So long, see ya, 2018 sheet pan scalloped potatoes

I’ll be honest, there’s not much I’m going to miss about 2018. It was a long slog of a year. But I am a bit disappointed to be leaving sheet pan recipes behind. It turned out to be more challenging and have more variety than I even imagined going in.

And that was delightfully true with my final sheet pan recipe of the year.

Mostly I was just looking for something that would be versatile for the many smoked meats my sweetie made over the Christmas holiday, but I was delighted at how tasty my scalloped potatoes were. Especially for my first time and really fudging the recipe.

Sheet pan scalloped potatoes ingredients.

They also might have the distinction of being one of the fattiest things I’ve made this year. Helped by the fact that I added more cheese and more cream because that’s what I do.

My fudges — I chose to do a bechamel sauce instead of just heating cream because I also wanted to add leeks. Then, because it was thicker, I added more cream than the recipe called for. And as usual, I added more cheese.

But despite all that, it worked. It was — much like my lasagna — quite crusty but in the most delightful way.

My only note: Don’t be lazy like me, and instead, put it in Tupperware or storage containers while it’s still warm/room temperature; otherwise, you’ll be scraping at the pan to get all the potatoes and solidified fat off your sheet pan.

So much fatty goodness. Just look at it.

Here’s what I did, tweaking another Food Network recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 large leek, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used more)
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 ½ lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (or similar), scrubbed and thinly sliced (a mandoline works best)
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan
  • 2 c. shredded Gruyere (about 6 oz.)

Directions

Grease a large rimmed sheet pan (the recipe calls for 18 by 13 inch, but mine is 15 by 12, and it was fine) with 1 T. of butter. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Add the sliced leek and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the leeks are softened. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the thyme and salt and pepper. Slowly add the flour mixture to the leek mixture.

Stir for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned.

Add the cream slowly and stir in. Thicken slightly but not too much. Set aside.

Arrange half the potato slices in a single overlapping layer on the prepared sheet pan. Add half the grated Parmesan (and some of the Gruyere if desired). Arrange another layer of potatoes using the remaining slices. Spread the sauce mixture on top.

Cover the sheet pan with foil and bake the potatoes for about 20 minutes.

Carefully remove the sheet pan from the oven and remove the foil. Top the warmed potato mixture with the remaining Parmesan and Gruyere. Cook uncovered for another 15 to 20 minutes until the top is brown and crusty on top, the potatoes are cooked through, and enjoy!

Happy New Year, dear readers, and I’ll be back with in 2019 with a new plan for a new year.

You’ll love a Yule log for Christmas

Long before I called a sheet pan a sheet pan, it was a jelly roll pan. I think it almost certainly stems from my mom making a Yule log regularly throughout my childhood.

Yule log ingredients.

I had no idea why my mom made the Christmas cake annually or what a log has to do with Christmas, and a quick perusal of Wikipedia doesn’t offer any clear answers to the latter.

Mom tells me she started making it for her dad, my Papa, and he liked it so much, she kept doing it. Wikipedia also says the cake originated in the region that includes his ancestral home of Belgium, but apparently that’s a coincidence.

Which is fair, it’s just a damn good cake.

The Yule log, also called a buche de Noel, has few ingredients but they’re used to make three separate parts that make it time-consuming if not difficult. There’s the eggy chocolate cake. There’s the vanilla cream filling. There’s the mocha buttercream frosting. And then, there’s the assembly.

Despite the difficulty, though, my sweetie rightly describes it as similar but easier tiramisu.

And besides, it’s a Christmas cake, so you make it just once a year. That makes it totally worth it.

A cake so good I’m disappointed Christmas comes once a year.

Here’s what I did following Mom’s recipe:

Ingredients

Cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 3 T. unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 T. flour, plus more for sheet pan

Filling

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. confectioner’s sugar

Mocha buttercream frosting

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing sheet pan
  • 1/2 confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 T. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 T. instant coffee
  • 1 t. warm water

To finish

  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 T. finely-chopped pistachio nuts

Directions

Cake

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15 x 10 x 1 inch jelly roll (sheet) pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease and lightly flour paper, tapping off excess flour.

Beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form.

Separately, beat egg yolks in a large bowl at high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until mixture is thick and pale in color. Beat in cocoa and flour at low speed.

Fold beaten egg whites into yolk mixture until no streaks of white remain.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven when cake springs back to a light touch

Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

Mocha buttercream frosting

While cake bakes, prepare the frosting. Beat the softened butter until fluffy in a small bowl. Beat in sugar and cocoa.

Dissolve coffee in water, and beat into butter mixture.

Store in cool (but not cold) place as you don’t want the butter to melt, but you don’t want the frosting to get too solid to spread.

Filling

When cake is cool, remove it from the pan by inverting onto a towel or *carefully* lifting using parchment paper.

Cut off 1/2 to 1 inch from the edges of all four sides of the cake (to remove the crunchier bits) and reserve for later use.

Beat heavy cream until thickened. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until stiff enough to spread.

Spread mixture evenly across the cake. Roll up the cake, starting with one of the shorter sides. Place cake roll seam-side down on a serving tray.

Finishing

Frost the cake roll all over (including ends) with the mocha buttercream frosting. Roll up some or all of the reserved cake ends and set onto the frosted cake (these are supposed to look like cut-off branches). Frost these well.

Run a fork across the frosted cake to mimic bark lines. Use the fork to create the same lines along the sides of the “branches” to create “age rings” in the center of these “branches.”

Press some of the chopped pistachios into the “cut” ends of the log (ends and the circular “branches) to mimic some moss/lichens.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar (to mimic dusting of snow). Enjoy and Merry Christmas/happy holidays to all who celebrate the season.

Oops! All crusts lasagna

This week I was craving more sheet pan pasta since I’ve loved both of the dishes I’ve made this year. I started Googling, and soon noticed that — unsurprisingly — most of the recipes were not too different from what I’d already made.

Then, I happened on a sheet pan lasagna. I would have been pretty skeptical that the famous, familiar casserole dish would work on a sheet pan, but it came from the Food Network, and I figured they couldn’t be all wrong.

Sheet pan lasagna ingredients (minus extra herbs and spices for the sauce).

I stuck fairly close to the original recipe, except I’m particular about my sausage and lazy about removing it from its casing. So, instead of de-cased Italian sausage, I bought Beeler’s ground hot sausage (a family favorite), and altered my tomato sauce to include onion powder and oregano.

It went over so well with friends that we had few leftovers, and I loved it so much, that I have already bought the ingredients to make the recipe again, only this time using my very favorite vegetarian lasagna recipe.

The recipe calls it “all-crusts” lasagna, which is fair, but I just think of it as the bits of traditional lasagna that are a little crunchier, and therefore the best.

Also, even better, it uses the same amounts as the regular casserole version so you’re not feeding fewer people (or having less leftovers), you’re just making a different kind of tasty lasagna.

So good I’m already making it again this weekend. *drool*

Here’s what I did (BUT feel free to adapt to your regular recipe as I plan to do this weekend):

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. ground hot sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (I used more, like 4 cloves)
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ c. milk
  • ½ c. packed basil leaves (I didn’t measure. I used some in the sauce and then in the cheese mix, and I’m sure it was more than ½ c., so do this to taste as well)
  • ¾ to 1 c. grated Parmesan
  • 1 lb. shredded mozzarella
  • 1 package no-boil noodles (It calls for “flat” noodles and 12 of ‘em, but I buy whatever, and use the whole package because who needs 3 leftover lasagna noodles crowding pantry space?)
  • 3 T. olive oil, plus more for coating foil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. dried oregano (optional)
  • 1 t. onion powder (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, and cook the sausage until it is browned and cooked through. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the stovetop heat to medium and add to the same skillet (with any drippings left in the pan) the remaining 2 T. of olive oil and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute until the garlic browns at the edges.

Add the crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper, and optional spices/herbs (I also added additional basil here). Cook for 10 minutes, at least, until the sauce smells more like a pasta sauce and not just tomatoes.

Separately, in a medium bowl, add the ricotta, egg, milk, basil, ½ c. of the Parmesan, and any more salt and pepper (to taste).

On a large rimmed sheet pan (estimated 18 x 13 inch), spread ⅔ c. of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Space out half the noodles (remembering that they expand when they cook). Top the noodles with all of the ricotta mixture, all of the sausage, another ⅔ c. of the sauce, and half the mozzarella. Add another layer with the remaining noodles and top with the remaining sauce. Then, top the noodles with the remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella, and another ¼ to ½ c. grated Parmesan.

Lightly oil one side of a piece of foil big enough to cover the sheet pan (I just used the spray stuff for this part).

Bake the covered lasagna for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the pasta is cooked through and the top is crusty and browned, and enjoy!

My favorite mistake

I’m going to say right up front that I forked this one up royally from beginning to end. So, I can’t say that it was a great recipe, but I do think that it’s salvageable, as in, the blame lies with me.

And, to be honest, I still had a lot of fun making it.

It’s been a stressful week, and I came home grumpy. But once I started to make this week’s poppy seed streusel and listening to podcasts about “Doctor Who” (*nerd alert*), I felt immensely better. I didn’t even really care that I was forking up.

Streusel ingredients. Notably not pictured is the milk I should have used.

I have loved my Amy Thielen “The New Midwestern Table” cookbook, so the fact that this recipe didn’t turn out I think is a fluke. I have made a lot of things from it, including hand pies this year.

And, seriously, it has a butt-ton of butter, sugar, and flour, so it should have been perfect.

Also, while her recipe said to bake for a half hour, I knew it looked done about 7 minutes early, and instead of trusting my gut, I let it go for another 5.

So, the fact that it’s hard as a rock, is on me.

Then, the second page of the recipe really spends a lot of time on the importance of grinding the poppy seeds well. This was after I had, uh, not done that. See, I bought a bunch of cream and figured there was not harm in replacing whole milk with cream. Except that, obviously, cream whips quite quickly. So, when I mixed them together in the blender, there was whipped cream well before poppy seed broke and bruised.

I made up for it by adding water instead of more cream later … but the damage (or lack thereof to the poppy seeds) was done.

So, the fact that the poppy seeds are intact and the innards of the streusel didn’t turn out as expected, is also on me.

Again, though, it was an adventure to make, and I’m pretty sure if I follow the recipe, and trust my gut, I’ll nail it next time.

It doesn’t look that bad until you noticed the blackened edges and that that ain’t *lightly* golden.

Here’s what I did. Actually, scratch that, here’s what I should have done:

Ingredients

  • ¾ c. poppy seeds
  • ¾ c. whole milk (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 3 c. sugar, divided
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. sea salt
  • 3 sticks butter (the recipe calls for salted; I used un- so hopefully that didn’t mess things up), and more for coating the pan, all at room temperature

Directions

Combine poppy seeds and MILK in a blender and process on high until the poppy seeds have broken down down. Add the raisins, 1 c. sugar, the cream, and the vinegar. Process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a medium skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir often to prevent it from sticking, and continue reducing heat to keep the mixture at a slow bubble. Keep cooking until the mixture thickens to like jam, about 30 minutes. I’d say a little less but that might just be because I overcooked the thing from top to bottom in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch sheet pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 2 c. sugar, salt, and the butter. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until well combined, and the mixture holds its shape when squeezed together.

Scoop 5 loose cups of the butter mixture onto the sheet pan, and use your hands to spread evenly, and then gently press down. Bake for about 10 minutes, and then let cool for about 10 minutes.

Then, pour the poppy seed mixture on top, and spread until smooth. Then squeeze the remaining butter mixture on top of the poppy seed mix to make decorative nuggets, leaving some space for the filling to show through.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until LIGHTLY golden brown, *checking often*, and then cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Enjoy, if you got this far and succeeded!

 

Beautiful briny bread

The checkout girl at Target told me not to tell anyone that the bread I made this week had anchovies on it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d be telling everyone through this blog post. So, let me get it out of the way at the front.

This bread is not for the faint-hearted.

If you can think of everything flavorful and potentially off-putting, this bread has it. Anchovies. Capers. Kalamata olives. Onions (lots of ‘em). Garlic.

Briny bread* ingredients. *Actually called “pissaladiere.”

It’s also got tomatoes, a butt-load of olive oil, and a no-knead yeasty bread.

Basically, me and my sweetie thought it would be perfect. And the recipe didn’t let us down. It’s been amazing.

The recipe comes from the cookbook my brother turned me on to about bread: “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. I finally got myself a copy.

Unlike last time, my deviations from the original recipe worked just fine. I mostly stuck to it — including all those delicious toppings — but I have regular yeast, not instant, and I figured there was no harm in swapping. Especially since I spent a year making bread.

To correct, I just upped the amount of yeast and added a little honey to get it kickstarted, but otherwise I stuck close to the original.

My only complaint — and it’s expected — is that it took a long time and dirtied quite a few dishes, including the pain-in-the-ass-to-clean food processor. But I knew all that going in, and a lot of the time is pretty passive and a great time to rewatch this amazing season of “Doctor Who.”

It looks so pretty, and it’s tasty too.

Here’s what I did (with notes to use instant yeast):

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (1 t. If using instant)
  • 2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. honey, optional

For the bread

  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 T. capers (I didn’t measure, I love capers)
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Directions

Make the dough. If using active dry yeast, mix together the yeast, warm water, and honey, and let sit for about 10 minutes before stirring in the flour and salt. If using instant, the recipe says to mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the water (and honey). Either way, use a rubber spatula to stir until the mixture combined and you have a sticky dough that’s sort of ball-shaped. Cover the mixture with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Just before the dough is ready, heat a large pan on high heat. Add 1 T. olive oil, and then add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, mix together the garlic and anchovies with 2 T. olive oil until pureed. Add the capers and pulse till chopped. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper, and pour on the remaining 3 T. olive oil. Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center until you get a rough ball. Lift the dough with the forks or pour it onto the oiled sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in oil to coat it all over, and then let it rest for 20 minutes.

With greased hands, push the dough to stretch it to the edges of the sheet pan, and use fingers to dimple it. When the dough resists stretching, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then stretch again until it fits most of the sheet pan.

To assemble, spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Scatter on the olives, and then the carmelized onions. Top with the tomatoes. Use fingers again to dimple the dough and stretch more if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the underside of the dough is golden and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares, and enjoy!