Aside

Ooo, Baby (Dutch) Baby


 

34426385241_fd0af322e7_nI am please to announce that I have found the holy grail of quick meals:  the Dutch Baby.  Also known as a German pancake, this dish is  baked in the oven an is sort of a cross between a regular pancake, a frittata and a Yorkshire pudding / popover.  The batter is like a runny pancake batter with a little bit more egg to it.  This eggy rise in the oven gives it a crustiness of a frittata, and it’s also cooked in a cast iron pan.  And like a Yorkshire pudding, the pan is preheated empty in the oven, coated in butter, and then the batter is poured into the piping hot vessel and left along to cook.  The kids love it and, given enough hot sauce, Jimmy loves it too!  This staple meets a number of criteria for a quick main meal:

  1.  Quick.  Assuming about 15 minutes to preheat the oven to 450 degrees, this dish can go from zero to sixty in thirty minutes.  
  2. Throw-togetherable.  I’ve never been good at “winging it” when it comes to meals;  generally I plan everything out for the week an leave nothing to chance.  Given the fact that I’m currently phoning in most of life, I’ve had to go to the pantry plan-less more than once in the past couple of weeks.  Dutch Baby to the rescue!  If you have milk and eggs and an otherwise reasonable stocked pantry, you can make a Dutch Baby!
  3. Leftover stretcher.  Typically I stretch leftover veggies, meat, etc. over rice or in a soup.  The Dutch Baby can act as a blank canvas on which reheat leftovers can be applied.
  4. Customizable.  My kids love meals in which they can choose what to put on.  Think taco bar, bake potato bar, bibimbap.  Add Dutch Baby to the mix.
  5. Can double as entree or dessert.  The basic recipe can be garnished with savory items an then the remnants can be garnished with sweet things (powdered sugar, Hershey’s syrup) too.

 

Dutch Baby - What Do You Crave

Cheddar Spinach Dutch Baby, courtesy of What Do You Crave?

The basic recipe that I use come from What Do You Crave, which I found on Pinterest.  It has a higher egg:flour ratio than some of the other standards, which I like.  It calls for cheddar and spinach to be added to the mix, but you can omit these and add a splash of vanilla extract instead to make it sweet.   I like to keep the cheddar in it for savory preparations, as it adds a nice saltiness to the mix rather than actual salt, which can inhibit the rise of the eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

Some useful tips to make it even easier:

  • Mix up the eggs and milk in a blender to get them nice and frothier, then whiz in the dry ingredients and add-ins.
  • Just before mixing up, preheat your oven.  Let the batter rest while the oven is preheating.  During this rest time you can prep your toppings
  • If you are doubling the mixture, do so in two separate cast iron skillets or 8×8 pans rather than one large casserole, otherwise the middle won’t rise as well, and more edges=more delicious crust.

Here’s some toppings that have proved popular:

  • Breakfast at dinner:  bacon, sausage, sauteed veggies, another egg
  • Mexican:  beans, chorizo, cheese, avocado, salsa
  • Herby:  sauteed leeks & mushrooms, chives
  • Summertime:  tomatoes, basil, mozzarella

Remember:  any of these toppings can be added to your base as well!

Aside

Rhubarb: Harbinger of spring

I’m sure that I ate rhubarb before that, but the first time that I remember eating it was with my Grandpa Bier.  I was trailing him as he puttered out in the yard, surveying the first blooms of spring and pointing out where things were coming up.  We stopped by the row of rhubarb plants and he cut me off a juicy, ruby red chunk to taste.  I did–and it was awful!  He laughed as I puckered my lips and spit out that rhubarb.  He cut some more, discarding the large, flat leaves that he warned me were poisonous (how could a plant be simultaneously poisonous and edible?), and we headed inside to deliver the bounty to Grandma.

rhubarb plant

Young rhubarb in the garden.  The pink stalks are edible, but stay away from the leaves!

Rhubarb (and asparagus–its cousin in the odd world of perennial vegetables) holds a dear place in my heart.  As soon as the first hint of spring arrives, it races to assert its presence in the barren garden.  It is consistently and reliably the first edible of the season, and as such deserves to be celebrated!  In addition, when sweetened up a bit from its native form, it’s plain old delicious.

rhubarb prepared

Prepared rhubarb.  Chop rhubarb as you would celery.

Most people enjoy rhubarb in baked preparations.  Rhubarb crisp and rhubarb pie (with or without strawberries) are always popular, especially when served warm with vanilla ice cream.  I recently made this recipe to great acclaim.  I only used about half of the tapioca called for, because I like my fruit pie a little bit runny.  I also substituted a crumb topping for added flavor and crunch.   Another go-to sweet preparation is as a sauce, kind of like applesauce.  You can simply cook it down by simmering with a bit of sugar and water over an hour or so.  Adjust the sugar to make sure you don’t drown out the flavor of the rhubarb with over-sweetness.  Many recipes that I’ve tried err on the side of being overly sweet, so make sure to add less sugar than the recipe calls for and adjust up as necessary.  Remember, too, the the cooking process itself will cut a bit of the tang on its own.

tapioca

 

Rhubarb actually holds a lot of moisture, so don’t forget to add a thickener to your baked preparations.  The pie recipe above uses tapiocs, which is usually on a highly (seldom-accessed) shelf in the baking section.  Minute tapioca doesn’t muddy the sauce of the baked good quite as much as flour, so I prefer it, especially in fruit pies.   If you use minute tapioca to thicken your pie or crisp, try breaking down the large beads in a coffee grinder or spice grinder first.  If you don’t have one, let the filling sit mixed up for about 15 minutes or so to allow the beads to soften.  Then add them to the pie shell.

Rhubarb makes a nice savory sauce or glaze with lighter meats such as pork or chicken.  You can even flavor homemade or store bought barbeque sauces with a rhubarb sauce or compote to get some of that delicious spring flavor.

I’ve tried some rhubarb jelly recipes, however I find that the flavor of the rhubarb gets lost under all of the sweetness necessary in the preserving process.  I prefer to freeze rhubarb sauce to enjoy its flavor throughout the year.  But really, the best way to enjoy it is fresh from the earth as a celebration of warmer days to come!