Cabbage piroshki. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Piroshki. Photo credit: Heather Platt
A few months ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Helen Mirren about her role in the film The Hundred Foot Journey. All lovers of food and France should see this film immediately. I must warn you, however, that it will make you want to get on a plane and fly there immediately. It is a love story that focuses on the way in which food conjures up memories and emotions. So during my four minutes with Dame Mirren, I couldn’t help but wonder what dish brought up memories to her. When Helen answered, “My mother’s piroshki.” I was completely fascinated. I had never heard of this, much less tasted it. She went on to describe the warm cabbage pie that she enjoyed during her childhood.
Piroshki dough. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
I would never think to make Russian cabbage pie for myself. It sounds labor intensive and strangely daunting. However, I’m not sure if it’s the way Helen Mirren explained it so deliciously with pure nostalgia in her eyes or the fact that I simply want to eat something that Helen Mirren ate, but I couldn’t help but grow hungry for it too. And seeing as I am part-Russian, my grandfather changed his name from Harold Plotnski to Arnold Platt, (not joking)I felt for the first time that I was connecting with my Russian heritage, surrounded by flour and potatoes while the smell of caraway seeds wafted through my house. Oh, and it tasted really good too!
Easy Egg-in-a-Hole Croque Madame. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
A few years ago, I had the privilege of contributing to my friend Rebecca Coleman’s extremely popular mom blog, Cooking with My Kid. I had been Rebecca’s nanny for a stint and when I moved on to work in the restaurant business, she asked me to come back and help her come up with babysitter-friendly recipes. She named me The Savory Sitter, officially. Because, she reasoned, “NO ONE likes an unsavory sitter.” I agreed and we had a lot of fun making homemade pop tarts, ravioli lasagna and pirate ships made of melon and banana. Okay, that last one was her idea, but she gave me credit for it.
The best kind of eggs: farm fresh. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
My favorite of the Savory Sitter recipes, though, was the Kid Friendly Egg-in-a-Hole Croque Madame. I am a huge lover of the classic, French Croque Madame. But when it came time to make it for Three More Big Bites, I just couldn’t stop thinking about that adorable kid version I’d made for Rebecca. This version is even easier. I forgot putting the ham in the middle and just placed the best kind of bacon, applewood smoked of course, on top of it. I made it with my favorite bread on earth: the cinnamon raisin loaf from Green Rabbit Naturally Leavened Bread in Waitsfield, Vermont and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Jasper Hill Cellars in Greensboro, VT. That being said, any delicious bread and good quality cheddar of your choice will do.
Easy Bacon Cheddar Egg-in-Hole Croque Madame. Pottery by Barbara Platt’s Pottery. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Bacon Cheddar Egg-in-a-Hole Croque Madame
I believe the saying is true, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But to be honest, it’s not my favorite one. Partly because I’ve never been a morning person and I probably never will be. And also because it’s so easy to get stuck in a breakfast rut. When I was in high school I had a bowl of Oatmeal Squares cereal with raisins every morning for four years straight, never stopping before I picked up the spoon to ask, “Could I start my day with anything else? Maybe something more glamorous and savory?” I had yet to learn that in France it’s okay to eat cheese for breakfast and that the simple combination of a cappuccino and a croissant was a perfectly respectable start to the day. I was probably too tired and hadn’t ingested enough coffee yet to think about it.
That is the one thing I do love about breakfast though, coffee. I’ve been happily dependent on it since I was 14, with no intention of breaking the habit. When I lived in New York with my best friend Brooke, we would frequently go to brunch together on the weekends. One time we walked into our favorite spot on the Lower East Side and the host asked “How many?” and I stood there in my not-yet-caffeinated stupor and just stared at him blankly as if I had no idea what he was talking about. After a few awkward beats Brooke replied,
“Two.” with a smile that read “Please excuse my friend, she’s quite slow before she’s had coffee”. And from then on she always insisted on doing the talking when we arrived at brunch. Those non-coffee drinkers always amaze me.
So to climb out of my recent breakfast rut, I thought about my ideal breakfast. Which involves a latte with perfectly foamed milk paired with a buttery baked good from my neighborhood coffee shop. Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming “hipness” of my neighborhood, the coffee shop, in addition to being a scene, is the most expensive coffee shop I’ve ever been to and a coffee and muffin will cost you. So why not bring the homemade baked goods home?! I did by making this amazingly moist banana bread, and my mornings are already looking brighter.
This bread is really good. I had never made Irish soda bread before. In fact, I had never tasted it either. But in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I made a loaf. And in doing so I realized two very important things. Number one being that it’s the easiest bread I’ve ever made before. And number two, it’s completely delicious. It requires no yeast, no rising and no kneading. This particular recipe is slightly sweet. So even if you’re not Irish and have no intention at all of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, I recommend making this loaf anyway. It’s a wonderful breakfast treat with a cup of hot coffee!
Nana’s Famous Limpa Bread. Photo: Heather Platt
I received a package in the mail a few months ago. I recognized the handwriting immediately. It appeared that my Nana had been sorting through her apartment in Florida and decided to send me some of the treasures she’d dug up. Inside the package was a book, a very old book. The title read “All About Home Baking.” and it smelled like a basement…(a grandma’s basement). It was the most amazing treasure I’d ever seen. But when I carefully began flipping through it, noticing it’s copyright of1933, and such recipes as “Economical Gold Cake,” the real treasure fell out. A folded piece of paper with the handwriting I could never mistake; all slanted capital letters, legible, but requires serious concentration to decipher. It was my Nana’s Limpa Bread recipe in her very own writing.
When my Nana came to visit us when I was a kid, my brother and sister and I would stand around the kitchen watching her, eagerly waiting for the delicious bread to be ready. It smells amazing, looks amazing, tastes amazing, and until now, is something I only thought she could make. But the torch as been handed. These are not easy shoes fill. My Nana is a real baker and cook. Along with being a mother of four, she and my grandfather owned, ran and cooked for a restaurant, dairy bar and candy kitchen in rural Vermont. Years later she worked at a Vermont specialty food shop known for hams, smoked cheeses, and Vermont cheddar, called Harringtons. The apron I love to cook in now was her required uniform there. As happy as I was to receive this recipe in the mail, there was a problem. Certain directions were missing. I did some research, made a phone call and filled in the blanks. This recipe is my take on Limpa bread. But you can thank my Nana (who turned 91 this week) for how good it is. Happy Birthday Nana!
In Nana’s Apron
Nana’s Famous Limpa Bread. Photo: Heather Platt
If you’re going to make chili, then you’re going to have to make some cornbread too. They go together. It’s hard for me to have one without the other. Cornbread is very quick and simple to make so please forget any mixes or store-bought versions. Just take that yellow cornmeal out of your perfect pantry and whip some up while your chili is simmering. You and your guests will be so happy to have some to dip into their hot bowl of hearty chili.
In addition to chili and cornbread, we have a few recipes here on 3mbb that would be great for a Super Bowl party. So take a look and start cooking! (And enjoy the game if you’re into that sort of thing.)
Super Bowl-Friendly Recipes:
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fine baking sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick), melted
- 2 large eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using room temperature butter, grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. In a large bowl combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate smaller bowl, combine milk, butter and eggs. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and whisk until smooth and combined. Using a spatula, pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean.
Recommended Serving: With Chili
It is not Christmas in the Bulbrook house without stollen. My mom makes several loaves of this German Christmas bread every year, and we eat it at almost every occasion around the holidays–especially on Christmas Eve, with a glass of champagne, and on Christmas Day breakfast, slathered in butter and accompanied by a strong cup of coffee. This year, we’ve moved the celebration from Boston to Palm Springs, so I assumed the mantle of making the family’s Christmas stollen supply. (No pressure!)
I’ve been working off my mom’s xeroxed, faxed, and scanned recipe from an old Sunset Magazine with her notes (and it looks like someone else’s?) in the margins. Here’s my take on this quick version of what is traditionally a yeast bread. Make this 2-3 days ahead so it has time to mellow in your fridge and let the flavors develop. The loaf above is the gluten-free version.
The best part is the vanilla sugar on top. (You can put some in the crease in the center, too.) To make it, just stick a vanilla bean in an airtight container of sugar for a couple of days at room temperature. It’s so good, you’ll find yourself dusting all of your holiday baking with it…
Yield: 3 medium loaves
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or replace with gluten-free flour and add 1 1/2 tsp. xantham gum and 1/2 tsp. guar gum)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cardamom
- 1/4 tsp. allspice
- 3/4 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 1 cup cottage cheese, blended or strained until smooth
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla (I used bourbon vanilla)
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 2 tbsp. rum (or water)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or currants)
- 1/4 cup silvered almonds
- 1/2 cup chopped golden raisins
- 3 tbsp. melted butter
- 4 tbsp. vanilla sugar
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Mix the dry ingredients together very well, and cut butter in with a pastry knife or food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients, raisins, and nuts, except for melted butter and vanilla sugar. Mix wet and dry ingredients until dough is just moistened through and can be formed into a ball. Knead dough a few times on a floured surface until smooth. Divide dough into 3 even parts, then flatten each part into an oval. Moisten the top with a little butter, then fold dough so the top section is a little smaller than the bottom. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center resists light pressure. Set on a rack to cool, brush with the rest of the melted butter, and dust with vanilla sugar. Store in air-tight wrapping for 2-3 days in the fridge or freezer to mellow for 2-3 days to mellow. Re-heat wrapped in foil in a warm oven, then slice and serve with or without butter.