Monthly Archives: January 2010

Peanut Butter Waffles

I don’t know exactly what spurred the urge, but sometime early December I got a serious case of waffles-on-the-brain. And it suddenly became clear that waffles aren’t on nearly as many menus as you might hope when suffering such an affliction. Not that I go out for breakfast all that often these days. That meal’s usually just a cup of coffee and bowl of cereal at home. But the few times that I did go out hoping for a nice warm, crisp, flavorful waffle I found only its brethren: French toast and pancakes. And they definitely don’t have those little crevaces of deliciousness to hold creamy butter and syrup!

Over a month later, waffle craving still unsatisfied, I had to take matters in my own hands. I pulled that simple old waffle iron from the lower cabinet and dug up a recipe.

I don’t make waffles often, for that aforementioned habit of keeping breakfast simple. But I had gone through a waffle-making phase this summer while developing recipes for my new cookbook, Gourmet Game Night (coming out early March!). The premise of the book is foods that are perfect partners for playing games, things that won’t get fingers messy and greasy, items that don’t require you to put down your cards to pick up a knife and fork. In the realm of sandwiches, I was dreaming of some interesting twist on peanut butter and jelly that would use waffles for the bread. Long story short, after multiple attempts at the recipe, I just had to walk away. Waffles weren’t working out. The recipe now sandwiches the berry jam-mascarpone filling between peanut buttery brownies instead.

BUT!!

That leaves me with this peanut butter waffle recipe that I’d developed. Maybe it didn’t work in that sandwich motif to accompany playing games. But as a stand-alone waffle I was pretty happy. So out of my recipes-that-didn’t-work recycle bin and back into the kitchen to help appease this waffle craving.

I’ve come to love graham flour in this past year or so, the nutty flavor it adds to recipes a welcome addition. I thought it would be a great partner to the peanut butter component of this batter. Because peanut butter is so delightfully high in fat (GOOD fat!), I did away with the melted butter that is typically in a waffle recipe. Should you want to omit the peanut butter, this recipe should work just fine using 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter instead.

Man, these waffles did hit the spot. And there’s really no sense in making just enough waffles for one. I went ahead and cooked off all the batter and once the extra waffles were cool, packed them into a resealable plastic bag and popped them into the freezer. Now it’s a matter of a few minutes in the toaster and it’s waffles for breakfast again! In fact, I think I hear them calling my name right now…..

Peanut Butter Waffles

 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup graham flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter, at room temperature

2 eggs, separated

Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high heat.

Stir together the all-purpose and graham flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, gently whisk together the buttermilk and peanut butter until smooth and well combined. Add the egg yolks and blend until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredient and stir gently just to mix.

Whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add about one third of the egg whites to the batter and use a rubber spatula to briskly fold them in to lighten the batter, then more gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour a generous 1/2 cup of the batter onto the waffle iron (more or less depending on the size of your iron). Close the waffle iron and cook until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue with the remaining batter.

Serve warm, with butter and maple syrup or a schmear of your favorite jam.

Makes 8 to 10 waffles

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Memories of Chef Chambrette

He was such a gem of a man. Monsieur Fernand Chambrette. A gentleman of small stature, big heart, giant talents and not a small dose of the devilish imp that will be so greatly missed by those who knew and loved him, and certainly those who learned from him. 

We all knew him simply as Chambrette, though addressed him directly with a respectful “oui, Chef!” He was director of 

At the Chateau du Fey circa 1991; notice we're both standing on the same step...

La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris for many years, having joined the school in 1976, the year after Anne Willan opened the school’s doors. From that day forward, Chambrette was an integral part of attending that wonderful school. In her 1981 book La Varenne’s Paris Kitchen, Anne’s profile of Chambrette notes that he is a “study in contrasts. He professes a cynical attitude toward life, yet has to bite his lower lip to keep from laughing at his own jokes.” 

And sometimes he was biting that lower lip to keep from laughing at the awkward, off-kilter, entertaining nature of the wide-eyed students that flocked to France to learn from one of the country’s masters. He was famous for having a particular twinkle in his eye, but when that smile turned extra-sweet and the twinkle turned a little mischievous, it was time to retrace your recent steps and activities and imagine what you might have done to humor him so. But another time, the slightest nod in your direction with a little wink might mean “quick, get over here” as he hands you some trim ends from the foie gras terrine he just unmolded. (If he hadn’t already determined to take it home to his cat.) 

Chambrette was a highly trained chef of the old school style, having started in kitchens as an apprentice at the age of twelve. At the height of his restaurant career, he was chef-owner of La Boule d’Or in Paris, a restaurant that gained two Michelin stars. In the 1950s book, Paris Cuisine, that he wrote with Alexander Watt, James Beard said of La Boule d’Or that “it is charming and unpretentious and both Monsieur Chambrette…and his wife…have transformed this bistro into one of the most attractive restaurants in Paris.” 

La Varenne became something of a second career for Chambrette, an apt way to continue sharing his talents. Though he never played at the image of French cuisine being fussy or pretentious. The chef ribbed anyone and everyone, short of Anne Willan and her husband Mark Cherniavsky (at least I never caught him doing so!). And he loved to shock and provoke. Rather than delicately dip the tip of a finger into a saucepan to check the seasoning of a sauce, he’d dunk 2 digits a couple inches into the pot and pop them in his mouth to sample. And I swear I once saw him spit into a skillet to check if it was hot enough…. 

I remember one very ruddy morning at the school in Paris. Having completed my stagiaire program (rather like work-study), I was a full-fledged student for a six-week course. Some random excuse provoked late-night drinking with pals the night before, I was in a delicate, fuzzy state–which I think Chambrette surmised the second he laid eyes on me. The eight or ten of us sat down around the work block and, without speaking a word, the chef picked up one of those live eels and a heavy meat hook. I swear he stared straight at me the whole time as he proceeded to skin the thing (sparing you all the gory details), testing my bleary-eyed stamina for such things. 

Chambrette had all the French classics securely under his belt, no doubt about it. Seafood vol au vent, bien sûr. A beautiful vegetable terrine layered with veal mousseline. Croquembouche. You name it. But he was not the least elitist about culinary repertoire. He’d be just as happy, as Anne points out in Paris Kitchen, creating something delicious from bits and pieces of vegetables and leftovers in the refrigerator as he would be tackling a beef tenderloin. Happier, probably. 

Chambrette and Anne, from the back cover of La Varenne's Paris Kitchen

He was practical down to the core. Disdain for the food processor? Not Chambrette. I remember a situation when I asked the chef if he wanted me to blend or mince something or other by hand, presuming that showing my knife skills was part of the program. The essence of his response was “why bother? you’ve got a perfectly good tool there ready to do that work for you.” 

I have Chambrette to thank for my confidence and delight in making many things, not the least of which is tarte tatin, the decadent upside down tart made with deeply caramelized apples. (A long overdue blog post about that is in the works, I even have step-by-step shots ready to go!). And I can still hear him telling the class about how he felt that “les Goldens” were one of the best apples to use for that recipe. Not a beloved French heirloom variety the likes of Calville Blanc d’Hiver or Reine de Reinette. But the humble Golden Delicious apple. It was a lesson in things culinary and otherwise. 

I came along to La Varenne in 1989, about a year before the school closed its doors in Paris, at which point operations continued at Château du Feÿ down in Burgundy. For several years, Chambrette would hop the train at Gare de Lyon now and then , making the trip to the château to  teach classes. It was always a treat to have him at the château for a few days, but it was clear that château living was not his style. He always insisted on staying in the smallest room over near the student kitchen, the tiny chambrette (little room) that seemed to fit him to a T, literally and figuratively. And any time we couldn’t find Chambrette, sure money was on him having sauntered down to the guardian’s home at the end of the drive. He’d be visiting with Monsieur and Madame Milbert at their rickety little table in the kitchen, sipping Monsieur Milbert’s homemade calvados and talking about the garden and weather and surely gossiping about all the nutty Americans and English and Australians they find themselves surrounded by. Far more his speed than sitting in the grand salon of the château, chitter-chatting with students and guests over after-dinner coffee and digestifs

I was happy to keep in touch with Chambrette over the years after I left La Varenne in 1991. We’d exchange Christmas cards (written by Madame Chambrette, of course!) and I visited him a few times in Paris on future visits. Outside of the classroom, away from teaching and being “on” with students, he was such a relaxed, mellow character. It’s almost hard to imagine–sitting in his living room sipping tea–that teaching suited him so well. But it did. And I count myself a thousand times lucky that I was able to spend some phenomenal hours in his presence. As noted on a string of email from friends telling of his death this week, “it’s the end of an era.” Indeed it is.

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Extra Toasty Cornbread

This morning’s breakfast was a particularly good eye-opener, a nice change of pace from my standard fare (english muffin with peanut butter, yogurt with Grape Nuts, bowl of cereal). Today, I slipped a piece of cornbread from the pan in which I’d baked it yesterday. I cut the piece in half and toasted it for a few minutes under the broiler. The tiniest swipe of butter, a nice spread of some homemade Meyer lemon marmalade that a friend made. Peppered with occasional sips of reviving coffee, it was a delightful breakfast. One I’ll repeat as long as that pan of cornbread holds out.

I’d been looking at that bag of cornmeal on my kitchen cupboard for a couple of months now, the one I brought home from my October trip to Philadelphia. Visiting friends in nearby Chester County before hitting the city had included a quick trip to The Mill at Anselma, a historic site that has been grinding grains for over 250 years. I bought a bag of their cornmeal in the “dark roasted” style, intrigued by a product I’d never used before. The Pennsylvania-grown corn is milled, the grains toasted before packing. Even while I was stirring the batter, the distinctive nutty aroma of the cornmeal was easy to notice. Even more so when the pan of golden bread came from the oven, smelling as much like a hazelnut cake as a cornbread. I haven’t done much snooping for it around the Seattle area, so have no idea if dark roasted cornmeal is available from other sources. But the gift shop where I bought the cornmeal at the mill will mail products as well, ordered over the phone.

The recipe I used for inspiration in making the cornbread yesterday was from James Beard. His American Cookery book (this link’s to a newer paperback release, I have the old hardback version) is a favorite go-to reference for old-school Americana recipes and ideas. In that book he says “The finest corn bread I have ever eaten came from the recipe of the late Jeanne Owen, who was a brilliant cook and a stalwart disciple of the art of good living. Mrs. Owen often served it for cocktails in the form of small square sandwiches filled with bits of ham.”

I had to make a few amendments. I’m not much of a baker, to the degree that it takes forever for me to go through a tin of baking powder. Until yesterday. Scattered across the bottom of the tin was only about half of what the recipe called for. I supplemented with baking soda, but know that it really needs a bit of acid to rev up (thus the buttermilk often called for in recipes with baking soda). No buttermilk in the fridge, so I added a couple doses of red wine vinegar to the milk. Not, perhaps, an ideal work-around, but it really did the job yesterday. I guess this recipe ended up being not only a study in how that dark roasted cornmeal tastes, but also one in ingredient replacement! You’ll see other notes about my alterations in the recipe below.

Jeanne Owen’s Corn Bread (from James Beard’s American Cookery)

1/2 cup sifted flour

1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal [I used the Anselma dark roasted corn meal]

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder [I used 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 1/2 tsp baking soda]

3 eggs, well beaten

1 cup milk [I added about 1 tsp red wine vinegar as acidity needed for baking soda]

1/4 cup cream [I didn’t have any cream, used extra milk instead]

1/3 cup melted butter [I used 1/2 cup, to replace some of milkfat that would have been in cream]

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and milk and beat with a wooden spoon. Beat in the cream, and lastly the melted butter. Pour into an 8 1/2 x 11-inch well-buttered pan [I used a 9-inch square pan, worked fine] and bake at 400 degrees approximately 15 to 18 minutes. Cut in square while still hot and fold into a napkin before serving.

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On Cooking Quick: Pork Piperade

A few months ago a walking buddy mentioned that she’d just checked out my blog for the first time and enjoyed poking around it a bit. “You sure make cooking sound fun,” she said. Thoroughly unconvinced. 

After a few minutes of chatting with her about cooking at home, it became clear she’s simply one of the non-cooks who roam the planet amongst us who live to cook. With holidays having just passed, it became clear to me again how  purely happy it makes me to putter around the kitchen. I approached most of our Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s meals with a general plan of action, a menu of sorts. But in all cases I ended up tweaking things as I went, amending plans, adding a new dish or two. I never tire of that creative process, the satisfaction of producing tasty food, the pleasure of the hands-on craft of cooking. 

So I may have a hard time relating to folks who really just can’t stand to be in the kitchen. But I try not to forget that the non-cooks are out there. I’ve taken my friend’s admission as a motivation, of sorts, to share more often the quickie dinners I make many nights here at home. Just because I’m a cookbook author, recipe developer, food writer — doesn’t mean it’s all stuffed veal roasts and cassoulet every day. I’m a working stiff like the rest of you. And while I do benefit from working at home–which means I can toss a few ingredients together mid-afternoon and set it on the stove to simmer while I keep working–it doesn’t mean I devote a whole lot more to weeknight cooking than do most others. 

The first few paragraphs of this post describe a very quick braising option for lamb shoulder steaks that is a new personal favorite. It can be varied by using different herbs and spices, maybe orange instead of the lemon. A nice staple to fall back on frequently. And this post with its description of a yogurt-marinated chicken I do quite often has become one of the most-viewed posts in the lifetime of this blog! Clearly everyone’s on the lookout for easy, quick-to-assemble, delicious food that’s still made from scratch. 

I’ve got nothing at all against canned and frozen foods. As ingredients. I go through plenty of canned tomatoes (extra-delicious San Marzano, for a splurge). We love chickpeas so I always have a can or two of them on hand (good for everything from hummus to stews). Chicken broth (old-school canned Swanson’s or more flavorful organic Pacific, depending) is a standard. I might toss frozen green beans into a stir-fry.  A rare “just add water” meal might be falafel, in a pinch. But we don’t have anything on hand that includes instructions like “peel back the plastic and ….” I don’t even own a microwave!! 

I realize the non-cooks out there, like my pal Judy, may not believe me when I say this, but it is easier than you think to serve a tasty, easy, quick dinner that you’ve made from scratch. This does presume that you have basics. Pots and 

Before......

 pans. Staples like oil, butter, garlic, onions, maybe a lemon and a bunch of parsley? A few good spices on the shelf (salt and pepper of course; I also love cumin, dried thyme, coriander, red chile flakes, herbes de provence). Just a few fresh things to pick up at the store. You’ll get in the swing. And the flavor’s  outstanding. More vibrant. More distinct. 

Here’s what’s on the stove tonight. A simplified version of the Basque pipérade, a condiment/side dish that usually involves onions, fresh bell peppers and tomatoes. (A) I’m not a huge fan of fresh bell peppers and (b) I didn’t have any on hand. Plus, (c) a few days ago I’d received in the mail a jar of pickled Calabrian peppers from chef Dustin Clark at Wildwood restaurant down in Portland. He uses them on slow-cooked pork belly with fresh shell beans, and tossed with ricotta cheese gnocchi. Those weren’t on the menu tonight at my house, but I knew the peppers would add some zip to an otherwise standard cut of meat. 

I had a pork tenderloin on tap for tonight, a longtime favorite quick-dinner choice for me. Many nights I just slather it with Dijon mustard and pressed garlic (or rub it with equal parts ground cumin and coriander) and pop it in the oven to roast. Which would make this a 2-minute prep dinner instead of the maybe 15 minutes it’ll take you to work on this before it goes in the oven.  

First I took stock of what’s on hand. Onions (it’s a dark day when I look down and don’t see onions in their basket). Garlic (ditto). Celery (nice fresh flavor and crunch). Those aforementioned peppers. Reliable can of diced tomatoes on the kitchen shelf. Good to go. 

Slice 1 onion and 2 to 3 stalks of celery. Crush and coarsely chop 4 to 5 cloves garlic. Open can of tomatoes. Have a sip of martini, if you have one handy. 

Salt and pepper on the tenderloin, quickly brown it  in olive oil on all sides in a deep skillet. Set aside on a plate. 

... and after. Tasty! And easy.

Add onion, celery, garlic to skillet. Sauté a few minutes until partly browned and beginning to soften. Add tomatoes with all their juices and cook a few minutes more . Scatter 1/2 cup or so of some variety of pickled peppers in the pan. Chef Clark doesn’t (yet) make his available outside the restaurant, but I’m also a huge fan of Mama Lil’s peppers, they’d be an awesome choice here too. (And a local Washington company, to boot!) 

Return the pork tenderloin to the pan, nestle it down into the vegetables and spoon some of them over to cover the pork. Add the pan’s lid and put it in a 275°F oven for about 35 minutes. This is a lean cut of meat and doesn’t hold up well to the extended braising time of other meats. It should be only barely pink in the center of the thickest part. Transfer the meat to a clean plate, cover with foil to keep warm and just set that skillet on medium-high heat to boil away much of the excess liquid, creating a wonderful topping for the meat. (Hey, remember that the skillet was just in the oven, be sure to use a hot pad to handle it!! this is experience talking.) 

Slice the meat, arrange it on 2 plates, spoon the onion/tomato/pepper mixture over and that’s quite a meal you have! I’m serving it tonight with simple steamed rice and a salad of sliced cucumber tossed with plain yogurt and minced garlic. 

If anything coming out of the freezer section tastes as good as that, I’ll eat my hat. Which is made with hand-spun alpaca and merino wools, with a bit of milk fiber tossed in, so I might survive if it comes to that.

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