Sunday, January 04, 2015

Roasty Goodness

This is for all of you who either have a toaster oven you never use, or you just got one for Christmas and you're thinking it's going to take up way more counter space than it's worth.

You are going to cook like a gourmet cook because of this device. Seriously.

Last night, as I was roasting baby peppers as an ingredient for dinner, while simultaneously toasting an old, hardened croissant in a damp paper towel (which came out incredibly tender and even more delicious than when I bought them fresh), I thought: I have arrived in gourmet heaven. And I didn't spend all night in the kitchen cooking, either. It went by fast.

So I decided to share my morning cooking with you. It took a little longer than usual because I was snapping pics the whole time.

First, the roasted peppers. I bought a whole bag of baby peppers because I thought they would make good New Year's Day nibbles, especially with some onion dip. Did I actually cut them up and serve them? Of course not. BTW, I could have as easily used tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, or whatever as the roasted yummy. But, I have this huge bag of peppers, so peppers it is.
 I got some olive oil, pepper, sage, sea salt, and I chopped and crushed a clove of fresh garlic. I put them into a cheap plastic sandwich bag with my slices of baby peppers and mushed it all around until the peppers were coated with oil and seasonings. Yum!

Then, I stuck them in my wonderful toaster oven. You can see how mine has a warming chamber above my main oven compartment. They're nice to have, but not strictly necessary. That's where I warmed up my croissant. (Delicious! Wish I had one more left.)

I set the toaster oven to broil, low, and set the timer for ten minutes. I've roasted peppers for as long as fifteen minutes before. It blackens their edges a bit, which actually adds a lot of flavor without making them taste nasty and burnt. But suit yourself.

A word about eggplant. They will soak up an infinite amount of oil. Put as much oil as you care to in the bag, and no more than that.

 Meanwhile, back at the range ....
Here I have my last two eggs in the whole world, because my lazy chickens don't lay in the wintertime. Actually, I could make them using a light, but I think they need the rest after working hard all spring, summer and fall.

I add milk, seasonings, some more of the crushed garlic (which is roasting with the peppers in the toaster oven and making the kitchen smell awesome), a touch of salt, and I use a fork to beat it all together.

 Now comes the weird part for some of you. You can be satisfied with eggs scrambled with roasted peppers, which is admittedly delicious, or you can be daring and pull a slice of your favorite bread (I like eight grain) into small chunks and mix it into the egg.

Heat up the pan with butter. I don't want to hear about your obsession with vegetable oils. These are eggs. They like butter. :) I pour the eggs and bread into the pan when it's hot enough to make pancakes.
 So, what's going on in the toaster oven in the meantime? Roasted goodness, that's what! I just pull out the peppers and admire their delicious, garlic-y goodness. I can't help but set one aside for nom nom nom all by itself. Because I'm like that.
 Look how clean the bottom of the pan is when I stir in the peppers! Cast iron should work basically like a non-stick pan, except without the weird peeling-off bad-for-you coatings and the risk of cutting the pan, causing irreparable harm if you should be so foolish as to use a metal implement. Do you know what happens when I scratch my cast iron pan? I rub oil into it and keep on a going. In a month you'll never even know it was scratched. They're gorgeous. But I digress.

No egg (cooked with butter!) dish is complete without cheese. I throw caution to the wind and finish the cheese inside my cast iron pan because I don't fear no cheese in my pan. It'll come right out. Besides, then the cheese has a chance to do a tiny bit of browning here and there and I love that. Love love love it.

Check it out. I clean the cast iron pan right after I pour out the egg stuff. A little stuck here and there, but you know what? It came out easy. I cleaned the pan under full hot running water in the sink. If you like you can spray on some diluted soap to get rid of any excess grease, but never full strength soap and don't stop the water flow. You can do emergency cleaning by boiling (slightly!) soapy water in your cast iron pan, but it will smell soapy when you heat it up for the next couple of times. It's only worth it if you didn't clean it while it was still hot after cooking (you foolish mortal, you!) and you have really stubborn food remains that are glued in there like cement. Baked dishes that use rice are a little famous for doing this.

Toaster ovens and cast iron pans. Awesome. And if you don't like roasted veggies, fine, be that way. Your toaster oven is still awesome. You never, ever have an excuse not to make garlic bread because you don't want to heat up your oven 'just for bread.' You have the toaster oven now, you lucky dog, you. Plus, there's no better way to reheat leftover french fries or to put the crispiness back in fried chicken that you take home from Popeyes but leave on the counter or in the car just a little too long. Enjoy!

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