Many Americans might not have tried a Scotch egg, but it’s like a hard-boiled egg wrapped in breakfast sausage.
Don’t want to cook at all? Full English is one of Austin’s best places to get a bite of traditional British fare — tonight is the restaurant’s popular fish and chips night — but you could also find one of Austinite (and British ex-pat) Tracy Claros’ Sticky Toffee Puddings. These little pots of hot decadent British pudding are sold all over the country (at Whole Foods, Central Market, Fresh Plus and Cafe Medici in Austin) and are served on some international flights.
Ever since her 2008 book, “Bon Appetit, Y’all,” Virginia Willis has been one of the top Southern food writers.
Willis, who ran the TV kitchens for Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay and Nathalie Dupree, has been building her own star for a while and is a frequent guest at the Central Market Cooking School in Austin, and she’ll return next week for a class on May 12 to promote her newest book, “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30).
The new book chronicles the vast and varied stories of food and food makers throughout the South today, incorporating a much more diverse perspective on what we call “Southern food” than we typically see in books on this regional cuisine, such as recipes descended from the Chinese immigrants who moved to the Mississippi Delta during Reconstruction. You’ll find profiles of (and recipes from) arepa-makers in Atlanta, quail farmers in South Carolina and Morovian bakers in North Carolina, whose families settled the area in the 1740s, as well as recipes from Willis’ own family history.
She’ll tell many of these stories and more at her class next week. You can still get tickets to the class ($70, centralmarket.com), where she’ll teach a handful of dishes, including Asian Cajun shrimp, grilled skirt steak, tomato ginger green beans, crispy Greek potatoes and Mexican chocolate pudding.
Here’s her spin on summer squash, which is spiced with the ever-popular harissa and a lemon vinaigrette.
Pan-Seared Summer Squash with Spiced Lemon Vinaigrette
Summer squash thrive in the semitropical South. My grandparents always had a garden with many mounded rows of squash, and my grandfather taught me that summer squash bear both male and female flowers. The female flowers are easy to identify by looking for a miniature squash just below each blossom. Male flowers sit directly on the stem and do not produce fruit. Pick these male blossoms for using the flower. If you pick the females, you won’t have any squash. Simple biology.
This dish was inspired by chef-owner Rafih Benjelloun of Imperial Fez, a beloved Atlanta institution for more than twenty-five years. At his restaurant, guests are magically transported to Morocco — the tea is mint, not sweet; diners rest on comfortable pillows surrounded by opulent colors; shoes are left at the door; and belly dancers dance and sway to the music.
Harissa is a spicy, aromatic, and flavorful chile paste used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. The blend differs from country to country, but it’s a puree of hot chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices such as cumin, coriander, and caraway. It can be found at Middle Eastern markets, well-stocked gourmet stores, and natural foods stores.
To prepare the garlic paste, place the unpeeled garlic on a cutting board, broad-side down, set the flat side of a chef’s knife on top, and give the knife a quick whack with the palm of your hand to crush each clove. Remove the papery skin and trim away the tough basal plane at the end of the clove. Halve the garlic and remove any of the green shoot, if present, as it is bitter. Coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle it with a pinch of coarse salt. (The salt acts as an abrasive and helps grind the garlic.) Using the side of the knife like an artist’s palette knife, press firmly on the cutting board and crush the garlic a little at a time. Repeat until the garlic is a fine paste.
— Virginia Willis
3 or 4 small yellow squash (about 1 pound)
3 or 4 small green squash (about 1 pound)
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon harissa or chile paste, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Trim the stem and flower ends of the squash, and then use a chef’s knife to quarter each one lengthwise. Using the tip of your knife, trim away the seeds. (The seeds can make the dish watery.) Cut the squash into 1-inch pieces.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Without crowding, add the squash to the dry skillet and cook, stirring often, until lightly blistered on both sides and tender to the point of a knife, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl or jar with a lid, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic, harissa, and cumin to make the dressing. Stir or shake to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the squash in a large bowl and drizzle some of the dressing over the top. Toss to coat and combine, and add more as needed. Sprinkle with the parsley. This dish is excellent served hot or room temperature or cold as a salad. If you serve it cold, make sure to taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper before serving, as chilling dulls the seasoning. Serves 4 to 6.
As the annual Lemonade Day returns this weekend to more than 50 cities around the country, hundreds of Central Texas kids are preparing their own lemonade stands.
Through these lemonade stands, which will operate in neighborhoods across Austin on Saturday, May 5, kids how to start, own and operate their very own business, and through the process, they can pick up financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills before they get into high school. You can find the Austin-area stands and sign up to participate at lemonadeday.org/austin.
Kids, if you’re still looking for a recipe for your lemonade stand, here’s an eye-catching option: Limonana, the bright green mint lemonade from the Middle East. It comes from April White’s new lemonade cookbook, which features dozens of variations on this indelible summer drink.
Middle Eastern Limonana
This bright-green combination of lemon and mint is found on tables throughout the Middle East. But the name limonana is borrowed from, of all places, a 1990s advertising stunt. To showcase the power of bus ads, an Israeli advertising firm created a fake product called Limonana — a mash-up of the similar Arabic and Hebrew words for lemon and mint. Soon, everyone was asking for the thirst-quencher by name.
— April White
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 9 lemons)
3 cups loosely packed mint leaves (from about 20 stems)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups still water
In a blender, combine the lemon juice, mint, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water and blend until fully liquid. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.
In a pitcher, stir together the mint mixture and the remaining 3 1/2 cups water. Serve over ice cubes. Serves 4 to 6.
Cheese enchiladas doused in chile con carne sauce are the epitome of classic Tex-Mex. This version is made with Maudie’s classic chili sauce — meaning it’s pretty much just meat and chili powder. Corn tortillas are wrapped around a gooey, yellow cheese filling, and then smothered with chili sauce, chopped onions and cilantro. This right here is proper Texas comfort food.
Restaurants don’t make enchiladas quite the same way you would at home: They make them one serving at a time, directly on the plate, which is then run under a broilerlike heating element called a salamander (hence servers constantly warning you about hot plates). At home, it’s easier to do them in family-size batches in a baking dish in the oven, and cook them just long enough that everything gets piping hot. Serve these with rice and beans.
— Paula Forbes
1 recipe Chile con Carne Sauce, warm (below)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded mild cheddar, colby or American cheese
Chopped onions (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Ladle about 1 cup of the sauce into a greased 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium high heat and add a tortilla; cook until just soft, 5 seconds on each side. Remove the tortilla to a plate and place a row of shredded cheese about the thickness of your thumb down the center of the tortilla. Roll the tortilla and place it in the baking dish. Repeat this process until all the tortillas are used and the baking dish holds a row of tightly rolled tortillas. Ladle the rest of the sauce over the top, and sprinkle with any remaining cheese.
Bake until bubbling and hot, about 10 minutes, and serve, topped with chopped onions and cilantro, if desired. Serves 6.
Chile con Carne Sauce
This recipe from Maudie’s is about as old-school as it gets. This recipe is just ground beef, spices and water, more or less, but that’s all you really need.
8 ounces ground beef
2 tablespoons dark chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Put the beef in a pot, add 1 cup water and stir until thoroughly combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer over medium-low heat. Break up the chunks of ground beef with the back of a spoon and simmer until just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Add 2 cups water to the pot and return to a boil. Add the spices, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 1 cup cold water and slowly pour the mixture into the chili, stirring. Simmer for 4 more minutes, and the sauce is ready for enchiladas or whatever you see fit to serve it over. Makes enough for 12 enchiladas.
We’re talking chilaquiles and elote shrimp dip, dulce de leche chocolate cake and a pecan old fashioned, mole and capirotada.
With each recipe, Rodriguez, whose first book was “Latin Twist,”a compilation of more than 100 cocktail recipes, gives a glimpse into her own kitchen, including these green enchiladas. The book includes recipes for her homemade green and red enchilada sauces, too, but store-bought is just fine, especially on a busy weeknight.
Mi mami started making enchilada casseroles as her familia grew and grew, and she tired of hand-rolling all those enchiladas individually. I can’t say I blame her — we’re a big crowd. This enchilada casserole can be made with either green or red enchilada sauce, and feel free to swap out the shredded chicken for beef or pork. You can also use shredded rotisserie chicken.
1/4 cup vegetable oil, for frying
15 to 20 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups red enchilada or enchilada verde sauce (homemade or store-bought)
4 cups shredded chicken (see recipe below)
2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack
1 cup diced onion
Warm the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. In batches, lightly fry each tortilla on both sides for about 1 minute each side; they should still be pliable when done. Transfer each from the pan to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Continue until all the tortillas have been fried and then remove from the heat.
Liberally spray a slow-cooker liner with cooking spray. Place a fourth of the tortillas in a layer on the bottom of the slow cooker and then cover it with a fourth of the sauce. Add a fourth of the Shredded Chicken and sprinkle a fourth of the cheese and the onions over the chicken. Repeat until all of the ingredients have been used. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.
Shredded chicken is an essential base ingredient for many of the recipes in this cookbook. This recipe is an easy way to make it at home and bypass those boring frozen or deli rotisserie chickens. Use this chicken to make tostadas, tacos, flautas, tortas, enchiladas or pozole.
4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and tied together with kitchen twine
Water to cover
Place the chicken in a slow cooker and sprinkle it with the salt and black pepper. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and cilantro, and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the chicken is tender.
Shred the chicken with forks. Use in your choice of recipes or freeze for later use.
After rubbing this boneless leg of lamb — or a pork or beef roast or even chicken breasts — with the homemade harissa paste, you’ll brown the outside of the lamb before finishing in the oven to a juicy medium-rare. I recently made harissa potatoes using a dried harissa mix, but you could find many uses in your kitchen for this oil-based harissa paste.
In another genius step, the editors then toss cauliflower florets with the pan drippings and roast them until they are tender and browned. When mixed with carrots, raisins, cilantro and toasted almonds, the cauliflower makes a side that’s perfectly paired with this North African-inspired lamb. If you can’t find Aleppo pepper, substitute 3/4 teaspoon paprika and 3/4 teaspoon finely chopped red pepper flakes.
Harissa-Rubbed Roast Boneless Leg of Lamb with Cauliflower Salad
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground dried Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
Salt and pepper
1 (3 1/2‑ to 4‑pound) boneless half leg of lamb, trimmed and pounded to 3/4‑inch thickness
1 head cauliflower (2 pounds), cored and cut into 1‑inch florets
1/2 red onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning
Combine 6 tablespoons oil, garlic, paprika, coriander, Aleppo pepper, cumin, caraway seeds and 1 teaspoon salt in bowl and microwave until bubbling and very fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring halfway through microwaving. Let cool to room temperature.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Set V-rack in large roasting pan and spray with vegetable oil spray. Lay roast on cutting board with rough interior side (which was against bone) facing up and rub with 2 tablespoons spice paste. Roll roast and tie with kitchen twine at 1 1/2-inch intervals, then rub exterior with 1 tablespoon oil.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown lamb on all sides, about 8 minutes. Brush lamb all over with remaining spice paste and place fat side down in prepared V-rack. Roast until thickest part registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), flipping lamb halfway through roasting. Transfer lamb to carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest while making salad.
Increase oven temperature to 475 degrees. Pour all but 3 tablespoons fat from pan; discard any charred drippings. Add cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to pan and toss to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and roast until cauliflower is softened, about 5 minutes.
Remove foil and spread onion evenly over cauliflower. Roast until vegetables are tender and cauliflower is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting. Transfer vegetable mixture to serving bowl, add carrots, raisins, cilantro, almonds, and lemon juice and toss to combine. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Slice leg of lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with salad. Serves 6 to 8.
Each of these words solicits joy in the hearts of food lovers, but what happens when you combine them? That’s the idea behind this dish from Lori Rice, author of a new food-and-beer cookbook called “Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer” (Countryman Press, $24.95).
Even without the beer, this dish would be a winner. It instructs you how to make a cheese sauce using the leftover pasta water, whose starch helps hold the sauce together without watering it down. If you do want to use beer, Rice suggests a pale ale like Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Brewery Dale’s Pale Ale or Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale. A less hoppy British pale ale works in this recipe, too.
Cheesy Shrimp and Bacon Pale Ale Pasta with Green Peas
The light pale ale cheese sauce in this recipe delicately coats the pasta for a meal that’s hearty but not too heavy. Feel free to serve this meal with a pint of pale ale.
16 ounces pasta
4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 pound 40/50 count medium raw shrimp, cleaned and tails removed
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
4 ounces pale ale
2 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh or thawed green peas
Fill a large pot with water for your pasta. Turn to high and heat to boiling while you begin the pasta sauce.
For the pasta sauce, cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, until the fat renders and the bacon begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Continue to cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until it reaches your desired crispness. Add the shrimp and cook until opaque, about 2 more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and shrimp to a bowl, leaving the bacon grease behind.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions while you finish the sauce.
Return the pot with bacon grease to medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk it into a dry paste. Reduce the heat to low. Continue to whisk as you pour in the pale ale. It will thicken into a paste as it simmers, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese melts. Increase the heat to medium-low if the cheese slows its melting.
Drain the pasta, but reserve the pasta water. Add the hot pasta to the sauce with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. If the sauce seems thick, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more pasta water.
Stir in the peas. Transfer an equal amount of pasta to each serving bowl. Top with shrimp and bacon and toss gently in the bowls before serving. Leftovers will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator. Serves 4 to 6.
It’s not Christmas without tamales in many Central Texas homes.
You can find the most common Mexican-style tamales at food trucks, restaurants, gas stations, corner stores, grocery stores and even a cooler at a neighbor’s house, but you might also celebrate with Puerto Rican-style pastelada or another variation.
No matter which kind of tamal you’re enjoying, stick with “tamal” and not “tamale.” It’s the difference between potato and potatoe, and nobody wants to be the person who misspells “potato” or “tamal.”
I’ve made them off and on over the years, and I always love to eat them. If you are lucky enough to get invited to a tamalada, say yes, and if you feel adventurous or brave in your skills, don’t be afraid to host one. I had a friend over for a two-person tamalada one year, and we had a wonderful time splitting the work between ourselves.
For the beef filling:
6 lb. brisket
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tsp. salt
8 dried ancho chiles
1 tablespoon cumin (comino) seeds
Water to cover
1/2 lb. lard (or 1 cup canola oil)
For the masa:
6 lbs. prepared, storebought masa or
4 lbs. masa harina
1/2 lbs. lard (or 2 cups canola oil)
6 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups of broth from beef filling
To prepare the corn husks/hojas: Hojas are corn husks that are dry and papery but usually clean of silks, trimmed, flattened and ready for use. To soften them, pour plenty of very hot water over them and leave to soak for several hours or overnight. Shake well to get rid of excess water and pat them dry with a towel. You’ll need about 3 pounds of husks for this recipe.
To make the beef filling: Cut the brisket into large squares and put into a large pot with the onion, garlic, salt and peppercorns. Cover the beef with water and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer until tender – about 3 hours. Set the beef aside to cool off in the broth. Strain, reserving the broth, and chop beef with garlic roughly.
Cover chiles and cumin seeds with water and bring to a boil. Let them stand until chiles are soft and water cools. When they are cool enough to handle, slit them open and remove seeds and veins. Using a molcajete or a blender to grind/blend them along with the cumin into a paste.
Melt lard, add chile paste and sauté for about 3 minutes stirring all the time. Add beef and garlic, continuing to cook for the flavors to meld. Add 1/2 cup of the broth and let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes over a medium flame. Filling should not be watery. Add salt as necessary.
If you have access to freshly prepared masa that’s ready to use in tamales, buy it. If you want to use Maseca or another masa harina, buy the one for tamales and follow this step: To make the masa from the masa harina, melt the lard. Use a large mixer to mix masa, salt, baking soda, broth and the lard (one cup at a time). Continue beating for 10 minutes or so, until 1/2 teaspoon of the masa floats in a cup of cold water. If it floats, you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light. If it doesn’t float, beat more melted lard into the mixture. Beat until fluffy and semi-shiny. Masa should be of a stiff consistency but spreadable.
To make the tamales: Using a tablespoon or a knife, spread a thin coating of the storebought or homemade masa over the broadest part of the corn husk, allowing for turning down about 2 inches at the pointed top. Spread the masa approximately 3 inches wide and 3 ½ inches long.
Spoon some beef filling down the middle of the dough, about 1 tablespoon. Fold the sides of the corn husks together firmly. Fold up the empty 2-inch section of the husk, forming a tightly closed “bottom” and leaving the top open.
To cook the tamales: Fill the bottom of large soup pot or a tamale steamer with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. If using a pot, either put a molcajete, bowl or ball of aluminum foil at the bottom of the pot and fill in with leftover corn husks. Stack the tamales upright, with the folded part down at the bottom. Pack firmly but not tightly. Cover the tamales with more corn shucks. Cover the top of the steamer with a dishcloth or thick cloth, or cover the pot with a tightly fitting lid.
Cook tamales for about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours over a medium flame. Keep water in a teapot simmering so that you can refill the pot when necessary. If you use a tamale steamer you should not have to add any more water.
To test the tamales for doneness, remove one from the center, and one from the side of the pot. Tamales are done when you open the corn husk, and the masa peels away easily from the shucks and the tamale is completely smooth.
I’d heard about marshmallow fudge, a common shortcut to make the beloved holiday treat, but I was having a hard time wrapping my head around Velveeta fudge.
A brick of processed cheese, mixed with powdered sugar and melted butter — this was not a recipe I’d heard of growing up in my neck of the Ozarks. But others with Midwestern roots in the newsroom chimed in that they’d had this back home.
Fudge is an American confection that dates back to the 1880s, when a grocery store in Baltimore sold “fudged” caramel for 40 cents a pound. Traditionally, you make it by cooking butter and granulated sugar to a soft-ball stage, about 236 degrees. This method requires being exact with the time, temperature and stirring and can be difficult to master, especially if you only make it once a year.
So it’s no surprise that Americans, with their quest for efficiency and love of grocery store shortcuts, turned to the supermarket aisles for help with this staple of the holiday cookie tin.
Some quick fudge recipes use sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips or marshmallows and evaporated milk to obtain that signature texture, but Velveeta fudge recipes rely entirely on a combination of melted cheese and butter mixed with powdered sugar and cocoa. Most Velveeta fudge recipes also call for a little vanilla or nuts, while others suggest dried cherries or even chili powder.
How did Velveeta end up in a dessert? Velveeta was first introduced in 1917 as a new kind of cheese made from scraps of real cheese. By the 1920s, Kraft had purchased the brand and started its still-ongoing marketing campaign to encourage customers to buy it.
When it debuted 100 years ago, Velveeta introduced a texture into American kitchens that was at that time much harder to obtain. Marshmallows and gelatin have had a similar effect on our collective recipe canon. With these new products, home cooks (and the marketers targeting them) could let their creativity go wild. From the 1940s through the 1960s, this gave us savory Jell-O salads, marshmallow-topped casseroles and, yes, Velveeta fudge.
In the past 10 years or so, Paula Deen repopularized the “chocolate cheese fudge” made with the product that is more often used in queso, mac and cheese and enchiladas. A few years later, the South Carolina chef Sean Brock included his family’s version in his book “Heritage.”
I went as basic as possible for my first attempt at making Velveeta fudge, using only vanilla and not including any nuts. The fudge mixture came together quickly. After I melted the butter and Velveeta on the stove, stirring often over low heat, I poured over a mixture of powdered sugar and cocoa.
Using a spatula, I folded the fudge over and over again, pressing the dry mixture into the warm liquid until the two were thoroughly combined. The fudge spread easily into a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole dish, and within a few hours, it was solid enough to slice into pieces.
The texture of the fudge was smooth, almost putty–like, and there was a creaminess that traditional fudge usually lacks. The biggest tell that something was different, however, was the faint smell of queso and underlying savory taste.
It’s unlikely someone would guess they’re eating cheese, but there are enough differences that friends and family are bound to ask what your secret ingredient is.
With or without the cheese, a fudge recipe with melted chocolate is always going to yield a richer product than one that relies on powdered sugar and cocoa. But this was still a nice treat.
In my family, fudge is a holiday dessert. And it may come as a shock to some, but the key ingredient in this fudge is Velveeta cheese. The ultra-creamy nature of the processed whey melts more evenly than traditional cheese. Everyone knows I am dedicated to heirloom ingredients; now I suppose you can add Velveeta to the list.
— Sean Brock
1/2 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup chopped black walnuts (or other nut, optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan lightly with nonstick baking spray.
If you have a double boiler, melt the Velveeta and butter in the top of a double boiler over low heat. The water in the lower boiler should never be hotter than a simmer. Stir the Velveeta and butter together with a silicone spatula until melted and combined, scraping down the sides as necessary, about 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside. You can do this in a microwave or in a saucepan over medium-low heat, but stir often to combine thoroughly.
Put the powdered sugar and cocoa in a large bowl and whisk together, making sure that no lumps remain. Add the nuts and stir to combine.
Add the sugar mixture to the warm cheese mixture, then add the vanilla and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours; wait until the fudge is cold before covering it, so that moisture won’t form on the top. Cut the fudge into 1-inch squares. Serve at room temperature.
Tightly covered, the fudge will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Tightly wrapped, it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature
— Adapted from “Heritage” by Sean Brock (Artisan Books, $40)
The biggest food week of the year is here, but you might already be feeling overwhelmed.
Cooking breakfast for guests who are staying in your house can be a tricky affair. When you’re busy trying to make sure their stay is enjoyable, deciding which meals to make can be one of the more challenging pieces of the puzzle.
She uses challah, but you could use any kind of bread. I wouldn’t skip the pumpkin, though, because it adds moisture to what is essentially a bread pudding. Many slow cookers heat a little unevenly, so DiGregorio explains how to avoid accidentally burning one side of the dish by adding a foil collar around the base of the insert.
Pumpkin Challah French Toast Bake
This is basically a pumpkin pie breakfast bread pudding. It will not look pretty coming out of the slow cooker — don’t worry, a dusting of powdered sugar and a sprinkling of pecans do wonders.
— Sarah DiGregorio
1 challah loaf (10 to 12 ounces), cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks (about 9 cups)
6 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
Powdered sugar, for topping
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped, for topping
Pure maple syrup, for serving
If the bread is not already stale, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they are very dry and crisp, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker: Fold a large piece of foil into a 3-inch-by-12-inch strip and press it against the side of the insert that runs the hottest, using the foil like a collar or a shield. The hot spot is probably the wall of the insert farthest from the control panel. This will keep that side of the French toast from scorching or cooking too quickly. If your slow cooker runs very hot and tends to overbrown on all sides, line the other side with a foil collar as well.
Then line the entire insert with a piece of parchment, making sure the parchment comes up at least 2 inches on all sides. This is to prevent sticking and also to make it easier to reach in and remove the French toast. (You’re using 1 piece of parchment so that the egg mixture doesn’t run between 2 layers of parchment when you pour it in.)
Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, granulated sugar, half-and-half, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Put the bread into the prepared cooker. Pour the egg mixture all over the bread, keeping all the liquid contained in the parchment liner and making sure all the bread gets moistened, pressing the bread down into the liquid if necessary. Cover and cook until the custard is just set: on high for 2 hours 30 minutes, on low for 4 hours, or on high for 1 hour 30 minutes followed by warm for 7 hours. Serves 6 to 8.