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From Dish Rachelle:

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I love brunch but on a chilly January Sunday, sometimes I love lounging in my sweatpants even more. What’s a Dish to do?

The answer’s surprisingly obvious: if you can’t bring the people to the croque madame, bring the croque madame to the people. To be honest, this isn’t my go-to brunch order (I’m more of an omelette or pancakes kind of girl) but I recently saw two internet recipes that inspired me to give this gourmet ham, egg and cheese another shot.

The first is this breakfast sandwich post from Ideas in Food, one of my husband’s favorite cooking blogs. He sent it to me because he knows there’s a special place in my heart for “Egg in the Bread” aka “Toad in the Hole” because my parents used to make it for me when I was little and I still cook it for us every once in a while.

The second is Ruth Reichl’s grilled cheese recipe from her How to Make it Better series for Gilt Taste. I incorporated many of her suggestions here and as promised, my sandwich was better for it.

I’m not going to get overly precise in my measurements here because seriously, it’s brunch – if we can’t be laid-back before noon on a Sunday, then really, when can we be?

Also: do you know how to make ANYTHING better? Add cats.
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Ingredients (serves two)

4 slices country bread

butter for spreading

shredded gruyere cheese (start with about a cup – if you need more, go for it)

1-1 ½ tablespoons chopped shallot

black pepper

2 slices of ham

mayo for spreading

more butter for cooking

2 eggs

Diet food, this isn’t:

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Start by layering one slice of bread on top of another and creating a hole in the center using a cookie cutter. Extra points if it’s cat-shaped. Repeat for second sandwich.

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Mix together the grated gruyere with the chopped shallots and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Butter the inside of each slice of bread. If the butter’s too cold and/or the bread’s too delicate, warm it in the microwave for 15 seconds.

Butter side up, sprinkle a healthy amount of the cheese mixture on two slices of bread (one for each sandwich). Avoid the hole in the center.

Cover the cheese with a slice of ham, tearing it into pieces if necessary to arrange it around the cat.
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Sprinkle just a bit more cheese over the ham and then close the sandwich, lining up the holes. Spread a thin layer of mayo on the outside of the bread and flip, carefully, to repeat on the other side.

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Once both sandwiches are closed, melt a tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Carefully place your sandwiches in the hot butter and crack an egg in the center of each one.

Cook on one side until golden brown, about 4 minutes, and then flip. Cook until bottom side is golden brown and the egg has reached a desired level of doneness.

Serve immediately, with a nice helping of dressed greens, Brooklyn brunch style.

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From Dish Paige:

Hello and welcome back to Saucy Little Dish! While we’ve been on summer hiatus, I started culinary school and have been very busy making my way through my International Baking and Pastry program. I figured, since I’ve already learned so many new things, I should share a few of them with everybody here.

I just finished a bread course, and one of the things we learned was that bread loves to ferment at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, in 80 percent humidity. Which, if you live in the Northeast, is exactly the temperature outside (and inside if you don’t have central air like me). I know you’re all thinking, “but it’s 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity in my apartment, why would I also turn on the oven?” Well, that’s the beauty of this formula (I call recipes for baking “formulas” now, it’s a professional thing *wink), the English Muffins are cooked on the stovetop!

Ok, so now it’s time to get super technical on you all. There are ten steps to yeast bread production. If you follow these steps, you will get bread. Great bread. Delicious bread. All formulas follow these ten steps. Follow the steps. Follow them and apply them to future bread endeavors:

1. Scaling/Measuring
2. Mixing/Kneading
3. Fermenting
4. Punching
5. Portioning
6. Rounding/Benching
7. Make-up/Shaping
8. Proofing
9. Baking
10. Cooling/Storing

Let’s go!

INGREDIENTS:
Milk – 9.25 fl. oz.
Active dry yeast 0.4 oz.
Pastry or cake flour – 1 lb.
Bread flour – 1 lb.
Baking powder – 0.4 oz.
Granulated sugar – 1.25 oz.
Salt – 0.25 oz.
Unsalted butter, room temperature 1.5 oz.
Water – room temperature 9.25 fl. oz.
Cornmeal – as needed for dusting

This formula uses the “sponge” method, which basically means that we are going to create a mini little starter (kinda like a sourdough) and let that get going a little bit before we mix everything together. Let’s go step by step:

1. SCALING/MEASURING:
Scale out all of your ingredients. Measuring by weight is the most accurate, so here you go.

Now make the sponge: Heat the milk until just scalded. Stir in the active dry yeast, then mix it with the pastry flour. Cover and let ferment about 15 minutes.

2. MIXING:
Once your sponge has fermented, mix together the rest of the flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, butter and water and add the sponge. You can use your hands or a mixer fitted with a doug hook. Mix for about 3 minutes, then begin kneading for about 7 minutes until the dough is soft and somewhat sticky.



3. FERMENTING
Cover and let your dough sit for 20 minutes wherever it is 80 degrees and humid. The dough should double in size and slowly spring back when poked with your finger.

4. PUNCHING
You can literally punch your dough, or if you want to be nice, fold the outsides of the dough in on itself a few times in order to equalize the temperature. Let the dough rest again, covered, for another 10 minutes.

5. PORTIONING
Here, with other doughs, you would divide it into however many loaves or rolls or whatever you have, keeping the section you’re not working with covered while you work on the rest. With this dough, we’re going to roll out it out to a 1 inch thickness.

6. ROUNDING/BENCHING
Again, with other doughs, you would now take the portioned dough, roll it into a smooth ball and then let it take a nap for about 10 mins, covered. For the English muffins, cover them and let the rolled out dough relax just for a few minutes to relax the gluten strands. Otherwise, you’re going to cut out the shapes and they will shrink on you.

7. MAKE-UP/SHAPING
Shape the portioned doughs. For the muffins, cut them into the desired size. You can use biscuit cutters, or something circular that’s close to the size you want and trace it with a paring knife. I used a coffee mug for the small ones, and the top of a Chinese soup take-out container for large, sandwich size ones. Place them on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal and cover.

8. PROOFING
Let your dough take another nap, covered, until doubled in size.

9. BAKING
Bake, or in the case of English muffins, cook on a skillet or in a pan until golden brown, about 3-7 minutes per side. The inside of your bread should be in the temperature range of 190-210 degrees.


10. COOLING/STORING
You don’t want to put your hot breads in a plastic bag or aluminum foil because they will sweat. Use parchment to wrap them when warm. Once they are cool, use whatever you want! Just remember, bread you make at home will go bad way faster than what you buy at the store, so keep your English muffins in the refrigerator or freeze them for longer storage.

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From Dish Gwen:

The other night my cupboards were looking pretty bare, and cereal for dinner wasn’t really appealing to me, so I had to get a little creative. Using a can of black beans, some corn meal, eggs and a handful of salad greens I was able to pull together a rather fancy little dish that hit the spot and was healthy to boot. I think I’ll probably make it again.

Ingredients:
– 1 can black beans
– 2 cups corn meal (or dry polenta)
– ½ cup shredded parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
– 2 eggs
– a handful of salad greens
– 4 radishes
– 2 scallions
– olive oil
– apple cider vinegar
– salt
– pepper

Directions:
Stew up the beans with some salt and pepper to taste and keep them on warm on the back burner. In a sauce pan, boil 6 cups of salted water, then sprinkle in the polenta while whisking – make sure to whisk thoroughly because otherwise you’ll get lumps. Once the polenta is mixed in, turn the heat down to medium-low and use a spoon and stir until the it thickens. Check the polenta by tasting to see if it’s softened (if it’s grainy and tough you need to add more water and keep stirring until it softens up – this can take about ½ hour).

Grease a square brownie pan or small cookie sheet with butter, then pour out the polenta into it and smooth it over with a rubber spatula to create a flat cake. Cool the polenta in the fridge for an hour so that it firms up, then sprinkle parmesan or Romano cheese evenly across the top and put the pan in the broiler on high to melt and brown the cheese. Once it looks nice and brown take it out and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Slice the cake of polenta into 3 or 4 inch wide squares. (instead of broiling you can also fry polenta cakes! Try it!)



Dice up the radishes and scallions and toss them in a large bowl with the salad greens and a table spoon of olive oil and apple cider vinegar, plus a dash of salt and pepper. Fry two eggs and plate them on top of the dish, with the beans on the bottom, then the polenta cake, then the egg, then the salad mix on top (the plating of this dish is what takes it from random to gourmet). Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top and serve!

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