that I haven’t eaten Strawberry Rhubarb crisp for breakfast.)

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And since I subscribe to the more is more philosophy, I made a quick and easy compote with strawberries, rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water + 1 tsp. lemon zest (totally optional). This is fantastic on anything your memorial day weekend could bring your way – ice cream, angel food cake, toast. And it turns out to be delicious on these muffins too.

Warning: just licking the spoon of this stuff will cause extreme distraction due to the explosion of flavor in your mouth. So, so good.

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The sour cream gives the batter such a moist, tender cake, and the juicy fruits bursting out of it with the sugary, buttery streusel crust with hints of lemon is amazing.

So if you’ve been dreaming of some from-scratch flavors, give your baking tools a spin over this long weekend.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Muffins (printer version here):

MAKES ABOUT 18 MUFFINS

For the Streusel

½ cup flour

½ cup sugar

2 tbsp. packed light brown sugar

½ tsp. lemon zest

¼ tsp. kosher salt

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed

 

For the Muffins

2 3/4 cups flour + ¼ cup to mix with fruit

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. kosher salt

1 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup canola oil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

2 stalks rhubarb, cut into ¼” pieces

1 cup strawberries, cut into ¼” pieces

 

Instructions

Make the streusel: Whisk together flour, both sugars, zest, and salt in a small bowl. Add butter, and using your fingers, rub into mixture until smooth and large clumps form. Transfer to refrigerator; chill until ready to use.

Make the muffins: Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour muffin pans; set aside. Whisk together 2 34 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together sour cream, both sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla; pour mixture over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. In a small bowl, toss remaining flour with rhubarb and strawberries until evenly coated, and then stir into batter. Working in batches, place cup batter in muffin cups, break streusel up into medium-sized clumps, and sprinkle evenly over muffins. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of each muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

To make a cake instead, preheat oven to same 350 temp. Pour batter into greased and floured 8″ round cake pan or 9×9 inch pan, top with streusel, and start checking at 35-40 with a toothpick for doneness.

Muffin Recipe adapted from www.saveur.com

Easy Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

In a saucepan, combine: 2 stalks of rhubarb, cut into ½ pieces, 1 cup strawberries, quartered and hulled, ¼ cup water, ½ cup sugar, 1 tsp. lemon zest (optional). Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce to medium high, for 6-8 minutes or until fruit has broken down.