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How To make The Perfect Croque Madam

I am on a mission…..

And when I’m on a mission nothing can stand in my way. Not even the sacred traditions of what time certain meals are to be enjoyed.

Heck who am I kidding? I love to do breakfast for dinner all the time! Maybe it’s the kid in me but there is something about it that is comforting to me when you take a traditional breakfast meal and make it for dinner (like French toast).

But this week was a little different not only was this inspiration part kid it was also part MacGyver of me as I try to clean out my fridge (the very important mission).

Why is this such an important mission? Well in two weeks I will be taking a 1 week long vacation! I’m going to be heading north to Minnesota to stay at my family’s cabin in an effort to escape the heat of Texas.

Well I’m actually going because…well….I need a vacation…. Don’t we all?

As I was on this mission I noticed that a had an unusually large amount of Gruyere cheese left that desperately needed consuming (at least that’s what I told myself) as well as a couple dozen farm fresh eggs. Now when I say farm fresh eggs were talking strait from my parents neighbors farm where the chickens run free and peck at your feet as you collect your eggs fresh. I can’t even begin to tell you the difference these eggs make when you are baking (or in my case making Croque-Madames).

What I love about the Croque-Madame is the fact that it takes the already super delicious Croque-Monsieur and slams a fried egg on top to improve the already super nutritional meal. I can’t help but feel when the Croque-Madame was invented the very talented chef was on a mission to clean out his/her fridge as they were on their way to vacation.

I can even hear them in the kitchen going…. Gruyere…. Ham….Bread… well I could definitely do a Croque-Monsieur ….but what the heck am I going to do with all those eggs? I’m leaving for vacation in a week…. Hum… this gives me an idea!

To being our Croque-Madame we in fact start by creating a Croque-Monsieur. In a small saucepan melt some butter over low heat. Then add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook stirring for two minutes to create your (yup you guessed it) roux. What I love about a Roux is that all great sauces tend to begin with one!

Next we whisk in our milk and bring to a boil. The sauce will begin to thicken as we reduce the heat and allow to simmer for five minutes.

While the sauce is simmering shred a ½ cup Gruyere cheese. Add this and the mustard into the sauce and whisk until the cheese is melted.

Remove this form the heat and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. You now have a classic Mornay sauce (Which is one of the best parts of the Croque-Monsieur/Madame).

Now it’s time to build your sandwich. I know the recipe says to place the sauce on first but I find this difficult and confusing. Begin by buttering one side of our bread and placing it butter side down on a pan. Next spread 1 tablespoon Mornay sauce over your slices.

Stack your sandwich high with ham and some moderately thick slices of Gruyere. Don’t go skimping on the Gruyere here (you’ll thank me later).

Butter the remaining slices of bread and place them butter side up on top of the Gruyere. Allow these to cook on your skillet for a few minutes on each side until each side is a golden brown.

Spread the remaining Mornay sauce and place these in a broiling pan. If you don’t have a broiling pan don’t panic as it’s not really necessary here as this will not need to drain anything. Broil your sandwiches until the Mornay sauce begins to brown (about 2 minutes). While these are browning quickly fry up some eggs to place on top. When the Croque-Monsieurs come out of the oven allow to cool for 10 seconds and then make them Croque-Madames by placing the fried eggs on top. Bon Appetite!

Croque-Madame
A slightly altered recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces thinly sliced Gruyere
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
8 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded
¼ pound thinly sliced ham

Directions:

Make the Sauce:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small heavy sauce pan over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk and bringto a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop enough cheese to measure ½ cup. Whisk chopped cheese and mustard into sauce, then whisk until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with nutmeg. Cover with wax paper placed directly on surface to keep warm.

Make The Sandwich:

Lay 4 slices bread on work surface. Divide ham and remaining cheese slices among them. Spread 1 tablespoon Mornay sauce evenly on each of remaining bread slices and invert over ham and cheese. Spread half of remaining butter evenly on top of sandwiches and transfer, buttered sides down, to an oven proof 12 inch skillet. Spread remaining butter on top of sandwiches. Cook over low heat, turning ounces, until both sides are golden, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Preheat broiler. Leaving sandwiches in skillet, spread tops of sandwiches evenly with remaining Mornay sauce. Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat until sauce is bubbling and golden in patches, about 2 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to plates.

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Vacuum Food Sealers – Do You Have What You Need?

 Find out how to preserve your fresh finds from the grocery store.

Vacuum food sealers are used to remove the air from packages and containers. That is very important for the preservation of food. When food is exposed to air, it begins to break down, and soon will start to go bad or get stale. If you freeze food in packages that are not vacuum sealed, you will very soon see ice crystals begin to form inside your package.

Everything keeps longer when it is vacuum sealed. Crackers, cookies, dried pasta, potato chips, snacks and everything else that you can think of.

There are many different types of vacuum food sealers. Here are some of the basics to consider, along with their storage options.

Machine Types

  • Standard Units that usually offer one touch control 
  • Advanced units that offer variable speeds and on board roll storage with a built in roll cutter 
  • Units specifically for fish and game 
  • Professional Units 

Storage Options

  • Pre-Cut Bags for Quarts and Gallons 
  • Rolls – 8″ and 11″ wide – you determine the length and cut yourself 
  • Canisters – Huge variety of shapes and capacities 
  • Glass Mason or canning jars – they can take the pressure of the sealing

When you have opened your package of rice or dried beans, put the unused portion in a wide mouth glass mason jar, put the flat part of the lid on the jar and seal. This is a great way to keep your pantry bug-free.

Instead of standard canisters, store your dry goods like flour, sugar, coffee and baking goods in vacuum sealer canisters or mason jars. This keeps out moisture and bugs.

I think that you get the basics on storage, now let’s move on to cooking. When you prepare your meals, make extra portions and make your own “TV” dinners. Prepare your plate as you normally would, then slide the whole thing into a vacuum bag, seal, and put in the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, take it out of the bag and heat. If you are freezing soups or spaghetti sauce, just put it into a bag and seal. When you are ready to use it, just drop the bag in boiling water and heat through. No clean up! Just pour your soup into bowls or pour your sauce over your pasta.

There are many more uses for vacuum food sealers, but these cover the basics for the kitchen. If you use it just in that one room, just think how much money you will be able to save. In addition to saving money, you are able to serve fresh food that hasn’t started to go bad before its time.

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Want To Learn To Cook Like A Hotel Chef?

If most people visit a restaurant to enjoy food, some food enthusiasts come with the inclination of learning and discovering professional quality cookware used by its trained cooks. A lot of cooking adventurers believe that one way to know the most favorite and secret cookware to great food is through visiting popular and elite food places.

People learn cooking in many ways. Couples first learned cooking as they prepare meals together, others enrolled in cooking classes to explore about the world’s cooking techniques that could enhance the family’s dining experience. Along with all the learning how to cook is basic knowledge of cookwares required for certain dishes. For those who are fond of ethnic foods and are inclined of preparing them at home, they certainly need the kitchen pieces and tools that would make it cheaper than ordering for a take out.

Food is one of the things that keeps family together. Some families equipped their kitchens with approriate cookwares so they can enjoy cooking their favorite restaurant dishes at home rather than spending a lot for dining out. For them, cooking with the right cookware is just as delectable as some of their favorite restaurants in town. They can opt to save money by spending time together discussing about what food to prepare and the budget they needed for the food they want throughout the week. It is a perfect opportunity to bond as well as discover new ideas about things that could lessen expenses.

Shopping trips for a cookware can be a lot of fun. Aside from the certainty of what things to buy, the shopper could definitely save a ton of money from dining out. With the emerging of cookware choices at discounted prices, most families already have enjoyed different styles of food cooked at home. Finding a cookware to prepare warm breakfast, flavorful dinner, tasteful soups and hot drinks is just like dining out in a fine restaurant.

The choice for pots and pans have elegantly and innovatively expanded over the years. Families are now looking forward to find discounted cookware in different styles and uses like indoor grills, claybakers, pressure pans and all sorts of crockery that can be used both in the oven or the microwave. They can already prepare meals in lesser time giving them the occasion to enjoy and relax more with everyone.

Since households always have to set budgets for food for the entire family, the many promotional and discounted cookware prices offered these days are in perfect timing. People can start buying cheaper food stuffs like less choice cuts of meet to less expensive fish and poultry that they can enhance when cooked in an appropriate cookware. People no longer feel confined by their option of foods because purchasing a suitable cookware at a good discounted price is a clear opportunity of delicious food that is only served in fine restaurants.

It has smelled holidays and many cookware stores both online and offline have started offering great value holiday prices for quality cookwares. Grab your chance of that perfect cookware collection and make your family’s dining in as tasteful and fun as dining out.

Happy Holidays!

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Are Hotel Rates Increasing In line With Inflation?

I have recently noticed that even though there are many sites online that offer great hotel rates, each hotel stay that I make seems to have gotten more and more expensive. I often choose to pay the regular rate because many of the hotels that I like do not offer rooms through the well-known discount sites, or the prices are about the same as if I had called up and reserved the room on my own. I usually have quite a few hotel stays each summer, but it seems to me that they are getting higher and higher each year.

The increase in hotel rates was most notable last Autumn when I stayed at a favorite, the Craighaar Hotel and found it to be about twenty pounds more than it was the year before. I was stunned at the price, but because I am picky about where I stay, I paid it anyway and, I have to say it still represents amazing value compared to some of the larger city hotels. While a twenty quid difference in hotel rates is not going to hurt someone like me too much, I began to feel bad for those who book weeks at a time in one hotel, and those who much travel for business, sometimes at their own expense.

This summer when I went away again, I noticed that it wasn’t just that one place that had an increase in hotel rates. Another of my favorites is now about twenty five dollars more per night than it was just two years ago. While I usually don’t mind, this time the hike in hotel rates made me change my mind about staying there. It wasn’t essential to stay, it was just something I wanted to do. I have since changed my plans. Instead of staying in a hotel the night before an event, I will simply just drive both ways in one day. Not preferable, but right now, it’s the right choice for my finances.

This pinch could cause a lot of people to change their regular favorite hotels. Though for one night it is not too big of a deal, over the course of a week, they might not think it is worth the extra cost. Though I am picky, most aren’t quite as picky as me, and they will settle for a few less extras if they don’t have to pay as much in hotel rates. Before you book any vacation, check up on the rates and see if you can indeed find a way to save money. Check out the discount travel sites, and don’t dismiss your local travel agent. They might just find you the very best deal going.