Tuesday, August 31, 2010

one pan, one plate, one fork

Dinner tonight was good. I like simple food. I like local, seasonal ingredients.

I am not turned on by complicated recipes or lots of ingredients or fancy technique. I want to be stunned, practically into silence, by taste, texture, fragrance, color.

I turn my nose at the watery, sickly looking yokes of industrial eggs. The beige pallor of cellophane-wrapped chicken breasts dispels any hunger. Yellow-orange cheddar makes me cringe and melons in January are not worth a glance.

On the other hand, give me seasonal, local food and I go out of my way to savor it. The bright orange of a "happy egg" finds me looking for that perfectly green plate to serve it on. The buttery shade and velvet body of the cream i use for my coffee makes me pause every single morning, while it swirls and blooms in dark liquid. The fragrance of slow-cooked pork from a local, family farm has me dreaming of 2nd, 3rd and 4th renditions so as to utilize every last bit.

I want my beer to bite back, my bread to be a contradiction of textures - chewy crust and tender crumb, my sweet peppers fragrant and bright, my beets bleeding dark red on my butcher block. Tomatoes should live up to their nickname "love apple" and my cheese should educate me in the mysteries of chemical change.

All of this brings me to dinner. Tonight, I made myself Toad-in-the-Hole, a dish reintroduced to me by a Sterling College student who moonlighted as a breakfast cook twice a week. My youngest daughter discovered it while eating at a great diner in Montecito, CA and asks for it often. On occasion, i find myself eating alone, but wanting to experience well prepared food with quality ingredients. Tonight is one such night.

My rendition of Toad-in-the-Hole is a bit more grown up that most, using staples i always have on hand - good bread, good eggs, good cheese and seasonal veggies.

So, without further comment or chatter, the recipe.

E's Toad-n-the-Hole with Brassicas:

Serves Two

1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cups of hardy greens/brassicas (i used broccoli leaves, beet greens, kale, chard, adolescent spinach, broccoli blooms, etc)
1 T oil (sunflower or olive)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 T of quality, unsalted butter
2 thick slices of Elmore Mt Bread, Country French
2 eggs, preferably from happy, un-confined, grazing hens (i used Pa Pa Doodles)
3 T finely grated Blythdale Farm Gruyere
2 T finely grated Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Jasper Hill

a medium sized frying pan and a beautiful plate

Heat the pan over medium high heat. Add oil. When oil just begins to shimmer, but before it smokes, add onion and saute until fragrant.

Add brassicas and quickly coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute until just wilted. Remove from pan and mound on beautiful plate.

Take bread slices and cut a hole in the middle with a biscuit cutter, knife, what-have-you. Set removed bread aside and lightly butter.

Using same pan from above, melt leftover butter over medium heat. Add bread slices and lightly grill for 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low. Crack eggs in the holes and sprinkle on half the cheese. Fry for another 2 minutes or until whites begin to solidify.

Gently flip egg/bread to cook the other side. In the meantime, sprinkle a pinch of cheese on the bread cutouts and grill lightly, cheese side down, sprinkling the up side with another pinch of cheese. Flip and finish grilling.

When egg is done to desired consistency (i recommend easy to easy medium), flip onto the bed of brassicas, sprinkle with more cheese and ground black pepper. Top with the cheesy bread cut outs.

Enjoy with a hoppy beer or a glass of dry white wine.