Bagels for Days

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Bagels are such a versatile treat–you can pretty much top them with anything and they’ll be delicious. Cream cheese, jam, peanut butter, avocado, lox, pesto, seriously anything.

Here’s a super-easy recipe via Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Homemade Bagels
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Yields 6-12, depending on size

INGREDIENTS
1 and 1/2 cups warm water
2 and 3/4 teaspoons Instant Yeast
4 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt

FOR THE WATER BATH
2 quarts water
1/4 cup honey

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 3 teaspoons white sugar
3 Tablespoons raisins
egg wash: 1 egg white beaten with 1 Tablespoon of water

METHOD
Quickly whisk in the yeast into the warm water till completely
dissolved. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed the flour, sugar, and salt for about 30 seconds. With the mixer continuing to run on medium speed, slowly drizzle the bloomed yeast mixture, making sure to scrape out any undissolved yeast with a spatula, getting all of the yeast into the dough.

Turn down to low speed and mix until all the flour has been well incorporated into the dough. The dough will look choppy; once you get it to this point, bump up the speed to medium and mix for 8 minutes. Once done mixing, the dough will be super stiff, that’s OK.

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(Mine somehow managed to resemble the mandrake root in Pan’s Labyrinth. Creeeeepy.)

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(Note: If you’re making cinnamon and raisin-flavored bagels, section off about 1/3 of the mixture and hand-mix the raisins into the dough.)

Otherwise, remove from the mixing bowl and shape the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil and place into the bowl, turning the dough ball to coat all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and place in a warm area of your kitchen to allow the dough to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The dough should to be noticeably larger.

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Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or SILPAT mats if you have them. Place a wire rack over a third baking sheet.

To shape the bagels, gently punch down the dough if you notice any air bubbles. Turn it out onto a clean surface and divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces.

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Shape each piece into a ball and place 4 balls onto the two lined baking sheet. Then, hold up one dough ball and press your index finger through the center of each ball to make a hole, widening it. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest as you prep the water bath.

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Preheat your oven to 425°F.

To prepare the water bath, fill a large, wide pan with 2 quarts of water. Whisk in the honey. Bring the water to just-simmering. Once simmering, add in the bagels, about 2-3 at a time, making sure not to overcrowd them. Cook the bagels for about 1 minute on each side, then transfer each bagel to the cooling rack.

To prepare your optional toppings: Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash on top and around the sides of each bagel, then sprinkle each with your desired toppings.

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Place the bagels on the lined baking sheets, and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to get an even coloration. The bagels should be golden brown and delicious.

Remove the cooked bagels from the oven and to cool for about 20 minutes before enjoying.

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(Cook’s Note: You can freeze your bagels in an airtight bag. Refrigerated bagels will keep for about 7-10 days.)

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Estudios Picasso, Tequila Gang, Esperanto Filmoj, Sententia Entertainment and Telecinco.)

DINING IN…

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A pet peeve of mine: When stores begin selling their holiday decorations months before the holiday has even come close. (Can we just celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving first, please?) It’s annoying, really. I don’t even want to think about Christmas in October when I’m trying desperately to put together my last-minute Halloween costume. Let’s keep them separated, people.

Another pet peeve of mine: Playing Christmas music in October. Or November.

Just stop.

I appreciate the wanting to get into the holiday spirit deal, but I just can’t justify listening to Bing Crosby singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” 100 times before Christmas. I just can’t. And as much as I love Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, I don’t want to hear it every single day leading up to Christmas.

I can’t.

I like to wait a good four to three weeks before the holiday to get everything done. That includes shopping, getting the tree, decorating, and watching all of my usual holiday favorites (The Holiday, Love Actually, Home Alone, Hook, Bad Santa, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and While You Were Sleeping).

And The Family Stone. With an all-star cast–Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, and Craig T. Nelson, to name a few, The Family Stone circles around the Stone clan during Christmastime.

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The story starts off with the Stone’s prodigal son, Everett, (Mulroney) who brings his uptight, conservative girlfriend, Meredith Morton (Parker), with him to his family’s New England home for the holidays. Everett intends (albeit a bit skeptical) on proposing to her with his mom Sybil’s ring (Keaton), but is met with a bit of resistance from Sybil, who also has a terminal illness, and disapproves of her eldest son’s choice for a wife. None of the family approves of Everett’s girlfriend, either, and gives her a hard time at every opportunity they can. (Except Ben, played by Wilson, who shares a connection to Meredith.)

When Meredith sends an emergency SOS to her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come stay at the Stones’ home with her for support, things get interesting when Julie arrives, and her growing mutual attraction to Everett cannot be denied. These star-cr0ssed siblings endure a few fights, misunderstandings and an engagement ring stuck on someone’s finger. Uh-oh.

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One of the more pivotal scenes in the movie is when Meredith plans to make her family’s traditional “Morton Strata”, a savory bread pudding, on Christmas Day for the Stone’s. But things quickly turn upside-down, quite literally.

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Without further giving away anymore spoilers, I encourage you to watch this heartwarming movie.

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This week’s post is dedicated to Meredith’s Christmas Strata, which includes mushrooms (even though Everett is allergic to them…oops!). Perfect for Christmas morning, make this recipe a day-ahead, as it’s important for the bread to absorb all of that custardy goodness.

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Meredith’s Christmas Strata with Swiss Chard, Mushrooms and Gruyère

Recipe slightly adapted from NYT Cooking
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
½ pound stale bread, sliced about 3/4 to 1-inch thick cubes
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pats
2 1/2 cups milk
1 ¾ cup mushrooms, quartered
1 cup cooking greens stemmed and cleaned (Swiss chard, kale or spinach)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
½ cup Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme, picked and chopped
 3 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon red pepper flake
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt

METHOD
Lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish.

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In a large pan, toast the bread cubes lightly in 2 Tablespoons of the butter. Place in a large bowl, and toss with 1 cup of the milk. Set aside.

Sauté the mushrooms in 2 Tablespoons of the butter, then add in the thyme. Remove from the pan and into the bowl with the bread and milk.

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Using the same pan, heat another 2 Tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat, and add the cooking greens.

Stir for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cover the pan, and allow the steam to cook the greens till it has completely collapsed, about three minutes. Uncover and stir, season with salt and red pepper flake.

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Remove from the pan, roughly chop and transfer to the bowl with the bread and mushrooms. Add the cheeses, and mix to incorporate. Arrange in the buttered baking dish.

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Beat together the eggs in a separate bowl, add in the remaining milk. Then pour over the bread mixture. Press the bread down into the custard mixture. Cover with foil and place into the refrigerator overnight.

On the next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place in the oven, and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven, and serve hot.

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(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Twentieth Century Fox.)

Eat Like a Viking

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Much of the history surrounding the origin of the Danish aebleskive is shrouded in mystery—and to some, in ancient Scandinavian folklore. Legend has it that during the days of the Vikings, after the warriors returned home, hit hard in battle (many poorly wounded and hungry) mixed together flour with milk, and cooked the batter inside the hollows of their iron shields and horned helmets (which, too, were dented and broken) over an open fire.

The result: A delicious golf ball-shaped cake, golden on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Today, aebleskiver (plural) which roughly translates to “sliced apples” are enjoyed by just about anyone in every corner of the world. Topped simply with powdered sugar, filled with delicious lingonberry jam, or dipped in a creamy lemon curd—the possibilities with these apple-shaped delights are endless. For my first solo (and best!) attempt at aebleskiver-making (I can briefly remember a short lesson on making them in culinary school), I decided to pair a simple aebleskive recipe with an of-the-moment curd. While we’re still in a weird transitional season from late-fall to winter fruits, I made a delicious pomegranate-lemon curd that pairs perfectly with this recipe.

Cooking with a special aebleskiver pan makes this recipe so much easier, but I used a mini muffin pan, and it worked out PERFECTLY.

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Aebleskiver (Danish Pancakes)

Yields 16
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup half and half
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
Aebleskiver pan (found in select cooking supply stores, like Sur La Table)
or, use a mini muffin pan (which I did.)

METHOD
Whisk together the AP flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter until just-combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, don’t overmix, as it should be slightly lumpy.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form,  about 5 minutes. Then fold in the whipped egg whites into the lumpy batter.

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If you have an aebleskiver pan, place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter evenly to each well of the mold, and once the butter starts to bubble, add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter. Allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue cooking till the tops are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate covered with foil to retain heat. Repeat steps till the rest of the pancake batter is used.

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If you DON’T have an aebleskiver pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place a mini muffin pan into the oven to heat up. Once your oven is up to temperature, remove the muffin pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into each mold well, then add about 2 heaping Tablespoons of pancake batter into each well. Place into the oven and allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Once you see that the bottoms are golden, remove from the oven and flip each pancake onto the other side.

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Raise your oven’s temperature to 425 degrees, and once heated up, place the aebleskivers back into the oven to finish cooking for another 3-5 minutes, till golden brown. Once done, immediately transfer the cooked aebleskiver to a plate covered with foil to retain heat, and repeat the steps till the rest of the batter is used.

Garnish with Pomegranate-lemon curd. (Recipe here)

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How To: Guasacaca Salsa

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The guacamole of Venezuela, guasacaca is the green condiment that almost every Venezuelan household has in their fridge. Instead of lime juice, the salsa uses red wine vinegar, giving it heightened acidity, much similar to an avocado relish. The salsa is excellent for dipping (taro chips? plantains? yucca fries?!) or as a condiment spread for Arepas. It’s easy-to-make and stores well in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

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Guasacaca 
Yields 1 quart
Recipe via Mami Talks

INGREDIENTS
1 avocado; halved, pitted and flesh removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper; deseeded and finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped (the white and the green part)
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt

METHOD
Place all ingredients, except the oil, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend till fully incorporated. Turn off. Use a rubber spatula to scoop the excess bits on the side of the machine’s bowl, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Blend on medium for 30 seconds. Season to taste.

The Horchata Made Me Do It!

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Well, summer is officially here, and temperatures are continuing to rise in Portland. It’s warm at home and it’s doubly horrendous when you work in a hot kitchen all day.

Horchata (or Orxata de xufa, depending upon the flavors and Spanish or Latin American region) was originated in Valencia, Spain, where they traditionally use tigernuts (chufa nuts). In Mexico and Guatemala, they use rice as the base of the drink. The Mexican version is what I grew up drinking. (I have also, however, had the Spanish version a few years ago when I vacationed in Spain. It is also, very very good.)

On my day off last week, I made these Mexican Horchata popsicles to help cool down. (And who doesn’t like horchata? It’s so freaking delicious!) I had some leftover horchata base at home and decided to bring it to work to treat my fellow co-workers.

When I started pouring glasses of the Horchata and distributing them to the prep kitchen, more of my fellow cooks came up to me, asking for a glass. Unfortunately, I hadn’t prepared for such a demand and only had enough to feed a few of my co-workers, so I had to think fast and bulk up the batch I had made on-the-fly.

I slowly went down the line and passed glasses of the ice-cold Horchata I had made to all the line cooks. Even in 100-degree weather and a full house of diners (in arguably one of the busiest restaurants in the city), the guys didn’t hesitate to take a second and gulp down that ice-cold cinnamon sweetness. In just a matter of seconds–faces full of sweat, and urgency turned into big smiles of pure delight and relief.

When I returned to my station and went back to work, in a matter of moments I heard calls for more Horchata.

“I’m gonna need more of that cinnamon drink,” said one.

“That was the best Horchata I’ve ever had,” said another.

“This is my first Horchata and I know it’s the best one I’ll ever have,” exclaimed another.

Haha.

And then my sous chef came up to me and pleaded that I make Horchata for all the Back of House once every week.

OK, alright. That’s a deal.

While this Horchata mix is clearly delightful on its own, freezing them into popsicles makes them even more appealing, especially in 3-digit weather.

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Mexican Horchata Popsicles
Recipe adapted from The Candid Appetite
Yields 10-20 popsicles (depending on the size of your molds)

INGREDIENTS
1½ cups long grain rice (uncooked)
4 cups hot water
1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup coconut milk
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dark rum

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METHOD
Place the rice, hot water, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, and cinnamon sticks into a large bowl. Stir the mixture to combine well.

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Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap at room temperature for about 1½ hours. Discard the cinnamon sticks and strain the rice, reserving the liquid in a separate container.

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Place the rice in a blender or food processor. Blend on medium-high till the rice is pureed and smooth. Slowly add in the reserved liquid. Once all of the liquid has been pureed, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard rice paste remnants.

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Stir in the ground cinnamon, sugar, salt, and rum to the strained mixture. Place the horchata mixture into popsicle molds.

Set popsicles in the freezer for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight before serving.

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When ready to serve, gently run cold water on the outside of the mold to loosen and release popsicle.

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Marta! Marta! Marta!

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And now a scene from one of my favorite movies:

(This scene in Clueless always makes me laugh. Cher is so ignorant clueless, she doesn’t realize that her maid, Lucy, is from El Salvador, not Mexico. And that they are, in fact, two different countries. Luckily, hunky Josh sets the record straight.)

I first learned how to make traditional El Salvadorian pupusas with a very fiesty 50-something-year-old woman named Marta. I worked with Marta at a restaurant a few years ago; she was our dishwasher who’d come into work every day with the reddest lipstick and a full face of makeup and her curly hair all styled perfectly. You wouldn’t think she came into work to wash dishes by the way she presented herself. She took pride in the way she looked, and always joked to me and the other cooks that she was a “hot mama.”

Marta didn’t speak a word of English, so we communicated with each other in Spanish. Marta called me “Selena” because I would often belt out a song by the Tejano singer when I’d bring dishes to the dishpit, and she would be there, smiling brightly as I sang the words to “Como La Flor” with such passion and conviction. (Marta was one of my biggest fans.)

I learned in our conversations that she owned a pupuseria in El Salvador. How fortunate was I to work with a real pupusa expert?! “Mira, Selena,” she’d say, as she brought me and the staff pupusas con chicharones (shredded pork) and share them with the staff. I wanted so desperately to pick her brain and learn how to make the pupusas myself. So after a while we began serving her pupusas once a month in the restaurant, and guess who made them with her? Yep, me. Working next to her as she formed and shaped the pupusa balls at lightning speed was so impressive. It was, at first, quite difficult catching up to her. (She had been making pupusas for 40+ years.) But I was determined to be well versed in pupusa-making. And after a while, I got pretty good at it! Here are the recipes I remember making with Marta.

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El Salvadorian Pupusas with Curtido and Salsa Roja
Yields 5 pupusas; 1 quart curtido; 1 pint salsa roja

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CURTIDO
1/2 head of small green cabbage, julienned thin
2 each carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 white onion, julienned thin
1/2 cup white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

FOR THE SALSA ROJA
1 each canned tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 bunch fresh oregano, picked
1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, tops cut off and deseeded
1 each lime, juiced
Kosher salt, to taste
splash olive oil, to taste

FOR THE PUPUSAS
2 cups masa harina (corn flour, I used Maseca)
2 cups water
1 cup shredded habanero jack cheese
2 jalapeños, minced
oil for frying

METHOD
FOR THE CURTIDO (cabbage slaw)
Mix the shredded cabbage, onion, carrots in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt and add in the vinegar and herbs. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Set aside for at least 1 hour to allow the cabbage to break down.

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FOR THE SALSA ROJA
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor till fully incorporated. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

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FOR THE PUPUSAS
In a large bowl and with your hands, mix the masa, salt and water till the dough is thoroughly mixed and feels like slightly wet clay or Play-Doh.

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Divvy up with dough and form into large balls. You should have about 5. In a small bowl add the minced jalapeños and shredded cheese. Add a splash of water to help bind the cheese-chile filling together.

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Fill a small bowl with lukewarm water. This water will help you when working with the pupusa dough, as it may harden and may become difficult to shape. Take one of the masa balls into your hand and flatten it onto your palm, creating a plate-like shape. Place a dollop of the cheese-chile mixture into the middle of the masa ball.

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Bring the outer sides of the masa to the other side to close the filling. Press down on the sides together to seal the seams. Shape the pupusa balls into a saucer-like shape. Dip your hands into the water bowl to add moisture to the dough if needed. Using some of the water also helps to close the seams and any cracks the dough may create.

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Fill a cast-iron skillet or shallow pan with about a half-inch of oil and turn the heat onto medium. When the skillet is hot and a little haze is over the oil, slowly add in the pupusas without overcrowding the pan.

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Allow the pupusas to cook for about 5 minutes per side. Using a heat-resistant spatula, place the fried pupusas onto a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat till all pupusas are cooked off. Serve with curtido and salsa.

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