High tea highlights family nuptial celebration

This weekend’s extravaganza of entertaining prominently features high tea.

Served as my sister-in-law’s wedding banquet, the genteel array of finger sandwiches, scones and berries with cream is one Claire enjoyed on numerous occasions as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge. She introduced her fiancé, Rick, to this not-so-dainty meal, which won over the self-professed picky eater.

My mother-in-law’s contribution are jars of homemade jam and fruit butter, tied up with blue ribbons and crowned with bits of lace. A master gardener, Ann also been tending teapots unearthed at rummage sales and planted with delicate, seasonal flowers.

I can’t wait for it to all come together Saturday evening. Claire had my seal of approval when she asked for local catering recommendations. High tea is one of my favorite food experiences, too.

So in honor of Claire and Rick, here is a recipe for that high-tea staple: chicken salad. With the inclusion of Major Grey’s mango chutney, this one has a decidedly British feel, despite its origin in New York High Society. The Washington Post adapted it from Florence Fabricant’s “The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes From New York’s Savviest Hostesses.”

Using a store-bought rotisserie bird makes this fast, summertime picnic fare. But for fresher flavor, cook the chicken at home. Start by trimming four or five boneless, skinless chicken breast halves of visible fat. Season them generously with salt and pepper, and arrange them on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil; bake in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool before cutting.

The salad can be made and refrigerated a day in advance. Taste, and season as needed (with salt and pepper) before serving.

And for Ann, here is Saveur magazine’s recipe for Major Grey’s Chutney. Maybe next summer we’ll have time to make it.

Chicken Salad for the Ladies

5 cups cooked chicken, preferably white meat, cut into bite-size pieces

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

3/4 cup chopped scallions

Flesh from 1 large mango, diced (1 cup)

1/3 cup Major Grey’s mango chutney

1/4 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups plain, whole-milk Greek-style yogurt

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, lightly crushed, for garnish (optional)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)

In a serving bowl, combine the chicken, scallions, mango, chutney, mayonnaise, lemon juice, yogurt and soy sauce; stir to blend well.
Just before serving, garnish with the peanuts and cilantro, if desired. Serve on lettuce leaves or bread slices.

Makes 5 or 6 servings (7 cups).

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Rice salads lighten summer potluck spreads

A flurry of activity around my house portends the official start of the summer entertaining season. In our case, that’s a wedding-rehearsal dinner for my sister-in-law later this week.

Even if getting the house and yard ready feels like biting off more than we can chew, we fortunately relieved ourselves of cooking by hiring a local food truck-caterer that I admire. Alyssa Warner’s Fresco uses seasonal produce, much of it grown on the property of her family’s Greensprings Inn.

If this was a more casual affair with fewer people, I’d likely be making one of my signature summer potluck dishes. Wild Rice Salad Olivio, the subject of a previous post, always stands out among sundry pasta salads, not least for its wide array of colors and textures but also because the Mediterranean ingredients are a delicious combination.

In addition to their interesting textures and flavors, rice salads are much lighter than pasta salads, as Los Angeles Times food writer Russ Parsons recently pointed out. Additionally, I favor oil-dressed offerings in summer’s heat, over mayonnaise-based ones that are more at risk for spoilage. I agree with Parsons that rice salads are a grossly underrepresented genre.

The most important consideration is cooking the rice, he said. The goal is to get rid of as much of the free starch as possible so the grains are light and separate and not gummy and clumped together.

The best way to do this is to cook the rice like pasta, in a large pot of boiling water. This way, its starch will be diluted and washed away when draining the cooking water.
Cook until the grains are tender but still firm. There shouldn’t be a trace of crunch, but at the same time you don’t want to cook it to mush. Check the ends of the grains. You want to stop before they “explode” out.

Give the rice a quick rinse under the faucet afterward, just to get rid of any starch that remains, and then pat it dry: Spread it on a kitchen towel, cover with another kitchen towel and pat lightly.

While the rice is still slightly warm, season it. Once the grains are cold, they won’t absorb flavor as readily. So add salt, a little olive oil, a jolt of lemon or vinegar.
If you have some cooking liquid from whatever meat or vegetables you’re using — seafood stock, chicken broth or glazing juices from the vegetables — add that too. Cooked meat and can be stirred in right away but wait to add herbs and any soft foods, such as tomatoes or cheese, until right before serving.

Although I’ve always dressed my wild rice salad while still warm, Parsons’ cooking technique is one I haven’t employed. But I will the next time occasion calls for it.
Or I may deviate from my favorite recipe with Parsons’ rice salad, inspired by the classic Spanish dish paella. Of course, the inclusion of seafood makes it more perishable. I warrant it’s so delicious, however, that it won’t sit around long.

Los Angeles Times photo

Rice Salad, Paella Style

Salt, as needed

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, cubed

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 pound mussels in shell

1/4 pound calamari, cut into rings and bite-sized pieces

0.2 gram saffron threads

1/2 cup diced red onion

2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well

3/4 cup sliced, jarred, roasted red peppers

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the chorizo and cook until it begins to brown and render fat, for about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and increase heat to high. When wine is bubbling, add the mussels, cover and cook until shells open, for about 5 minutes. Add the calamari and cook until edges curl, for about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer chorizo, mussels and calamari to a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate until needed. Add the saffron threads to liquid in pan and return to heat. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half to about one-third cup.

Place the red onion in a strainer and rinse under cold water to remove some of its “bite.”

Cook the rice as you would pasta: Add rice to boiling water and cook until it is tender, for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not overcook or undercook it; rice should be soft throughout but should not beginning to “explode” at ends.

Line a jellyroll pan with a kitchen towel. Drain rice and rinse it quickly under cool water, then spread it over kitchen towel. Cover with another kitchen towel and gently pat dry.

Transfer rice to a large mixing bowl. Pour saffron liquid over rice, add red onion and stir gently with a wide rubber spatula to coat evenly. Rice should be a uniform golden color. Season to taste with about 1 teaspoon salt and set aside to cool completely. (Recipe can be prepared to this point up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated tightly covered; bring rice back to room temperature before finishing recipe. You may need to add a little olive oil to finish.)

Add the red pepper strips, lemon juice, parsley, chorizo and calamari to rice, and stir gently to mix well. Season to taste. Transfer to a large, flat serving bowl and scatter cooked mussels on top. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Baby bok choy grows up in grilled salad

Baby vegetables don’t just make for a cute presentation. Those chef darlings usually are more tender, sweeter and not as watery as their grown-up selves, making them worth unearthing at local farmers markets.

Indeed, baby bok choy was among the produce in particularly good supply last week when I interviewed the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market manager for today’s story in A la Carte. More often sold at their “baby” stage than many other veggies, this cousin of cabbage and cauliflower still can’t match the appeal of carrots, radishes or summer squash for many shoppers. Must be that it’s still pretty watery, even as an immature brassica.

Attempting to remedy that, this recipe calls for caramelizing bok choy’s watery stalks on a grill and serving them with the tender, uncooked leaves. It combines the grilled-salad concept with a more standard approach to dressed greens for a unique dish.

Treating bok choy as two vegetables in one, this recipe starts with instructions for cutting the leaves away from the stalks. When reunited, the still-warm stalks barely wilt the leaves.

Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Grilled Baby Bok Choy With Miso Butter

6 heads (about 1 1/2 pounds total) baby bok choy (may
substitute Shanghai bok choy)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste (the darker the
miso, the saltier it will be)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as

Prepare grill for direct heat: If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (400 F) with lid closed. If using a charcoal grill, light charcoal or wood briquettes; when briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly over cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above coals for 4 to 6 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Brush grill grate.

Meanwhile, cut leaves off the bok choy stalks, then cut stalks in half lengthwise. Rinse leaves and stalks well, then shake and pat dry to remove as much moisture as possible. Place stalks in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, blend the butter and miso using a fork, then use clean hands to coat bok choy (all over) with butter-miso mixture.

Arrange bok choy stalks cut-sides down on grill (or grill screen, if using). Close lid and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden-brown on undersides. Use tongs to turn over stalks. Close lid and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until golden and crisp-tender. Be sure to keep temperature moderate so miso butter will caramelize but not burn.

While stalks are on grill, stack bok choy leaves, then roll them tightly and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons (chiffonade). Arrange them on a serving platter as a bed for stalks. Drizzle with the oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Arrange grilled bok choy stalks on dressed leaves, which will wilt a bit. Season stalks lightly with pepper. Serve right away. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by The Washington Post from “Brassicas — Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More,” by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, 2014).

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Family favorites include Jewish-deli classic

A weekend visit to my parents’ home on the South Coast predictably portended some must-have foods.

In winter, it’s Dungeness crab cooked in the driveway. Oysters are a year-round commodity, best when the bay is salty, but enjoyed in a variety of dishes, including po’boys at the new 7 Devils Brewing Co. in Coos Bay.

Pacific pink shrimp, in season for the past month and through the summer, starred in Polynesian-inspired salads and garlicky linguine with fried capers. Solo, they constitute succulent cocktails.

Face Rock Creamery curds awaited in the refrigerator, along with last summer’s blueberries in the freezer, both favorites of my 1-year-old son. He also had his first date with a family-favorite dish that never materialized amid so many other options.

The topic of a previous post, kugel is a dish my mom likes to prepare ahead of time and bake off when she knows we’re about to leave Interstate 5 for Highway 42. Her recipe is a supremely eggy, cheesy version that we like to top with tamari-roasted cashews. But as I noted several years ago after reporting on Passover feasts, kugel can take a variety of forms from savory to sweet, from vegetable-laden to dairy-based.

I suspect my mom and husband, Will, also would appreciate this classic Jewish-deli kugel served at Brent’s in Northridge, Calif., and recently published in the Los Angeles Times. Straddling the line between sweet and savory with cinnamon-sugar and white pepper, it lends itself to breakfast or weekend brunch.

MCT photo

Brent’s Deli’s Kugel

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted, divided

Salt, as needed

1 pound fine egg noodles

4 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

2 quarts cottage cheese

1/4 cup sour cream

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon white pepper, or to taste

1 cup crumbled cornflakes

Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, combined)

Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter an 11-by-15-inch baking dish with a little of the melted butter and set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook noodles according to package directions, then drain and set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Set aside.

In a separate, large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, cottage cheese, sour cream, milk, vanilla, remaining melted butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and the pepper.

Fold noodles into egg yolk mixture, then gently fold in egg whites, one-third at a time.

Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish and cover with the crumbled cornflakes. Sprinkle top with the cinnamon sugar.

Place baking dish in preheated oven and bake until custard is set, for 35 to 45 minutes.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

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Even basic burgers extremely good on charcoal

MCT photo

Speaking of Weber kettles, the classic outdoor cooking method isn’t one we’re likely to ever abandon.

In addition to a smoker, my husband has long wished for a gas grill. But we’ve just never gotten around to buying one. My opinion has always been that a gas grill would be redundant parked on the deck just 20 feet from the kitchen range.

And every time we break out the charcoal to grill up some burgers and hot dogs (even Costco prepressed patties and Ball Park Franks) we always hear how great the food tastes. Is it because so many backyard cooks have abandoned the wait time for charcoal for the instant gratification of gas?

So if previously frozen hamburger patties could earn such raves topped with only the reliable roster of ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickle, tomato, onion and lettuce, imagine how well Weber’s “extreme burger” will go over this summer. See  more tips and recipes for memorable burgers in the latest A Fresh Approach column.

Weber’s Extreme Burgers

4 slices thick-cut bacon

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 teaspoons minced garlic, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed

2 ripe Hass avocados

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 pounds ground chuck (80 percent lean)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

8 thin slices cheddar cheese

4 hamburger buns, split

4 leaves Boston lettuce

1 ripe beefsteak tomato, cut crosswise into 4 slices about 1/3-inch thick

In a skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp, for 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain on paper towels.

Whisk the mayo with 1 teaspoon of the garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the lime juice, remaining garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

In a large bowl, mix the ground chuck with the Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the smoked paprika and onion powder, and then gently form 8 patties of equal size, each about ½ inch thick and a little wider than the buns. Refrigerate patties until ready to grill.

Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (400 to 500 F).

Grill patties over direct medium-high heat, with lid closed, until cooked to medium doneness (about 160 F), for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once. During last 30 seconds to 1 minute of grilling time, place a slice of the cheese on each patty to melt, and toast the buns, cut sides down, over direct heat.

Build each burger on a bun with garlic mayo, a lettuce leaf, a tomato slice, 2 patties, as much guacamole as you like, a slice of bacon (torn in half) and more garlic mayo. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from “Weber’s Big Book of Burgers: The Ultimate Guide to Grilling Backyard Classics,” by Jamie Purviance (Sunset, $21.95).

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Weber kettle supplies trial run for smoking

Getting my hands dirty in the yard for the past few days has left little hands-on time in the kitchen.

Moving meals outdoors is just one motivator behind the landscaping project my husband, Will, and I recently undertook. Beginning with a wedding-rehearsal dinner later this month, we’re anticipating a summer full of opportunities to grill out and chill out.

We’ve already given a few meals a test-run, namely faux-smoked chicken thighs and pork tenderloin over low, slow heat in the trusty Weber kettle. Planning to purchase a smoker, Will has been practicing over a standard charcoal grill with excellent results.

Pork loin, in particular, came out of the Weber with the requisite pink smoke ring around perfectly cooked, still-moist meat. Accompaniments of coconut rice and mango-avocado salsa with garden-grown cilantro earned raves from our friends.

Marinating the meat, of course, is an integral part of this process. We usually assemble basic solutions of vinegar, wine, salt and sugar seasoned with whichever herbs and spices would complement flavors in the other dishes. If I repeated the aforementioned menu, however, I would add the tamarind liquid I’ve started keeping on hand since noticing it on the ethnic aisle at Food 4 Less in Medford.

Popular in both Southeast Asia and Latin America, tamarind grows in pods that enclose dark-brown, jamlike flesh that tastes deeply of citrus. The jarred, liquid concentrate keeps for months in the refrigerator and can be used in all manner of condiments, even stirred into summer cocktails and mocktails.

MCT photo

This grilled-pork recipe, courtesy of McClatchy News Service, combines tamarind and other Asian spices. Sriracha sauce, in lieu of cayenne, could really turn up the heat. The salad puts a bit more crunch into the pairing of avocado and mango, which my husband found a tad mushy for his liking.

Sweet and Tangy Grilled Pork Tenderloin

1/2 recipe sweet and tangy ginger-soy marinade

2 pieces, about 1 pound each, trimmed pork tenderloin

Cilantro sprigs, for serving

Put the marinade into a plastic food bag or shallow baking dish. Add the pork to marinade; turn to coat. Refrigerate covered at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium heat. Remove pork from marinade; place on grill directly over heat source. Cover grill; cook for 10 minutes. Turn tenderloin; move to a cooler section of grill. Continue grilling until an instant-read thermometer registers 135 F in thickest portion, usually for 10 to 15 minutes more.

Remove pork to a cutting board; let rest 10 minutes. Serve thinly sliced and garnished with cilantro. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

SWEET AND TANGY GINGER SOY MARINADE: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix 2 large, finely chopped shallots, 4 peeled and chopped garlic cloves, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp (or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice), 2 tablespoons peeled and grated, fresh ginger (or refrigerated ginger puree), 2 teaspoons each: ground coriander and sugar, 1 teaspoon each: salt and ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional). Refrigerate covered up to 2 weeks. Makes a generous 1/2 cup.


Romaine, Spinach, Mango and Cilantro Salad

1 head (8 ounces) romaine, core removed, cut crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips

6 cups (5 ounces) baby spinach leaves

2 firm mangoes, peeled and finely julienned

1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon each: light soy sauce and vegetable oil

1 teaspoon each: chili powder and sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes (optional)

In a large salad bowl, mix the romaine, spinach, mangos and cilantro. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix the remaining ingredients. (Dressing may be stored in refrigerator for a week or more; use at room temperature.) Toss salad with dressing just before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Lamb isn’t de facto grilling meat but should be

Like cooking instructor Saudia Sharkey, profiled in this week’s A la Carte, I’ve always considered lamb an ideal meat for grilling.

Five years ago, few in our crowd at a Lake Shasta cookout were inclined to agree with me. But I’m pleased to see more backyard cooks recently acknowledging that fact.

The United States, of course, is probably one of the few countries worldwide where lamb isn’t the de facto grilling meat. Basically, any countries that have lambs grill them, to quote a recent story by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Recipes that ran with this week’s story about Sharkey’s upcoming class at Ashland Food Co-op included one of the most unique takes on grilled lamb I’ve seen (and can’t wait to try). Instead of the whole leg, Lamb Sticks With Lemon Ouzo Baste calls for boneless loins, arguably more manageable for lamb newbies.

For grilling a leg of lamb, I’ve never found a recipe all that necessary, preferring to combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, lots of fresh herbs and other spices to taste. The meat is almost impossible to screw up if cooks stick with a classic Mediterranean flavor profile and don’t overcook it, which also is hard to do in large cuts over indirect heat.

For those of you who do need the reassurance of a recipe, here is the one that ran with the Post-Dispatch’s story. And if you simply want to taste lamb before committing to purchasing a whole leg, don’t miss Sunday’s lamb and rabbit barbecue at the Jackson County Spring Fair, mentioned in a recent story about rabbit.

MCT photo

Mediterranean Lamb

1 (4-pound) boneless leg of lamb
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoons ground ginger

Unroll and pat dry the leg of lamb. Season generously on both sides with the salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, cumin and ginger. Roll lamb in bowl to coat all sides, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare a hot grill for indirect heat. Cook on part of grill away from heat, covered, for 1 hour or until cooked medium-rare or medium (140 to 160 F). Remove from heat and cover loosely with foil and allow to rest at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving and serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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Eggs, spuds, meat make for breakfast in a bowl

Always an enthusiastic eater of breakfast (yes, even for dinner), I’m finding it harder and harder lately to rustle up that all-important meal.

That’s likely because I’ve already prepared it for my 1-year-old son, starting the minute our feet hit the kitchen floor every morning. Then I lose my momentum in a couple of cups of coffee.

Even this weekend’s houseguests were left to their own devices, a lapse in courtesy that, predictably, I lacked the energy to remedy. Although I have a repertoire of make-ahead breakfast dishes, usually oven-baked, I wasn’t familiar enough with this couple’s eating habits to presume. And while eggs often are a safe bet, omelets, scrambles and the like can get pretty involved on a lazy weekend morning.

Frittatas, I’ve found, free me from standing at the stove. Covered in previous posts, they’re a great repository of all manner of veggies, meats and cheeses, even the previous night’s leftovers. And yes, they’re great for dinner, too.  

In the same vein is this recipe from my little boy’s favorite food-television personality, Ree Drummond. Baked in ramekins, the beaten egg mixture sets into something like a mini frittata with lots of goodies on top. They could be assembled the night before and transferred from the refrigerator on a single baking sheet to the oven.            

MCT photo

Breakfast Bowls

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for greasing bowls

¼ large onion, peeled and diced

1 russet (baking) potato, baked, cooled and cut in cubes

Salt and pepper, to taste

5 eggs, beaten

½ cup half-and-half

3 plum tomatoes, cored and diced

2 green onions, trimmed and chopped

½ pound breakfast sausage, browned and crumbled

½ cup each grated Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar (or 1 cup grated cheese mix)

Butter 4 ovenproof bowls or ramekins. Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are warmed through and onions are a little softened, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and half-and-half. Season with the salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes and green onions; set aside.

Assemble by placing potatoes, sausage, a little of the cheese, a quarter of egg mixture and some tomato mixture in each ramekin. Top with a little more cheese.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet and place in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until eggs are just set. Watch carefully and make sure eggs don’t brown and overcook.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe adapted by McClatchy News Service from “The Pioneer Woman Cooks,” by Ree Drummond (William Morrow, 2009).

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Brinner: It’s what’s for … well, you get the idea

Like chef Braden Hitt’s family, mine was one that gravitated to breakfast for dinner on a fairly regular basis.

Maybe it was because my dad was a breakfast line cook when he met my mom. Maybe it was because my mom took orders for breakfast, serving up the platters of hashbrowns, bacon and eggs, all week and just wanted to be on the receiving end occasionally. Maybe it was because breakfast items were quick, easily prepared and fairly inexpensive for my working parents. Or maybe it was because breakfast foods eaten in the evening were just good.

They still are. I’ve often blogged about eating eggs any time of day, prepared virtually any way. Savory crepes are another of my dinnertime favorites. The recipe that ran in this week’s A la Carte with the story on Hitt’s breakfast class is one I’m dying to try with the wealth of fresh herbs from my garden.

There’s even a term that describes breakfast for dinner: “brinner.” I encountered it only recently in a McClatchy News Service story. Apparently, it’s in the Urban Dictionary, and is turning up on food-trend lists, part of a larger movement toward eating what you want, when you want it.

Because breakfast usually is eaten on the go, the meal’s more iconic foods — pancakes, waffles and the like — often take too long for many people to enjoy, unless it’s on the weekend. But they’re perfect evening fare, explained one cooking instructor interviewed for McClatchy’s story.

Hitt’s take on breakfast fits perfectly into that concept. And his brunch class appropriately is planned for this evening. Ashland Food Co-op’s website shows that four seats are still available.   

Also celebrating breakfast for dinner is this recent recipe from the Chicago Tribune. Sweet, fried apples, smothered in cherries with a savory pork chop all can be prepared in 40 minutes. Or get it on the table even faster by skipping the cherry sauce and simply serving the apple pancakes and chops with maple syrup. Leftover pancake batter is a bonus for the next morning.

MCT photo

Pork Chops With Apple Pancakes and Cherry Sauce

1 egg

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk

2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

1/2 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt, divided

1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more as needed

4 boneless pork chops, about 5 ounces each

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon butter, plus more as needed

2 large sweet-tart apples, such as Granny Smith

For batter, whisk the egg in a bowl until thoroughly blended. Stir the milk and melted butter into beaten egg; mix well. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a separate bowl; stir with a fork to blend. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients. Stir only until dry ingredients are well moistened; don’t overmix. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the canola oil. Add the pork chops; cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and cooked through, for about 5 minutes per side. Keep warm.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil; add the onions. Season with remaining salt. Cook until onions have softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cherries, wine and vinegar; cook until cherries soften and wine reduces by half. Stir in the butter until melted and sauce thickens somewhat. Taste for seasoning. 

Core and peel the apples, leaving them whole. Slice apples horizontally in ¼-inch-thick pieces. Place pancake batter in a shallow bowl. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat; when hot enough that a droplet of water sizzles immediately upon contact with surface, slick with just enough butter or canola oil to coat bottom. Dip apple slices in batter, 2 or 3 at a time, coating both sides. Let excess drip off; hole in middle of each slice should be visible. (Poke tip of your pinkie through it if you need to.) Batter should cling to slices but not too thickly. Adjust batter’s consistency with a little more milk or flour if needed.

Place apple slices in hot skillet; cook until small bubbles appear on edges of batter and batter on bottom is set, for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip; cook other side, for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining apple slices, adding butter if needed. Keep warm in a 200-degree oven.

Serve apple pancakes with chops alongside, topping them with sauce. Makes 4 servings.

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French feast sent foodie down the rabbit hole

Los Angeles Times photo

There’s simply no explaining how I concluded at some point in my childhood that lamb and rabbit must be the most delicious meats a person could eat.

It can’t be because I ever tried them. My family consumed a predictable roster of beef, pork and poultry with lots of South Coast seafood and the odd deer and elk. That was when lamb had a reputation for its strong flavor and rabbit was just, well, pretty much off the radar.

But it wasn’t always so, according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times that inspired last week’s rabbit spread in A la Carte. Rabbits were commonly raised during World War II alongside victory gardens, which no doubt benefited from the compost and yielded up no end of trimmings to feed the rabbits. After the war, the Times reported, rabbit fell out of fashion with the masses, consigned to the American countryside and French restaurants.

A senior project after four years of high-school French sent me in pursuit of rabbit to cook up for a traditional feast. It isn’t the first time my project partner and best friend, Brooke, must have considered me a tad crazy. But her mom confirmed that the local Albertsons store stocked rabbit.

The grocer met very little in the way of demand with very little rabbit, replenished just once a week without a special order, we found. Another tip led us to an obscure German restaurant, shuttered except for its sausage-making operation. The proprietor gamely offered us two rabbits reposing in his freezer and wouldn’t accept any payment.

The slight sheen of freezer burn on the animals’ flesh likely inspired the German’s generosity. Worse still was the faintly fetal appearance of the rabbits, which had been frozen whole. Neither Brooke nor I had ever dismembered a chicken, much less a small but unwieldy mammal. Did I mention that Brooke kept a pet rabbit in her backyard?

This time, my mom came to our rescue with only a little reluctance and repugnance for the task of cutting up these poor creatures into their requisite parts, so Brooke and I could proceed with our recipe. My mom did extract a promise from me, however, that I would soon repeat the exercise myself on a chicken. Seeing as I was bound and determined to cook, I should start practicing self-sufficiency, she said, not relying on grocery stores to do all the meat butchering.

Of course, my introduction to rabbit cookery predates YouTube, or Brooke and I likely could have muddled through the butchering, not gone running to Mom. And although I’ve since tackled a few rabbits, I plan to bone up with this video that accompanied the Times’ story.

Watch and judge for yourself whether rabbit could be a candidate for your next feast.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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