Today's hearty recipe for Italian Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole comes from The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes. Van Beuren's story of unexpected Main Street revival in her town of Water Valley, Mississippi, is captivating, and our cooking columnist calls Grimes' collection of Southern recipes, "Creative comfort at its best."
Italian Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole
Reasons to make a breakfast casserole: Your in-laws are in town, and you need to spend the early morning vacuuming. High school boys are spending the night, and it’s better to serve them something contained rather than getting roped into standing next to the stove for a solid hour making pancakes to order. Someone needs sustenance in the way of food and the whole neighborhood knows it, which means the recipients of largesse might have 18 lasagnas and nothing for breakfast.
This particular casserole is savory enough for dinner, but the eggs make it breakfasty. Teenage boy approved.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with butter. In a skillet set over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, until browned throughout—10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Discard all but 1½ tablespoons of the grease in the pan. Add the fennel and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the fennel is soft, 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, vermouth, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper. In the bottom of the prepared baking dish, spread half of the bread, and top with half of the cooked sausage, half of the fennel mixture, and half of the grated cheese; repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic from the dish and bake until the casserole is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Excerpted from The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes. Copyright © 2014 by Alexe van Beuren. Photographs by Ed Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Read our review of this book.
Saint Monkey by Jacinda Townsend
Norton • $24.95 • ISBN 9780393080049
On sale February 24
Jacinda Townsend's debut novel, Saint Monkey, follows best friends Audrey Martin and Caroline Wallace through their most formative years in the segregated Appalachian culture of Eastern Kentucky. Family tragedy and a deep well of grief initially tie the two girls together, and both dream of life beyond their tiny, oppressive town. Audrey is picked up by a talent scout for her gifts in jazz piano and joins the house band at Harlem's Apollo theatre at the age of 17, but Caroline finds it much harder to sever her ties to Mt. Sterling, and a bitter divide is cut between them as they struggle for a place in the world.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter below:
Since my daddy died, Grandpap has begun to see me as a dry leaf in freefall, a wasted petal about to be crunched under a man's foot. He wants me to forget all the boys of Montgomery County and take studies in typing, to let go the idea of marrying a town sweetheart and become, instead, a woman of the city in a store-bought dress and nylons, with my own bedboard and bankbook. I'm supposed to fly and dream about all that, sitting here in this swing. He painted it white, whiter even than the side of this house, whose thin coat is peeling to expose the aged black wood underneath. He painted the wood slats of this swing so white that when you stare at them for a time, they seem blue. Swing high, and the porch ceiling creaks where he riveted the screws: the grown people who walk by warn me. "Hey gal, it ain't a playground swing," they say. For them, for their limitations, I stop pumping my legs, and the creaking stops. But when they've faded down the walk, I fly high again.
What are you reading this week?
Author and practicing anesthesiologist Carol Cassella's new medical mystery, Gemini, is hitting shelves today.
An unidentified Jane Doe winds up in a Seattle hospital as the presumed victim of a nasty hit and run in rural Washington. Soon, she slips into a coma on the operating table, and Dr. Charlotte Reese battles to keep her alive while police race to track and identify the driver at fault. Cassella's characters grapple with medicine and morality—is life and family about more than just DNA? Is Charlotte's patient still in her broken, failing body somehwere, or is her conciousness truly lost? Who will make decisions on the unknown patient's behalf in lieu of any known family?
Learn more as Cassella lays out the details in this trailer from Simon and Schuster below:
What do you think, readers? Will you pick up a copy of Gemini?
Chocolate enthusiasts take note: Our cooking columnist describes Alice Medrich's cookbook, Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate, as "the perfect love letter to this dark, dense, divinely delicious delicacy." This recipe for Bittersweet Decadence Cookies yields soft, ultra-rich cookies and can be modified to use up to 72% chocolate.
Bittersweet Decadence Cookies
Makes 36 cookies
Ultra-chocolatey and richer than sin, slightly crunchy on the outside with a divinely soft center, these are not delicate or subtle, but the jolt of bittersweet is irresistible. I reorganized and revised the original recipe from one in a newspaper—to make the cookies more chocolatey and intense—by reducing the sugar and butter. Now I’ve revised it again so that I can make it with higher-percentage chocolates without compromising that perfect contrast of textures. For the best cookies of all, chop your own chocolate for the chunks, or use a premium brand of chocolate chunks rather than ordinary chocolate chips. You can choose a chocolate for the chunks that contrasts in sweetness with the chocolate in the cookie batter.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets (see Note) with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together thoroughly; set aside.
Place the 8 ounces (225 grams) of chocolate and the butter in a large stainless steel bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently just until melted and smooth. Remove the chocolate from the skillet and set it aside. Leave the heat on under the skillet.
In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together thoroughly. Set the bowl in the skillet and stir until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch. Stir the egg mixture into the warm (not hot) chocolate. Stir in the flour mixture, then the nuts and chocolate chunks.
Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter 1½ inches apart onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake until the surface of the cookies looks dry and set but the center is still gooey, 12 to 14 minutes. Slide the cookies, still on the parchment, onto racks, or set the pans on the racks. Let cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container.
Note: I am fussy about cookie sheets. These cookies will have the best flavor and texture if they are baked on sheets lined with parchment paper, which insulates them just enough but still allows the cookies to be a little crusty on the outside and soft within. Cushioned pans and silicone liners make the texture of the cookies too uniform for my taste. Pans with dark surfaces (even if they are nonstick) tend to scorch rich chocolate cookie bottoms before the centers are cooked.
To use higher-percentage chocolate to make cookies that are increasingly bittersweet, without sacrificing the texture or the pretty gloss on the surface of the cookies, adjust the recipe as follows.
To use 61% to 64% chocolate:
Use 7 ounces (200 grams) chocolate. Increase the sugar to ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 grams).
To use 66% chocolate:
Use 6½ ounces (185 grams) chocolate. Increase the butter to 3 tablespoons (45 grams) and the sugar to ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams).
To use 70% to 72% chocolate:
Use 5½ ounces (155 grams) chocolate. Increase the butter to 3 tablespoons (45 grams) and the sugar to ¾ cup (150 grams).
For the chunks, use any chocolate you like, the same as or different from the batter. No alterations are necessary.
Is there anything as aesthetically intriguing as swinging 60's London? Pop-culture and music journalist William Shaw transports us into the world of mini-dresses, go-go boots and, of course, The Beatles in his newest mystery, She's Leaving Home.
But it isn't all peace and love and youthful rebellion—Shaw taps into the rampant sexism and xenophobia that colored much of this decade as well.
When the strangled body of a teenage girl is found near Abbey Road Studios, Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen is assigned to the case, along with Helen Tozer, the first woman to join his detective staff. Shaw is on point with his characters, dialogue and period detail, making this first installation in his planned trilogy of cultural thrillers a highly recommended read.
Check out the slick trailer from Mulholland Books below:
Well readers, what do you think? Are you interested in reading She's Leaving Home?
Popular nutritionist and Food Network host Ellie Krieger's latest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders, is perfect for health-conscious foodies with little free time to spend in the kitchen. This quick and easy shrimp recipe is packed with smoky Spanish flavor, and unlike most take-out, it's guilt-free!
Shrimp with Spinach, Garlic and Smoked Paprika
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
If you have yet to discover the glory of smoked paprika, this is your official invitation. Made from smoked red peppers, it is a key ingredient in Spanish cooking (where it is called pimentón). It imparts a deep ruby color and distinctive smoky flavor and aroma, instantly giving the simplest foods, like eggs, potatoes or grilled chicken, a huge wow factor. In this dish, it teams up with golden toasted garlic for doubly exciting seasoning for sautéed shrimp and spinach. You can buy smoked paprika in sweet or hot varieties, but I buy the sweet because I figure you can always add some heat if you want it—and I do add a touch here.
Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with a paper towel. Thinly slice the garlic. Coarsely chop the spinach.
Place the oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Watch closely so the garlic does not burn. Transfer the garlic to a small dish using a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the skillet.
Raise the heat to medium-high, add the shrimp, paprika, salt and cayenne to the skillet and cook until the shrimp turns pink and is nearly cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach, return the garlic to the pan, and cook until the shrimp is opaque throughout and the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes more.
SERVING SIZE 1 ¼ cups (6 or 7 shrimp)
CALORIES 260; Total Fat 13g (Sat Fat 2g, Mono Fat 7.8g, Poly Fat 2.1g); Protein 30g; Carb 6g; Fiber 2g; Cholesterol 215mg; Sodium 410mg
EXCELLENT SOURCE OF Iron, Phosphorus, Protein, Selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12
GOOD SOURCE OF Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Zinc
The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
Crown • $25 • ISBN 9780307461605
On sale March 4, 2014
In her second novel, Therese Walsh explores the tumultuous, yet fiercely loyal bond between two young sisters, Jazz and Olivia Moon. After their mother dies of an apparent suicide, Olivia, whose synesthesia causes her to see sounds and taste sights, is determined to chase their mother's dream of seeing a fabled ghost light in the bogs of West Virginia. A resentful Jazz is cajoled into helping Olivia reach her destination, but there's plenty of trouble along the way. When their borrowed vintage bus breaks down, Olivia tries to shake Jazz loose and acts on her first impulse—she hops a train and forges a fragile alliance with some fellow travelers.
Readers who love a good road trip story will want to check this one out, and Walsh taps into a family's grieving process with sincerity. Here's the opening of the first chapter, told from Jazz's perspective:
My sister began staring at the sun after our mother died, because she swore it smelled like her. For me, it would always be the scent of oven gas, since that’s how Mama went—fumes pouring out, her breathing them in. Like Sylvia Plath, my father said, because Mama was a tortured writer, too.
Olivia’s actions were just as purposeful. Burned her retinas out over a period of months, made it so she couldn’t drive or even read. Well, she could’ve, if she’d used the glasses the doctor gave her—those big things that look like telescopes on her face—but she wouldn’t. So no reading. No driving. Instead, she lived with her head always tilted to the side, with an oil smudge in the center of everything she might want to see.
My sister’s reality had always been bizarre, though, with her ability to taste words and see sounds and smell a person on the sun. So when she decided to toss our dead mother’s ashes into a suitcase and go off to the setting of our dead mother’s story to find a ghost light, I wasn’t all that surprised. She’d never been the poster child for sense.
Will you check out The Moon Sisters? What are you reading this week?
Alice Hoffman, the best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, has delivered another historical novel, brightened by her talent for magical realism, and it's out today. Set in New York City in the 1900s, The Museum of Extraordinary Things presents a city in flux—sidewalks are quickly covering the remaining green space, overcrowded tenements stand in juxtaposition to well-appointed mansions and child labor is all too common in the factories.
Coralie Sarder's father runs The Museum of Extraordinary Things on Coney Island where he displays "freaks and oddities." But when Coralie meets young photographer Eddie Cohen in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, they begin a liberating love affair.
Lovely sephia photographs of New York open a window into Hoffman's dreamlike world in this trailer for The Museum of Extraordinary Things:
What do you think, readers? Will you pick up a copy of this book?
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, we're sharing a recipe for a beautiful, rich and chocolately dessert that is so good, you won't even mind that it's not heart-shaped. This Warm Mocha Tart comes from Alice Medrich's swoon-worthy cookbook, Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker's Guide to Chocolate, which has more than 150 decadent recipes. Who needs flowers?
Warm Mocha Tart
Serves 8 to 10
Two weeks of nonstop shortbread testing produced an unorthodox surprise: perfect shortbread made with melted butter. That shortbread became an exquisitely crunchy and flavorful base for lemon bars, a crust for cheesecake and, ultimately, my favorite sweet tart crust. I even bake brownie batter on top of it. This remarkable crust barely shrinks in the pan, so there is no need to weight or even prick it before baking. To ensure that the bottom remains crunchy, bake the crust fully, to a deep golden brown, before pouring in the filling.
At the same time I was playing with the new tart crust, I was experimenting with different cocoas, tasting and comparing natural and Dutch-process in all kinds of recipes. Voilà, rich warm cocoa custard in the simplest crust.
9½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom
For the Crust
For the Filling
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. To make the tart crust: Mix the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling: Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and cream in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is blended and smooth and begins to simmer around the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder and vanilla.
5. Just before the crust is ready, whisk the egg thoroughly into the hot chocolate mixture.
6. Pour the filling into the hot crust and turn off the oven. Leave the tart in the oven until it quivers like tender Jell-O in the center when the pan is nudged, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.
7. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature.
Espresso Walnut Tart: The same tart in a walnut cookie crust produces a subtler but still delicious effect. You could also make it with toasted skinned hazelnuts—then I would omit the espresso powder.
Reduce the butter to 6 tablespoons (85 grams) and add 2 teaspoons brandy and 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or a heaping teaspoon instant coffee powder or crystals) with the sugar, salt, and vanilla. In a food processor, pulverize ⅓ cup (35 grams) walnut pieces with ¾ cup (105 grams) flour until fine. Substitute this mixture for the flour. Proceed as directed.
Either natural or Dutch-process cocoa works well here. The former has a livelier, more complex, fruity flavor, while the latter has a cozy old-fashioned flavor reminiscent of chocolate pudding. You choose.
Our Top Pick in fiction this month is Jennifer McMahon's The Winter People, and it's in stores today!
In what our reviewer, Elisabeth Atwood, calls a "marvelously creepy page-turner," McMahon tells the story of two families in the seemingly quiet town of West Hall, Vermont.
Sara Harrison Shea and her husband Martin lost their young daughter Gertie in 1908. Now, more than 100 years later, two sisters move into the Shea's farmhouse with their mother Alice. But when Alice mysteriously disappears, it seems that Sara's old diaries hold all of the answers.
Check out the trailer for this spooky, evocative story from Doubleday:
What do you think, readers? Will you read this mystery-horror crossover?