LittleJudeonFood

One kid's adventures in gastronomy


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Reflections on year 2

So here I am, wrapping the second year of writing my blog. What do you think of that?

If I’m being honest with myself, I would have to say that I’ve enjoyed experiencing all the different foods I get to eat (or push around my plate) each and every day. And though I may be a fickle fellow, liking something one day but not the next, I certainly have my fair share of unusual favorites: grilled asparagus, pan-seared scallops, eggs with runny yolks…

The best part is that I often want to help in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter what mama is making, but I’ll drag over a chair and say, “I want to help!” Mama once came upon me in the kitchen, rooting through the cupboards and saying, “what can I make?” And that, right there, makes it all worth it.

Thank you for being part of this journey. Here’s to another year!
Love, Jude

We didn't have any jam  or jelly for my sandwich, so Mama and I made blueberry jam!

We didn’t have any jam or jelly for my sandwich, so Mama and I made a quick blueberry jam!

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Sloppy Judes

Mama surprised Papa with a cow share. If, like me, you had an image of a group of cows sharing their toys with one another, allow me to clarify: Mama and a group of other people paid for a pasture-raised, organically fed cow (apparently named Charlie), whose meat they then divided amongst themselves.

I’m still confused, as I thought “hamburger” came from chickens.

At any rate, she made what she called “Sloppy Judes,” loosely based on a Sloppy Joes recipe she found online.  She thought I would enjoy eating these because they have my name in them and because I could get all sloppy without fallout.

Meat mixture simmering in one skillet, buns toasting in another.

Meat mixture simmering in one skillet, buns toasting in another.

Not so. I wanted to eat the bun—and not any part that touched the meat mixture, a little of which I ate with a fork.

I'm debating whether I should try this as a sandwich.

I’m debating whether I should try this as a sandwich. I think not.

Even though I ate some of it, it was begrudgingly, so I’m going to give this dinner a “miss.” I just didn’t like the chopped up pepper and onions mixed in with the soft meat, and I think ketchup should be saved for hot dogs. But I like meat very much, so Papa and I are looking forward to seeing what else Charlie will provide for us.

Love, Jude


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Breakfast in Bed

Some folks call this “toad in a hole.” Others, like my GeeGee, call it a “bird’s nest.” Either way, I think it’s a funny name for “egg in toast.” Mama keeps my yolk a little runny, so it perfectly soaks into the surrounding toast. Complete with a smoothie and some sausage, this was a terrific way to start the day.

Even better, Mama served it to me in bed. But just so you know, if you give a kid breakfast in bed, he’s going to ask for it the next day. And the day after that.

I was able to keep watching a show on the iPad AND eat my breakfast. Win-win.

I was able to keep watching a show on the iPad AND eat my breakfast. Win-win.

Love, Jude

Toad in a Hole/Bird’s Nest

Slices of bread
1 egg per slice of bread
Butter, room temperature
Salt and pepper

Tear out a piece of bread from the center of the slice. (The larger the hole, the more the egg will spread.) Butter the bread, on both sides if desired. Heat a skillet over medium heat. (Mama used a nonstick, just because.) When hot, lay the bread in the skillet, butter-side down, and then crack an egg into the center hole. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, or other seasonings, if desired.

The eggs fit nicely in their little bread nests.

The eggs fit nicely in their little bread nests.

Cook until egg is of desired doneness—break the yolk if you like yours over hard, or “stepped on,” as Mama calls it. Carefully turn over and  finish cooking on the other side. Enjoy!

The buttery bread gets good and toasty.

The buttery bread gets good and toasty.


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Panna cotta? Why notta?

If you looked in our fridge, you’d see sundry dairy products: milk for me and Papa, milk for Mama, milk for mama’s coffee, buttermilk for pancakes… Clearly, we have a yen for the stuff. So when Mama decided to show me how to turn the milk into something you can eat with a spoon, I was intrigued.

Panna cotta, in its simplest explanation, is eggless Italian custard. It’s cream that’s been cooked with a smidge of sugar, combined with gelatin, and allowed to set. What could be simpler? And the “formula” is easy enough for a kid like me to remember:

3 cups liquid to 1 package gelatin

That’s it! Mama chooses to divide the liquid equally between heavy cream and half-and-half. She could divvy it up differently or use regular milk, goat’s milk, or even nondairy creamer. She noted that non-milks such as coconut milk and almond milk don’t have enough fat in them to properly set without further tweaks to the recipe. They’ll come together, but they won’t have the proper texture, which Mama says should be solid enough to sit on a spoon but soft enough to wobble like the backs of her arms when she waves.

Panna cotta, two ways

Panna cotta, two ways

Mama says there’s little reason to fear gelatin (unless you’re talking about those neon-hued sugar-laden varieties or this; then be afraid, be very afraid). While it’s true that gelatin is an animal product, it’s highly processed. So, much like the wasp in a fig, it’s not like you’re eating an actual bone. There are more natural varieties (such as Jensen’s) available, and a vegetarian alternative is agar agar, which is fun to say. Gelatin also comes in sheets, but we’re sticking with the powdered kind. Either variety basically has an indefinite shelf-life, so scrounge in your cupboards for a box tucked away in the back.

Working with gelatin requires a two-step process. First it needs to be bloomed, which has nothing to do with James Joyce and everything to do with coating it with cool liquid.

It starts to get all wrinkly immediately.

It starts to form a skin and get all wrinkly immediately.

Then it needs to be melted by either heating it over a low heat or combining it with a hot (not boiling) liquid. Using a hot liquid to bloom gelatin will impede the blooming process, whereas boiling the gelatin at any point will deactivate its gelling properties. (Though isn’t it interesting that you could melt a batch of finished gelatin and reset it several times?)

Because this recipe involves a lot of hot liquid, Mama did most of the work. She made it just before she cooked dinner (chicken piccata, steamed green beans with toasted almonds, and mushroom rice pilaf), and by the time we cleaned up the dinner mess, it was ready. I love how it jiggles but even more, I love how velvety this is. It’s creamy and subtly sweet. What’s more, it looks fancypants but isn’t.

I especially liked going "Boing! Boing!" on top of the panna cotta.

I especially liked going “Boing! Boing!” on top of the panna cotta.

Love, Jude

Basic Panna Cotta

1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups half-and-half, divided
¼ cup sugar (or more, to taste)
1 package gelatin (or 2 ¼ tsp)
Vanilla bean/vanilla extract/other flavorings, to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, 1 cup of the half-and-half, and the sugar. Set over medium-low heat and gently warm, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is hot and the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Do not boil. (Remove from the heat, if necessary, or turn the heat down to low.)

Meanwhile, pour the remaining half-and-half in a shallow bowl, then sprinkle the packet of gelatin over the top in an even layer. Set aside to bloom the gelatin, about 5 minutes. When the surface looks wrinkly and there’s no dry powder remaining, it’s ready. (If there’s a lot of dry powder, then gently stir to get it wet.)

Ready to combine. You can see a bit of dry gelatin powder at 12 o'clock. Mama mixed it in before adding it to the hot cream.

Ready to combine. You can see a bit of dry gelatin powder at 12 o’clock. Mama mixed it in before adding it to the hot cream.

Once the cream mixture is hot, stir in any extracts for flavor,* off-heat. Start with ½ tsp and go from there. Taste it. See if it needs more flavor or more sweetness to your liking. Stir in the gelatin mixture with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Stir and stir until all the gelatin is dissolved. (Check the back of the spoon/spatula—you’ll see little globs of unmelted gelatin if they’re there.)

To serve panna cotta in glasses, jars, or dishes, simply pour it into the appropriate vessel. (You might want to pour the finished mixture into a glass measure for easier and neater pouring first.) Do this carefully so it doesn’t splash all up the sides of the glass, which you’ll see once it’s set. Cover with plastic wrap (not touching the surface of the panna cotta) and chill in the fridge until set, 1 to 2 hours. (If your glasses have already been in the fridge, it’ll set a little faster.)

Mama topped this with some leftover pear-poaching syrup. If the panna cotta weren't properly set, the liquid would never sit on top like that.

Mama topped this with some leftover pear-poaching syrup. If the panna cotta weren’t properly set, the liquid would never sit on top like that.

To unmold the panna cotta for a fancier presentation, lightly coat or spray custard cups or ramekins with a neutral-flavored oil (e.g., grapeseed or canola). Divide the finished mixture among them, cover, and chill as above. To serve, dip each mold in hot water for 10 seconds, run a knife around the edge, and invert onto a plate. (It helps to put the plate on the ramekin, and then invert.) If the panna cotta doesn’t easily slip out of the mold, then dip it in the hot water again, making sure the water comes up as high as the panna cotta.

It's just another way to eat it.

It’s just another way to eat it.

Either way, serve it topped with fresh berries, berries made into a sauce, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, crumbled gingersnap or thin-mint cookies, etc. The possibilities are really endless.

Makes 6 1/2-cup servings

*Note: If using whole spices as flavoring, such as the seeds and pod of a vanilla bean or cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks, etc., steep them in the cream as it heats. Remove before adding the gelatin mixture. Also, alternatives to sugar seem to work as well as the white stuff: stevia, honey, agave, even those ghastly fake sugars (but you didn’t hear that from me).

"Yum!"

“Yum!”


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A recipe for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

First, Happy New Year! (Mama told me it’s a nice thing to say to people.)

We started today’s breakfast last night by making challah bread. We’ve made it before when Mama made angel food cake and used the leftover egg yolks for challah. Last night, we made the challah so that this morning we could have it as egg nog French toast! Mama knows only a little bit about challah’s origin, and she says it’s fitting to make the bread one night and eat it the next day.

When making bread, it’s important to gather all the ingredients first. It’s also helpful to use a scale. Mama’s made bread with standard measures, but if you’re looking to have consistent results every time, then weighing your ingredients is the “weigh” to go. (I don’t know why that’s supposed to be funny.)

The flour, salt, milk, yolks, and oil are in the mixing bowl, and the yeast and water are getting cozy in the measuring cup.

The flour, salt, milk, yolks, and oil are in the mixing bowl, and the yeast and water are getting cozy in the measuring cup.

After you’ve mixed your dough, there’s nothing much to do except wait. And as I wasn’t allowed to stay up to ring in the new year, Mama took the waiting shift as I went off to bed.

But for breakfast, I was all-hands-on-deck. Choose any French toast recipe you like (we usually wing it) and simply substitute the milk or cream for egg nog. (I call it “donut milk” because it’s so yummy.)

I cracked this egg by myself, and I didn't even break the yolk!

I cracked this egg by myself, and I didn’t even break the yolk!

I insisted on mixing the egg and egg nog.

I insisted on mixing the egg and egg nog.

I used my hands to dip and turn the sliced bread to get it coated in nog mixture. Mama likes to use a fork.

I used my hands to dip and turn the sliced bread to get it coated in nog mixture. Mama likes to use a fork.

The French toast is super golden, which makes it extra yummy.

The French toast is super golden, which makes it extra yummy.

I didn't even need syrup with my egg nog French toast.

I didn’t even need syrup with my egg nog French toast.

I have to say this was a good start to 2014. I look forward to many more surprises like this one.

Love, Jude

Challah Bread

11 fluid oz warm water, 105–110°F (or, just hot enough so you can hold your finger in it without too much discomfort)
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
20 oz bread flour (Mama replaced about 4 oz. with regular whole-wheat flour)
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp dry milk powder
1 Tbsp oil (canola works fine)
6 large egg yolks
1 egg + splash of milk for egg wash

In a glass measure or bowl, whisk together the water and the yeast until foamy. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining ingredients (except egg wash) in the order listed. Pour yeast mixture on top. Mix with the dough hook on low speed for a minute or two to bring everything together, then increase speed to #2 for about 5 more minutes. Test the dough by stretching a small bit between your fingers. If it gives a good stretch before breaking, then you’re set.

Remove the dough to a greased sheet tray, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rest in a warm spot until doubled in size, anywhere from 1-2 hours. (You can shape the dough in to a lovely ball first, but it’ll still proof without the beauty treatment.)

Here's the dough after it's doubled in size. It's smooth and puffy.

Here’s the dough after it’s proofed, or doubled in size. It’s smooth and puffy.

And here’s why Mama loves to make challah: you get to braid it! First, give the dough ball a few good kneads to get out all the air. Divide it into 3 equal pieces, then channel your inner 3-year-old and roll them into ropes (or snakes!).

Roll these out like ropes.

Roll out each piece of dough into a rope, however long you like–just not too skinny. You’ll know when the dough has had enough.

Set the ropes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pinch together 3 ends.

Pinch together the top of the braid.

Pinch together the top of the braid. This isn’t prom, so there’s no need to make it pretty just yet.

Mama’s left-handed, so she starts the braid with the left strand. Start it with the right if that is more comfortable for you. Gently cross the left strand over the center strand.

Left goes over center.

Left goes over center.

Then the right strand goes over the “new” center strand (the one that was just the left strand).

Now right goes over the center. Braid them loosely because they're going to need room to proof again.

Now right goes over the center. Braid them loosely because they’re going to need room to proof again.

And so on. When you get to the end, pinch the strands together and tuck them under a little bit.

The strands are tight enough to stay together but loose enough to allow the dough room to expand.

The strands are tight enough to stay together but loose enough to allow the dough room to expand.

Because Mama divided her dough a little unevenly when she first separated it into 3, she had one strand that was a bit larger than the other two. So she lopped off a hunk of that dough and made a tiny little challah with it to decorate the bigger loaf. With or without the add-on, now’s the time to make the egg wash and gently brush it on all parts of the bread–really get it in between all those twists.

Egg wash the dough first, then adorn with any embellishments. Egg wash the add-ons, too.

Egg wash the dough first, then adorn with any embellishments. Egg wash the add-ons, too.

Allow it to proof once more, about an hour or so. Have the oven preheating to 350°F.

Good thing there was space between those braided strands.

Good thing there was space between those braided strands.

Egg wash again, if desired. Bake until it reaches an internal temp of 190°F or higher, 20-25 minutes. It should be beautiful and golden.

Golden on the top and light and fluffy on the inside.

Golden on the top and light and fluffy on the inside.

Try as hard as you can to let it cool before diving in. The house will smell wonderful in the meantime.

Makes 1 large loaf or 2 smaller loaves.