Think outside the oatmeal bowl

I’ve advocated creative ways of flavoring oatmeal, but the variations I’ve written about so far have been relatively minor variations on the usual sweetened breakfast.

There is no reason oatmeal has to be sweet. It works surprisingly well as a savory grain, with a taste and texture reminiscent of wild rice. Try this for a savory breakfast:

Cook old fashioned oats as usual: boil them water for 5-10 minutes (until it’s as thick as you like it) with an oat:water ratio of 1:2. Now top with a fried egg and some quickly cooked vegetables or meat (I used mushrooms and scallions). Add salt and pepper (or even hot sauce) to taste and enjoy.

An egg also works with sweetened oatmeal, but I like this truly savory variant for a hearty breakfast.

Apple Pie Oatmeal

Apple pie a timeless dessert that takes me back to childhood. It’s simple and satisfying, without the cloying sweetness or excessive richness of many desserts.

It’s not practical or particularly healthy to have apple pie too often, but I wanted to capture its essence in something that was more practical to have as a frequent snack.

Since I am also a fan of oatmeal, it seemed like a natural fit. Here’s the result:

  • 1.25 cups water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 an apple, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oats (don’t use the quick stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon powdered milk
  1. Boil the water in a small saucepan with a pinch of salt and the sliced apples. I leave the skin on.
  2. When the water is boiling, add in the oats, stir, and turn down the heat to a low simmer.
  3. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or to desired thickness (the oatmeal with thicken slightly when it cools).
  4. Add in brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and powdered milk and stir well.
  5. Pour the oatmeal into a bowl and allow to cool a few minutes

It’s perhaps more reminiscent of an apple cobbler than a pie, but it captures the feeling of apple pie. Feel free to tweak the sweetness to your liking. You could add a pinch of cloves as well, though I’ve tried to keep things simple here.

Yogurt jalapeño sauce

We made falafel last night, which really should be made fresh and eaten while hot and crispy. With fried foods, I like to add something spicy and creamy, but many mayonnaise-based sauces are just too heavy; you’re already eating something deep fried after all.

I’ve developed this easy yogurt jalepeño sauce which is quick and easy and does the job well. It’s easy to modify as well. I made it with jalepeño here, but in the past I’ve used poblano, which is a bit milder. I find this easiest to make in a small food processor.

Ingredients

  • 1 jalepeño (or more, if your jalepeños are weak)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • fresh cilantro leaves, about 1/4 cup
  • salt and pepper
    1. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the food processor bowl.
    2. Using a garlic press, press the garlic into the lime juice and let it sit.
    3. Roast a jalepeño until the skin is blackened. This can be done over an open range flame if you have gas, or under a broiler with the rack on the highest setting if you don’t. You basically want to burn the thing.
    4. Hold the pepper under running water and rub off the skin.
    5. Slice the pepper in half lengthwise and roughly scrape out the seeds.
    6. Chop the remaining pepper into a few chunks and toss into the food processor
    7. Add the yogurt and the cilantro to the food processor.
    8. Blend until there are no chunks of pepper. It should only take about 5-10 seconds.
    9. Season with a salt to taste. I sometimes add black pepper as well.

This goes great with falafel, but also with any sort of fish.

Fast pulled pork

Over the years, I have become a fan of pulled pork. While store bought versions can end up soggy and mushy, a good pulled pork has a deep flavor and is tender while still having an identifiabe meaty texture.

You can easily make several versions of pulled pork at home, but to obtain that characteristic tenderness, a long cooking time is needed.

Sometimes, you go through the process of sending your pork shoulder and vacuum sealing it only to discover that your sous vide machine has died (I am sure you’ve all been there). Is dinner ruined?

When faced with this very situation, I turned to a relatively new standby: the pressure cooker. I cut up 3 pounds of pork into chunks of a couple inches and marinated it in:

1.5 tbs light brown sugar
2 tsp fennel seed
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp smoked salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp mustard powder

This all went into the pressure cooker with 400 cc of water (the pressure cooker always needs water to generate the steam pressure). I brought the cooker up to high pressure and cooked for 45 minutes, the left to naturally release.

The pork went onto a rack for a quick broil while I reduced the remaining liquid. I pulled (mashed) the pork with a couple forks and folded in some of the reduced liquid. Great on some fresh baguettes with a bit of barbecue sauce.

Was the texture as good as a 12 hour sous vide? Not really, but it was close, and a lot faster.

Peach galette

Summer fruits are great for transforming into desserts. One of my favorite new discoveries is galette, which is essentially a simple rustic tart. They are easy to make, and go great with a range of fruits. Peaches seem bountiful these days, so I whipped up a peach galette.

Start by making your favorite pie dough. I like the Cooks Illustrated foolproof pie dough.  When ready to roll out, preheat the oven to 350°F and grab a mixing bowl and combine:

  • about a pound (450g) of sliced peaches
  • 1 tablespoon starch (cornstarch or tapioca)
  • 50g of sugar

Roll the pie dough out to 12 inches and move to a parchment-covered baking sheet. Spread out the peaches in the center, mounding slightly in the middle. Leave a 2-3 inch rim of crust around the perimeter. Fold up the perimeter and make securely patch any breaks in the crust. Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle sugar over the exposed crust.

It will be done in after about an hour in the oven. Let it cool completely (ideally 2+ hours) before digging in, since the filling needs to set.

Bean rolls

Since my bread-baking obsession took over, I seem to have a lot of extra bread dough around looking for a good use. After making more pita dough than I needed, I decided to mix it up with some leftovers. I flattened out 130g of the dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick and added in some leftover black beans and a few pieces of gruyere. I then sealed the dough into a ball and baked it at 375° F for 15 minutes to make a bean-filled roll that I took to work.

Before lunch, I reheated the roll at 300 degrees in an office toaster oven. The result? Pretty tasty and a handy way to use leftovers. In the future, I’ll try reheating at a higher temperature and maybe for a few minutes longer so the interior gets warmer.

Judging by the thick mound of dough at the base, I could also benefit from rolling out the dough a bit thinner and covering a smaller area so that the top doesn’t get stretched out as much. The result is reminiscent of a calzone, but of course the fillings are quite different.

Sous Vide Brisket at 140° F

After my previous attempts at sous vide brisket yielded a brittle, dry meat that was enjoyable only after being heavily drenched in barbeque sauce, I tried again with several modifications. I brined the brisket for a couple hours in a 4% salt and 3% sugar solution, rinsed the meat, and sealed it up. I cooked it at 140° F for 2 days. The results were for superior. While it’s still not my favorite cut, it was pleasant to eat, with good flavor and structure.

I could have arguably gotten away with tenderizing it even more by cooking it for an additional day, perhaps using a lower temp. Brisket varies a good deal from cut to cut, so your results may vary.

Either way, it’s great on a homemade baguette:

20140804-231613-83773725.jpg

Overnight No-Kneed Breakfast Rolls

There’s a local bakery chain in Boston called Flour. One of my favorite items is their breakfast sandwiches. Going out for breakfast, however, is a challenge when you don’t live close to said bakery and you have two young children.

I’ve long sought to replicate the experience at home. Fortunately, my recent experiences with pizza dough have made it much easier to reproduce these treats. I’ll go through the fillings in a subsequent post, but the rolls are dead simple to make. You’ll need a pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet), parchment paper, and a baking stone in your oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, you can probably get away with just cook these on a baking sheet, but you may have to cook them a bit longer.

This recipe makes 4 rolls, but feel free to scale up or down as needed.

The night before you intend to eat these, mix the following ingredients in a bowl (choose one big enough to allow room for more than doubling):

  • 280g bread flour (I like Caputo 00, but you can use whatever is convenient; even AP will do in a pinch)
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 196g room temperature water

Mix the dry ingredients together then add in the water. With a spoon, stir the mixture until all the flour is absorbed, but you don’t have to kneed the dough. The gluten will develop on its own. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight.

Preparing for tomorrow's breakfast with @asciirun

The next morning, place a piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel (the back of an overturned baking sheet will do if you don’t have one). Brush the surface with a thin coating of olive oil. Preheat your oven to 375 °F, turning on convection if you have it. If you have a baking stone or baking steel (I use the latter), make sure you give your oven adequate time to warm up (at least 30 minutes).

Turn out the dough onto a floured countertop and divide into four equal portions. The dough will be wet, so leave some extra flour around to dust the dough as needed. Fold each piece down while rotating it in your hands so the dough forms a ball with the folds connecting at the bottom. You should be able to accomplish this with about four quarter-turns of the dough. The idea is you want the out surface of the dough to be stretched to help the dough ball keep its shape.

As you finish each roll, place it on the parchment paper. When you are done, brush each lightly with olive oil. For a sweet version (my son loves these), you can then take some of these rolls and toss them gently in a bowl with cinnamon sugar (e.g. 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar, mixed well) before returning to the parchment.

Breakfast buns before...

Use the peel to shuttle the parchment paper onto the baking stone/steel and cook for 15 minutes. The internal temperature should be above 200° F. Let the rolls cool on a baking rack, ideally for around 30 minutes, though I’ve been known to be impatient.

Cut the rolls in half horizontally and make a sandwich of your choosing (e.g. egg, tomato, bacon). The cinnamon sugar version is great with cream cheese.

Brisket sous vide

It’s important to remember that sous vide is not a panacea. As with any cooking method, the results may differ from what you expect. You might think that sous vide would take out much of the variability, since the temperature and cooking time can be so precisely control, but variability in what you are cooking, and what you expect, can lead to (sometimes unwanted) surprises. After my successful run at cooking ribs sous vide, I tried the same with beef brisket. Brisket is supposedly one of the ideal cuts for sous vide, as the long cooking times possible with sous vide can break down the tough fibers of this cut.

I’m not really a big beef brisket eater. In fact, I can’t really recall the last time i had it. For this approach, I tried Douglas Baldwin’s approach of cooking at 176° F for 24 hours. The results were a dry, uninspiring meat that was reasonable doused in barbecue sauce, but nothing particularly impressive. To be fair to Baldwin, I didn’t follow his recommendation to brine the meat, but rather used a barbecue rub and torched the meat post-tank to give some character to the exterior.

I did freeze half the brisket prior to cooking though, so I may try this again soon…