Sunday, August 30, 2009

One Pot Sunday Lunch

I love the idea of a languorous Sunday Lunch. When I lived in England, many Brits took Sunday Lunch at the Pub...where they could have the lovely roast and 2 veg. I gathered it was the equivalent of our Sunday Brunch..except the Brits get to eat Prime Rib, roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and pud, and we don't.
Sunday Brunch is not my favorite.
We pay exorbinate prices for a buffet of precooked food in steamer trays. Then, while trying to get our money's worth, slog back to our tables with our plates overflowing with mediocre fare and find ourselves eating alone. I always find that no matter if all parties at the table "get in line" together, invariably, we arrive back at the table in sort of a tag team effect...someone always missing from the table; mostly due to the omelette bar, or make your own waffle table. Listen, I'm not opposed to overeating, obviously. But I am opposed to overeating because I am trying to find something delicious to eat; and by the time I do, I have already had 14 courses of powdered eggs, steamed pancakes, krab (yes with a K) salad, and various other discouragements, and am full. Too full. I mostly only go to Brunch because of the promise of Eggs Benedict.

I love Eggs Benedict. I find this interesting because I will only eat scrambled eggs if they are very, very dry. It makes me cringe to hear about creamy scrambled gross.
Eggs Benedict is made with a poached egg, canadian bacon, english muffin and hollandaise sauce. It's a real United Nations meal. Here's the thing. To me, eggs benedict is the only reason to go to a buffet. It's hardly ever on a menu, and when it is, it is rarely great. I had one of the worst eggs benedict breakfasts ever at a restaurant in South Pasadena. The hollandaise was split and curdled (quite an accomplishment), and the eggs were overcooked...actually fully cooked. When I complained, the waitress brought be out another portion of the sauce to prove that it is how they make it...that was their "version" of Hollandaise. I held my tongue and went home hungry.
Hollandaise is a tricky sauce, I agree. Especially if you have to make a vat of it. Which is why it is best made a la minute (again with the french!). It means to make it as you need it. Not only is it a tricky sauce, it is a delicious sauce...and I mean Delicious with a capital D. I love it. It is especially good over asparagus, but you could pair it with seafood or other steamed vegetables. I like it with everything and am always looking for ways to use it.
I foraged through the fridge and came up with 2 beautiful artichokes that I had purchased at the market several days ago. I squelched a bit with joy...or maybe I said yipee, or maybe I didn't do anything...not sure. But I was happy inside, that I do know. I also still have some amazing heirloom tomatoes sitting on my counter, a cucumber and some freshly dried oregano. When I say freshly dried, what I mean is that I hadn't watered my oregano plant in days and now have "sundried" oregano. I grabbed the nub of baguette that had staled overnight and had all the fixings for a good summer lunch.
Steamed Artichokes with Hollandaise
First get the artichokes ready. Cut the stem so the artichoke can stand upright. Using a sharp knife, lop off the top of the artichoke. Depending on the size of the artichoke, you can cut down an inch or more. You want a clean flat top. Take kitchen shears and cut the points off the remaining leaves. Open the artichoke up. By gently pushing out the leaves, you will see that they will separate while remaining intact. You want to get to the center choke and scoop it out.
You can wait until after steaming, which will make it easier, but I like to clean the artichoke completely before steaming. Place artichoke(s) in a steamer tray in a pot of water and cook until done. You know they are cooked when the leaves will separate easily.
Remove from the pot of water and set aside and cover with foil.

Set aside about 1/4 cup of the hot artichoke water and then add enough additional water to the pot to fill about 3". You will use this pot as your double-boiler. Turn heat to high and get the water to a boil.
In a microwavable bowl (one that is big enough to then sit on the pot and not touch the water), melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter. Remove from microwave and quickly whisk in 3 large egg yolks, juice from 1/2 lemon and a pinch of salt. Place bowl over boiling water and immediately reduce the heat to lowest setting. Continue to vigorously whisk this mixture non-stop until it begins to thicken. Add 2 Tbs of the reserved artichoke water (if you forget or don't use this with artichokes, just use hot water) and whisk until it thickens to a creamy sauce. Add a dash of tabasco and taste for salt...and it's done. The whole process of making Hollandaise should take no more than 10 minutes...outside of the water boiling. It is quick and simple.

Serve along side the artichoke as a dip.
Panzanella Salad
Cut up the bread into large crouton size. Place in oven to crisp..or's up to you. I do because I always like to have croutons on hand. If the bread is already stale, you can skip the step. While the bread is toasting, coarsely chop the tomatoes and cucumber. Place in a bowl with a pinch or two of salt, some oregano, dried or fresh or sundried as in my case. Add a bit, just a touch, of olive oil and just when ready to serve add the bread. The bread should be in the salad, as part of it, not as a topping. It should be in equal parts to the other ingredients.
Serve together for filling yet light lunch.

Sort of makes me yearn for a nice, rich, chocolately cake as a prize for my vegetarian meal. I'll keep you posted!


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