Most of us had, and possibly still have, foods we did not, or still won’t, eat. Currently, raw oysters are on my list of undesirable foods, but when I was a kid I disliked peas, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. Honestly, it is a miracle I overcame any of my childhood food prejudices, especially vegetables. Mom only made frozen vegetables and she burnt them 8 times out of 10. Over time I grew to love all vegetables with Brussels sprouts being the last holdout.
About 15 years ago at a holiday celebration, a beautiful plate of Brussels sprouts was served with dinner. Up until then I did not give this cruciferous vegetable any thought or attention, but out of politeness and curiosity I put aside my childhood opinion and ate them. After one small spoonful of Brussels sprouts, my attitude changed forever. I cannot remember how my sister-in-law made them, but what I do remember was how surprisingly sweet they tasted. Even with the innate bitter components found in all types of cabbages, a tender and sweet flavor emerged. My sister-in-law’s meal tasted nothing like the Brussels sprouts of my childhood.
It is possible my attitude changed because now I tolerate bitter flavors. Whatever the reason, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables during the fall and winter seasons. The key to delicious and sweeter tasting Brussels sprouts is cooking them properly. What I learned over the years is, they taste their best with fast cooking methods because the longer they cook the more bitter they taste. The cooking method that retains the most amount of nutritional benefits is steaming them. This is true for all vegetables. Yet, I like to sauté, braise or roast Brussels sprouts. Each technique creates a caramelized sear on the sprouts that add contrasting color and flavor. They are not as quick to prepare as green beans or asparagus,, but like most green vegetables they finish cooking within 20 minutes.
How to Cook Brussels Sprouts
This recipe uses two cooking methods. I first sear them in a hot skillet. Once they are nicely browned I add garlic, shallots and add some hot red pepper flakes then sauté them with the Brussels sprouts. For this recipe, I add the garlic after I sear the Brussels sprouts because I do not want the garlic to brown or burn. Then, I braise them in stock or water until they are just tender. I believe the steam from the liquid cooks them faster than they would if only sautéed. Plus the liquid gives the Brussels sprouts a nice coating for the pomegranate glaze to adhere to. Once they finish cooking, I add a glaze of butter and pomegranate molasses over the tender sprouts. It is just that simple.
The pomegranate molasses has a bitter-sweet taste adding just a touch of acid to brighten up the flavor. You can find pomegranate molasses at specialty markets, like Middle Eastern markets or Asian markets, or online. Or, you can make it. I recommend store-bought pomegranate molasses because it has a long shelf life. You can also use pomegranate molasses in a variety of recipes like, Muhammara.
There are so many variations for additions and garnishes for this meal. I added pomegranate seeds for a pop of color and compliment the pomegranate molasses. A touch of acid like lemon juice brightens the meal, but too much lemon juice, or any acid, will change the color to a drab green.
Other nice additions are crispy pancetta or fried prosciutto. Anything salty like cured meats or anchovies will cut out some of the bitter flavor. If you use anchovies, omit the pomegranate molasses.
Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze
- 1.5 lbs (750 g) Brussels Sprouts
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more to taste
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cloves shallots thinly sliced in half moons
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or dried red pepper flakes
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup (125 - 150 ml) chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
- 2 TB butter
- 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
- Fresh ground black pepper to Taste
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds or fried slices of prosciutto, or crispy pancetta (optional)
Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the bottom stem then slice the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Remove any loose outer leaves that are not in good shape.
Add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil to a very large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the olive oil starts to shimmer add the Brussels sprouts and lay them cut side down. Sear the Brussels Sprouts until golden about 2-3 minutes. Once seared to your desired color, stir them around then add the minced garlic and sliced shallots. Cook until the shallots start to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the stock or water, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until the Brussels sprouts are tender in the middle, when pierced with a fork. about 7-9 minutes.
When the Brussels Sprouts are tender, remove the lid and cook off any remaining liquid in the pan.
Once the pan is just dry, add the butter, or 1 TB olive oil for a vegan dish, and pomegranate molasses, stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with pomegranate molasses, lemon zest, and or crispy prosciutto.
If you are cooking for a large crowd, roasting Brussels sprouts is the easiest way to prepare them. Coat them in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a 400°F / 200°C oven for about 35 minutes on rimmed sheet pans. Turn them over from time to time during roasting. Add the pomegranate molasses immediately after they finish roasting with extra olive oil or melted butter and salt and pepper to taste.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Roasting a 15-pound turkey is intimidating and not without its challenges. It is difficult to get the white and dark meat well-seasoned, properly cooked and done at the same time. The size of a turkey is enough to stop people from cooking one. Not everyone needs or wants the whole bird and fortunately turkey parts are more available. When I entertain a small group for a holiday meal, I like to make turkey breast roulades. It has the wow factor like a roast turkey, but is more impressive seeing the cheese and herbs rolled inside the turkey breast. The bonus is, it takes 45 minutes to cook.
This recipe is from 2014 Oct/Nov issue of Fine Cooking Magazine. It is a great recipe by Jenn Louis and perfect alternative to roast turkey. What first attracted me to the recipe was a couple of things. I was hosting a small gathering for Christmas dinner and did not want to roast a whole turkey.
Second, there is a special ingredient in this recipe and it is not the bacon. Fennel Pollen. If you have never had it you are in for a treat. In this recipe, fennel pollen is mixed with bread crumbs, garlic and fresh sage. This mixture gets rolled into the turkey breast with fontina cheese and gives the turkey an exotic flavor. A lively je ne sais quoi flavor. If you tasted this recipe without the fennel pollen it would still taste great, but adding the fennel pollen brings the turkey roulade to another level of surprise and sophistication.
I first discovered fennel pollen a few years ago and believe it is a magical ingredient. I could cook with fennel pollen every day and never get tired of it. The flavor is more pronounced than fennel seed, but in a complex way. It is amazing with goat cheese, which is how I first discovered fennel pollen. A little goes a long way because the flavor is not shy. I love bold flavors and if used properly and with nuance, transforms a meal from delicious to unexpected in an extraordinary way.
Fennel pollen is expensive and hard to come by, but I believe it is worth it. I purchased fennel pollen at Savory Spice Shop in St. Petersburg FL, when I was visiting St. Pete. You can source fennel pollen at your local spice shop or farmers market. Or, you can also buy it online at Amazon or at Pollen Ranch.
Turkey Breast Roulade
Making turkey breast roulade is a production, but once assembled it is easy to cook and one you will feel very proud of. This impressive entrée is worth the extra effort. I found the most difficult part is pounding out the turkey breast to an even half-inch thickness. It is not that it is hard to do, it just takes some elbow grease and extra time. The good news is you can release any pre-entertaining angst with each whack of your meat mallet. It took me about 20 minutes to finish shaping the turkey breast. Essentially, you are taking an uneven shaped lobe and pounding it into a half-inch thick, 9 x 10 inch semi-rectangular shape. If you do not have a meat mallet, use a heavy-duty skillet. I tried it with both and found I had more control with a mallet.
Rolling up each turkey breast then wrapping them in bacon is something that requires some coordination, but gets easier each time you make it. The first time you make this, don’t let any insecurity of the unknown seep in and question your performance. Read the directions carefully and trust your instincts. After you see your first turkey roulade you gain twice as much confidence to tackle the second one. The plastic wrap is an excellent helper and assists in rolling up each turkey breast and wrapping the bacon over each turkey roulade. I included a video made by Fine Cooking that shows how to make a roulade for your convenience. Hopefully, all your questions get answered between my instructions and watching the video.
Helpful Hints for Making Turkey Breast Roulade
Time is the extra ingredient. Make sure you give yourself lots of time, especially the first time you make the roulade. It is important not to be rushed or cut corners due to time constraints. Whenever I feel rushed or cut corners, I make mistakes and do not get as good results. You can make turkey breast roulades the day before you want to serve it, which is a huge stress reliever and time saver when entertaining. Plan ahead and give yourself enough time to brine the turkey breasts for 12 – 24 hours, and assemble the roulades ahead of time. There are 8 steps – brining, pounding, stuffing, rolling, wrapping, cooking, making the au jus, and slicing the roulades. No one step is difficult, they just take time.
I always find it is helpful to read the recipe from start to finish a couple of times before I start cooking. Being familiar with the process helps anticipate each step.
If you cannot find boneless skinless turkey breasts, ask your butcher to cut one for you. Most stores carry whole turkey breast on the bone. A good butcher will use it and prepare it any way you want.
How to work with raw turkey breast
Making the turkey breast roulades requires you handle the turkey meat and get your hands dirty. As long as you have your Mise en place, cross contamination of unwanted bacteria won’t be an issue.
- Remove all jewelry from your hands and wrists. Even if you wear latex gloves, take off your rings. If you have a plain ring, like a wedding band, you can leave it on.
- If you have medium to long hair, tie it up to keep it out of your face.
- Push your sleeves up and wear an apron to protect your clothes.
- Do all your prep before you start handling the turkey breast and station them at your work area. Place all the utensils, plastic wrap cut to size, roasting pan within reach, and a couple of kitchen towels nearby. Mise en place.
- Wash your hands a lot. I wash them before I start, between steps, and when I’m finished. Every time I step away from raw poultry, I wash my hands.
- Throw out unused ingredients, like the extra grated cheese.
- Wash and rinse the counter and area where you worked.
I know you can do it. Turkey Breast Roulade with Fontina and Sage is an impressive and delicious meal. One that you will feel proud to make as well as enjoy eating.
Turkey Breast Roulades with Fontina and Fennel Pollen
- 2 TB granulated sugar
- 2 TB Kosher Salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 medium garlic cloves halved and green germ removed
- 2-1½ lbs 750 g boneless, skinless turkey breast halves, remove tenderloins from each breast
- 1/3 cup 75 ml fine unseasoned bread crumbs
- 4 cloves of garlic green germ removed and minced
- 2 TB finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 tsp fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 6 oz 175 g fontina, grated (about 2 cups / 500 ml)
- 2 brined turkey breasts
- 1 lb bacon about 18 - 20 slices total
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 oz / 4 TB 50 g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 TB pieces
- 2 medium shallots thinly sliced
- 6 fresh sage leaves finely chopped
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups 500 ml homemade or low sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice plus more to taste
- Kosher salt
Brine the Turkey Breast
Combine all the brine ingredients, except the turkey breast, in a medium saucepan. Bring the brine to a boil and simmer until the sugar and salt dissolves. Turn off the heat and pour the brining liquid into a large, non-reactive bowl. Let the brine cool to room temperature. Once cooled add the turkey breasts and up to 4 cups (1 liter) of water so the turkey breasts are completely covered in the brining liquid. (I needed less than 2 cups of water). Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
Make the Roulades the following day.
In a small bowl combine the breadcrumbs, sage, fennel pollen and minced garlic. Stir to combine.
Remove the turkey breasts from the brine and pick off any spices. Pat each breast dry.
Place a large piece of plastic wrap down on your work surface and place one breast, skin side down on top of the plastic wrap. Cover the turkey with another piece of plastic wrap. Do the same for the remaining turkey breast.
Use a meat mallet or the underside of a heavy-duty skillet, and pound each turkey breast to an even ½ inch (1 cm) thick, and approximately 9 x 10 inch (23 x 24 cm) rectangle. It won't be exactly like a rectangle, but it will be close. Use a downward and forward motion when pounding on the turkey breast, stopping every now and then to straighten out the plastic wrap on top of the breast. When you think you are close to done, stop and feel each flattened turkey with your hands for any uneven areas. Pound out these parts until each piece is flat with an even half inch width.
Remove the top piece of plastic wrap from each breast and evenly sprinkle Kosher salt over surface, about 1/4 tsp each breast. Add a few rounds of freshly ground black pepper over each breast.
Sprinkle the breadcrumb and herb mixture over each turkey breast, leaving a ½ inch (1 cm) boarder around the perimeter of each turkey breast. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the breadcrumbs and herbs. Make sure you have a nice even layer spread over the turkey's surface.
Fold inward a half-inch boarder along the long sides of each rectangular turkey piece. This will enclose the bread crumbs and cheese so they don't spill out when you are rolling it up and while cooking.
Start at the short end and roll up each turkey breast, keeping the folded edges inside the roulade. Use the plastic wrap to guide the turkey into place. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7 and place the rack in the middle position.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap lengthwise on a work surface. Arrange the bacon slices lengthwise across the middle of the plastic wrap. Overlap each piece of bacon, about 1/3 of the way over each piece lengthwise. Make sure there are no gaps. The bacon should line up across the middle of the plastic wrap to equal the length of each roulade. About 8-10 slices of bacon per turkey roulade.
Lay a turkey roulade across the middle of the bacon slices, so that the bacon strips run perpendicular to the turkey roulade. Lift the top side of plastic wrap with the bacon, up and over one side of the turkey. Peel away the plastic wrap while holding the bacon in place. The bacon slices should lay over half the width of the turkey roulade meeting close to the seam. Repeat with the other side. If the bacon ends do not meet, stretch them until they completely cover the turkey around its girth. Secure the bacon to the turkey with toothpicks. Set aside and repeat with the other turkey roulade.
Place a medium flameproof roasting pan on a burner set at medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and heat until shimmering.
Add the roulades top side down into the roasting pan and sear the bacon for 4 minutes. The bacon will begin to brown. Turn each roulade over on its' side and sear for one minute. Repeat for the remaining sides, ending with the top side up.
Place the roasting pan in the oven and bake until an instant read thermometer registers 165°F / 74°C at the thickest part of each roulade, about 35 minutes.
Place each roulade on a cutting board and let the turkey rest for 10 minutes and up to an hour.
Make the Au Jus
Pour the drippings from the pan into a fat separator and let the pan juices settle. Place the roasting pan on a burner set to medium heat. Add 1 TB of the fat from the pan juices and 1 TB of butter to the roasting pan. After the butter melts, add the shallots and sage to the pan and cook until the shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir to prevent the shallots from browning. Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. If there are any drippings at the bottom of your fat separator, not the fat, add them to the stock. Whisk to combine, and taste then correct for seasoning. Bring the au jus to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down to low and add the remaining butter one tablespoon at a time, whisk between each addition until the butter is incorporated. Turn off heat and add the lemon juice. Season to taste.
Carefully remove all the toothpicks and slice. Serve with the jus.
The turkey roulades can be assembled and wrapped in bacon up to 12 hours before cooking. Cover each roulade in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator before cooking. Remove the roulades 30 minutes prior to baking to bring up to room temperature.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
You know that feeling you get after spending hours outside in freezing weather? When you are so cold you forget what it’s like to feel warm. The freezing temperatures makes your muscles tense as if your shoulders are welded together and attached to your ears. Nothing feels right when a winter chill seeps into your bones. When I get that cold, the thought of sitting by a fire or taking a hot bath becomes a fantasy vacation. There is another solution for getting warm and that is sipping a Hot Toddy.
I’d almost forgotten Hot Toddies and its’ warming powers. Thanks to an outdoor fundraiser in February and an Irish Pub on 10th Ave, a distant memory defrosted from my archives. On a frigid February day, the westerly winds blowing off the Hudson River nearly defeated us. Our walk took us down a path from 42nd street to Battery Park, then back up to 23rd Street. Me and my co-conspirators were desperate to warm up. Our scheduled reward of a free pancake breakfast lost its’ appeal for something stronger, so we headed over to 10th Avenue and right into an Irish pub. Upon entering, our waiter accurately read our frozen expressions and sat us down at a table by the fire and suggested a Hot Toddy for our beverage.
A Hot Toddy. I immediately fell in love with this pub. Just the mention of this soothing cocktail made me relax. It also brought back memories of winter sailing with Dad on the San Francisco Bay. Winter in the Bay Area is nowhere near as cold as New York, but it is damp and that makes the air feel like it’s below freezing. Sometimes after a particularly cold day of sailing, Dad made Hot Toddies for “the crew”. His recipe was a simple one with boiling water, bourbon, honey, a drop of lemon, and a cinnamon stick. It wasn’t fancy, but it was the perfect remedy after a day of sailing through the fog. Even though my Hot Toddy only contained a drop of bourbon, I still felt its’ warming powers.
I associate Hot Toddies with outdoor winter activities, but don’t limit yourself to just one type of occasion. Any time you want to relax or warm up is perfect for Toddy time. It is a cocktail to sip and relax with, not a let’s go drinking drink. For centuries a Hot Toddy was prescribed to cure many ailments like a sore throat, a cold or anxiety. It is a soothing drink, not a strong one. However, as history has shown, this cocktail is open to interpretation and variation.
What I learned is, throughout history Hot Toddies were made with local ingredients like Irish Whiskey in Ireland, Rum or Brandy in the US, and Scotch in Scotland. It also originated in India, not Scotland as I thought. Now, there are many variations made with apple cider, tea, ginger ale, tequila, vodka, gin, or served with whipped cream on top. Personally, I am partial to the traditional recipe for a Hot Toddy because I believe the warming notes of caramel found in whiskey is integral to the flavor profile of the drink. You won’t find whipped cream topping my Hot Toddy either.
How to Make a Hot Toddy
It is a good idea to temper your glass, so the Hot Toddy stays hot for as long as possible. Use an 6-8 oz (185-250 ml) Irish Coffee mug or a glass suitable for hot beverages. Or, add a metal spoon into a glass and pour the boiling water over the spoon to prevent the glass from cracking.
My Hot Toddy ratio is 2 parts water, or other hot non-alcoholic beverage, to one part spirit: 4 oz (125 ml) hot water to 2 oz (60 ml) whiskey. I am partial to Irish Whiskey, like Jameson or Tullamore Dew, but a bourbon like Makers Mark with its’ smooth and sweet honey notes would taste nice in a Hot Toddy. In my opinion a natural sweetener, like honey or maple syrup taste best. Lemon juice and orange or lemon slices are a nice touch with woody spices. Add 1-2 spices so they do not compete with each other, or no spices at all. I enjoy the different spices because each sip carries a unique flavor from the steeping spices.
However you choose to make your Hot Toddy, try this traditional recipe, at least once. You will soon feel its mellow effects and warm to any occasion.
- 4 oz 125 ml boiling water
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 oz 60 ml Irish Whiskey or Bourbon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise optional
- 1 -2 cloves optional
- thin slice of lemon
- a quarter slice of an orange optional
Fill a drinking glass like an Irish Coffee glass, or a large snifter, or 6 oz glass mug, with hot water to warm up your glass. If your glass is not made for hot beverages, temper it by putting a metal kitchen spoon in the glass before you add the water. Keep your water hot in the tea kettle while you wait for your glass to warm up about 5 minutes.
Empty your glass and add 4 oz (125 ml) of boiling water to your warmed mug. Use the spoon method again so your glass won't crack. Add the honey and lemon juice and stir until the honey is dissolved. Add the cinnamon stick, whisky and the lemon and orange slices, studded with a clove or two for garnish. Add a star anise if using. Drink while it is hot.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Cranberry sauce is an essential Thanksgiving side dish. I am so accustomed to eating turkey with cranberry sauce it is hard to imagine serving turkey without it. Of all the side dishes made for this yearly feast, it is one of the easiest. The sauce takes about 20 minutes tops to prepare, then chills in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. It is so quick and easy, I do not understand why more people don’t make it. The canned sauce is convenient, but there is no comparison to homemade cranberry sauce.
As a kid, I knew there must be a better alternative to the canned sauce. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mom proudly displayed the solid jellied cranberry sauce on its’ own plate. It’s cylinder shape and distinctive ribbed markings revealed its canned origin and was futile to disguise it. As each person reached over to slice off sections of the jellied cranberry cylinder, one never knew where it would roll. It slid around so much, we needed an extra utensil to hold it still. More times than not you heard the distinctive thwack of a knife hitting the plate when it slipped off the cranberry sauce. I never knew if it was going to slide away and knock over the gravy boat.
Passing the cranberry sauce around the table was challenging as well. It took adept balancing skills to keep it from rolling off the plate and landing on your lap. Every holiday as each family member carefully carved out their portion, I secretly chuckled to myself wondering if this was the year the cranberry sauce got away.
I am happy to say, eating canned cranberry sauce did not turn me off this condiment for good. I did like it, but I wanted something fresher. Once I was on my own, I did not waste time and quickly learned to make it from scratch. In fact, I learned how to make homemade sauce before I learned how to roast a turkey. In my opinion, homemade cranberry sauce is key to tying the whole meal together.
Whenever I host Thanksgiving it is for a large crowd of 30 family members. Everyone contributes a dish for this feast. The cranberry sauce must compliment every and any side dish in the buffet. As a result, my recipe does not have a lot of different herbs, spices or alcohol, but offers the classic pairing of tart cranberries with bitter-sweet orange zest and marmalade. This combination of bittersweet flavors goes with everything.
More holiday side dishes: My Favorite Stuffing Recipe
I believe the original recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, probably around the early 1990’s. The publisher and author information are missing, but I believe this is an accurate guess since I subscribed to Bon Appetit at the time. I made one small change to the original.
The original recipe includes frozen concentrated cranberry juice cocktail. Unfortunately, finding frozen cranberry juice is getting harder and harder with each passing year. As a result, I make it one of two ways: reduce 2 cups of cranberry juice to one cup, or just add one cup of regular cranberry juice. Either way the cranberry sauce has a deep red color with tart cranberry flavor. If you can find frozen cranberry juice, feel free to use it.
I call it Triple C Cranberry sauce because it has three different cranberry ingredients, fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, and cranberry juice. It also has three layers of orange flavorings, orange zest, orange juice and orange marmalade. Altogether these 2 x triple layers of cranberries and oranges, makes a tart and fruity cranberry sauce with a touch of sweetness for balance. It is not too thick or too thin, and spoons easily over your Thanksgiving meal. I promise, this cranberry sauce won’t roll away.
Triple C Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup (250 ml) cranberry juice, or frozen juice concentrate thawed
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar
- 1- 12 oz (350 g) package of fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dried cranberries
- 3 TB orange marmalade
- 2 TB orange zest
- 2 TB fresh orange juice
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
Add the cranberry juice and sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to medium and add the fresh or frozen cranberries, and the dried cranberries to the juice. Stir and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 - 7 minutes. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes to reach the desired texture of popped cranberries to whole ones. I think it is nice to have an even ratio of both.
Turn off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to evenly combine.
Pour the cranberry sauce into a storage container and cool. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It’s time for me to revise my list of brunch meals and come up with more selections. I have a couple of good options, like Zucchini Frittata or Maple Apple Dutch Baby Pancakes, but I wanted something different and made with eggs. One of the best ways to cook eggs for a crowd is to bake them in the oven. Oven baked eggs are very convenient and becoming more popular. One dish that is particularly popular now, is Shakshuka. I wanted something similar in style, but with hearty greens as the base instead of tomatoes.
Ultimately, I decided to combine the two and sautéed hearty greens with tomatoes as the foundation for the baked eggs. Additionally, I wanted a bright creamy sauce to drizzle over the eggs, but nothing too heavy because I did not want it to detract from the vegetables and eggs. I pushed myself to stay away from cheese and heavy cream and try something lighter instead. It is rare to come across a healthy and creamy combination, but recently I discovered yogurt is a great substitute for heavy cream. Yogurt brings more tang to the meal, but it has a similar smooth texture as cream without the weight. As a result, baked eggs in sautéed greens with zesty yogurt sauce was born.
I love baked eggs with greens, but they are usually cooked with lots of heavy cream and melted cheese. I live for creamy-cheesy foods. Yet, there are times I want a lighter start to my day and not require a nap after breakfast. Yogurt comes to the rescue. I first learned about how well yogurt and eggs taste together when I made Julia Turshen’s Olive Oil Fried Eggs with Lemon Yogurt Sauce. These eggs are delightful. The lemon yogurt sauce invigorated the fried eggs with a creamy and bright citrus flavor. Keeping the flavors of this dish in mind, I set about to create the same zesty flavor with baked eggs and greens.
Eggs and spinach is a classic food pairing. Unfortunately, cooking spinach causes it to wilt down to nothing. You need five times the amount of fresh spinach to make one small spoonful of cooked spinach. I decided a combination of Swiss chard and spinach would provide more foundation to bake the eggs in. Swiss chard is one of my favorite hearty greens to cook with. It’s texture and flavor are somewhere in the middle of spinach and kale. Spinach is soft and mild, and kale is hearty and tough. Swiss chard is the perfect compromise of the two. Combining the two greens with the tomatoes adds more depth of flavor and body for the eggs to nestle in.
To give this recipe some pizzaz, I decided to layer the spices and seasoning by steeping them in the juices from the canned tomatoes. Then, I divided the perky tomato sauce between the vegetables and the yogurt sauce. My seasonings include minced ginger, saffron, and mini pinches of ground cayenne and cinnamon. There are many flavors here and require a delicate touch for everything to blend as one. The main flavors are saffron, ginger and lemon. The cayenne and cinnamon round out the flavors and highlight the swiss chard and tomatoes.
A small pinch of cinnamon adds warmth and sweetness to the sauce. The amount is intentionally small. Too much cinnamon will ruin it and be overbearing.
In my opinion, Swiss chard tastes better with a little dash of chili pepper. The spice helps reduce the bitter taste. Be cautious when adding both the cinnamon and cayenne so they do not overpower the other spices. Keep in mind when you taste the steeped tomato liquid the flavors will seem strong, but become less potent when added to the vegetables and the yogurt. If needed, add more granulated sugar and/or Kosher salt to balance them out.
I find the most difficult part of making baked eggs, is determining when the eggs are done. Just like making any egg meal, it takes practice to learn the visual clues. It is not like you are going to cut one open to check. For this recipe, the eggs bake in the oven nestled in sautéed tomatoes and leafy green pockets. Ideally, the eggs are done when the egg whites are just cooked through. Hopefully, at the same time the egg yolks are cooked, but are soft and runny. Have faith and trust your intuition and experience. 10 minutes was the perfect amount of time in my oven set at 400°F (204°C), but your cooking time could vary.
Baked eggs with sautéed greens and zesty yogurt sauce has the right balance of spunk and comfort to ease into your day. It is creamy, bright and nourishing. If you are not a fan of yogurt, substitute it with crème fraîche. Serve baked eggs with crusty artisan style toasted bread, like a baguette or sour dough batard, to mop up the vegetables laden in runny egg yolk and sauce.
Baked Eggs with Sauteed Greens and Zesty Yogurt Sauce
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 TB boiling water
- 1 14.5 oz can (411 g) diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon optional
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon
- 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch Swiss chard cleaned and stems removed
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch spinach cleaned and stems removed
- 1/4 cup (125 ml) vegetable stock
- 2 TB heavy cream
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 4 large eggs
- 4 slices of toasted and buttered baquette
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rack in the middle position in your oven.
Place the pinch of saffron into a small bowl and add 1 TB boiling water to the saffron. Let the saffron threads steep for 5 minutes.
Drain the liquid from the diced tomatoes into a small bowl. Reserve the tomatoes and pour the tomato liquid into a small sauce pan. Turn on the heat to medium and add the minced ginger, the saffron threads with their water, and a tiny pinch of each cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sugar, and Kosher salt to the liquid and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the liquid steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, zest your lemon and reserve it for later. In a small bowl add the juice of one lemon, a small pinch of Kosher salt and the yogurt. Stir to combine. Set aside to rest.
Fold the chard and spinach leaves in half and slice in one-inch slices across the width. Heat an
8-inch skillet on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and when the oil starts to shimmer add the chard leaves and spinach. You will need to add them gradually into the skillet, so they do not spill over the sides. Turn the greens over to get coated with olive oil and begin to cook the greens. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt and a few rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.
Drain the tomato liquid through a fine mesh strainer and reserve the liquid. Add the collected minced ginger and saffron from the strainer, 3 TB of tomato liquid, vegetable stock, and heavy cream to the skillet. Stir. Cook until the greens are tender and most of the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 10-12 minutes.
While the greens are cooking, add the remaining tomato liquid to the yogurt. Add just enough to reach your desired consistency. You want the yogurt to have some body, but thin enough to easily coat the vegetables. Add any remaining liquid to the chard, spinach and tomatoes. Make sure you scrape out any stubborn saffron threads from the strainer and add to the greens or the yogurt.
If you added more liquid to the skillet, cook it down with the greens a few minutes more.
Use the back of a wooden spoon to make 4 impressions in the cooked greens, creating a nest for the eggs. One at a time, crack the eggs and carefully add them to the vegetable nests.
Place the skillet into the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are done. The whites will be set and the yolks runny. Or to your desired level of doneness. I check the eggs after 7 minutes to see how they are progressing.
Garnish the eggs and yogurt sauce with the reserved lemon zest.
Serve immediately family style, or plate for individual servings. One egg with greens and one piece of toasted bread.
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