Savory Elephant Ears {ModBak}

Having made Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Elephant Ears several times, always to rave reviews, I recently thought I would mix things up a bit. Rather than the sweet elephant ears, made simply with puff pastry and sugar, I decided to make the savory version in The Modern Baker.

The savory elephant ears were made with cheese and paprika. I decided to use two kinds of cheese — Pecorino Romano and Gruyère.

Cheese en Place

 I began by rolling the puff pastry (using flour instead of sugar) into a rectangle.

I brushed the surface with egg wash,…

…then spread the dough with cheese…

…and sprinkled on some paprika.

I shaped the dough as with the sweet elephant ears by rolling the sides in about halfway, then folding a second time, and finally folding one side over the other.

First roll

Second roll

Final roll

I flattened the roll slightly, then refrigerated the dough for an hour or so before slicing and baking.

These elephant ears were puffy, buttery, and cheesy. They reminded me in a way of mustard batons. And even though they were really tasty, calling them “elephant ears” distracted from the experience, as I couldn’t help but compare them to their sweet, sticky, caramelized namesakes. Maybe next time, I’ll just call them cheese puffs.

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Stuffed Pumpkin {FFwD} {Pumpkin Dinner} {Recipe}

My love of all things pumpkin is well known, so I don’t think anyone was surprised when I suggested a pumpkin dinner roundup, where everyone would make a different pumpkin recipe and post them all on the same day.

My contribution was this side dish, which I adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe. I made it the other night for dinner.

Don’t think big jack-o’-lantern pumpkin when you go to make this dish. A 2 1/2 pound pumpkin is pretty small and can be found with the “baking pumpkins” at the grocery store.

Preparing it for baking, however, is a lot like carving a pumpkin.

Once the goop is removed, it’s just a matter of filling it with stuffing and pouring on some spiced cream.

Then you put the lid back on and slide it into the oven for a bit.

The skin will darken and toughen up while the insides get bubbly and delicious.

Stuffed Pumpkin

(adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan)

 Ingredients 

  • 2 1/2 pound pumpkin
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4-5 thin slices stale bread, crusts removed and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces each Gruyère and Emmenthal cheeses, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Cut the top off the pumpkin jack-o’-lantern style and remove pulp and seeds. Discard seeds or save for roasting. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin in a round baking dish, preferably one that’s just slightly larger than the pumpkin.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine bread, cheeses, garlic, and thyme. Season with a little salt and lots of pepper and toss well. Spoon filling into pumpkin and pack lightly. The pumpkin should be filled to the top but not overflowing.
  4. Stir together cream and nutmeg, then pour over filling in pumpkin. Put the pumpkin top on the pumpkin.
  5. Bake for 1 hour. Remove lid and continue baking for about 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the top nicely toasted.
  6. To serve, carefully (it will be very hot) reach inside the pumpkin with a large spoon and scrape the cooked pumpkin meat free from the sides. Mix the pumpkin with the stuffing and replace the lid. Carry the pumpkin in the baking dish to the table. When ready to serve, remove the lid and spoon directly from the pumpkin.

 Yields 4-5 side dish servings

You’ll note that I sliced the pumpkin rather than mixing in the flesh like in the recipe. I didn’t care for it sliced as well. The skin was very dry and leathery, and it was difficult to cut, even with a good, sharp knife. And we were left to deal with it on the plate while eating. I made a note to mix it together inside the pumpkin next time.

This was such a delicious dish. I couldn’t wait to make it again. So, a few weeks later I decided to bake another pumpkin. My parents were in town, and I thought I would switch things up by replacing the bread cubes with rice and adding frozen peas.

We put the whole pumpkin on the table and served it by scooping out the filling, along with some of the pumpkin flesh. It was so good, we all agreed that we would add it to our Thanksgiving menu this year.

In addition to the pumpkin dinner roundup, this post is also part of French Fridays with Dorie.

Savory Cheese and Chive Bread (FFwD)

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was a quick bread which, Dorie promised, would take no more than 10 minutes to whip up. As it turns out she was right. This bread came together lightning fast, all the more so since I used shredded cheese.

OK, so this was an expensive bag of cheese. But it was worth it to have a Gruyère and Emmentaler blend for this and other recipes. And I might just make some fondue out of it, too.

As the name implies, this is a savory bread studded with cheese and fresh herbs. The recipe calls for Gruyère and snipped chives, but you could make it with nearly any combination of cheese and herbs, or even some fruit or meat, if you were so inclined. Once you have the basic recipe down, the possibilities are endless.

To make the bread, I mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another and folded them together. I stirred in the cheese (shredded and cubed) and chives, then scraped the batter into a pan.

I baked the loaf in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center came out clean.

I cooled the loaf for about 20 minutes before slicing. It was still warm, and the cheese in the center was melty, gooey, and delicious.

Even though the chives appear fairly sparse, their flavor dominated this bread. It was savory and quite tasty, but I wish the flavor of the cheese had been a bit more prominent. I will probably use the same cheeses next time, but might opt for a more mildly flavored herb.

Tomato & Cantal Tart {ModBak}

The sixth tart recipe in the Savory Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge is the only tart in this section that doesn’t contain any eggs. Rather than a custard, this tart consists mainly of tomatoes and cheese. The recipe calls for Cantal, a French cheese similar to Gruyère. I ended up using Gruyère, as I couldn’t find Cantal at my market.

The recipe is also supposed to be made with fresh tomatoes, which unfortunately can’t be found around here this time of year. Not wanting to wait until summer to make this recipe, I decided to roast some tomatoes in order to make them taste more like fresh, ripe tomatoes.

I began with two Roma tomatoes.

I sliced the tomatoes, spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet, and sprinkled them with a little salt and sugar.

I roasted the tomatoes in a 350°F oven for about 35 minutes, until they were slightly shriveled and most of the moisture had evaporated.

It was amazing how much roasting affected the flavor and texture of these tomatoes. They obviously still weren’t as good as vine-ripened summer tomatoes, but they were by far the best tomatoes I’ve had in the middle of a Midwest winter. I allowed the Romas to cool on the baking sheet while I prepared my mise en place for the tart.

The tart is very simple to assemble. After making the pastry, I spread Dijon mustard in the bottom of the tart shell.

Then I sprinkled on some shredded Gruyère.

Next, I added tomatoes in an overlapping layer.

I sprinkled some pepper on the tomatoes, then added another layer of cheese.

I baked the tart at 350°F for about 25 minutes, until the cheese was melted and nice and bubbly.

I unmolded the tart while it was still warm, then topped it with basil chiffonade and a drizzle of olive oil.

I baked the tomato & Gruyère tart on the same day that I made the Swiss onion tart. I made each of them as mini tarts, so I decided to serve them side-by-side.

I enjoyed them both, and the tomato tart reminded me of a really good grilled cheese sandwich (I always put tomato slices on my grilled cheese). But I have to say that I missed the custard in the tomato tart, and I thought the onion tart won out in both flavor and complexity.

I will make this tart again, although I’ll probably wait until summer so I can try it with garden fresh tomatoes. I do like the idea of making mini tarts and serving them together. And I might even do four tarts and serve a wedge of each sometime for brunch.

If you’re following along on the Modern Baker Challenge page, you’ll note that I have one more tart to go before I get to the dreaded curried fish pie. Stay tuned. It should be interesting.

Gruyère, Scallion, & Walnut Tart {ModBak}

The first recipe I claimed for the Savory Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge was one that Nick Malgieri claims he could “bake and eat… once a week”. Having made it myself, I can see why. This recipe is quick and easy to throw together, and what little effort it required was well worth it.

I started by making the tart crust. Nick gives three recipes for tart dough in this section — Rich Pie Dough for Savory Pies and Tarts; Olive Oil Dough for Savory Pies and Tarts; and No-Roll Flaky Dough. He suggests either the rich or no-roll dough for this recipe. I’ve made the rich dough several times and am actually getting pretty good at it, so I decided to try the no-roll dough for this recipe.

I’ll admit that my no-roll technique needs a bit of work. I think the dough was either too dry or that I didn’t mix it enough. Whatever the case, the dough was a bit too powdery. Nonetheless, I was amazed at how quickly it went from this…

…to this…

…and finally to this…

With my dough made and in the pan, most of the work was done. The tart filling begins with walnuts toasted for a few minutes in a pan, then set aside too cool.

Next, I sautéed scallions in butter for a few minutes, until they were soft and brightly colored.

After letting the scallions cool for a few minutes, I scattered them over the crust in the pan, then sprinkled on the cheese. I mixed up the custard, which consisted of milk, cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and poured the whole thing into the crust.

I put the tart in a 350°F oven to bake, then turned back to the counter and noticed this:

Fortunately, the tart had only been in the oven for a few minutes at the time, so I pulled it back out and scattered on the walnuts.

Back in the oven, the tart baked for about 30 minutes, until the custard was puffed and lightly browned. I cooled the tart in the pan for about five minutes, then removed it to a serving plate.

I served the tart for a light weekend supper. I didn’t measure the walnuts, and I think I might have used too many, as they somewhat overpowered the other flavors in the tart. Even so, this tart was absolutely delicious. The scallions, cheese, and nuts all complimented each other well, and I found myself going back for small slices throughout the evening.

I can see why Nick is so fond of this recipe. And while I may not make this tart once a week, it will certainly be featured on my table on a regular basis.

Filled Ham & Cheese Focaccia {ModBak}

The final recipe in the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is another focaccia. What differentiates this recipe from the other focaccia recipes in this section (besides a distinct lack of anchovies) is that this focaccia is filled, rather than topped.

As with the other focaccia and pizza recipes, this one starts with Dough for Thick-Crusted Pizza and Focaccia. However, rather than pressing the dough into the pan after it ferments, you dump the dough out onto a floured board and press it into a rectangle. Ham and cheese are then layered on half the dough. The recipe calls for prosciutto, but I had deli sliced ham on hand, so that’s what I used, along with Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I sprinkled on a little black pepper, then folded the dough over the topping and pressed to seal it.

I gently lifted the dough onto the pan, then pressed it out to fill the pan. I covered the pan and allowed the dough to rise for an hour. Then I uncovered the dough and dimpled it with the tips of my fingers. I drizzled a little olive oil on the top of the dough, then sprinkled on a little fleur de sel to finish it off.

I baked the focaccia in a 400°F oven for about 30 minutes, until the dough was dry and beginning to brown. I cooled the focaccia on the pan for about 10 minutes, then removed it to a cutting board. I cut and served it directly from the board, which gave it a nice, rustic appearance.

You may have noticed a lack of pictures on this post, as well as the absence of a description of the flavor of the finished product. I made this focaccia on the day of my daughter’s birthday party, while I was preparing half-a-dozen other dishes, so the thought of snapping photos never even crossed my mind.

As for not describing the taste, that’s because I didn’t try it. Not that it didn’t look and smell delicious. It’s just that I don’t eat pork. But everyone else enjoyed it and compared it to a really good hot ham and cheese sandwich. When it came time to pack up the leftovers (and there were plenty), there was no focaccia to be found. But I was asked to bring it to our next family gathering.

Potato Gratin (Pommes Dauphinois) {FFwD}

My selection this week for French Fridays with Dorie was Potato Gratin. These aren’t your mother’s scalloped potatoes. No ham. No cheddar cheese sauce. No flour (I never understood why one would add starch to starchy potatoes). No, sir. These are simple, creamy, delicious potatoes. They’re easy to make and impossible to resist.

There aren’t many ingredients: potatoes, heavy cream, garlic, salt, pepper, Gruyère, and, if you’d like, a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary (I used both).

The cream is heated with the garlic until it simmers gently. The smell of garlic-infused cream was enough to convince me that this dish was worth making. After slicing the potatoes paper thin with the smallest blade on my mandoline slicer, I layered the potatoes with cream, salt, and pepper until all the potatoes and cream were used up and the dish was filled almost to the top.

Then I sprinkled the potatoes with thyme and rosemary and layered on the Gruyère.

After 45 interminable minutes in the oven, the potatoes were tender and the cheese well-browned. I let the dish set up in the oven with the door open and the oven turned off for about 10 minutes.

I served the potato gratin for dinner with turkey sausage, Modern Baker grissini, and Cabernet Sauvignon. As easy as this dish was to make, it was out of this world delicious. We all agreed that this is a recipe to keep close at hand and to make often for a simple, perfect supper.