Brunch On The Porch

If you have been reading along perhaps you already know about the most beautiful dining room in New Hampshire.  If not… well that’s okay too, but you can see it here and here.

This particular weekend we had stopped for bagels on the way up and I spotted some “French toast” bagels and grabbed a couple of those along with a honey wheat and a couple of cinnamon raisin to bring up to my mothers. I was already forming inspiration with those French toast bagels in mind but I hadn’t quite nailed it down yet.

While reviewing my “potluck” cookbook for an upcoming event I stumbled across the perfect use for those leftover bagels. A “French toast casserole!”

But of course I had to improvise partly because that is what I do and partly because I was in my mother’s kitchen with some limitations on ingredients. I also cut back on the sugar – preferring instead to bump up the sweetness with addition of maple syrup served at the table on the side.

The recipe

Start with either a regular loaf of bread (16oz) or as I did – 3 large bagels. Break up your bread of choice into large chunks and toast by baking it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven until dry, light and slightly browned.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with non-stick baking spray and pack the bread in. Next: make the custard.

Whisk together: 6 large eggs, 2 1/2 cups half and half, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Pour this mix over the bread (bagels) pushing down any bread that doesn’t get totally coated with liquid. At this point cover it with plastic wrap tightly and store overnight in the refrigerator.

bread and custard ready

The “golden” colored bagel pieces are the “French toast” ones.

In the morning, take the dish out of the refrigerator to get the chill off while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and make your topping.

The topping consists of: 1 stick of salted butter, softened. 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. 1 cup of chopped nuts (measure pre-chopped) – I used walnuts but pecans would be divine! Mix it all and spread as evenly as you can in clumps on top of bread/custard. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top to give it a bit of a sweet crunch on top.

ready for the oven

The next morning, with the topping (light-colored clumps) spread on top. Ready for the oven!

Bake on middle rack, uncovered for 1 hour. It should be puffy and golden brown and firm to the touch in the middle. Pull it out- let cool for 10 mins and serve with warm maple syrup to taste. And bacon.

 

 

Hot days, Cold Chicken

Finally I have come around to realize that is crazy to run the oven or stove top indoors when temperatures rise above 85 and the humidity is so thick you can barely lift your arm. Grill it or go out instantly become the only options.

A classic grilled chicken breast never goes out of style.

A fresh grilled corn, tomato, feta and parsley salad along side always makes a nice accessory.

dinner

The nice thing about a meal like this, the chicken can be eaten hot, warm or even cold.

TIP:

If you already are grilling the chicken – make the effort to grill the corn too. Just shuck it and throw it on. Nothing fancy – keep an eye and turn when it’s charred a bit.

Typically I usually take the time to peel back the green leaves, carefully remove the silk, smooth back the green leaves and soak the corn in water for at least 20 minutes, then throw them on the hot grill to steam in their water-soaked jackets. This method is good too but requires more prep and doesn’t allow for the actually charring of the corn.

Pick your corn grilling method according to your time and patience!

Hot Days, Hot Chicken…

…because a hot day in July always seems like the perfect day to roast a chicken in the oven right?

Not really the best idea, but I had a craving! And a hankering for some sage which I grow in a pot in my back yard.

fresh sage from the garden

Ever since I started growing sage I am always looking for ways to incorporate it into lighter, summer-like food. But this day I just needed a really good roasted chicken.

I kept it simple adding only a high quality lemon pepper blend, additional fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. Half a stick of butter always make things juicy and tasty too.

sage-spices and butter

Fresh chopped sage, lemon-pepper blend, sea salt and ground black pepper

I used classic technique and massaged the butter and spices all over and under the skin. Roast at 425 degrees until your meat registers 160 degrees in the thigh and juices run clear. Some people bother to tuck and tie their bird but I didn’t bother this time – just a little bit of foil on the wing tips and drum tips to keep them from burning too much.

perfectly crispy skin!

perfectly crispy skin!

Bon Appétit!

 

 

 

Investigating an American Classic

Happy 4th of July!

I was reviewing posts from the past that were released on or around the 4th of July and found this little gem from 2010! I investigate an American classic. Deviled ham salad sandwiches. Read on for a laugh!

 

Nothing like a heat wave to drive you into an air-conditioned supermarket in search of no cook meals!

So there I was in line at the deli considering my hot-weather July 4th holiday menu and I saw the deli advertising their own homemade cold salads – chicken, tuna and ham. Chicken salad is delicious – in fact I often make it myself. Tuna salad I don’t eat it because I don’t like any fish – but I can appreciate it and often make it for my husband’s lunch. Ham salad – now that is a different story.

Ham salad is right there in the weird deli food category for me. Along with pimento loaf. I have never tried ham salad. I am not sure why. I love, I mean LOVE ham. I would list ham (or really any pork product) in my top 5 fav foods! Why shouldn’t I love ham salad? Is it because it is minced meat? Considering I like bologna sandwiches and I never met a hot dog I didn’t like – this dislike of ham salad can’t be true. I discuss the situation with my husband. He reveals that his mom used to make deviled ham sandwiches.  I immediately quiz him – What was in it? How was it served? Did you like it?  He says it was chopped up cooked ham, mayo, pickle relish and of course a little salt/pepper. Served on Sunbeam “batter-whipped” white bread and…He didn’t actually like it!! He tells me that whenever he saw his mother whipping this up – he would slide down to his Aunt Barb’s house to see what was for dinner at her house. (If he was lucky, she was whipping up a pot of Johnny Marzetti!)

“Deviled ham” versus “ham salad”

After reading a few recipes and a bit of history on the web; I have to conclude that ham salad is a basic recipe of chopped or minced cooked ham, mayonnaise, relish, sometimes chopped celery and the chopped hard-boiled egg seems to be a black and white issue. You either like it or you don’t.

What makes “deviled ham salad” deviled? Well Underwood Deviled Ham Spread from B&G Brands is what makes deviled ham deviled! They claim the introduction of this product to America back in 1868. From my research I would say that “deviled ham” whether homemade or canned, contains more spice (read “heat”) in it.

The taste test.

I approached the supermarket with trepidation. What aisle would it be in? (With the canned tuna.) Would the ingredients be filled with many long words and chemical products? (It isn’t – in fact I was amazed at it’s mostly natural ingredients.) There it was in aisle 2, nestled in its paper wrapper, reminiscent of a fine Worcestershire sauce.

I whip up the two versions –  one made with deli ham that I dice up and the canned deviled variety.

I consult eatyourbooks.com only to discover that I have 3 (three!!) ham salad recipes hiding among my 62 indexed cookbooks! James Beard, Irma and of course Better Homes and Garden all offer up similar versions of ham salad that I have seen on the web. Of course Underwood offers a recipe online. Theirs seems a bit more like a dip or a spread – calling for cream cheese and pimento and such. I decide to compare apples to apples – I will make both using mayo, relish, salt and pepper. That is how my plain Irish-American husband likes things. That is how his mom made it.

I prepare each version. The cat comes running – not a good sign. I refrigerate them to chill before serving. Not being a huge fan of mayonnaise, both versions scare me. Check out the picture below. I tried to make the photo look appetizing – but you can probably tell which one is which.

The moment of truth.

We both try them. We like them! Not love, but definitely not as scary as I thought. The deviled ham definitely finished with a spicy kick. The plain ham salad texture seemed more appealing. I made both with a little too much mayo. I would suggest: mix either one 4.25 oz can or about a 1/4 lb diced deli ham with 2 tsp of sweet pickle relish and 1 tsp of mayonnaise along with salt and pepper to taste. If you want a wetter texture add more mayo.Chill and serve on white sandwich bread with crisp cold lettuce.

 


 

“Chick-N-Sketti”

So far this summer in New England it seems to be nice on Saturdays and rainy on Sundays. And since my day off is Saturday I am not complaining.

But rainy Sundays call for casseroles and slow-cookers and things that warm you up on a day not fit for man or beast!

This casserole is adapted from a recipe by the red-headed lady who lives on a cattle ranch and cooks on TV. You know the one, she considers herself a “pioneer.”

Behold my version of “chicken and spaghetti” ( get it “chick-n-sketti) casserole!

This dish is great as a make ahead for a pot-luck, freezes beautifully and leftovers can be portioned out for lunches!

The Recipe

1.25-1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

12 cups water (or enough water to cover and freely boil the chicken/pasta in your pot)

1 low sodium chicken bouillon cube

couple dashes of poultry seasoning ( I like “Bells”)

1/2 med white onion cut into fine dice

1 large green bell pepper cut into fine dice ( I used 2 medium size ‘cubanelles’ cause that is what I had)

1 40z jar diced pimentos, drained.

1 can ( 10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup

1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup

1 12oz box of spaghetti (broken up into small, aprox 1″ -2″ long pieces)

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese ( separated into 2 cups)

1-2 tsp seasoned salt

1-2 tsp garlic powder

dashes of hot sauce to taste ( I like frank!)

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup of the water/broth reserved from cooking chicken/pasta ( may use less – depends on thickness of soup*)

Combine the water, bouillon, poultry seasoning and bring to a rolling boil. Add chicken and boil for 5 minutes, turn down heat to simmer and cover and cook 20 -25 mins more. Remove chicken and set aside to be shredded. Add pasta to same broth/water and cook till just al dente – don’t overcook. Cook about 2-3 mins under package recommendations for al dente. Remove pasta and retain at least a cup of the cooking broth/water. Lightly saute the onions in a tablespoon of butteror oil till they are just soft and a little golden. Combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, sauteed onions, diced peppers and pimentos, soups, broth/water*, seasoned salt, garlic powder, peppers, hot sauce and 1 cup of the cheddar till mixed and turn into a sprayed  baking dish. You will need at least a 2 quart size. You can taste for seasoning at this point because your ingredients/chicken should be fully cooked. Adjust as needed. (more salt, more hot sauce etc) Sprinkle the other cup of cheese on top and bake uncovered in a 350 degree preheated oven for 35-40 mins until cheese is brown and bubbly on top.

*use enough of the cooking water/broth to get the mix creamy but not too liquid. However the baking in the oven will help dry/thicken up things up -so err on the side of creamy rather than too “tight’

Full disclosure… I used Gluten Free Pasta and Gluten free canned soup…. shhh don’t tell the hubby!

 

A Visit To The “Onion Patch”

I have returned from vacation refreshed, renewed and perhaps 5 lbs heavier!

I highly recommend Bermuda as a vacation spot. Located about 650 miles out to sea approximately “across the pond” from the state of North Carolina, it is a small subtropical island and a British territory rich in maritime heritage, crystal blue water and beautiful views.

It received its nickname “the onion patch” from the fact that the famous Bermuda onions (more colors than just red too!) were the island’s primary export from the mid 1800’s till the early 1920’s when Texas took over as the largest exporter of onions. The onions were not native but they were brought to island as early as 1616 and quickly became a staple crop. Something about the “terrior” and sea climate that sets them apart creating a mild but bold, yet sweet taste.

In fact many famous people have weighed in on the topic…

“The onion is the pride and joy of Bermuda. It is her jewel, her gem of gems. In her conversation, her pulpit, her literature, it is her most frequent and eloquent figure.”
– Mark Twain, 1877

Bermudian people (affectionately referred to as ‘onions’) are often described the same way… bold, strong but yet mild and sweet. We experienced nothing but incredible hospitality on the island and will plan to return in the future.

Pulled Pork, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, Purple Slaw and of course plenty of fresh Red Bermuda Onions on this delicious pizza at "The Pickled Onion" restaurant in Hamilton Bermuda

Pulled Pork, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, Purple Slaw and of course plenty of fresh Red Bermuda Onions on this delicious pizza at “The Pickled Onion” restaurant in Hamilton.