Brown Butter Roasted Banana Bread

Browned butter meets roasted banana.

There is something to be said for a great recipe; one that you can go to again and again and get consistent results. This is one such recipe.

Banana bread is to the baking world what chocolate is to a pastry chef. It’s a basic- a building block that can become your signature, or unfortunately can become your downfall (cue flat piano keys here).

Due to my love of carbs and all things sweet bread,  I have made my share of banana bread. Some of the recipes I tried were good- but heavy and a bit greasy from using oil as a main ingredient. Or I would come across one that said it was “healthy” but tasted about as moist as day-old, stale toast (with the same level of flavor). Others had so much banana, it felt like I might as well have eaten the actual fruit with a box of sugar dumped on top.

Side note here: I do not understand why people put nuts in banana bread. Or in any kind of sweet bread. Or brownies. They are a distraction and take up surface area where their could be a swirl of chocolate/cinnamon/and/or fruit filling. Or just more brown butter and banana.

I came across this recipe it after I read an article by Jeffrey Steingarden in Vogue about the irresistibility of brown butter.  One more side note: why can you not access this article online? This is a travesty and something I would have linked you to.

Anyway, the questions began- what could I add brown butter to? And then Guilty Kitchen answered it for me. What about adding a basic to a basic: brown butter to banana bread? Brilliant.

This bread is the perfect texure- with a light crumble and dense, moist center. Roasting the bananas ahead of time rounds out the fruit’s sweetness, and the deep nuttinenss of the brown butter makes it smell and feel rich. Plus, it has whole wheat flour, and you can substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream if you are feeling super, Jillian-Michaels-level healthy. I have made it that way and it was delicious.

With fall breezes in the air, it’s just about the perfect thing alongside this coffee from my wonderful friend at Feeling Full. Not so bad for a basic.

What You Need*:

3 medium bananas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup butter (I used unsalted)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup cake flour (I used all-purpose and it worked fine)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I prefer King Arthur brand)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

What You Do:

1. Roast bananas whole with the peel on for 15-20 minutes in a 350°F oven. They should look almost black; if you use frozen bananas here, make sure you drain off any extra liquid after you take the peels off.

2. Grease an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan.

3. In small saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Do not stir, instead swirl the pan and watch until it begins to foam (I like to use a pastry brush to sweep the little brown bits off the bottom of the pan). Once the foam begins to subside, and the butter has browned sufficiently, remove from heat and set aside. Swirl the brown bits one more time to make sure they don’t stick to the pan.

4. In medium sized mixing bowl, stir together brown butter, salt and sugar. Don’t forget the salt at this stage! This may be a bit OCD, but it makes a difference, I think. Also, if you use salted butter, I wouldn’t add more salt. 

5. Stir the sour cream and vanilla into the sugar/butter mix. Mash bananas and add in as well (chunks are okay!).

6. In separate bowl, mix together the flours, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir until well combined.

7. Add the flour to the wet mix in two portions, but try not to over mix. I just stir until you can no longer see ribbons of flour.

8. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (in the already preheated to 350°F oven). 45 minutes worked great for me.

9. Cool 5-10 minutes in pan before turning out onto cooling rack. Turn upright and allow to cool completely, although you will be able to cut into it while it’s till warm. And it’s sooo good warm.

*As is par for the course with most of my recipes, this recipe is taken from The Guilty Kitchen with my additions in italics.

Chicken Tetrazzini

My new go-to dish.

I am a chicken tetrazinni convert.

Since childhood, I remember avoiding it.  In cafeteria lines, it was passed over every time in favor of it’s neighbor, baked spaghetti or chicken poppy seed casserole; I would have rather eaten another helping of canned green beans than touch the rubbery, tasteless blob of chicken goo. Or, in other circles, the chicken tetrazzini I came across was brought by well-meaning friends as a gift of family dinner. This version had the dreaded crunchy noodle syndrome: a lukewarm, almost cool bottom with a piping hot, tough, burnt-noodle crust.

But, as a good Southern child, I swallowed every bite, made a “happy plate” (which in my household meant not a speck of food was left), and vowed never to eat chicken tetrazzini again, as far as it depended on me.

When my friend Emme surprised me a few nights ago with a hand-delivered batch of her version, I admit my knee jerk reaction- Run. Far, far away, to pass along to a hungry neighbor I could feel less guilty about giving it to.

But, I should have known this experience would be unlike any I had before. Monique is an incredible cook. Her “Nana’s gravy” has changed my take on marinara sauce (they key is in marinating the meatballs/pork in the sauce all day long, people!) and so I decided to trust her and give it a try.

This chicken noodle dish was refreshingly different. It was creamy, and the noodles were al dente, and the chicken was seasoned and salty. There were even bright specs of red pepper and hearty mushrooms. Gone was the crunchy noddle crust- this was topped with a delicate layer of parmesan cheese.

It tastes even better in a large bowl. Because then you can eat more.

The moral of this story is that tetrazzini can be delicious. And this chicken tetrazzini is my new go-to recipe for sick relatives, new moms, and anyone else who needs a meal delivered. Because for all of the bad chicken tetrazzini memories I suffered, I feel it deserves to have a redemption in someone else’s mind. And for the next child who eats it, bon appetit. May your odds of your chicken tetrazzini being Emme’s recipe be ever in your favor.

Emme’s Chicken Tetrazzini

You will need:

1 16 oz bag of fine egg noodles

8 oz fresh slice mushrooms (white button)

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 can cream of chicken soup (10 3/4 ounce can)

1 can cream of celery soup (10 3/4 ounce can)

22 ounces of chicken stock (fill your empty soup cans to measure)

5 ounces of Half and Half

4 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken

¼ C Chopped Pimentos or roasted red peppers (chopped)

½ to 1 C of freshly grated parmesan cheese

You will do:

In a medium sauce pan, heat butter and olive oil, add mushrooms and sauté until golden.  Add soups, stock, and half and half, and mix with a whisk to incorporate.  Heat on medium until the noodles are cooked (see below).

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to directions—until al dente.  Drain noodles; add drained noodles back to noodle pot and add the following: soup/mushroom mixture, chicken, and pimentos.  Stir well.  Once incorporated add ½ cup to 1 cup (depends on how cheesy you like it) of fresh parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour mixture into lightly greased baking dish. Sprinkle with any additional parmesan cheese.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes until bubbly.

*If bringing to a sick friend or new mom, or freezing, Emme recommends not baking it ahead of time. Also, this makes a good amount, and it freezes well!

Capitol City Eats

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Layers of prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula with balsamic and mayo-laced dressings.

I love our nation’s capitol.

I love what it stands for- liberty, justice, freedom. I love the majestic beauty of its stately buildings and ornate architecture. And I loved the food.

The last time I visited Washington, D.C. I was a sophomore in college. Which meant I was on a sophomore in college’s budget, and with a sophomore in college’s interest in museums, restaurants, and national history. For me, that meant little-to-none in each of the aforementioned categories. Also, to be fair, at that time a salesperson with a red cart selling lukewarm hotdogs and day-old popcorn qualified as a food truck.

Wow, how things have changed. In fact, I would venture to say that I ate better in Washington D.C. than I did on my most recent visit to New York City. Washington’s food scene is highly underrated, and with the plethora of tastes I experienced- from blueberry buckwheat pancakes to a politically-motivated turkey burger, to decadent bacio gelato and Milky Way malt milkshakes- it was well worth the trip. In fact, I am already planning my next visit- even if all I get next time are these macaroons.

Here are some of my favorite stops. And when I say favorite, I mean, you must visit them or I will be offended. And trust me, I will know if you don’t.

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Peanut butter and jelly, mocha, and dark chocolate macaroons that will change your opinion of what to choose for dessert (in that order) at The Sweet Lobby.

Not only were these squash exciting because they meant fall was almost here, Eastern Market was the most beautiful produce fair I have ever seen.

 

This homemade pop tart was filled with peanut butter and topped with salty bacon. And no, it is not a figment of your wildest dreams; it really happened. I ate one here.

I have never had rapini on pizza until 2Amy’s. It was so good- and the fresh hot peppers didn’t hurt either.

This was the best gelato I have EVER HAD outside of the one time I went to Italy and ate it every day. In fact, the reason this photo is so fuzzy is because I was so excited to eat it I rushed the picture and don’t remember what happened next. 

In conclusion, your D.C. eats cheat sheet:

1. For a great burger: Good Stuff Eatery. I had the Michelle O’Bama turkey burger. Please do not mistake my support for the burger named after her and my  political support. That burger was simply evidence that good food doesn’t have to have a political affiliation. Also, please order a Milky Way malt while you are there; the butterscotch and fudge ribbons down the side of your glass will make it all the more fun.

2. For a great dessert- See the above pictured gelato. If you have ever had Italian gelato, this will bring you back to the moment you first tasted it (I think I heard an Italian choir singing in the background). If you haven’t, it is worth a trip to experience what gelato made from local produce and grass-fed cows tastes like.

3. For a great family-style meal: Founding Farmer’s. Unfortunately, my steak with chimichurri sauce, side of spinach enchiladas and goat cheese and butter-roasted corn’s photo didn’t do the meal justice.

4. For a great start to your day: blueberry buckwheat pancakes at Market Lunch (Eastern Hill). Trust me, waiting in line will only make the food taste better.

5. For a great mid-day sugar high: Baked and Wired or The Sweet Lobby. The macaroons at the Sweet Lobby will literally knock your socks off- the texture is absolutely perfect. And the iced coffee at Baked and Wired was sweet and smooth- just how it should be.