Sunday, January 11, 2009

Say Cheese!

Brunch is my favorite meal, and today was the day of the long-awaited cinnamon-themed brunch. It was a success! Delicious food, wonderful friends, great conversation, beautiful views out the window on a sunny San Francisco day. By my count, there were twenty-eight non-MB and B guests (though one of them was only 3 months old). Here's the menu, a.k.a. a few of my favorite things:
--Crab quiche (reportedly John Travolta's favorite!)
--Leek-and-mushroom quiche (modified from Julia Child)
--Cranberry cinnamon rolls, half with and half without walnuts
--Cinnamon swirl bread with cinnamon crumble topping
--Salad with Mesclun greens, apples, and dried cranberries
--Two kinds of tartlets: aux abricots and au fromage frais et aux pruneaux (apricot; and cream cheese, prune, and almond)
--Fruit salad
--And, finally, cheese scones with roasted tomato salsa.

As you can see, there were some delicious recipes involving cinnamon, but I'm actually going to post today about the cheese scones. They are based on a recipe from the Cheese Board cookbook, with my own special twist. Perhaps the best part of the original recipe, which uses half-inch cubes of yellow Cheddar, is that the cheese spreads out from the edges during cooking to form a crunchy halo around each individual scone. The new and improved ones were inspired by some cheese scones we tasted last June in Portland, Oregon at Bakery Bar. (I highly recommend visiting Portland, period. But particularly in the summer, when the roses are in bloom. The fragrance at the rose garden was heady and almost overpowering. Over 8000 roses! Here are a few:

This one smelled divine.

We liked the roses so much, we visited the garden twice during our trip. Also, the dining was pretty phenomenal in Portland.)

Back to the cheese scones. The new and improved version has grated cheese and scallions. They have less crispy cheese halo, but such a wonderful texture and flavor. And they brown beautifully in the oven! There were a few left over from the brunch, so I took a picture.

The new cheese scones, like the old cheese scones, are quite savory, and delicious with a spicy roasted tomato salsa that I have adapted from the Cheese Board. They are also delicious without the salsa, but it is so easy to make while the scones are in the oven.

Cheese Scones
Adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works

Makes 12 scones
Time: 15 min active time, 45 min total

3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
jalapeno or serrano chile, chopped (optional)
1 t. kosher salt
2 T. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in cubes
1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg, beaten (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cayenne, chile (if using), salt, and cornmeal to a large bowl. Then add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter, 2 dinner knives, or your fingers until it is the size of small peas. Briefly mix in the Cheddar and scallions. Make a well in the center, and add 3/4 c. buttermilk. With a few strokes of a wooden spoon, mix just until the ingredients come together. Add remaining buttermilk if needed, but the should be some loose flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Place half the dough on a generously floured surface. Pat into a 1 1/2 in-thick circle. Cut into six wedges. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Place the scones on the prepared pan about 2 inches apart. You may brush the tops with the beaten egg, if desired.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-30 min, or until light brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with roasted tomato salsa.

Roasted Tomato Salsa
Adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works

Makes 3 cups
Time: 10 minutes active, 20-30 min total

5 Roma tomatoes
2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. finely chopped green onions
1/2 c. loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 t. kosher salt

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, roast the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic until the tomato skins are blackened and beginning to fall off, about 10 minutes (alternately, broil the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic in a baking dish for 15 minutes, turning once). Place all ingredients in a food processor for 15 seconds.

P.S. People brought lovely hostess gifts to the brunch, which was unnecessary but much appreciated. White tulips (from E and JMc, the latter of whom really shouldn't have been giving gifts as it was HER birthday today).

Also we were given wonderful beverages (thanks to T for the cinnamon-themed Champagne cocktail). Flavored salts. Meyer lemons and coffee crunch bars. Blooming lychee tea. And everyone's company, which was all we really wanted to begin with.

Thanks to all for attending! And a special thanks to B, for putting up with me.

1 comment: