Thursday, January 31, 2008

buttermilk olive bread pudding with brussel sprouts and parmesan

Every week or so I play a game. It's called "What Do I Need to Use Before It Mutates Into a New Life Form?"

Usually it's not too bad. I can only carry so much home with me after a grocery run, so I tend to only buy enough for two or three days' worth of cooking. It means I make more frequent trips, but I like grocery shopping, especially after a particularly grueling day of class. Food is something I understand.

Sometimes though, a recipe catches my eye. I end up with a jar of agave nectar, or I think, "Surely I need more than a pound of mushrooms for that risotto. I mean, it'll be all rice if I only get a pound. Let's get five." After a week or two, I start going through my fridge to figure out what needs to get used up, and quickly.

There are three dishes that seem pretty ideal to this end: frittata, risotto, and bread pudding.

Bread puddings are usually desserts, based on a stale sweetish bread like challah or white bread. Tartine, my favorite bakery in San Francisco, makes an amazing, amazing bread pudding out of brioche and seasonal fruit. The basic formula is always 1: stale bread, usually cubed, 2: a custard base, and 3: spices, fruit, or both.

Savory bread puddings are essentially the same thing. Omit the sugar in the custard, add some grated cheese like gruyere, parmesan, or cheddar, anything that melts really well, and choose a more savory bread, like sourdough or, in this case, a large heel of Acme's olive bread. The milk in the custard can be as rich as you like - most recipes seem to call for whole milk or cream - but here I used buttermilk, thinking that the thickness would be a decent substitute and the acidity might lighten the load of all that bread and cheese. Searching through my fridge I found the dregs of a pint of cream, a handful of brussel sprouts, a dwindling bundle of thyme, and a sliver of parmesan. It turned out pretty tasty.

Buttermilk Olive Bread Pudding with Brussel Sprouts and Parmesan


half a loaf of Acme olive bread, cut into 1/2" cubes.

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups of 2% buttermilk (note: if you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can add a teaspoon or so of lemon juice or white vinegar to regular milk and let it sit for five minutes)

a splash of cream

a handful of brussel sprouts, around nine heads, trimmed, washed, and cut into ribbons

2 cloves garlic, minced

a generous 1/2 cup of grated parmesan

a heavy pinch of kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F. While the oven preheats, bring the eggs to room temperature and, if necessary, make the buttermilk (see note in the ingredients list). Butter a baking dish and set aside.

Whisk the eggs with the salt and pepper. Add the buttermilk and cream until everything is fully incorporated; this is the custard base. In a separate, larger bowl, combine the bread cubes, garlic, and brussel sprout ribbons.

Add the custard and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until the majority of the custard has been absorbed by the bread (you can check by looking at how much custard pools at the bottom of the bowl; it shouldn't be more than a tablespoon or so). Add the parmesan, reserving a couple teaspoons or so, and mix until evenly incorporated.

Pour the pudding mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake until fully cooked, around 45 minutes - 50 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, January 28, 2008

pork and sugar

Guess what I made for dinner last night:

That would be a plate of oven-roasted pork ribs, glazed in a miso butterscotch sauce. The glaze was originally invented by Danielle, the inventive cook behind Habeas Brulee. I've been reading for a while now, and as much as I admire Danielle's acrobatic way with her dinner menu, I'm kind of a chicken. When I first started cooking for myself I tended to stray a little too often into the brambles of failure, with many an empty stomach and well-fed trash can to show for it. For a while now I've stuck pretty close to the path.

But this recipe just made sense to me. I love miso. I love butterscotch. I lurve ribs. And it worked out so, so well.

Miso Butterscotch Spareribs
by Habeas Brulee

I deviated a little bit from the original recipe. I wanted a chewy edge to the ribs, so rather than braise them as Danielle did, I coated them in a dry rub and roasted them for a three hours in a 325 F oven, a la the Biggles method and brushed the glaze on afterward. Worked like a charm. Still, for the sake of posterity (and because the weather is still wet and gray enough that a good braise isn't out of the picture) the recipe below is the original in its entirety.

for the ribs:
10 lbs pork spare ribs
Hard cider or other braising liquid

for the sauce:
3/4 C dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 C light corn syrup
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 C heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/8 C red miso (or more to taste)

Preheat your oven to 300 F.

Place the ribs into a roasting pan. Add in some liquid, about 1/2″ or so, just to keep them moist. Cover tightly. Cook for about 3 hours or so, flipping the ribs and adding liquid if necessary every hour, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

While that’s going on, make the sauce.

In a small saucepan, simmer the sugar, corn syrup, butter, and cream of tartar together until it reaches 240 F, then immediately stir in the heavy cream and vanilla extract. When it’s just about ready, nice and thick, stir in the miso.

Brush the sauce over the ribs once they’re done, and serve immediately.

P.S.: I have a little bit of sauce leftover and I'm willing to bet it'll be fantastico brushed on some baked tofu.

Friday, January 25, 2008

you're it

Denise, the mind behind the lovely journal, tagged me for one of those "list o' random things" memes. I actually really like reading them, so it's nice to get a chance to fill one out, too. Thanks, Denise!

So, seven thing, seven things:

  1. Sometimes, looking at Salvador Dali paintings makes me nauseous.
  2. After working for almost two years at a bookstore my attention span for literature had been so whittled down that by the time I left I could only read short essays, cookbooks and graphic novels.
  3. I really want to learn tattoo art and inking after I graduate.
  4. When my boyfriend and I finish a jar of olives I always drain it and recycle it, but not before taking a few hearty sips of the brine.
  5. I sort of judge house guests by how much my cat likes them.
  6. The Planet Earth series made me cry. Especially the disc with the critically endangered Amur leopard. And the one with the camel. And oh, how could I forget that highlights the DEATHS OF POLAR BEARS AND BABY PENGUINS? Excuse me, I don't know where that came from.
  7. I think infant children are pretty cute, but they usually make me feel vaguely uncomfortable.
I'm going to tag: Lindsey at Little Robot; Beckie from Domestic Happenings; Else, Sofie, and of course my dear Shane from The World and Other Issues; Ez from Creature Comforts; and Lou from Art and Ghosts.

the last two for now

I'll probably draw five more before I tie it off altogether, but for now I want to move on.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

number 3

Here's the third one. I tried drawing the arrow without any blood on it and I think I like it better. I'm going to draw ten of these total, hopefully finish them within the next couple days, and then move on to the next set of silhouettes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

so, now the shine's worn off

The New Year's not so new anymore, but not a whole lot has happened. I'm taking a break from work to focus on school full-time, and I've listed two new drawings in the shop:

The text is from lines 297-299 of Apollonius' "Argonautika," describing the moment when Medea is first struck by her love for Jason. The line in its entirety, excerpted in the drawing, is "So Love, the Destoyer, now blazed in a coil around her heart, her mind's keen anguish now flushed her soft cheeks, now drained them of all color." It's not the fluffiest valentine ever, but I think it will serve.