Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Savoury Cornbread Pudding




The last time I made chili I also made Cornbread with Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese (without the bacon this time). I had about half of it left, and put it into the freezer. I used it to make a savoury bread pudding, to accompany our slow baked ribs, and it was a success....especially since my husband was a bit skeptical about it!

This was also a perfect use stuff up dish...not only did I use the cornbread, but also the last 2 eggs, the extra grated cheddar from another meal, half a red pepper and the 3 green onions in the fridge, and the half cup of frozen corn left in the bag.

There was also enough bread pudding left for us to have for breakfast today, with scrambled egg, salsa and diced avocado. The Cornbread with Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese gave us three meals!!!

If you do not have leftover cornbread, start off by making a recipe of the Cornbread with Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese. You can include the bacon if you choose to. Make it at least a day ahead, as bread pudding works best with stale bread. As I only used half of the Cornbread with Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese, why not make it to have with chili or soup, and save the rest for the bread pudding.

Start by greasing a 6" X 8" ovenproof dish.


Combine:

1/2 red pepper, diced
3 green onions, diced
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Set aside.




Whisk together:

1 cup milk
2 eggs

This will be the custard for the bread pudding.








Slice the cornbread into 1/4" thick slices.

Mine was already cut into squares, this makes it easier.








Arrange a third of the sliced cornbread in the bottom of the prepared dish. It doesn't matter if you have small gaps.








Sprinkle a third of the vegetables over the cornbread.

Sprinkle a small amount of grated cheddar over the vegetables. I used about 3/4 cup of cheese in total.






 

Repeat the layering with the remaining cornbread, vegetables and cheese, finishing off with the remaining cheese.








Carefully pour the custard over the cornbread, vegetables and cheese.

Gently, but firmly, press down on the top layer.

Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, so that the custard can be absorbed by the cornbread. Press down gently on the top layer occasionally.





Turn the oven on to 350F, and place the dish onto a baking sheet.





Bake until the pudding is set, slightly puffed up and golden on top, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.







I served this as a side with baked ribs and green beans, along with barbecue sauce, but it can also be served with salsa.



  • Bread pudding is best made with old or stale bread, as this absorbs the custard well. When the custard sets, you have a crunchy outside and a moist inside...the more custard that is absorbed, the moister your pudding will be.
  • Any bread can be used. Some of my favourites include croissant, French bread, cornbread or cheese bread.
  • The cheese and vegetables can be adapted to what you have available. Some cheeses to try are goat cheese, Asiago, Swiss cheese. Some other vegetables include sundried tomatoes, olives, artichokes, cooked diced squash, caramelized onion, roasted garlic, grilled eggplant or zucchini.
  • Flavour the custard with hot sauce, sriracha, adobe sauce from chipotle peppers, fresh minced garlic, or chopped fresh herbs.
  • The bread pudding can be assembled ahead of time, and kept well wrapped in the fridge. This also gives the custard time to absorb. 
  • Another option for the cornbread is to cut it into 1" cubes, instead of thin slices. These can be layered as I did, or they can be mixed with the vegetables and custard in a large bowl, until the custard has been absorbed. Place the bread cubes and vegetables into the prepared dish and top with the grated cheese before baking.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Chicken and Leek Pot Pie with Parmesan Thyme Crust






Chicken pot pie is a comfort food, at least in our house. It's something we both grew up with. The chunks of chicken and vegetables, paired with a creamy sauce, all covered with a crisp golden pastry are a perfect combination of tastes and textures.

My mission to use everything in the freezer before buying more meat is almost completed, and I had 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs to use. I would normally use chicken breast, or leftover roast chicken for this recipe, but used the thighs as pot pie is what we both wanted.

Instead of onion, I used the large leek that was in the fridge, as well as the last stalk of celery, and the chicken stock and pastry from the freezer. When I took the pastry out of the fridge where it was thawing, I noticed a small container of grated Parmesan and some fresh thyme....I used these when rolling it out, and was very happy with the result of my experiment.

Make the chicken filling first, as it should cool before the pastry is put on top; if it is too hot it will soften the pastry and melt the butter inb it before it starts to bake.




Cut the chicken into 1/2" pieces. I used:

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Season with:

Salt
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper




In a hot pan, with olive oil, brown the chicken on all sides. I did this in 2 batches.

Remove the browned chicken from the pan and set it aside. Keep the pan for cooking the vegetables and sauce.





Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan, and add the finely chopped vegetables. Cook until they start to soften. You will need:

1 stalk celery
1 medium carrot
1 large leek
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper






When the vegetables have started to soften, add the browned chicken back to the pan.









Stir in:

1/4 cup flour

Cook, stirring for 2 minutes.





Stir in:

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Bring to a boil, stirring. Turn the heat down and simmer until the sauce thickens, and the vegetables and chicken are fully cooked.
Taste and adjust seasoning.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.




To finish off the pies, turn the oven on to 375F.





Divide the chicken filling between individual dishes (which is what I did) or put it into one large ovenproof dish.










On a clean counter, combine:

1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme








Instead of flour, use the Parmesan and thyme to prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter as you roll it out to a thickness of 1/8".

Make sure to sprinkle some on top of the dough when you start rolling it, and as it gets larger.






Place the rolled pastry on top of the filling, pressing it gently down to create a rim.

Cut a steam hole in the centre, and brush with egg wash.

Bake until the pastry is golden and crisp, and the chicken filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes.







  • As I mentioned, I usually make chicken pot pie using chicken breast, or leftover cooked chicken. The thighs worked well, and I might stick to using them from now on. They don't dry out as much as chicken breast can if cooked for too long.
  • If you want a beef or pork pot pie, make the substitution and use beef stock instead of chicken.
  • Cooked bacon, ham or prosciutto can be added to the filling.
  • The leek gives a definite peppery flavour to the filling, but if you don't have any, use onions.
  • I used the pastry from the post Goat Cheese Tart with Grape Tomatoes and Fresh Basil. I had one of the three pieces it makes in the freezer.
  • I made individual pot pies, and used a quarter of  the pastry for each pie.
  • You can use purchased puff pastry if you wish; brush it with egg wash and then sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Add the thyme into the filling.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Honey Toasted Oat and Banana Muffins




There are a couple of items in my freezer that call to me everytime I open it...some ripe bananas, and a small container of pecan salted caramel streusel. To me these items are calling out to be turned into muffins, which is what I did.

I have some honey that has crystallized, so I heated that up and used it to toast some oats for the muffin batter. This intensified the flavour of the oats. I found these muffins to have a lovely banana flavour, with a moist, dense crumb.

There are a few extra steps involved with toasting and grinding the oats, but the result is well worth it. Grinding the oats releases the nuttiness, and intensifies the oatmeal flavour.

Before you start heat the oven to 350F and line or grease a 12 cup muffin pan.




Start by toasting the oats.

In a nonstick pan, melt:

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey






Add:

2 cups oats

Keeping the heat medium, continue to cook, stirring often, until the oats are golden, and smell nutty, about 5 minutes.







Remove the oats from the heat, and stir in:

1 teaspoon cinnamon









Transfer the oats and cinnamon to a food processor, and process.










You are looking for the texture of the oats to be that of fine breadcrumbs.








Now add the rest of the dry ingredients, and process until everything is well combined:

1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour the dry ingredients into a large bowl.




For the wet ingredients, whisk together:

3/4 cup mashed, ripe bananas
1 cup milk
2 eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla








Whisk in:

1 cup brown sugar









Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just combined.









Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, and top with the streusel, if you are using it. See the notes below for the streusel recipe.

If not, bake them as they are, or sprinkle the tops with a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar.






Bake until the muffins are puffed, golden on top and a skewer comes out clean, about 25 - 27 minutes.

Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, before carefully removing and placing on a cooling rack.






Eat the muffins warm, or at room temperature. We have been having them for breakfast, along with fresh grapefruit.



  • As I mentioned, I had extra streusel from another recipe in the freezer. A quick streusel recipe is to combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and between 2 - 4 tablespoons of melted butter (add more butter if you want larger clumps of streusel instead of a finer crumblier streusel). Stir in chopped nuts, chocolate chips, citrus zest as you wish.
  • I used 3 ripe bananas; if you have more, mash and measure them and then add milk to give a total of 1 3/4 cups of liquid in total.
  • You can make the muffins without bananas...just use milk or buttermilk; add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda if you use buttermilk. Other fruit such as applesauce, pureed pears or peaches can be used instead of bananas.
  • Substitute melted butter, olive oil or nut oils for the vegetable oil.
  • You can buy oat flour and use it instead of grinding the oats; use the same amount. For a different texture, try grinding half the oats and leaving the other half toasted and unground.
  • You can use millet flour or rice flour instead of oat flour. Quinoa flakes can be used instead of oats.
  • The  muffins freeze well.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Artichoke and Boursin Souffle




I was given a new souffle dish for Christmas, so of course I had to use it...I chose to make a savoury souffle for dinner, and looking through the fridge found some perfect ingredients: 4 artichoke hearts, some Boursin cheese, some caramelized onions and 2 egg whites in the freezer.

The basis of a savoury souffle is a thick Basic White Sauce (Bechamel), with other ingredients such as meat, vegetables and / or cheese. The egg yolks are whisked into the hot bechamel, and then the whipped egg whites are folded in. The air in the whipped egg whites is what causes the souffle to rise during baking.

A souffle is a nice light meal, for lunch or dinner, but despite the fluffy, airy texture it is also rich, thanks to the eggs and cheese. I like to serve it with a salad, to counteract the richness.







Grease a 2 quart souffle dish with soft butter.










Coat the inside of the dish with a mixture of:

1 tablespoon bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Set aside until needed.





Combine:

4 artichoke hearts, minced
1/4 cup caramelized onions, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

Set aside while you make the Basic White Sauce (Bechamel)







 In a saucepan, melt:

3 tablespoons butter






Whisk in:

3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes







Whisk in:

3/4 cup milk








Cook, whisking, until the bechamel boils and thickens.

Remove from the heat.









Whisk in:

1/4 cup Boursin cheese










Whisk in, one at a time:

4 egg yolks









Add the sauce to the artichokes and onions, stir to combine.

Set aside while you whip the egg whites.







Turn the oven on to heat to 400F, and place the souffle dish on a baking sheet.






Whip to firm peaks:

6 egg whites









Add a third of the whipped egg whites to the souffle base, and gently stir and fold them in, to loosen the base.









Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the base, being careful no to overmix or deflate the whites.










Pour the souffle into the prepared dish.









Place the souffle into the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375F and bake until the souffle is puffed, golden and set...it will not jiggle when the dish is tapped, and a skewer should come out clean. This should take around 45 - 50 minutes altogether. Avoid opening the oven for at least the first half hour, to maintain the heat while the souffle is starting to rise and set.

When the souffle is done, remove from the oven, and serve immediately.



  • Once you have made the bechamel for your souffle base, get creative with your flavours. Any type of cheese is a good start....cheddar, blue cheese, goat cheese, Swiss cheese....add in vegetables such as cooked, chopped spinach; roasted red peppers; sundried tomatoes; cooked leeks; roasted garlic; roasted and mashed butternut squash and for extra flavour add in chopped fresh herbs.
  • Meat or fish can also be included...diced ham or cooked bacon; smoked salmon; cooked crab or lobster meat are some suggestions.
  • When adding the egg yolks to the hot bechamel, make sure that you add the yolks one at a time, whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from scrambling as they meet the hot bechamel. 
  • The egg whites and the air that is whipped into them, are what makes your souffle rise. Be careful not to deflate them by overmixing them when folding them into the base. Gentle!
  • The main reason for not opening the oven during cooking is that the hot air will escape, dropping the temperature, and a constant temperature is important for the souffle to rise and set without deflating. Another reason is that if the door closes too hard it can knock some of the air out of the souffle before it has finished setting. If you wait at least 30 minutes, you can risk a really quick peek, but using the oven light and keeping the door closed is your best bet.
  • As long as your dish has straight sides, shape is not too big of a deal...even though souffles are often baked in round dishes with tall sides. You can always add height to the sides of your dish by wrapping foil around the outside, and tying it with string to hold it in place. This is called a collar.
  • Sweet souffles are based on the same principle as savoury souffles, but your base is a sweet pastry cream (thick custard made with egg yolks and cornstarch).
  • The only 'negative' thing about souffles is that they don't keep, deflating after a few minutes, so serving them right away is key. If you have extra, you can use it to make a breakfast sandwhich or burrito the next day.