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Hey -- didn't we focus on breakfast in the last issue? Well, right you are, but the following dish goes far beyond breakfast -- it's equally good as a substantial lunch or light supper. With asparagus bouncing down to rock-bottom prices at this time of year, we like to use it in all kinds of imaginative ways. Read on.
Homemade English Muffins
Sure, you can buy excellent English muffins at the store -- go ahead and do so, if you wish. But for those of you who always like the challenge of "making your own," this is a fun one.
We find these muffins are best made the day before you want to serve them. You may certainly sample them straight off the griddle, but we find them a bit gummy at that point; they definitely benefit by a "drying out" period.
1 1/2 cups (6 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
Mix the flour, water and yeast in a medium-sized bowl to form a smooth batter. Cover and leave at room temperature for at least 4 hours, or up to 16 hours. The starter should be puffy and full of holes when it's ready to use.
all of the starter
1 3/4 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar or non-diastatic malt powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, melted
3/4 cup (6 ounces) milk, warm
1 to 2 tablespoons cornmeal, for sprinkling on the pan if you're baking the muffins.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) finely minced shallots or onions
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard (Dijon-style preferred)
1 cup (8 ounces, 2 sticks) butter, melted and kept warm
salt to taste
1/4 cup seeded and finely diced tomatoes
The Finished Dish
4 English muffins, each split in half
1 pound asparagus, roasted or grilled*
2 ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
8 eggs, poached in water to which 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt have been added
2 tablespoons freshly snipped chives (optional, for garnish)
Homemade English Muffins
In a large bowl, a mixer bowl, a food processor or your bread machine, beat together all the ingredients to form a smooth, sticky dough. The dough needs to be beaten for about 5 to 8 minutes (about 90 seconds in a food processor), so unless you feel like giving your biceps a good workout, we suggest using some kind of electric appliance. Cover the bowl and place it in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Now, you can either bake English muffins in the oven, or dry-fry them on top of the stove. Read both sets of directions first, to decide which you want to do.
To Prepare Muffins For Baking: Lightly grease 10 to 12 English muffin rings* (non-stick spray works well), and place the rings on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet that's been sprinkled with a small amount of cornmeal. Note: the cornmeal isn't really necessary; but it makes the muffins seem more authentic.
*If you don't have English muffin rings, simply drop the dough onto the pan and shape it with your fingers. The muffins won't be as symmetrical, but they'll taste just fine.
Stir the dough, then drop a scant 1/4 cup into each ring. Sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Smooth the dough, if desired, with your fingers, which you've dipped in water first. Place the pan, covered, in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or until the muffins have grown by at least a third.
Baking: If you've used muffin rings, place a clean sheet pan, bottom-side down, atop the muffins. This keeps the muffins flat on both sides (rather than crowned on the top) so they'll fit better in the toaster slot. Note: If you're not using muffin rings, don't put a pan on top of them -- they'll squish! Place the pan into a 350°F oven (with the sheet pan still on top), and bake the muffins for 25 minutes, until they're lightly browned on both sides. (The bottoms will be browner than the tops, just like the ones you buy at the store.) The muffins may be fork-split and eaten immediately (they'll be soft) or, for crunchier muffins, allow them to cool completely, split them, and toast. Yield: 10 to 12 muffins.
To Dry-Fry English Muffins: Let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours, until it's very puffy looking. Preheat a griddle to 325°F. Lightly grease English muffin rings (if you're using them). Place the rings on the grill. Lightly stir the dough, then use a 1/4-cup measure or muffin scoop to fill each ring about 1/3 full. If you're not using muffin rings, simply drop the dough by 1/4-cupfuls onto the grill.
Dry-fry the muffins (this means frying without grease) for about 10 to 12 minutes on the first side before turning them over to cook on the other side. You'll know the muffins are ready to turn when the top side has formed a skin. Cook the muffins for about half the time you cooked them on the first side, remove them from the griddle, carefully remove the rings, and allow them to cool. Yield: 10 to 12 muffins.
Combine the lemon juice, water, shallots or onions, capers, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a very small pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated; this will take only 2 or 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and place this "reduction" in the top of a double boiler.
Place the double boiler over simmering water. Separate the four eggs, discarding the whites or setting them aside for another use. Whisk the 4 egg yolks into the double boiler, continuing to whisk until the egg yolks thicken. Add the tablespoon of mustard, then whisk in the warm butter a little at a time. If the mixture begins to curdle, remove it from the heat and add 1 tablespoon cold water.
Whisk until all the butter is incorporated; the sauce should be thick but still light. If it's thick like mayonnaise, whisk in a bit of water until it's of a pourable consistency. Note: A quick method of finishing the sauce is to scrape the egg yolk mixture into a blender and slowly drip the warm butter into the yolks with the machine running. Fold in the diced tomatoes. Set the sauce in a warm water bath; the water should be hot but not simmering, as simmering water may "break" the sauce.
The Finished Dish
*To roast asparagus, spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray (or drizzle it with olive oil), and lay the asparagus onto the sheet in a single layer. Spray or drizzle the asparagus with additional oil, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. If the spears are very fat and woody at the bottom, trim off the bottoms.
Toast the English muffins, then place a slice of tomato on each half. Divide the grilled or roasted asparagus among the muffin halves. Place them on a serving platter while you poach the eggs.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer. Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt to the water. Turn the heat down so the water is barely simmering, break the eggs into a bowl, then slip them into the hot water. Cook the eggs for 3 to 4 minutes, until the whites are set and opaque. Remove them from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon, tilting the soon to let the water run off. Blot dry with a clean towel if necessary.
Place an egg atop each muffin half. Drizzle with the sauce, and serve immediately. Yield: 4 to 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (1 muffin, 82g): 179 cal, 3g fat, 5g protein, 30g complex carbohydrates, 2g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 8mg cholesterol, 108mg sodium, 90mg potassium, 33RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 91mg calcium, 152mg phosphorus.
Nutrition information per serving (2 muffin halves with tomato, asparagus, 2 eggs and sauce, 245g): 461 cal, 29g fat, 14g protein, 34g complex carbohydrates, 2g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 319mg cholesterol, 664mg sodium, 309mg potassium, 368RE vitamin A, 11mg vitamin C, 3mg iron, 138mg calcium, 298mg phosphorus.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XI, No. 4, Spring 2000 issue.