A friend is moving back to her native Sicily and I hosted a brunch for her yesterday. There were 7 of us and our menu was:
– Butternut Squash & Kale gratin
– Southern Biscuits
– Trio of amazing fruit preserves
– Crispy Bacon
– Winter Fruit Salad
– Soft Scrambled Eggs
And a dear friend showed up with not only bubbly, guava, and peach juice, but also a big thing of tortellini salad. Thanks Lauren! (MR. Y finished it off after the movie!)
I’m not going to preach on the easiest of this list of dishes–a quick note about bacon and eggs.
Scrambled Eggs. The key to your success is low heat and lots of stirring. You know what most recipes tell you to do with risotto? Don’t do that with risotto. Do it with eggs. They will take longer, but they will not taste like you made them in the microwave.
Bacon should be served crispy and taken out of the pan just before you think it looks crispy. It’ll get there.
My no-fail recipe for Southern Biscuits comes from Alton Brown. Don’t try to outdo it, you won’t. I follow it to a T and end up making it several days in a row after reviving it for an occasion. In fact, I’m going to go buy more flour as soon as I finish writing this. I served them with fig-almond spread, plum preserves and peach preserves from local frog hollow farms. You can buy the latter ones on their website.
Winter Fruit Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
3/4 Cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
3 star anise
zest of 1 lemon
10-12 dried apricots, sliced in half
Juice from the same lemon
3 firm pears of any variety (I used Comice, Bosc, and D’anjou)
1 tart apple
Bring 4 cups water and sugar to boil with star anise, vanilla bean. Add lemon zest and dried apricots, and let cool completely. Meanwhile, peel all of your remaining fruits and remove the cores (the easiest way to remove the core of an apple is to quarter it, and turn each quarter on its side, slicing diagonally the core area off). Slice the fruit thinly and evenly and toss in the lemon juice. When syrup is cooled, gently mix all together, cover, and store 8 hours or overnight in the fridge. Serve with slotted spoon. I reserved the remaining syrup for another use in the freezer.
Butternut Squash & Kale Gratin (also adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
For an oval gratin pan, 13″ long and 3″ deep
1.25 lb thinly sliced butternut squash
1.5 lb dino/lacinato kale and/or baby rainbow chard–I did 50% of each–clean & cut into small pieces
1 small onion, diced
pinch of nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream or whole milk
4 T butter
2 T flour
1 T fresh flatleaf/Italian parsley, minced
1 T fresh thyme, mined
1 1/4 C gruyere cheese (about 5 oz)
lots of salt & pepper
Start by washing and spinning dry your greens. Dice the onion and begin cooking it at medium low heat in a large pan in 2 T butter. When soft, add any chard stems you are using and a pinch of nutmeg, salt, pepper. Cook another 1-2 minutes. Add greens and keep adding & stirring until all are wilted. Turn off heat and place mixture in a fine collander to remove excess moisture.
Sauce: bring 2 C cream or milk to near boil with the garlic, being sure not to let it burn. Meanwhile, in a larger sauce pan, melt 2 T butter. When melted and water content is steamed off, add the flour and whisk, cooking 1-2 min more. Add the hot milk and whisk for 1-2 more minutes while bringing to a boil, turn off and leave it alone.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange 1/2 the butternut squash in your pan, evenly along the bottom. Add 1/4 the herbs, salt, pepper, and then top with 1/4 C of the cheese. Next, half the greens evenly on top. More salt & pepper, more herbs, more cheese. Pour 1/2 the sauce evenly over it at this point, and go back to the butternut squash slices. Add salt, pepper, then herbs, cheese. Add the rest of the greens, the herbs, salt & pepper. Top wit the rest of the sauce and then the rest of the cheese. Bake uncovered for the first 1/2 hour, throw foil on it for the 2nd half.
As an aside, I want to reitorate how happy I am in my new space. Oh my gosh, look at that, I have a entry table! With a place to–no, really?–place flowers. Incredible.