Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter treats

Went to Trader Joe's to pick up my groceries for page 70 of the May 2010 Saveur tonight... came home with a few stowaways.

They didn't have fresh okra (or carrots, strangely), so I'm going to stew eggplant instead. I picked up some holiday delights -- gingerbread coffee is already scooped into the coffeemaker, set timer to one happy morning. Bring it, Tuesday. I also picked up a holiday sweet: the Dark Chocolate Minty Mallows were winking at me.

I got together a bunch of things for the Saveur recipes, and a few staples, but as I wandered the uncharacteristically clear aisles at the Silver Lake store, I realized that I was really craving something special. Something fast and easy. I tossed some of their cave-aged Gruyere and a loaf of the cracked wheat sourdough into my cart and decided that tonight's the night that I perfect the croque madame.

I had always understood this French dish to be your basic piece of buttered toast with gruyere and a sunny side-up egg. But to be sure of proportions and to read up on tips, I went to the bookshelf. I pulled down my French heavy-hitters: Feast of France and Jacques Pepin's Table. Though FoF has a recipe for nettle soup and pig knuckles, nothing on the eggy sammy du jour. And the Pepin book only had a recipe for croque monsieur with a note about how it could be turned into a madame by adding chicken.

Say what? I always thought the croque madame was a bit of an inside joke, with the eggs being symbolic of bosoms. I guess I could look it up now on the interwebs, but who cares. My croque will have no coq in it. I make the calls in my kitchen.

I didn't give up until I crossed poultry in a croque again in one of my weirder cookbooks, "The Best of Bon Apetit." The book was published the year of my birth: 1979.

The following things appear on its cover:
A roaring fire. A basket of green and red apples. A massive ladle. Large silver bowls of tomato soup with lemon slices floating in the middle. A bowl of clean white button mushrooms. The fixings for BLTs in a glass tray. Suspiciously light colored wine. An earthenware jug.

In case that doesn't paint a picture:
Peeshie gives an approving sniff.

So I gave up and improvised. It came out really great.

Croque Madamoiselle Chezmo
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Melt 1 pat of butter in frying pan, toast 1 slice sourdough bread. Set aside on oven sheet.
3. Fry egg in a little more butter.
4. Before yolk sets up too much, slip egg onto piece of toast.
5. Grate gruyere and parmesan with small grater, mix in half a teaspoon of Dijon and a big squirt of lemon juice. Sprinkle over egg, toast.
6. Put under broiler for a few minutes.

It was awesome with a cucumber-tomato salad.

Then I got ambitious. I made the Saveur Orange-Scented Olive Oil Cake tonight, the first of four dishes I was hoping to make from that particular page I liked in the May 2010 issue. It's making the house smell so awesome _ which almost makes me forget that I'm the horrible sort of baker who had to fish an eggshell out of the batter right before it went into the oven. Sigh. Hopefully the cake is not crunchy.

Is it supposed to be so tall?

Do you see the face of Papa Smurf on this thing?

The cake is cooling now. A last glaze of orange juice mixed with confectioner's sugar is supposed to go on in 15 minutes. I'm thinking of adding one tiny touch my own: sliced almonds on top.

(Update: cake is pretty great tasting! I think I should have let it cook a bit longer for a drier crumb. Next time 45-48 minutes at 350.)

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