Friday, January 30, 2015

The Snowed-In Chronicles (Meals One and Two)

With various blizzards, Nor'easters and Alberta Clippers sailing through the Hudson Valley and Catskills, Cafe Drake HRV has been buried in snow for the last week. The latest weather forecasts predict more precipitation in 48 hours and wind chill temps as low as -20. We're not complaining, just letting you know why we've been inside for 7 days. 

One of the several symptoms of Cabin Fever is the persistent need to cook every meal, every snack, every day, a laborious process that requires diligent planning and savvy food shopping to combat boring repetitive meals. We can't just jet to the grocery store if we run out of lemons, people.

Snowed-In Sample Meal One:

You've heard the jokes about a million breakfasts of French Toast this week right? Because it seems every family in the Northeast hoarded milk, eggs and bread. Cafe Drake HRV didn't actually stock up on any of these three items, but we did have remnants of each in the fridge, and our favorite meal so far was this dark horse - Cauliflower and Rye Bread Pudding. It's so good, it's kind of crazy. Don't wait until the next snowstorm to prepare yourself. Major bonus points also for the casserole's ability to be reheated at least two times with no loss in flavor or texture.

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F. Break 1 small head of cauliflower into small-ish florets and toss with olive oil and salt, plenty of both. Bake on a cookie sheet for about 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and lightly browned. While the cauliflower is roasting, whip together 5 eggs and 1 1/2 cups milk. Cut 1/2 loaf of good dark rye bread into cubes; don't remove the crusts. Place the bread in a large casserole or gratin dish and pour the egg and milk mixture over it. Press the bread down into the liquid and set aside until the cauliflower is roasted and cooled completely. The cauliflower must be fully cooled when you, now, dump it on to the soaking bread. Sprinkle over all plenty of salt and black pepper, a very large pinch of celery seeds, 1 heaping t. caraway seeds and some fresh or dried thyme leaves. Cut some sharp Cheddar cheese in to tiny, cute little cubes until you have 1 cup. Throw those in as well. Now stir to mix very well and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil (or a lid if it has one) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove covering and bake for 10-15 minutes longer. You'll know it's ready when you see a few dark and crusty bread crumbs peeking out from the fluffy custard.

The bread pudding is equally good hot or just warm.

Our Cauliflower and Rye Bread Pudding with a roasted Italian pepper and arugula salad.

Snowed-In Sample Meal Two:

Let's get this out of the way - this one is all about bread and cheese as well. But such a different incarnation we didn't mind at all. You'll begin by rolling out some pizza dough - we use whole wheat refrigerated dough from the bakery at Adams' Farms - and baking for 3 or 4 minutes in a 425 degree F. oven. Remove dough from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Top with large slices of capocollo. Not too many. Dot with a few pieces of tallegio cheese. Just because, again, this is what we had, in the fridge, during a blizzard.

Decorate with some roasted vegetables, something we ALWAYS have in the fridge. Above, we used red and green bell peppers, zucchini and red onions.

Enhance further with crushed red chili flakes, fresh thyme or oregano leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Pots of fresh herbs, like the lemon thyme in our kitchen window seen above, bring bright, sunny flavors to winter shut-ins.

Bake the pizza at 425-450 degrees F. until the crust is beginning to darken and the cheese is bubbling.

Finally, top with a tossed salad of baby kale and grape tomatoes. A tart balsamic vinaigrette is an ideal counterpoint to the creamy cheese and rich cured meat.

No comments: