Saturday, January 31, 2009

//Put-put went the coffee maker

Oh Happy Day! Although I'm on Day Three of Cold Watch 2009, which technically means it's still possible for me to infect any humannoid who comes within five feet of me, the period of post nasal drip is over! Instead of remaining in bed underneath my bed's many layers of blankets like a nut in a batch of baklavah, I bounded out of it this morning and hurried into the kitchen so I could resume my morning coffee ritual. In the future I'm going to have to remember not to let my enthusiasm for caffeine get the better of me, as I initially turned on the coffee maker without adding water to the tank, first. Of course, I only realized this once I went to retrieve the stainless steel to-go cup from the maker's platform and found it suspiciously... empty.

I'd like to think my Oops was really a benevolent act in disguise... I mean, certainly I like to get steam treatments every once in awhile. Surely coffee grounds must like saunas, too.

Ah-hah! Found the problem: No water.

Problem solved; commence java making.

Now, what about brunch?

I'm fairly methodical about my eating habits all around (as opposed to just being health conscious). I neither want to OD it on cooking at home, nor do I want to OD it on eating out. The former is time consuming and necessitates that one get used to eating lots of leftovers if they live by themselves, while the latter tends to be prohibitively expensive if you do it every day.

Earlier in the week I made dark chocolate bread pudding with bananas and a vanilla sauce (we'll get to that later). When all was mixed and baked, I still had two slices of cinnamon bread, a single banana, and 1.5 cups of vanilla sauce leftover. Neither of these things would be usable after this weekend, so I made it my mission to use these ingredients for today's breakfast, rather than go out.

Grilled Almond Butter Sandwich with Sauteed Bananas

* Two slices of bread
* Two tablespoons of almond butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
* One slightly overly ripe banana, thinly sliced
* Enough leftover vanilla custard sauce to coat the bread (see recipe below)
* Butter, butter, butter

Dip one side of each slice in the custard for 15 seconds, and set the pieces batter face down on a large plate. Spread two tablespoons of nut butter on the dry sides of the bread. After you do that, thinly slice the banana and add one tablespoon of butter to a small saute pan. Just when the butter begins to brown, throw in the bananas and let them break down. Be sure to stir the mixture every so often so as not to burn the fruit. You want the bananas to take on a consistency like the nut butter on the bread (i.e., it's OK if the fruit doesn't retain its shape — you'll have an easier time making the sandwich if the bananas become a spread). Once the bananas turn a kind of caramel brown, immediately remove the pan from the heat and spread the mixture evenly on one of the pieces of bread. Assemble the sandwich.

In a much larger saute pan, add another tablespoon of butter and turn the heat on medium-high. Wait 20 seconds and then place the sandwich in it. If it sizzles the moment it touches the pan, the temperature is high enough; if it doesn't, remove it from the pan and wait an additional 15 seconds. After 1.5 minutes, flip the sandwich over to the other side; using a spatula, gently press down on the bread so as to let the other side sear. After another minute and a half, flip it again and then pull it from the pan.

Cut the sandwich (or not) at whatever angle you choose. Optional: Drizzle a teaspoon of honey over the bread after it's been set on a plate. Eat the sandwich whole, or pull it apart and dip it in, oh I don't know, your coffee.

Standard Vanilla Custard Sauce (one of the many on

1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (or use vanilla extract and whisk in a teaspoon of cinnamon if you want the custard to look like it has specs in it)
2 cups half-and-half
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan with tip of a paring knife, then add pod and half-and-half and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk together eggs and sugar in a bowl until well combined, then add hot half-and-half mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Transfer custard to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened and custard registers 175°F on thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes (do not let boil).

Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl, discarding solids. Set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir custard until cool. Chill in refrigerator, covered, until cold, at least 1 hour.

Note: This custard won't set. In other words, because there is no cornstarch or gelatin of any kind in the recipe, you're essentially making a sauce.








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