Friday, March 21, 2008


Yes, the calendar told me it was Spring yesterday, but I didn't need it to. The Bradford Pears are blooming, the daffodils are at full tilt, and the yards are blindingly green. The mowers were out in full force, and that smell, that lovely wonderful smell of cut grass, was on the wind *every*where I went.

SPRING, baby! Spring. I LOVE YOU.

So let's celebrate with my favorite green vegetable.


2 slices white sandwich bread , torn into quarters
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


2 pounds broccoli(about 1 large bunch), florets trimmed to 1-inch pieces, stalks peeled and chopped medium
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium garlic clove , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
8 ounces Colby cheese , shredded (about 1 1/3 cups)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (about 1 1/3 cups)

Ground black pepper
1. For the topping: Process the bread and butter in a food processor until coarsely ground, about six 1-second pulses; set aside.

2. For the filling: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the broccoli to the boiling water; cover and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the broccoli and leave it in the colander; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, mustard, and cayenne; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour turns golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and milk; bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until large bubbles erupt at the surface and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the colby and cheddar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Spread the broccoli in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish (or shallow casserole dish of similar size). Whisk the cheese sauce again briefly and pour over the broccoli. Sprinkle with the bread-crumb topping. Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

And there you have it, just broccoli and cheese (and butter and bread) and it rocks. Thank you once again, Cooks Illustrated ...


Now for something completely different...

Baked Eggs over Mushrooms and Croutons

This sounded so weird I had to try it. Besides, I love all those things--Egg, Mushrooms, and Buttered Bread Cubes. This is a great lunch, and a very filling/comforting non-meat based dinner. I might even say it'd make a hell of a brunch dish, if you were feeding a small group. I made mine for both of us in a small casserole dish, but I'm always for any excuse to buy individual casseroles or ramekins, and this would be awesome served that way.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices bread, cut into small cubes--use a good, heavy course bread, no fluffy white stuff. Our no-knead bread is PERFECT for this.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallot or onion
  • 6 large brown mushrooms, cremini or Portobello, thickly sliced (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 generous teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup red wine (okay, preggos, you can use broth--veggie, chicken, beef, etc)
  • 2 or 4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly butter your baking dish(es) and set them on a cookie sheet.

2. Melt half the butter in a medium skillet, add the cubed bread, and toss it about the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until it's golden and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes, but not hard. Spread the croutons in the dishes.

3. Heat the oil and remaining butter in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Raise the heat, then add the mushrooms, most of the herbs, and a few pinches of salt. Sauté until the mushrooms have started to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the wine or broth and immediately scrape the pan to release the juicy bits. Lower the heat and simmer until a few tablespoons of juice remain. Season with salt and pepper and divide the mushrooms between the dishes.

4. Break the eggs over the croutons and mushrooms and add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Bake until the white are set, about 15 minutes, and the yolks are as firm as you like. Remove, sprinkle the rest of the herbs over the top, and serve.

Now, I will admit to an addition that takes the vegetarian element right out of this dish, but made it stellar, and that's my old friend, Bacon. Y'all, I love bacon, and I have to restrain myself to not cook it every day and add it to everything I eat. Bacon is LOVE, you guys. Pure crispy love. So, I chopped a few pieces of raw bacon and sauteed it in with the shallots. And it was divine. So if you aren't opposed to diggin' on some swine, I highly recommend it.

Okay, I'm off to enjoy the amazine spring weather--all my fur-kids are wandering in the back yard as we speak, and I think a nap on the deck is in order this fine Good Friday.

Have a beautiful weekend, kids. Let's talk about Food Club and Coverlets on Monday, shall we?