Nostalgic Thanksgiving Side: Broccoli Puff

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Broccoli Puff
In a recent survey,* 79 percent of Americans admitted to enjoying side dishes more than the turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Hardly a surprising result, certainly, as it's hard to compete with the smorgasboard chorus of stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, etc., etc. In addition to the aforementioned standard sides, many families serve an outlier dish that has come to be a holiday tradition for one reason or another.

If in your family that dish is ambrosia, my deepest sympathies.

For the O'Leary clan, that outlier dish is Broccoli Puff, first introduced to the family by our beloved matriarch Margaret Berkeley O'Leary (1913-2014; yes, she lived to be 100, folks). Broccoli Puff is not a particularly novel or sophisticated dish and its main ingredients (cheese, cream of mushroom soup, broccoli) probably make it extremely similar to a dozen-odd other mid-Western casseroles of different names.

But that is neither here nor there because Broccoli Puff is damn good as well as amazing way to incorporate cruciferous vegetables (and mayonnaise!) into your Thanksgiving feast.

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Dish of the Week: Classic Bread Pudding

Categories: Recipes, Sweets

Photo by opacity
A drizzle of caramel or whiskey sauce makes the sweet bread pudding extra decadent.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're indulging in a classic comfort food: Bread Pudding.

Bread pudding is a dessert consisting of stale bread that is soaked in a custard-like mixture before being baked. It is often spiced with things like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla and served with a sweet sauce (whiskey, rum, chocolate or caramel based). We know the dish as a Southern classic, however it is popular all over the world, including in places like Argentina, Belgium, India, Ireland, the Philippines, Slovakia and the Puerto Rico, to name a few.

Food historians have traced the dish's origins to the early 11th and 12th centuries, where it was created as a frugal way to use stale bread. In 13th century England, it was referred to as "poor man's pudding." Then, it was likely a simple mixture of stale bread, milk, and some form of fat and sweetener.

Today, the addition of eggs and other flavors, spices, and add-ins like liquors, fruit, nuts, and chocolate have turned the humble dish into something a bit more luxurious. It can even be made savory through the edition of cheese, herbs, vegetables, and meats.

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How to Make Pizza Monkey Bread

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Not too shabby for first attempt.

Monkey Bread, also apparently sometimes called "pluck-it cake" (by WHOM!!) is not for those with a fear of napkins or sticky things. But for everyone else, it's a delightful treat that's particularly fun to consume in a small group for brunch or dessert.

Traditional monkey bread is very sweet, its carbohydrate building blocks affixed to each other with a thick caramel or syrup glaze (hence the need for napkins).

In recent years, however, innovative amateur chefs have deconstructed the recipe to produce savory versions of Monkey Bread, and one particular iteration worth trying is Pizza Monkey Bread.

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Homemade Guacamole - A 10-Minute Recipe

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Mai Pham
Guacamole is healthy, delicious, and very easy to make.
Buying ripe avocados is tricky. Timed perfectly so that they are ripe and creamy, you have to use them within a day or throw them out. As a result, it's more prudent to buy avocados when they're still green so that they can ripen naturally on your counter. But what to do when you buy five avocados that ripen at the same time? Easy: make some homemade guacamole.

Guacamole is one of the easiest things to throw together if you have the right ingredients. Basically it involves a bit of dicing and a bit of mashing and takes no more than 10 minutes to prep. There is really no cooking involved, and with nothing more than a cutting board, a good knife, a spoon, and a bowl, you're good to go.

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Dish of the Week: Arancini

Categories: Recipes

Photo by: stu_spivack
These little guys are the most delicious way to eat leftover risotto.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're learning about the Southern-Italian street food, arancini.

Meaning "little oranges" in Italian, arancini are balls of breaded and fried risotto. The orange part of the name comes from the shape and golden color of small fritter.

The dish was said to have developed in 10th century Sicily during Kalbid rule, as the rice balls are similar to popular Middle Eastern foods. Saffron, a prominent spice in medieval Arab cuisine, was often incorporated into the rice mixture. Today, several variations can be seen in Italy and throughout the world. There is arancini con ragù, a rice ball stuffed with a meat sauce, mozzarella, and (sometimes) peas. And arancini con funghi, which incorporates, you guessed it, mushrooms. Even Houston's own Coppa Osteria has a version of the dish; Here, it's stuffed with burrata, a cream-filled mozzarella that oozes with decadence.

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Dish of the Week: Moussaka

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Shadowgate
Add Greek yogurt to the custard for extra creaminess.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

Today, we're looking into Moussaka.

Moussaka is a dish made with layered eggplant, ground meat mixed with tomatoes and spices, and (sometimes) potatoes. While there are many variations on the dish, it is most commonly associated with Greek (mousakas) or Turkish (musakka) cuisine.

In Greece, the dish is typically topped with a béchamel (which wasn't added until the 1900s) and served hot, while in Turkey it is served as a room temperature casserole. Arabic versions of the dish, however, are meatless and served cold.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Arabic word musaggaʽa from which the Greek and Turkish names were derived literally means "chilled."

Here, we're sharing a recipe for the Greek version, in which sliced and lightly fried eggplant is layered with a mix of a spiced ground beef or lamb tomato sauce before being topped with a custard. When baked, the custard achieves a beautiful golden crust.

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Dish of the Week: Klobasneks

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by me and the sysop
Now you can customize your klobasnek as you please.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, after our Underrated Kolache post last week, we decided to delve deeper into the kolach's savory cousin, the klobasnek.

A klobasnek (or klobasnik), like a kolach, is pastry of Czech origin that is popular in central Texas. The distinction, however, is that kolach are sweet pastries filled with non-meat fillings (fruit, cream cheese, poppy seed) in the center, while klobasneks are savory pastries more similar to pigs in a blanket, or sausage rolls, where the dough is wrapped entirely around the sausage filling. According to word etymologist Barry Popick, the word klobasnek is derived from the Czech word klobase, a traditional sausage similar to the Polish kielbasa.

So all those jalapeño sausage kolache you've been ordering? They're technically klobasnkeks (also, the jalapeño is totally a Texas addition).

Either way, the same yeast dough is used to make both delectable pastries. Here's how to make it:

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Recipe: Semi-Homemade Restaurant-Style Curry Fries

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
All this can be yours
A handful of Houston restaurants, including Lowbrow and Ambrosia, offer some type of curry fries (or wedges or chips) on their menu. To save a few dollars and the inevitably embarrassment you'll feel after dripping masala on your shirt ("Why, why, did I wear white?"), make your own version at home customized to your preferences. And then eat them as sloppily as you like without shame.

First, procure your potato wedges, as thick or as thin as you like. Those who are not paranoid about third-degree burns and have large quantities of spuds and oil on hand should consider making their own. For the rest of us, Sandra Lee included, that means selecting one of the many more-than-respectable supermarket varieties.

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Dish of the Week: Manhattan Clam Chowder

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Mr.TinDC
Tomatoes make this Manhattan-style version a bit different from its cousins to the north.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're diving into Manhattan Clam Chowder.

Not to be confused with New England or Boston clam chowder, the Manhattan take on the traditional clam soup is made is (gasp) tomatoes -- a big no-no to its neighbors in the North. Maine event went so far as to introduce a bill making it illegal to add tomatoes to pots of clam chowder in 1939, according to The New York Times piece "Fare of the Country; New England Clams: A Fruitful Harvest."

Thankfully, not everyone subscribes to that train of thought. Tomato-based chowders were born from Portuguese fishing communities in Rhode Island in the mid-1800s, as tomato-based stews were already popular in their native cuisine. According to Alton Brown's "Good Eats", the story goes that New Englanders dubbed this tomato version of their beloved chowder "Manhattan-style" because calling someone a New Yorker was considered an insult.

Insult or not, tomatoes bring a slight tartness and a bit of sweetness to the rich, briny stew.

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Dish of the Week: Soufflé au Fromage

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Katrin Morenz
There's nothing like a good soufflé, whether it's savory or sweet.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're mastering the all-mighty soufflé.

A soufflé is a classic French dish consisting of beaten egg whites and a sweet or savory custard base which is then baked. A derivative of the French word souffler, meaning "to blow up" or to "puff up", a soufflé literally puffs up as in the oven. That's thanks to the whipped egg whites, which add air bubbles that swell as the temperature rises. By the time the soufflé comes out of the oven, it's bubbling over the top of the ramekin that it was baked in; though it will deflate a bit once the air bubbles begin to cool and contact.

The technique of adding egg whites, which dates back to Medieval times and eventually evolved into the development of meringues and soufflés, can be used to make anything from rich and velvety chocolate and light and airy lemon dessert soufflés to the recipe we're sharing today: A savory and creamy soufflé au fromage (or cheese soufflé). It's comfort food at its best.

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