Spicy Corn Cakes

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Corn Cakes

These delicious spicy corn cakes are perfect for a fancy brunch at home, but easy enough to make at a campsite

Today I am celebrating with spicy corn cakes from my first book, Campfire Cuisine. I can hardly believe that this book, my first “baby,” turned seven years old on May 1. And like any parent, I can’t help but wonder where the time has gone. But the coolest part is that to mark the occasion, Quirk Books released a new, upgraded, updated, spiffed up edition of the book. I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present.

I’m really excited about the new edition. Like the first, it looks adorable and is packed full of helpful tips and recipes for incredibly delicious camping cuisine (if I do say so myself). Plus this new edition has a bunch of great new recipes. I’m especially excited about this recipe for Spicy Corn Cakes spiked with red chiles, cilantro, and cheese. It perfectly illustrates the shared genes between Campfire Cuisine and The Lazy Gourmet: It seems special enough to serve for a fancy brunch, but the recipe is so simple it can easily be made at a campsite.

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Baked Eggs in a Crunchy Potato Crust

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baked eggs

A crispy crust of shredded potatoes holds a perfectly cooked egg and a surpise center of creamy parmesan onions

“Mama, you know what I call you?” my four-year-old asked me today. I shook my head and crossed my fingers, hoping I wasn’t in store for more preschool-style potty humor.

“My insistent,” he said. “Do you know what insistents do? They tell me what to do and then I do it.”

Oh, kid, if you only knew how much I would relish actually having an “inistent’s” power. I would tell you to clean your room, get ready for school without a fuss, and, for pete’s sake, stop whining. Like, forever. I would tell you to let me sleep in on Mother’s Day and bring me breakfast in bed: A tray laden with a cup of hot tea sweetened with honey and fortified with milk, a bowl of perfect spring strawberries, and these beautiful baked eggs in crunchy potato crusts with parmesan-onion cream filling.

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Slow Cooker Tricks To Make Dinner More Delicious

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easy slow cooker recipes duck confit

This golden-delicious duck confit proves gourmet meals can come straight out of the slow cooker.

I’m a sucker for a good gadget, or, well, let’s be honest, any gadget (that’s what “sucker” means, right?) When I got my first slow cooker, it was no doubt thanks to some marketing lackey’s storyboard fiction: Place random boring ingredients in, turn it on, go off and enjoy your day, and a delicious dinner will ensue. Wondrous visions filled my head. I imagined easy slow cooker recipes that would have me throw in a few chicken parts, a whole onion, some random spices, and head off to work for the day only to find, upon my return, a fabulous, fully cooked gourmet meal.

After years of experimentation, there’s one thing I’ve learned: I don’t love the kind of food that involves throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and applying heat. But, not one to give up on the ever-growing army of gadgets that fill my kitchen (or, god forbid, get rid of them as my husband frequently suggests), I have persevered. And it turns out, the slow cooker really can be a magical, wondrous, time-saving gourmet cooking tool that will make dinnertime more delicious. I’ve more or less given up on the casserole-style CrockPot meals I once dreamed of concocting. These days, I mostly rely on easy slow cooker recipes for prepping ingredients that will serve as the foundation for multiple meals.

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Polenta and Sausage with Caramelized Fennel

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polenta and sausage with caramelized cabbage and fennel

Sausage party!

Planning a menu for three male dinner guests last week, I couldn’t help but envision a sausage-based entree. I considered casseroles, pizzas, and even soups before finding myself at the grocery store with a hankering for cooked cabbage and corn. The delicious result of all this envisioning and hankering was a savory layering of cheesy polenta, caramelized cabbage and fennel, herbed turkey sausage, perky white beans, and a sprinkling of Parmesan. The boys dug it!

Since you can use any kind of cooked polenta you like, I’m not including a specific recipe here. You can simply follow the recipe on your polenta package, or even buy a pre-cooked log. It’s up to you whether you want to serve it creamy or firm—the end result will be delicious either way. (I made The Lazy Gourmet’s Baked Polenta with Mascarpone and Corn (p.143) in a round dish, let it set, and sliced it into wedges.) Sausage choice is a personal decision as well; I picked one that didn’t have too many other strong flavors that might compete with the fennel.

Bonus: to minimize pre-dinner stress, I made the polenta earlier in the day, then just warmed it a little in the oven while I was cooking up the other ingredients.

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Brazilian Cheese Bread or Pão de Queijo

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brazilian cheese bread

Delicious Brazillian cheese bread or Pão de Queijo is gluten-free and unbelievably easy to make.

With a blog constantly in need of filling, you can bet that we’re always on the lookout for interesting new recipes. You wouldn’t think that a preschool would be a hotbed of gourmet food, but when my son’s Brazilian preschool teacher, Anna, brought a basket of delicious, crusty, chewy, cheesy bread balls to a school party, I didn’t hesitate to pester her for the recipe. Turns out they were Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread.

Because they’re made with tapioca flour, these beauties, which are similar to a gougeres or cheese popovers, are gluten-free.  The best part is that they are insanely easy to make and loved by grown up food snobs and picky young tykes alike.

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Magical Chawan Mushi (Japanese Savory Egg Custard)

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chawan mushi or savory japanese egg custard with shrimp and mushrooms recipe

Chawan mushi (savory Japanese egg custard) will brighten even the gloomiest day

I was about to start this post talking about how cold and miserable San Francisco can be, but then I remembered that I can’t stand it when people belabor the fact that San Francisco is cold and damp. I mean, yeah, it is. Almost unbearably so at times. But if that’s the biggest thing San Franciscans have to complain about, it only proves that it’s one of the most awesomest places to live. Besides, San Francisco has Japantown, where you can find any number of restaurants that serve steaming hot bowls of chawan mushi. This magical savory Japanese egg custard will brighten any day, no matter how foggy, with its  silky smooth egg layer concealing an assortment of delectable hidden treasures.

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Maple-Glazed Bacon Beignets

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Bacon Beignets

Maple-glazed bacon beignets are perfect for mardi gras (oh, who are we kidding, they’re perfect any time!)

On the heels of my earlier success with homemade sufganiyot and a recent taste of Applewood-Smoked Bacon Beignets with Maple Crème Fraiche at Melissa Perillo’s San Francisco restaurant, Frances, I’ve been obsessing about fried balls of dough. As foodie obsessions so often do, the two dishes—sufganiyot and bacon beignets—collided in my head in totally inappropriate, but exceedingly appetizing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fashion. I simply could not get this thought out of my mind: Maple-glazed bacon… sufganiyot. Surely hoards of Jewish grandmothers are rolling over right now and for that, I apologize. But, come on, admit it. You think I’m onto something, too, don’t you?

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Perfect Roast Chicken

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Perfect Roast Chicken

All you need to make a deliciously moist, perfect roast chicken is a good, organic chicken, a handful of kosher salt, and a hot oven.

So, I come from a food-obsessed family. My mother, a self-taught cook with a love of spicy foods, liked to experiment with exotic cuisines. Our normal home-cooked meals were things like meaty Brazilian feijoada, intricate Indian curries, and southwestern corn cakes with spicy chile-crusted prawns. Classic “American” dishes, though, like pot roast, meatloaf, and fried chicken, were veritable strangers on our table. By the time I flew the coop, I could deftly layer ephemeral phyllo dough into cheesy, rich spanakopita or whip up a Thai coconut milk curry without a recipe, but I had no idea how to approach some of the most basic cooking techniques. Roast chicken? While this might sound simple for even middling cooks, it was way outside my milieu. Way.

For years, I went about my business happily cooking up heavily spiced dishes from every corner of the globe. All the while, I’d hear friends talking about how they roasted a chicken on Sunday and used the leftover meat to make all sorts of satisfying dishes—enchiladas, salads, pastas, and soups—throughout the week. As life got busier, what with a family in the mix, that seemed like a great way to maximize my meal preparation efforts. But how? I was at a loss. I tried roasting a few chickens on the fly, but always ended up with dry and/or rubbery meat, and I was never even sure if it was cooked all the way through.

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Onigiri: World’s Oldest and Most Delicious To-Go Food

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Onigiri all wrapped up and ready to go

Since before chopsticks were invented, the Japanese have been rolling sticky rice up into balls that are easy to pick up and eat by hand. Not only are onigiri a tidy way to enjoy rice on the go, but the  rice serves to preserve various savory fillings. Wrapped in seaweed (nori), and best eaten at room temperature, onigiri are the perfect food to pack for a take-along lunch, whether you’re a Japanese fisherman headed out to the open sea or a four-year-old destined for a grueling day of preschool. Or, you know, someone in between. Say, perhaps, a working mom who likes a tasty, healthy, and neat mid-day treat.

While they’re sometimes found in the shape of an actual ball or in cutesie forms such as kitties and bunny rabbits, around here, triangular onigiri is the most common. Sharp-edged and compact, these three-sided wonders hide one of many delectable surprises inside the simple looking rice. From salted, cooked salmon to julienned and marinated seaweed, from salted plum to tempura shrimp, pate, or even American-style tuna salad, you can fill your onigiri with just about anything you like.

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Crepe Filling: Radicchio, Butternut Squash, and Walnuts

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crepes with crepe filling of radicchio, butternut squash, and walnuts

It’s just so fun to make crepes. I promise.

Yeah Baby, MORE CREPES! What else can I say? I’m still at it. (Check out some of our previous crepe filling posts. And also, brush up on how not hard it is to make crepes.)

This delicious filling boasts a whole lot of gustatory adjectives: sweet, bitter, savory, crunchy, chewy, cheesy — plus it’s nutritious and colorful, too. Hey, did you know that Parmesan cheese is the number one most umami-rich food? A smart friend told me this, so it must be true. Pass it along.

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