Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Favorite Meal, Ever.

I hope you're all having a deliciously wonderful Thanksgiving, y'all!  My family and I are doing the big feast on Saturday, but today began with something special: my Mom's breakfast casserole.  Which also happens to be My Very Favorite Food in the Whole Wide World.  Really, it is.  Once we had filled ourselves full of rich, hot coffee (as is our tradition)...

...we sat down to devour this amazing beauty.  The recipe's below.  You won't believe it only has 4 eggs in it!

Here's the recipe (which was served at my bon voyage brunch when I left for Belfast a few years ago).


Enjoy your day, give thanks for the food you have to eat and the company you have to share it with (pet and otherwise).  I have so much to be thankful for, and breakfast casserole?  Well, that makes my coffee cup runneth over with gratitude.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

gravy train

Sometimes, one will have a simple bowl of fruit for breakfast.  

But not at my Grandmother's house.  Fruit is fine, but her gravy is fantastic!  She's made me biscuits and gravy when I've visited for as long as I can remember.

I'm not really giving the recipe here (because it's one of those recipes that goes more by instinct than measurement), but it's essentially bacon drippings, flour, milk, salt and pepper.  Just the best breakfast/dinner ever, made even tastier by all the memories of eating it growing up.

Also a tradition in our family: hot coffee, and lots of it.  All morning long.  My family likes to savor the coffee-drinking, paper-reading, life-pondering moments of the morning and rush the boring stuff like getting ready into as small a time as possible.  I'm pretty sure one of my earliest memories is the sound of these exact coffee cups clinking against the saucer.  

Thanks for your joy and hospitality, Grandmother.  And for that delectable gravy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

no monday blues here

Dinner.  You've worked really hard and are hungry and it would be just so easy to grab something that comes in a bag.  But, there's something so satisfying about sitting down with homemade mushroom risotto* after a long day.  You actually wind up feeling more relaxed after having gone to the effort to treat yourself well with good food.  So, happy Monday, y'all.  This lil gal has been packing her heart out to get ready for moving to North Carolina.  What fun.

Bon appetit!
*I don't have a recipe I used, but risotto's like clockwork: pretty much the same every time and you can put whatever you want in it.  Mushrooms risotto is probably the most classic.  For step-by-step risotto recipes I've posted, go here.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

the best thing to come out of toaster oven since sliced bread

Doozy of a blog post title, huh?  But I was very pleased with how delicious this eggplant parmesan recipe from my friend Lynn was.  And even more pleased that I was able to pull it off in a toaster oven.  I know, you're wondering why on earth lilrevchef would put eggplant in a toaster oven (I might just be the first person to have ever done that).  Well, it seems that, to put it in Texan vernacular, I done gone cooked my oven to death, y'all.  I was making a batch of those scrumptious snickerdoodles the other day and right as they came out of the oven, I noticed one of the elements burning really brightly.  Like welding-you-should-have-protective-eyewear brightly.  I turned off the oven and watched as it had it's own little fourth of July celebration, sending sparks flying in all directions as the element burnt out.  Not good.  It'll definitely need a new element before it's safe to use.  But, never one to let a little thing like an exploding oven to stop me from cooking, I decided to make use of my toaster oven and see just how much the latter term was really true.  It worked!  I do recommend that you make this in a regular oven.  It's funny, my friend Tad has asked for a retro recipe from the 60's and I think it would probably be trying to make this in a toaster oven, or making something in the microwave, being stunned with the amazing developments in technology!  

You'll need one, one pound eggplant/aubergine.  I halved Lynn's recipe (to make it toaster-oven adaptable and about 5 servings).

The recipe calls for whole wheat panko bread crumbs (which are wonderfully crisp Japanese breadcrumbs that are infinitely better than the sawdust that passes for regular breadcrumbs).  But I couldn't find whole wheat ones, so I just toasted up regular panko breadcrumbs making them extra crispy.  Check out that chef move tossing those breadcrumbs in the pan!  I can set ovens on fire, but I can also do other things, y'all.

I just toasted them in a dry pan on medium, shaking often until golden brown.

Peel your eggplant.  It is SO easy compared to that beastly butternut.

I sliced it in about 1/3 inch rounds, a bit thinner than the recipe called for because comments on the recipe said it made them more tender.

Add one tablespoon of water to two eggs and whisk together.

Add about 1/4 cup of parmesan to your panko breadcrumbs and stir to combine.

Dredge eggplant slices in the egg...

and then the breadcrumb mixture, pressing lightly to get the breadcrumbs to adhere and then shaking off the excess.

Bake at 375ºF/190ºC for about 30 minutes until crispy outside and tender inside.  My teeny toaster oven only let me fit about half of them, so I ended up pan-crisping the others in a little olive oil on medium heat.  And, though it might not be as healthy, those were the most tender, flavorful slices of eggplant.  Do whatever ya like.

Now we need to get some of our filling put together.  This eggplant parmesan is really a bit like lasagna, with yummy layers of cheesy goodness.  Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic.

Add in a handful of basil, chopped, but save some for the top.

Add in about 7 ounces of part-skim ricotta.

And 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and one egg.  Stir together well to incorporate.

Your second sauce is easy-peasy: whatever old jarred sauce you'd like to use.  I had this one.  Okay, follow carefully: apply pressure to the top of the jar and turn the lid to remove.  I know, so difficult.  Take a little power nap after this if you need to.

Lightly spray a small baking dish (about 4''x8'' I think) with cooking spray and then put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom.

Follow that with a layer of the eggplant and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of salt (I call that a pinch).

Then add more sauce,

that yummy ricotta mixture,

and top it with a slice of mozzarella and a sprinkling of fontina.  Cheesy heaven!

Continue layering, ending with the tomato sauce on top.  Ignore mesmerizing Medusa stare of begging dog.

Bake in that toaster oven/oven for about 30 minutes, covered with foil.

(You go, toaster oven!  This is your moment to shine.  You're capable of so much more than toast.)

Then take the foil off, add a layer of mozzarella and fontina on top and let melt in oven for another ten minutes.  Top with torn basil.

Divine!  Toaster oven, well done, old friend.

Bon appetit!