Smitten Kitchen cookbook adventures (5)

Over the holidays, since I wasn’t going to be cooking a lot of my traditional holiday stuff with family, I decided to make myself a few special meals. And what better book than Smitten Kitchen?

#6: Baked ranchero eggs with blistered jack cheese and lime crema

This is one of those recipes that when I saw it, I immediately thought “Where has this been all my life?” Turns out, I feel that way even more after making it, not only because it was fabulous but also because it has sub-parts and techniques that I can repurpose for an easier, more yummy life, and it’s very easy to scale down if you don’t want to make all dozen eggs of it. The ranchero sauce is super easy — just blend chopped onion, tomatoes, and jalapeño in the blender, then reduce (mixing in beans optionally, although I would never skip the beans myself :). The extras are a tiny bit fussy, but can be made ahead pretty easily and really add to the flavor and texture of the dish — Deb knows how to step up the garnishes to take a great dish to Awesome! The simmered/baked egg technique worked out just perfectly — the addition of blistering the cheese under the broiler, which also finishes the eggs, is excellent. It comes out bubbly and amazing.

I executed this one almost exactly as described except for halving the recipe because a) there’s only one of me, and b) I only have a 10-inch skillet), forgetting to halve the tortilla quantity, and using pepper jack instead of plain jack, because why on earth not? I ended up overcooking the eggs slightly because I wanted to be sure they got cooked enough, but only a bit — so I’d suggest not being tooo conservative with cooking the whites during the simmer, unless you prefer hard yolks too. They’ll get a good finish from the broil. I used about 3/4 of the tortilla strips I made, so you can definitely up the quantity a bit if you like tortilla. Finally, I’d suggest monitoring the wateriness of your sauce carefully. I did reduce mine just as the recipe describes, but I like it more dry, so it was still on the watery side for my taste.

After I made this I realized I still couldn’t eat more than two of the six eggs in one sitting, and they will get overcooked if you reheat (as Deb warns, though it’s hardly a great catastrophe!), but I realized that in the future I can actually make the sauce ahead, then make tiny individual servings in my mini-cast-iron using just two eggs, a sprinkling of cheese and some garnishes (made ahead, with the tortilla strips refreshed in the toaster oven). So definitely don’t hesitate to make this if you’re alone, although of course it would also be great shared with two to twelve friends!

#7: Big breakfast latkes

Finally, a recipe I have every ingredient for! These are traditional latkes, onion and potato with flour-egg binding. Easy peasy, but on the obscure side, you should have a cheesecloth or ‘lint-free dishcloth’ to squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes. I decided to live with some lint in my latkes. The squeezing is apparently important to get the potatoes dry enough to fry well, so don’t skip it. Use paper towel if you have to. I was worried I was getting it too dry because it was kind of hard to mix the potato and onion into the binding, but once everything was well mixed, it was perfect.

Fried cakey things are not one of my talents, and I’ve only gotten into eggs for cooking more recently, so it was really fun to just take a run at the traditional. They came out absolutely great and the one I ate was fabulous with a fried egg on top (one of Deb’s serving suggestions). I wish I hadn’t frozen all my applesauce yesterday, because the remaining ones would be great that way. The ratio of potato to onion and the amount of salt and pepper was perfect. Yum.

#8: Sugar-snap salad with sesame-miso dressing

I made this a while back, and heavily adapted it to fit what I had in the fridge, which was cabbage and radishes and spring onions. Yeah, no sugar snaps — it’s winter. But I was convinced this was the perfect use for the veggies I had. And it came out very well. The dressing is awesome-tasting. It was filling without being heavy. So I’d say you can definitely adapt this for different veggies, although having a sweetish one would help to balance the tang and salt of the dressing. It was a bit fussy to make with cutting everything up, but once the dressing is made and blended it’s worth it. Definitely nice to use a VitaMix or something you have one, to get really smooth dressing. And it makes the cutting less important.

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