Tag Archives: breadcrumbs

Cauliflower Tots

Tater tots, mini bites of grated and deep fried potatoes, are a convenience food that make a tasty and fast side dish. A healthier version may be made with “cauli-rice” …  cauliflower florettes briefly pulsed in a food processor. The recipe below is a simplified adaptation of the various techniques and ingredients found on line. Though I DID add a ‘variation’ that seemed more extravagant. I haven’t tried it yet. Mainly because I didn’t have either the bacon or the peppers on hand. However, I have two packages of raw cauli-rice in the freezer. Maybe I’ll make them for Christmas. Or New Years.

Baked Cauliflower Tots

Baked Cauliflower Tots – makes 10-12 ‘tots’, 4-6 per serving

2 cups/250 gm ‘riced’ cauliflower florettes*
1 large egg
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup raw onion, finely minced or 2 tbsp crispy fried onions
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs, plain or Italian seasoned
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray or vegetable oil

*Break down a whole head of cauliflower into florettes. In a food processor, 1/4 of a head at a time, briefly pulse the florettes until they’ve broken down into roughly rice kernel sized.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, with lid, and cook 1-2 minutes on high. Let cool enough to handle. Place the cooled cauli-rice into a fine weave tea towel and squeeze out the excess water. (NOTE: I managed to extract about 3 tbsp of liquid out of this batch.)

Spray a nonstick cookie sheet with cooking spray or brush lightly with vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon about 2 tbsp of the mixture in your hands and roll into small oval shaped tots.

Place on the cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart and bake for about 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Both sides should be nicely browned and firm but still retain some bounce.

Remove and serve as a side dish. Or, as an appetizer, serve with ketchup, pesto, hummus or your preferred dipping sauce.

For an even more decadent appetizer, stir in the items below.

Twice Baked Potato Variation: 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup finely minced bell pepper and 1/4 cup finely chopped crispy bacon

Battered, Crumbed and Baked … Chicken Tenders

I’ve made these tenders before, but it’s been a while, and I don’t know that I put enough emphasis on the positive aspects of the technique involved.

The usual 3 dish (seasoned flour, beaten egg and seasoned bread crumbs) method for preparing these tenders/fingers, or even chicken cutlets, usually ends up with flour and beaten egg to discard. By combining the flour and egg (only ONE) into a single step, along with some flavourings, the wastage is minimized. You can easily batter up to one pound of chicken pieces in the batter. You may also reduce the crumb wastage by judicious addition of the crumbs over the top of your chicken pieces. Another feature of this technique is the addition of the mustard, for flavour, and the mayonnaise, for moisture retention. In the past, I’ve spread mayonnaise or Miracle Whip over the top of a skinless chicken breast and then dipped the breast into seasoned bread crumbs and baking. This is incorporated into the technique.

Battered, Crumbed and Baked Chicken Tenders – for 2

250 gm /1/2 lb chicken tenders or skinless and boned thighs, cut in half, try to get all your chicken about the same thickness
~ 1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

Batter – makes enough batter for 500 gm/1 lb of chicken tenders

1 egg
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard (or any other mustard of choice)
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

oil spray or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 200C/390F, spray a baking sheet with vegetable spray or brush on a thin layer of vegetable oil. If using parchment paper, to reduce cleaning, you should still use the spray/oil as it will help promote browning.

In a metal pie tin, add your bread crumbs and set aside.

Place the batter ingredients in a medium sized, shallow bowl (a 1 lb margarine tub works for me) and whisk with a fork until combined.

Add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, to the batter, using a fork to turn the chicken over to coat both sides, and letting the excess drip off. Transfer the chicken pieces, still using the fork, to the bread crumbs and shake the pie tin back and forth gently to help coat the bottom of the chicken with the crumbs. With clean dry fingers, sprinkle some of the bread crumbs over the top of the chicken pieces, then gently turn them over to make sure all sides are crumbed.

Place the crumbed chicken onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on thickness. You may want to turn over the pieces about half way through the baking to get both sides crisped and slightly browned. Don’t bake too long or any thinner parts of the chicken will dry out.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce of your choice. ie honey mustard, ranch dressing or spicy Sriracha mayo.

Sriracha Mayo – serves 1

1 tbsp of your favourite mayonnaise
Sriracha, to taste

Since I’m cooking for one, I utilize whatever mixing vessels are available, nearby … usually in my draining board.

The price tag was to remind me that I bought 0.856 kg of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $10. The cutlets below served three and I have over a half kilogram chicken left.

Duck and Pork Cassoulet/Casserole

I first tasted this dish at a very expensive restaurant in Chicago while visiting there with some friends. We stayed at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, in walking distance of other famous landmarks including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium which we visited. We even walked all the way to the Water Tower Place for some window shopping. It was a memorable visit long before my mobility issues.

For a simple French peasant dish, there are a lot of ‘expert’ opinions on what you should and shouldn’t do when making this glorified pot of baked beans.

As you know, for Christmas dinner, I roasted a duck very simply and sliced and froze away both breasts, one of the legs, the carcass and some trimmed meat from the back. I had visions of a hoisin duck wrap with the breasts. And with the leg … well, I made duck gravy with the drippings and froze that away as well. I can’t remember exactly WHY I decided to make a duck cassoulet. I think I saw one posted on FB and had an A-HA moment.

In any case, since I’m home this week and snow was predicted midweek, I thought it would be the perfect time to give the cassoulet a try.

Duck and Pork Cassoulet – single portion with a breadcrumb crust

Just a bit of broth left at the end makes for a perfect cassoulet

5 Steps in Making a Cassoulet

Step 1: Soak the beans – This step and the next can be eliminated if you buy canned beans. Drain and rinse well and go straight to Step 3. In this instance, I added a generous tablespoon of salt to the soaking liquid as I wanted to see if that would affect the cooking time. It’s also been suggested that this will give the salt more time to penetrate the beans and flavour them.

Step 2: Cook the beans – You don’t have to cook the beans until they fall apart, just until they’re no longer crunchy, as you’ll be cooking them some more with your meats.

Step 3: Brown the meat – The meat used is a matter of debate. Duck, lamb (mutton) and pork, in several forms, may be used. The lamb is often omitted, which I did as well. Chicken may be substituted for the duck. And then, there’s a question of fresh or smoked. I’ve already mentioned that I was using leftover roasted duck, about a pound in total. For pork, I went with fresh pork belly, with the rind removed, and cut into portion sized chunks, as well as two raw apple sausages. I wanted to use raw garlic sausages, but my regular butcher didn’t have any, and I forgot to check at the other one at the market. (duh!!)

Step 4: Prepare the crust – This step is also a matter of debate. Some cooks swear by a crunchy crust made of fresh bread crumbs fried in duck fat, spiked with garlic (fresh or dry) and fresh, chopped parsley with a bit of stock to moisten it before it’s spooned generously over the top of the cassoulet. Pat the crumbs down gently and bake your cassoulet until the top is brown and crunchy. For other cooks, a ‘natural’ crust formed by the broth as it cooks down is preferred.

I was GOING to make the breadcrumb topping but then found myself with only 2 TBSP of breadcrumbs in my breadcrumb jar and no bread in the house/freezer that I could make more out of. I was too lazy to run to the local bakery and buy breadcrumbs so I made a single portion of the cassoulet in one of my ramekins with the breadcrumbs I had.

Step 5: Assemble and bake – Use a casserole dish large enough to hold all your beans, meats and enough liquid to just cover the beans. You will bake the contents for at least an hour until the beans and the meat are cooked through and then uncover and continue cooking to reduce the amount of liquid. You’re not making a soup but you DO want some liquid left. If your bean mixture gets too dry, you can spoon some of the reserved bean cooking liquid or stock over each individual portion before serving.

Duck and Pork Cassoulet/ Casserole … finished dish

Duck and Pork Cassoulet – serves 6

Beans and meats for your cassoulet

1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight along with 1 tbsp salt
1 pound duck meat, legs and or breasts
1 pound fresh pork belly, rind removed and cut into 4-6 portions
1/2 pound (2) fresh pork sausage, garlic preferred but apple was used

For the duck stock

1 duck carcass
6 cups of water, enough to cover the duck carcass
~ 1 tsp salt
1 small onion, ends trimmed and outer skin removed
1 carrot, rinsed, trimmed and chopped into 2-3 pieces
1 stalk celery, rinsed, trimmed and chopped into 3-4 pieces

For the bouquet garni – wrapped in cheesecloth and tied closed

1 clove garlic, whole, root end trimmed and paper husk removed
2-3 dry bay leaves
6-9 black peppercorns
1/4 tsp dry thyme

Cooking the beans/making the stock

In a large stock pot combine the soaked navy beans, water, duck carcass and bouquet garni. Bring just to the boil, skim off any scum that floats to the top, reduce the heat until the contents are just simmering, cover and cook 45 min to 1 hr or until the beans are just barely tender. Remove the carcass to a bowl. Let cool and pick off any meat from the carcass which you’ll add to the cassoulet during the assembly.

Remove and discard the bouquet garni, onion, carrot and celery pieces.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid for assembling and cooking the cassoulet.

For the cassoulet

6 cups cooked navy beans
2 – 2 1/2 cups duck stock or bean cooking liquid
2 tbsp duck fat
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 tbsp tomato paste

For crumb topping

2 – 2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 – 2 tbsp duck fat

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Place a large dutch oven on the burner set to medium heat and when hot, add the trimmed off rinds from the pork belly. Render out the pork fat and then add the meaty cubes of pork belly. Brown on all sides then transfer to a large dish. Brown the sausages on both sides, cut each into 2-3 pieces and add to the dish with the cubes of pork belly.

Drain off all the pork fat from the casserole. Add 2 tbsp duck fat to the casserole and saute the diced onion over medium heat just until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to dry out the tomato paste. Add a cup of the bean cooking liquid/duck stock and scrape up browned bits from the bottom. Add the beans and as much liquid to just cover the beans. Nestle the meats into the broth, bring to the simmer and then cover the dutch oven and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for an hour.

Even without a crumb topping, you’ve got a tasty dish … a bit of fresh parsley scattered over the top would be perfect

Prepare the crumb crust by toasting the garlic in the duck fat, if using fresh minced garlic, in a large saute pan. Otherwise, toast the breadcrumbs, dried garlic powder and the dried or fresh parsley in the duck fat. Add a splash or two of bean cooking liquid to the pan. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and pat the crumb crust over the top of the cassoulet.

Return the dutch oven to the oven and continue cook for another half hour or so before checking the level of liquid left.

You may turn on the broiler on high for 2-2 1/2 minutes to finish the browning if your liquid has reduced enough. Check carefully as you don’t want to burn your crumb topping.

Spoon into each individual bowl making sure there’s a bit of sausage, pork belly and duck in each portion.

Garnish with some fresh parsley before serving.