Monday, February 27, 2012

Savory Bacon, Tomato and Cheddar Bake

Some call it a strata. Some call it a bread pudding. Some even call it a casserole.

Food and Wine calls it a Savory Bacon, Tomato and Cheddar Bake.

I don't care what you call it as long as I can eat it. This is a labor of love and makes enough for an army but the upside is, you can freeze the leftovers as individual portions and heat them up later when you have an emergency comfort food craving. I've even done this with the eggs intact, but if you're picky you can discard the eggs from the top before freezing and just put a pan fried one over the top after it bakes. Disco.

Bacon, Tomato and Cheddar Breakfast Bake

1 pound bakery white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (16 cups)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sliced applewood-smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
One 28-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes—drained, chopped and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 pound extra-sharp cheddar, shredded (about 2 cups)
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Big handful minced flat leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
8 large eggs
Hot sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a large bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil and spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the bread is golden and lightly crisp.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain; reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet.
Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and crushed red pepper and cook until any liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes.
Return the toasted bread cubes to the bowl. Add the contents of the skillet, along with the bacon, shredded cheeses, chives, parsley and broth. Stir until the bread is evenly moistened. Season with salt. Spread the mixture in the baking dish and cover with lightly oiled foil.
Bake the bread mixture in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is crispy, about 15 minutes longer. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and, using a ladle, press 8 indentations into the bread mixture. Crack an egg into each indentation. Return the dish to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Garnish with additional parsley and serve right away with hot sauce.

MAKE AHEAD The recipe can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Giada's Winter Minestrone...

Is a misnomer. This soup can and should be eaten year round. It's divine. I don't get to make it as often as I'd like to but only because it takes me a half hour of digging to find the bag of parmesan rinds in my freezer. Usually it ends up having fallen behind a pint of old Blue Bell my husband forgot about. Or a tiny bottle of Tito's, the size of which always makes me wonder, why bother?

Giada's Winter Minestrone
* Giada purees her soup but I like mine chunky. So I don't.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 (3 oz) package cubed pancetta
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch ('bout a pound) Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 russet potato, cubed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes ( use fire roasted with chiles)
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
lots of fresh grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, pancetta, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard and potato; season with salt and pepper and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Go ahead and let 'er simmer another couple minutes.

Finally add the beans, broth, Parmesan cheese rind and nutmeg to the vegetable mixture. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through - about another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard Parmesan rind (unless you're me - then hope you get it in your bowl) and rosemary sprig (the leaves will have fallen off of the stem.)

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with toasted french bread drizzled with olive oil.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Roasted Veg Sammy

This is one of my favorite things to eat on earth. I basically grill up whatever vegetables I have in my fridge and throw 'em together in a big ole French bread bear hug. On a good day I have zuchinni, red bell pepper, eggplant and/or Portabella in my fridge. I slice them up, season with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until tender and slightly charred. I then pile 'em all together onto toasted french bread slathered with goat cheese and add a final hit of salt, pepper and olive oil. Top it off with flat leaf parsley and/or basil and close the lid. Boomtown!