We had the pleasure of staying at the Asia Spa and Bed in Asheville NC. It is a cozy little B&B just six bedrooms, but all beautifully decorated and very, very comfortable. We went there to visit the River Arts district, a very large collection of galleries and working studios in Asheville, most are open to visitors, only how they ever get any work done is a mystery to me with all the visitors. Asia serves a breakfast every day and on our first day we had French Toast in a ramekin! Imagine my surprise, I’ve written a book about ramekin cooking and here’s some one actually doing it. I haven’t thought of French Toast in a ramekin. It was great, so I asked the manager, Nicolette, if I could use the recipe, she said yes, so here is my version. Like French Toast it’s very simple and this one you make the night before. Double or triple the mixture and make four or six… and feed an army! They are all done at once so no waiting. We told her she should write an Asia Spa cook book.
1/4 cup half and half
4 slices of bread, not Wonder bread
2 dashes of cinnamon
Two eight ounce ramekins (2 – 11oz. ones)
2 pats of butter
Peach or Apple sliced thin (optional)
In a small bowl beat the eggs well, then add the half and half and cinnamon. Cut the bread into quarter slices that will fit into the ramekin. Spray the ramekins with PAM. Dip the cut bread into the egg mix four times or so and put the slices in the ramekin with the bread standing up until it is full. Our friends like to put a thin slice of fruit between each slice of bread. Leave some of the crust showing as it will brown and create eye appeal. Place a small dab of butter and then a little cinnamon on top. Put them into the fridge and allow them to rest overnight.
Next day – Preheat oven to 350 degrees f.
Put the ramekins into the oven and bake for 30 min. or until they brown a little on top. Cut around the sides of the cup with a butter knife and using a fork and the butter knife on either side, carefully lift the toast out of the cup. Dust them with a little XXX sugar. Serve with some maple or other syrups on the side and some fresh fruit. At Asia we had a berry mix; blueberries, strawberries and black berries. Very yummie! PS they do freeze well, just defrost for about an hour and pop them into the toaster oven.
We usually have this dish as a side for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. I thought it would make a good entrée as well, so I worked up this version. Small size, no meat, it makes a perfect light dish for summer with a salad. If you need a larger, casserole style for a big dinner, just double or triple the ingredients, skip the Filo dough and just put some bread crumbs on top to brown. We like to add some fresh cilantro to it, that brightens the taste and adds a little zing. Makes about three 8 oz. ramekins.
1 14 oz. can of whole Artichokes
1 Pkg. frozen Spinach
4 oz. Cream cheese
4 Tbs. of Butter, warmed
¼ cup of bread Crumbs
¼ cup chopped onion
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 pkg. frozen filo dough
Cilantro or flat parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. and spray two or three ramekins with PAM
Defrost the spinach and cook it in the microwave until it is hot. Then put it into a strainer and rinse with cold water. Press the water out of the spinach. Rinse and drain the artichokes, cut off the stems if they have any. You want these to stand up in the cup. You can add the stems to the spinach mix, if you wish for flavor. Press the water out of the artichokes between paper towels.
Cream the spinach, onions, chopped cilantro, butter, bread crumbs and cream cheese together.
Place two sheets of Filo in each ramekin and let the sides droop over the top. Stand up enough of the artichokes in the ramekin to cover the bottom of each. Put a layer of of the spinach butter combination on top. Fold the filo dough over on top of the ramekin. Bake for 30 min. or until the top browns well. Pick the package out of the dish using two forks, plate it and I like to put a leaf of cilantro or flat parsley on top as a decoration, a slice of a small tomato works well too.
Serve with a salad and a good Pinot Grigo, Enjoy!
I thought that this week I would write about one of my failures. Me, Jacques, Julia, Anthony, even the bug eating guy, everyone has at one time or another turned out something that was terrible. That’s what it is all about, experimentation and failure leads to success
I’m always thinking about the next book. What it will be about and how I will accomplish it. One of my ideas was to write a book about barbecue cooking. Not one of the usual black grilled steak, pork chops, fish etc. I was thinking more along the lines of using the barbecue as an oven. I can remember when I was a boy scout we had a folding box that you could place over camp coals and bake (burn) things in. I thought that if one could control the temperature and close the lid, you would have an oven. Not with charcoal obviously but with propane. Such an oven would be perfect for tent camping and RVing. We don’t like heating up and smelling up the trailer with the built in oven so we usually cook outside. An external barbecue/oven on the picnic table outside would be perfect.
So I took our propane barbecue which is one of those stainless steel jobs with a flip down cover and drilled a hole in the front. Then I purchased one of those barbecue thermometers for five bucks and screwed it into the hole. Wha la! Temperature control. I thought if I put the propane on low I should get 350 and on high up to maybe 450 or so. My first choice would be blueberry muffins for breakfast at Ft. DeSoto. I bought a package of blueberry jiffy muffin mix ( no use wasting homemade on a trial ) and some cheap aluminum muffin cups.
The next week we went off camping at Ft. DeSoto. The second day in I decided to try the muffins. I fired up the barbecue, set the control to medium and watched as the temperature ran up to 500 in a flash. Then I set the control to low and after some time and a little ventilation it dropped to the required 400 . I put the muffins in the now oven and baked until they had reached a lovely golden brown on top, just like on the package label. When I flipped them out of the cups I discovered that they were brown on top and a lovely charcoal black on the bottoms and sides. Although I had good temperature control on top, the bottoms were still too hot. Needless to say we had muffin tops for breakfast that day.
I haven’t given up. I think if I could cut up a pizza stone to fit the rack. In the barbecue that it might spread the heat better and allow baked goods not to burn on the bottom. Some day I’m going to try it again and who knows maybe after muffins, rolls, cakes, small loaves of bread. The list is endless. Stay tuned for more adventures in cooking and burning!