Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WIAW #63: Savory Herbed Blintzes

I’ve been doing a lot of big dinner cooking lately but not much of photographing. And because of these rich dinners that often involve complicated carbs, my breakfasts and lunches aren't taht interesting to begin with. Think yogurt, granola, grapefruit, leftovers...and chocolate pumpkin quinoa bars. Okay, those are interesting. 

But either way, I hope you enjoy the main part of my day: dinner.

When you Google “savory blintzes,” you mainly get recipes for sweet dessert blintzes that may have a line or two at the end saying, “try these savory!” 

Instead, I simply made my own version based on one of those sweet recipes. I’ll tell you, it’s completely worth it. The light airy crepes give way to oozing, deliciously herbed ricotta. Doesn’t that sound much better than topped with maple syrup?

Now, the sweet blintzes have their moments, but unless you are entertaining, the savory version is much more practical for a special meal for two or four.

I must say these babies are definitely decadent. For a meal you really only need two along with a hearty salad or bowl of vegetable minestrone like we did. Playful re-imagining of grilled cheese and tomato soup I guess. Also, an awesome one.

You can also customize this as much as you want. I topped ours with caramelized onions, keeping the toppings simply to let the blintz itself shin. But, this recipe also makes a great base for an authentic manicotti. Simply use your favorite marinara sauce to coat a baking dish, place blintzes on top, and cover with sauce, cheese, and additional herbs. Bake at 350 until bubbly and brown on top.

They also freeze quite well for up to a month. Simply freeze for 30 minutes on a baking sheet, and then transfer to a plastic bag so they won’t stick together. Thaw in the fridge before reheating in the oven.

No matter what you topping them with (roasted tomatoes anyone?) you will go nuts over these. It actually makes me miss Philadelphia and its amazing Italian food a little less…. or more because its so good.

Savory Herb Blintzes
(Adapted from The Working Class Foodies Cookbook by Rebecca Lando)

¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup 2% or whole milk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 tsp. salt
½ tsp. white or black pepper
Olive oil

1 ½ cup part-skim ricotta
4 oz. (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. herb de Provence or mix of rosemary and oregano
1 tbsp. fresh sage minced
2 tsp. fresh oregano, minced
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Dash Worcestershire sauce

Minced fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan
1 cup Caramelized onions (roughly 1 large yellow onion)

For the Caramelized onions, sliced onion into thin rings and cook over low heat in a pan with 1 tbsp. butter and drizzle olive oil. Let onions sweat until soft and very translucent, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper. Stir until darkened. Once onions are dark, add ¼ cup water and cover. Cook until very dark and soft.


For the crepe batter, whisk eggs, milk, melted butter, and salt together in a large bowl. Mix in flour a ¼ cup at a time until just combined, scraping the side of the bowl. Refrigerate batter in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, mix all the ingredients for the filling together. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use. Make caramelized onions if using.

Once you are ready to make the crepes, heat a large pan or skillet over medium heat with a little drizzle of olive oil.

Scoop about ¼ cup batter, or just enough to cover the bottom of the pan, swirling the batter quickly to cover the bottom in a thin layer. Cook each crepe for about 90 seconds or until lightly brown on the bottom. (Don’t flip.)

Place crepe on a plate a cover with a piece of parchment paper or a paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the batter and use more oil as needed.

To assemble the blintzes, lay a crepe on a plate or clean cutting board. Spoon a thick amount of the filling on the bottom half of the crepe. Fold half over the filling, then fold over sides and tightly roll with the last half, make a tight bundle, with the seam on the bottom. Repeat with the rest of the crepes and filling.

Using the same pan, heat back to medium high and drizzle enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Fry each rolled blintz for 2-3 minutes on each side until crispy and brown.  Fry two or three blintzes at a time depending on the size of the pan. Place on paper towels until all finished.

Transfer blintzes to plates, top with caramelized onions, parsley, and grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Dutch Oven French Bread

Valentine's Day concluded this year like most gift-holidays. I picked out what I wanted and Aaron bought it for me...and flowers. But hey, he got a bottle of Maker's Mark; so don't feel bad for him.

I've had my eye on this Le Creuset dutch oven for almost a month. I first saw it on clearance while browsing at Marshall's and almost got giddy. The 5 1/2 quart enamel cast iron oven usually goes for several hundred dollars on retail. This one being a "second" quality (though there was only two discolorations you can barely see) usually goes for $250....I got it for $80.

So let's just say I was so excited to break it out that I started using it the first night I got it. Two weeks later, I've started the tradition of "Sunday Bread." Since this recipe takes several hours of inactive time between rising, it is perfect to start before church or any Sunday morning activities and finishing later in the day in time for dinner and weekday sandwiches.

One good thing about this recipe (at least for me) it isn't the "no-knead" Dutch oven bread everyone else has been slinging around the internet because you do knead it in a mixer for 10 minutes, saving you the 24 hours in the fridge that the other version requires. If you have the time and/nor the mixer, here's the famous recipe for good "no knead" dutch oven bread.

I got this recipe from Le Creuset itself and I made it twice: once their way and once my way. What's the difference? Well as good as the bread I made first was, I wanted a slightly softer, more moist bread. Luckily my experiment paid off and I was rewarded with the same height and color of the previous loaf....while having a softer inside.

Alas, this changed how the dough appeared before baking it. Like some of the other breads and recipes I've made since I starting bread-baking a few months ago, my version makes a softer dough as well. With the addition of a little olive oil and pinch of sugar, I got the soft French bread I wanted. It also last at least a day without drying out. (After that I recommend freezing and thawing as needed.)

I do love the simplicity of this recipe and it makes me miss REAL French bread. I would love to see someone try this recipe in an oval Le Creuset to see if it turned into the oval loafs I love so much.

This is the best bread fresh as well as the next day for the best paninis, sandwiches, and my new favorite….French toast. Anyway you eat it you won’t be disappointed.

Dutch Oven French Bread
Makes 1 large loaf

4 cups All-Purpose Flour (such as King Arthur)
1 ½ cup warm water (between 105-115 F degrees)
1 tsp. active dry yeast (about half of a packet)
1 tsp. Coarse sea salt plus additional for baking
1 tsp. sugar
Vegetable oil or vegetable oil spray
2 tsp. Olive oil plus more for baking

Note: It is important that your water is warm so the yeast will proof, but not too hot to kill it.
Also, try not to scope the flour with the same cup for measuring as you will acquire 30% more flour from the scooping. Instead scoop with a separate cup or flour scoop and carefully pour into the measuring cup.
P.S. make sure your dutch oven has a phelonic knob for the hot temperatures, otherwise remove the knob prior to baking.

Add flour, water, yeast, sugar, 2 tsp. olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and at least a 5 ½ quart bowl.

Mix on medium speed (4 for Kitchen Aid) until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes. The dough should be coherent, but will also be soft and sticky.

Lift dough from the bowl, spray with vegetable oil, and then return dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl from the mixer with a pot lid or tightly with plastic wrap.

Let dough to rise until it has doubled in size and does not spring back when a finger covered in flour does not bounce back into it, 2 to 4 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface and knead it to release the gas and redistribute the yeast in the dough. Shape the dough into a ball and cover loosely with a towel, letting stand for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax from the kneading.

On your floured surface, shape the dough into a ball as tightly as possible by rolling it between your hands and pinching the bottom.
Using the vegetable oil, spray or coat the bottom and sides of a large French oven that’s at least 5 ½ quart big. Put the dough in the center of the pot and place the lid on. Allow the dough to rise again, for 30 minutes if warm and humid, 60 minutes if room is colder.

Preheat the oven to 450 F degrees.

Rub at least 1 tablespoon olive oil, gently over the surface of the dough. Score the bread with a sharp knife or razor, making an X or a hash mark (#) to let the dough to expand freely in the oven. Evenly sprinkle the dough with the salt. Cover the pot with the lid and place it in the oven.

After 30 minutes of baking, remove the lid and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F degrees. Continue baking until the bread is nicely browned and cooked through with an internal temperature of 200 F degrees with a thermometer (about 10-15 minutes.)

Remove bread from the dutch oven and allow the bread to rest on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes so that the interior finishes cooking.


The Cuisiner