It’s the season for cookouts, and if you are anything like me, you cannot go to someone’s house without bringing something to contribute. But what to bring?
Here are a couple of tips for potluck and cookout dishes:
1Bring a dish that you know is delicious. Even if, when you ask the host what you can bring, you end up with a course you don’t immediately have a dish for (salad duty when you are a baker at heart, or vice versa), don’t just wing it. Ask friends for a surefire, vetted recipe (you can hardly go wrong with anything from Cooks Illustrated or Serious Eats), or order something from a local bakery or beloved restaurant that you know is great. It doesn’t matter if a potluck dish is made by your own hands, so long as some level of care went into it’s preparation and it is tasty. Sometimes, the best thing to make is a to-go order. And that’s ok.
2Bring serving utensils for your dish. You can tie your utensils to your casserole dish with a length of twine, but don’t try to serve a tray of macaroni with a flimsy single use picnic fork. It will only end in tears, and potentially in white plastic shrapnel invading your lovely casserole.
3Bring something that can sit at room temperature for a couple of hours. If it is over 75 degrees, avoid anything with mayonnaise or shellfish or both. Alternately, you can sub vegan mayonnaise or pesto on pretty much any sandwich preparation where regular egg-based mayo gives you pause.
4Avoid icings that can melt. Like whipped cream or light butter creams. If possible, avoid icings at all if the event is outside, as they mostly serve to attract bees and wasps. But if you must use a butter cream, be sure to stiffen it with lots of confectioner’s sugar. The greater the sugar to butter ratio, the less likely it is to melt.
5When in doubt, bring beverages. Wine, beer, Sangria, a big old batch of pre-mixed margaritas. Vodka watermelon. Or go teetotal with a nice sweet tea, lemonade, or fruity minty, virgin bramble.
Here are some ideas for great Potluck/ cookout dishes that are more creative than a casserole—
Pressed sandwiches of any kind, like a Mufaletta
Brownies, blondes, cookies, hand pies
2.5 cups Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp dried garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (plus more for greasing the baking dish)
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
4 tbs butter
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp dried mustard
Pinch of paprika
2 cups Mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
4-6 slices provolone (or other melty cheese)
To serve: 1-2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce (homemade, or I like Bertoli’s Tomato and Basil)
Prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a glass loaf pan with butter and set aside. In a large bowl combine panko, parmesan, dried garlic and basil. Gradually add melted butter and stir to combine with crumb mixture until the mixture becomes the texture of wet sand. Add more butter or olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time if the mix is too dry to hold together when squeezed. Press the crust mixture into the baking pan, taking care to pack well into the corners. Using 3/4 of the mixture, Fill shell with baking weights in a sheet of parchment and blind bake until crust is golden. Reserve 1/4 of the mixture for assembly.
Meanwhile, prepare macaroni filling–
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook macaroni noodles 7-8 minutes, until partially softened. Drain and return to pan. Over medium heat, add butter to noodles and stir until melted. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, white pepper and paprika. Add egg mixture once butter has melted and stir until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in mozzarella and parmesan.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees f. Fill the panko shell halfway with macaroni mixture. Layer in provolone slices down the center, pressing gently to pack the macaroni noodles together. Add remaining macaroni until the macaroni nearly fills the pan, about a 1/4 of an inch from the rim of the pan. Top with the remaining panko breadcrumb mixture, making sure the breadcrumbs reach the corners of the dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the center is bubbling.
Allow to cool 10 minutes. Loosen the edges of the casserole with a dull knife. Place a serving dish over the top of the pan and– using potholders– carefully invert the pan onto the dish, shaking the pan slightly until the crust releases from the pan. Top with your favorite tomato sauce, and serve!
Brunch is one of those things that is excellent in a restaurant, but can be a bit tricky to perform at home, as the main event tends to rely on the every fiddly ingredient: Eggs.
To present at their best, eggs ought to be enjoyed as soon as they are cooked. But who wants to spend their whole morning in the kitchen hovering over a steaming skillet, serving one plate of flapjacks at a time?
This is a quick and easy dish I rely on when serving brunch in my tiny apartment, and it hasn’t let me down yet!
(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
3 egg yolks
1 stick of butter (melted)
1-2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 black pepper
In the bowl of a blender combine the egg yolks, 1 tbs lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend on high until well combined and thick. Add melted butter 1 tbs at a time, blending continuously. Once half of the butter has been incorporated, add the remaining butter all at once. When the sauce is thick and homogeneous, taste and adjust seasoning with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
If you need to ‘hold’ the sauce while preparing other components, pour sauce in a lidded glass jar, and place in a pan of tepid water to keep warm.
Soft boiled eggs
(adapted from the clever folks at Cooks Illustrated)
Allow eggs to reach room temperature so they don’t crack when placed in the pan. Bring 1/2 an inch of water to boil in a large flat pot with a tight fitting lid. With tongs, gently place eggs in boiling water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for six minutes (for soft, runny yolks. Add another 30 seconds for lightly set yolks, and 30 more seconds for firmer yolks). With tongs, place eggs in a bowl and run cold water over them for 1 minute. Peel eggs under running water, and serve. If you need to warm the eggs just before serving, simply place in warm water for 30 seconds.
When I was a kid, my mother treated Valentine’s Day with the same attention as most people give Easter. Valentine’s breakfast would feature heart studded socks tucked in my juice glass and conversation hearts in my cereal bowl. This was, of course, after sitting with me a few days prior to design and create an elaborate valentine’s box in which to stow all of the cards and candy I was sure to receive on the Big Day.
Now that I am a grown up, nothing says Holiday like a beautiful meal with an impressive culinary centerpiece. And nothing says ‘I Love You’ quite so well as ‘I made fresh puff pastry for you, with my very own hands.‘
I wanted to post this in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day, in case you ant to give it a test drive.
Buckle up, kids this one is an epic!
Recipes after the jump…. Continue reading
The main difference between restaurant cooking and home cooking is preparation. Restaurant cooks plan their dishes days and weeks and in advance which gives them time to spread tasks over a few days in order to build up flavors and get the most out of each ingredient.
A few years ago, a pastry chef gave me a great tip that completely changed the way I make desserts: to get the most flavor, steep cream ingredients in advance. Making a vanilla custard, panna cotta, cream brulee? Let the vanilla steep in the cream for 24-48 hours. This works great for other reedy, seedy things (like fennel, anise, stick cinnamon, lemongrass) and subtle flavors (chamomile, lemon verbena). Shorter steeping times (30 min-2 hours) are best for more pungent flavors (rosemary, mint, lavender, citrus zests). From there, your combinations are endless. For a dinner party, how elegant (and easy) would a chamomile panna cotta with lemon curd be? Or a vanilla bean panna cotta with blueberry sauce? For an asian twist, how about a lemongrass creme brulee with ginger sugar?
Simply bring your cream, half & half, or milk to a simmer and add your flavoring agent. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Strain the cream before using in your recipe.
Just to whet your appetite for some upcoming recipes–