I love eating locally and seasonally as much as the next cook, but this time of year, I’m grateful I have easy access to some of the West Coast’s incredible ingredients. Last weekend, I found freshly cooked Dungeness crabs. They’d be perfect with those pink-fleshed Cara Cara oranges I had just bought, I thought. I’ll add olive oil, some flaky salt. The first course for the dinner I was hosting was done and done. Except no.
At the last minute, I decided to warm the crab in a bit of butter and perk it up with a little lime juice, zest and chile. The next day, I had so much crab left over that I made the salad again, this time with Meyer lemon instead of lime. The contrasts in the dish—warm with cold and rich butter with bright citrus—were unexpected and brought this combo to a whole other level. This is now my go-to salad any time I’m lucky enough to come into some Dungeness crabs.
The new year has chugged to a slow start so far. As soon as my daughter went back to school on the fourth (hurray!) and I handed in the final proof of my book on the fifth (double hurray!), I was flattened with a fever for much of last week. I’m finally clawing back toward normalcy and feeling optimistic about 2016. Not only is my book due out in about six months, but I’m gearing up for a big move (more on that later!) and doing some great work on my side business, Stewart & Claire.
To help me balance all of this, I’ve been focusing on making easy, one-to-two pan dinners made with just a few ingredients that offer a lot of bang for their buck. This chicken dish I cooked recently is one of my new favorites. Shredding the Brussels sprouts takes a few minutes of knife work, but on the flip side, they cook in just a few minutes.
I hope the first couple of weeks of 2016 are treating you well! continue reading
My cookbook, The Modern Potluck, is forthcoming from Clarkson Potter in July 2016. On occasion, I will share recipes—either my own or those I encounter out in the world—that I feel are fit for a potluck. And, of course, I’m creating a new hashtag around this theme: #SoModernPotluck. Enjoy!
Portland chef Jenn Louis once showed me how easy it is to create a party around the tomato saucy Mexican dish, chicken tinga. When Gear Patrol asked me for tips about throwing a potluck, along with a main dish recipe, I didn’t hesitate on what it should be. Thanks to chipotle chiles in adobo, tinga sauce is smoky, spicy and complex tasting. You can serve the chicken in bowls, with garnishes (think cilantro, diced white onion, cotija cheese) or wrap it in warmed tortillas, for tacos. Head over to the article for the recipe.
I’ll be the first to admit that the name of these scones might sound a bit dreary, conjuring visions of something you might eat in a nursing home or on a hippie commune. With plenty of sugar and eggs and two types of sugar, don’t worry, they are anything but.
This recipe comes from my new favorite baking book, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, based on recipes from the beloved London bakery opened by American-born food writer Claire Ptak. Claire bakes the types of things I want to eat: Everything feels cozy and familiar, with just enough of a twist to make you raise an eyebrow. It’s this book that finally convinced me to buy things like coconut sugar (for some buttery buckwheat cookies) and spelt flour, for these scones. She uses the ingredients not so much (or at least not only) for their wholesomeness but for the intriguing flavors they provide.
The spelt flour, for instance, lends a brown sugary graininess and downright satisfying flavor to the scones. Because it’s a sweeter and less coarse than traditional whole wheat flour, you often don’t need to combine spelt flour (except for maybe when you’re baking free-form yeasted breads) with all-purpose to create something palatable. It has less gluten than typical flour, so it’s great to use when you want a tender bite.
What really makes these scones so special are the prunes, which are turned from something you give your constipated child into something kind of exotic, thanks to a soak in Earl Grey tea. Scattered all over the scones before they bake, they create this kind of chewy, caramelly topping.
The recipe, which is copied almost verbatim from the book, makes a whopping 12 scones, which, at first, seems excessive. But you’ll find that this is actually a gift: Bake half (or even fewer) and freeze the rest for when you want a special breakfast but can’t bring yourself to dirty the kitchen.
This recipe is very loosely adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak (from Ten Speed Press. She recommends making the dough for these scones the night before and chilling it in the fridge so yo can portion out the mixture and bake the scones fresh in the morning or freeze them for another day. I did this and it worked beautifully. One important note: I measured most of the ingredients in metric weight because that is what's listed first in the book. The volume measurements are approximate. One less important note: These will look even more golden and appetizing if you brush these with an egg wash, a step I forgot in my pre-coffee haze!
Author: Claire Ptak
Serves: 12 scones
¼ cup Earl Grey tea
300 grams (10½ ounces) pitted prunes
200 grams (about 2 cups) rolled oats
375 grams (about 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons) whole grain spelt flour
80 grams (about ½ cup) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams (about 2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 egg yolks
¼ cup maple syrup
250g (1 cup) yogurt
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, for egg wash
Line a 20-by-30-inch centimeter (8-by-12-inch) baking dish with parchment paper so it overlaps the sides. (You can also use a 9-by-13-inch dish and just form the scone dough so it's slightly smaller than the dish)
In a small mixing bowl, cover the prunes with the tea.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, spelt flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk together. Use a pastry cutter or the back of a fork to cut the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients. You could also do this in a stand mixer. Mix together until it resembles a coarse meal.
In another bowl, whisk together the yolks, eggs, maple syrup, and yogurt. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread it out. Tear the soaked prunes into bite-size pieces and dot on top. Push the prunes down into the mixture, then pour the remaining soaking liquid on top. Spread the liquid with a rubber spatula or brush. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 3 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F. Line a baking sheet (or 2, if necessary) with parchment paper.
Pop out the dough, if desired, and cut into 12 triangles: Do this by cutting the block in half lengthwise. Cut each half into three squares and each square into two triangles. (If you don't want to bake all the scones at this stage, just wrap them individually in plastic wrap and put whatever you don't want to bake in the freezer for future use. Bake them right out of the freezer.) Place the scones about 5 centimeters (2 inches) apart. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with the remaining oats, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden. These are best eaten the day you bake them.