Thursday, January 6, 2011

Weekend breakfast with my kitchen helper

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 I wrote this story almost exactly a year ago. It was my first winning entry in the Salon Kitchen Challenge, and it's still a favorite story and recipe. I just completed a year's worth of challenges - turning around stories on a given food subject in less than a week. An exhausting, but exhilarating year. I'm looking forward to the challenges of 2011!


Our New Year’s breakfast is a week late, because the girls were visiting friends last weekend. I was at home, working and worrying in a too-quiet house. The memory is a bit hazy now, but I think I welcomed the end of the aughts with a whole wheat bagel with a schmear, and my usual two cups of coffee. So, today, we mark a new year with a breakfast menu of yeast-raised waffles, warm fruit salad and brown sugar bacon. I'm a conscientious cook and want to be sure that all food groups are covered: sweet, salty, fruity and porky. Yes, it’s going to be a good year.

The yeast-raised waffles are intensely buttery, but not greasy. The recipe is from the "America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook," an orange ring-bound bible that’s never far from my kitchen counter. The advantage of this recipe is mixing the batter in the evening and letting it ferment in the fridge overnight, bubbling into a smooth vanilla-scented batter. And speaking of vanilla, I triple the amount called for in the recipe - everything is better with vanilla.

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


Brown sugar bacon, aka candied bacon, has been embraced by the masses. At least the masses at my house. As if bacon needs anything to make it taste better or be worse for your health, let’s just coat it in brown sugar and bake it. The result is crispy and sweet, but offset by the bacon's saltiness. If you're feeling bold, and not serving children, shake a little cayenne on strips before they go in the oven.

The warm fruit compote, oh, I mean salad, is my attempt to add some nutrition to this meal. A warning to all food snobs: I am a heathen, I know, because the recipe calls for canned fruit. I suppose I could summon the energy to peel pears and oranges and pineapple this morning, but in the spirit of these lean economic times, I whip out the can opener and go to town.
Despite my hopes that my youngest will sleep in this morning, (my first Saturday off since before Thanksgiving), Lindsey is awake and full of energy. She’s a helper, constantly reminding me that she wants to do and try everything. Especially if it’s electric and has a button. ("Ooooh, the waffle maker! Does it have a button?“) We’ve taken to hiding flashlights from her, because she plays with them, leaving them upside down, turned on. During a recent power failure, we managed to find a dozen flashlights, but not a one worked.

This morning, she stirs the waffle batter, beating out the bubbles to a smooth consistency. Then it’s time for the bacon, a task that I’m not too sad about handing over.

“Let me do it!”

“But do you really want to touch cold, slimy bacon?”

“Yes, I want to do it!” Well, if you insist…

And so she does, stretching each piece in the pound to fit on the rack suspended over a foil-covered baking sheet. I pull out the brown sugar. “Let me do it! Give me a spoon!“ And so the brown sugar is liberally poured over the bacon before I slide it into the oven for a half hour’s crisping and baking. Thirty minutes filled with pleas to be the one to pull the hot pan out of the oven. “But Lindsey, the pan is hot. And heavy. Let Mommy.”

“Let me do it!” No, I don’t think so.

I distract her with the next step, opening the cans of fruit for the warm fruit salad. (I know: can opener in the hands of a four year old! Get DFACS on the line.) We’ve been at this game for awhile, and she gives up the job early in the attempt, settling for emptying the fruit into the strainer suspended over a bowl. And she wants to be the first to sample the fruit juice. I catch her later, dipping her cup directly into the bowl of leftover juice. Blind eye, I think, blind eye. Then I hear, “Mommy, mommy, mommy.”

And probably again, “mommy, mommy, mommy.”

“What do you need, sweetpea?”

“Mommy, I love you.”

And I could end this story here, with a halcyon glow of promise and hope. But later, when I pull out the breakfast plates, she says, “I don’t want a plate.”

“But you need to eat on a plate. Waffles with syrup are messy. “

“I don’t want waffles. I want to dip my bacon in the syrup.”

“What about fruit?”

“No fruit. Just juice.”

So, here’s to 2010, a year of promise and hope, and in September, a five year old.

And later,

“Mommy, mommy, mommy.”

“What?”

"Is Christmas over?"

"Yes, it is, sweetpea."

"Because I love it."

Warm Fruit Salad

This is a dump and do recipe.

29 oz. can peaches20 oz. can pineapple tidbits15.25 oz. can sliced pears8.75 oz. apricot halves
11 oz. can mandarin oranges
one small jar of maraschino cherries

Set up a large bowl and a strainer and grab your can opener. Put a casserole dish alongside. Open each can, drain into the strainer, the place fruit in casserole dish.

In a small saucepan, combine:

½ stick butter½ cup orange juice¾ cup light brown sugar½ teaspoon cinnamon¼ teaspoon cloves

Melt butter in saucepan, heat o.j. in microwave for 30 seconds. Add sugar to butter, followed by warm orange juice. Heat until bubbly then add spices. Pour over fruit in casserole. Place in moderate (350 oven) until ready to serve.

4 comments:

Julie Quinn said...

Love it, Lucy! She is such a sweetie. Loved her headband today. Really would like the recipe for the waffles. Sounds yummy.

Lucy Mercer said...

The waffles are wonderful! I hope to share a similar recipe soon!

Grace said...

What a sweet story. Like mother, like daughter, right? I've never had yeast-raised waffles before, the texture must be really chewy.

One year of Salon Kitchen Challenges is an achievement, especially when they are consistently well-written and delicious like yours!

Lucy Mercer said...

Thanks, Grace! It was such a great experience. I hope to write about My Year of Cooking Salon-ly very soon. I'm taking a short break to get some perspective. Thank you for visiting here and I'm excited to follow your year of non-shopping!

Oh, and the yeast-raised waffles are crispy, not so chewy, a bit of a surprise, buttery, rich, crispy.