Saturday, January 21, 2012

biscuits for breakfast

And now for the exact opposite of my last post: a homemade version of a handheld breakfast you might get at Whataburger. I'm about to use the word "grease" a lot.

Did you know that breakfast sandwiches made of biscuits, bacon, egg and cheese can enter your life through means not involving a drive-thru window? I had no idea until a hot dog restaurant called Frank showed me the light and gave me the idea for making a from-scratch version at home. So that's what Miguel and I did Christmas morning after picking up coffee from our new favorite coffee shop and bringing it home to drink while cooking and checking out our presents. (Like tickets to see The Lemonheads!)

This breakfast worked well as a two-person endeavor. I made the biscuit dough and refrigerated it before we left, then shaped and baked the biscuits while also overseeing the bacon. Meanwhile, Miguel handled the over-easy eggs. A major part of making this a super easy undertaking for a holiday morning was this secret: baking the bacon! After trying that method, there's no reason to go back to watching over grease sputtering from a frying pan and threatening to burn me. More than that, it turns out perfectly: not crinkled and shrunken, not overly browned and dry.

Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes three really big biscuits

1.5 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

6 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Using fingertips, rub butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir until evenly moistened. At this point, you can wrap the dough in plastic and put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake. Drop biscuits onto baking sheet in whatever size you want, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

Baked bacon
From The Kitchn

Use a rimmed baking sheet to catch the grease and line it with aluminum foil. Put your oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°. Lay the bacon strips out flat on the baking sheet, leaving space so they don't overlap. Pop the bacon in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. If it's thick bacon that produces a lot of grease, drain the grease halfway through. When the larger grease bubbles subside and smaller bubbles appear on the bacon, you know it's done. If the bacon is already firm in the oven then it's cooked too long. Bacon firms up as it cools, generally. Drain the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels.

Non-fast-food breakfast sandwiches

Freshly baked buttermilk biscuits, sliced in half
Thick slices of Cheddar cheese
Baked bacon
Over-easy eggs
Salt and pepper for eggs

Stack 'em up!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

so choice

It's Jan. 1, and I'm posting a vegan recipe, but I promise this is no cliche post-holiday diet thing. That would be impossible because I'm plowing through my traditional chocolate-covered cherries and various cookie Christmas gifts and showing no signs of slowing down. This recipe choice is about my deep love of peanut butter and my discovery of a blog written with a terrific voice, pleasing pictures and — come on! — sensational videos. It's Bon Appetempt, and I've been spending all of my spare moments reading through the archives.

I love that this blogger, Amelia, so strictly recreates highly styled photos from food glossies — check out these props! — but that her writing style is so loose and easygoing. I believe I'd like to eat lunch with her. Almond tofu (peanut in my case) with snap peas and soba noodles is the first recipe I've tried from Bon Appetempt, and from here on out baking tofu with sauce to imbue it with flavor is my preferred method. It's the first time I've made tofu that's not just an extra flavorless texture in a dish/not incredibly oily from failed frying. Let me tell you, it is so choice.

In the spirit of the source of inspiration... Bon Appetempt's version:

My version:

It wasn't until I went back to Bon Appetempt just now to fetch that tofu/soba photo that I realized how different my version looks, and not just because I added some carrots on top. Looks like I used a lot more snap peas and a lot fewer soba noodles. So Amelia's definitely the winner when it comes to replicating photos. But it's not the proportion of vegetables and noodles that matters most here — this peanut butter-maple syrup-sesame oil sauce could go on nearly anything, and you'd happily call it dinner.

Peanut Tofu with Snap Peas and Soba Noodles
Adapted from Lucid Food via Bon Appetempt

14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
6 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more as needed
5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups snow or snap peas, ends trimmed and halved
8 ounces soba noodles
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 carrot, peeled then thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lay the tofu slices on a well-oiled baking sheet and season with salt. [Alternately, this is a great time to use a silicon baking mat.]

Combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, maple syrup and sesame oil and whisk until smooth. Rub 1/2 teaspoon of the almond butter mixture on each piece. Try not to get the sauce on the pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Flip the pieces and season lightly with salt. Rub the second side of each tofu slice with 1/2 teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture, reserving the extra. Bake for 25 minutes more. Let cool.

Slice the tofu lengthwise into strips. Heat a saute pan over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the scallions, cook for 1 minute and add the tofu and ginger. After a minute, add the garlic and 1/2 cup water and stir well while cooking. Spoon in the remaining peanut butter mixture and stir well to combine. Cover.

Put the peas in a colander in the sink. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and return to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes, until the noodles are just cooked through. Pour the noodles on top of the peas in the colander and drain out the water. Immediately pour the noodles and peas back into the pot. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to prevent the noodles from sticking. Stir in the tofu, rice vinegar, cilantro, slivers of carrot and salt to taste.

Serve immediately — with Sriracha if you're bolder than me.