"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Birthday Brunch I--Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Ham Crisps; Creme Brulee French Toast; Grits and Cheddar Casserole

Oh, my stomach!

What is it about parties, and buffets in particular, that make you load up that plate and stretch your poor stomach lining to the limit? Well, maybe it's the good food. And we had plenty of it.

For my money, the best all-around was the Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Ham Crisps. Talk about easy, and it really was a show-stopper. Even my sister, who has done some catering, has never seen it. It could easily be modified--I can imagine the mushroom tarragon mix replaced with sauteed red bells and onions, or spinach/shallots and goat or feta cheese. Or for super simple, just the ham and the egg. But the mushrooms put it over the top for me, so I'd only make it simple for a fussy audience (like four-year olds).

But if you asked the crowd, I'd say their favorite was the Creme Brulee French Toast. That really was a hit --the kids went back for seconds and so did some of the adults (I'm not naming names). High marks for this one for ease of preparation--put it together the night before and let it soak, then bring it to room temp in the morning, and throw in the oven an hour before show time. You don't even need syrup--the butter/brown sugar/corn syrup layer on the bottom becomes the oozy top syrup when you flip it onto your plate (if you're agile).

The most problematic dish was the Grits and Cheddar Casserole. I bought the wrong grits (stone-ground instead of regular), didn't let them cook long enough stovetop (so they were soft but still loose), cooked them too long in the oven in an effort to brown the top, which overcooked the eggs enough to make them release their water. All of these were my fault, but the one direction from the recipe that led me astray was "sprinkle with remaining cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes." Now, anybody who has ever made lasagna knows that cheese sticks to foil, and yes, the cheese stuck to the foil and got thrown away with said foil once I took it off to brown the top.

In spite of all these troubles, the flavor was great and a good counterpoint to the French toast, which was quite sweet.

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