Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Breakfast Worthy of Birthday

A Breakfast Worthy of Birthday

My ideal birthday is very low key; nobody wants an energetic extravaganza between Christmas and New Year's. The weather gave me a great gift in the first real snow of the season. My gift to myself was this big, elaborately sloppy plate of huevos rancheros that forces you to abandon silverware and eat it with your hands.

If you want to play along at home, here's a breakdown:
  • Pan toasted flour tortilla (little olive oil in the pan on top of whatever flavor was left from the onions)
  • Sweet onion, sauteed with magical spice blend
  • Black beans with chipotle powder and garlic
  • 2 eggs cooked sunny side up with cheddar cheese on top (cooked with cover on), sprinkled with salt, pepper, and hot, smoked paprika
  • medium salsa
  • sour cream
  • mixed greens
  • half a perfectly ripe avocado, sprinkled with salt
Bonus birthday gift from my cast iron skillet: being able to cook onions, tortilla and eggs in it successively without having to clean it before (or after!) any step.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Snappier Ginger Snaps

All my favorite winter weather dishes come from hot climates: Spicy coconut curry, robust moles. I understand the theory of spicy foods for hot climates: that it causes you to sweat which, in turn, helps you cool down. It just happens to make just as much sense in a situation where it can't heat you quite to the point of sweating. Maybe, to the point of taking off a sweater.

Why should savory foods have all the fun, though? Even sweet foods that should be spicy aren't. Consider gingerbread: if you eat fresh ginger, candied ginger, or the right kinds of ginger beer, it will, at the very least, tingle your tongue a bit. However, your average gingerbread cookie doesn't have anywhere near the bite of fresh ginger. When it comes down to it, you're simply not going to get that flavor from ground, dried ginger. So, I decided to call in reinforcements. My mom, in her baking days, let me in on her trick of using black pepper in her her gingerbread. I decided to raise the stakes to red pepper. I brought the first batch into work, and I had some folks declaring them the best gingerbread cookies they'd ever had and some running for the water fountain (I dialed down the chili powder the next time I made it).

This recipe is a variation on the the crinkle cookie - a sticky dough rolled in sugar, the sugary crust crackling as the cookie rises and spread. There are many schools of thought on thought on this type of cookie. Some recipes are built around whipped egg whites and a suspicious number start with boxed cake mix (?). Even more basic enough is the question of butter or vegetable oil. Many of the butter-based recipes (including an intriguing brown butter crinkle cookie) use it melted, so it comes down to a matter of flavor vs. convenience. You can make either of these recipes with butter instead, but increase to ¾ c. (1½ sticks).

Crinkle cookies are a great go-to when you have a burning need to make cookies - as happens - but are out of butter or don't have time to let butter soften (or if you're serving someone who can't have dairy).

Actually Spicy Ginger Crinkle Cookies

adapted from Megan Applegate's Nana's Recipe (which wasn't quite so spicy)
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ c. molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar (+ 2-4 tablespoons for rolling)
  • 2 teaspoon gr. cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon gr ginger
  • ½ tsp gr. clove
  • ¼-½ tsp. gr. chili (I used chipotle)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°
Whip oil, molasses, sugar, egg to creamy. It will still have a loose texture, but will emulsify some. Add spices and beat on low to incorporate. Add baking soda, salt, flour and mix on low to blend.

If you're patient, you can stick the dough in the fridge for an hour and it will stick to your fingers a little less. If you don't mind a little cookie dough on your hands, barrel right along. Roll into walnut-sized balls (~1" diameter), roll in granulated sugar, place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake at 350° for 10-13 minutes. They will seems very soft when they come out, but resist the urge to put them back in. If you bake them until they feel firm, they will be too hard and dry when they cool off. Feel free to experiment with what time/size combo works best for you, but this arrangement gets me lusciously chewy cookies.


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