The Daily Dish

Grilled Ham & Gruyere Sandwiches

By Laura Werlin
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Photo: Scott Phillips
This is my take on the croque monsieur. I dropped the white sauce and added tarragon and Dijon mustard instead.

6 oz. coarsely grated Gruyère
2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp. dried tarragon
4 tsp. salted butter, at room temperature
8 slices (1/4-inch thick) egg bread, such as challah or brioche
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard; more for serving
4 thin slices (about 1/4 lb. total) Black Forest-ham

In a small bowl, mix together the cheese and tarragon. Butter all the bread slices on one side only. Put four slices, buttered side down, on a cutting board. Distribute the cheese over the bread and top with the ham, folding the slices if they’re large. Spread about 1-1/2 tsp. mustard on the unbuttered side of the remaining bread slices and set them, mustard side down, on top.

Heat a large nonstick pan or griddle over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Put as many sandwiches as will fit in the pan or on the griddle without crowding, cover, and cook until the cheese has just begun to melt and the bread is golden broown, about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to flatten it slightly. Cook the sandwiches uncovered until the bottom is golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn them once more and press with the spatula again to recrisp the bread, about 30 seconds. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately, with more mustard on the side.

Roasted Fennel with Asiago and Thyme

By Larraine Perri
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Photo: Scott Phillips
Roasting fennel brings out its mellow sweetness; a sprinkling of thyme and grated Asiago dresses it up. If you double this recipe, use two baking sheets so the fennel isn’t too crowded to brown.

2 large fennel bulbs (about 2 lb. total)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1/3 cup packed grated Asiago cheese

Position a rack in the top third of the oven, put a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 500°F.
Trim the fennel, quarter each bulb vertically, and trim away most of the core, leaving just enough to hold the layers intact. Slice each quarter into 4 wedges.

In a medium bowl, toss the fennel with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and quickly spread the fennel on the sheet, with the largest pieces toward the edges of the pan. Roast until the fennel pieces are almost tender and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 18 minutes.

Flip the fennel, sprinkle with the thyme and then the Asiago, and continue roasting until the cheese is melted and golden, 3 to 5 minutes more. With a spatula, transfer the fennel and any lacy, golden cheese bits to a serving dish.

Variations:
Turn this side dish into a hearty main by tossing the roasted fennel with pasta and topping it with garlicky toasted breadcrumbs.

Rich Cocoa Brownies

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Photo: Scott Phillips
Brownies made with cocoa powder are softer on the inside than those made with bar chocolate. I like the tart and lively flavor of natural cocoa powder here; Dutch-processed gives a mellower flavor. Try both types to see which you like best.
2-1/4 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. table salt
5 oz. (10 Tbs.) hot melted unsalted butter
2 cold large eggs
1-1/2 oz. (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1 cup broken walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Heat the oven to 325°F.Line an 8x8-inch baking pan (preferably metal) with foil across the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the cocoa, sugar, vanilla, salt, and hot melted butter with a hand mixer or with vigorous strokes of a whisk. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the batter is thick and lightened in color, 1 to 2 min. Add the flour and stir with a rubber spatula just until blended. Fold in the nuts, if using. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake until the top is puffed and slightly crusted and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a little fudge batter clinging to it, 28 to 30 min.

Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack. Lift the ends of the foil to remove them. Invert the brownies on a tray and peel off the foil. Turn the brownies right side up on a cutting board and cut into squares (wipe the knife between each cut, as the brownies will be soft and sticky).

Apricot Coconut Bars

By Renée Henry
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Photo: Scott Phillips
This combination of sweet, tangy apricots mixed with coconut on a sweet crust is borderline addictive.

For the crust:
5 oz. (1 cup plus 2 Tbs.) all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
Pinch table salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the topping:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 extra-large egg
2 Tbs. apricot jam
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
1 cup firmly packed diced dried apricots (about 6 oz.)
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Make the crust:
Position an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles moist pebbles. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press down to form an even layer. Bake until the crust is lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and leave the oven set to 350°F.

Make the topping:
While the crust is baking, combine the brown sugar, egg, apricot jam, flour, baking powder, salt, and almond extract in a medium bowl. Whisk until blended. Stir in the apricots and coconut. When the crust is baked, scrape the topping into the pan and spread evenly. Continue baking until the topping is browned around the edges and a pick inserted in the center comes out a bit sticky, about 20 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool completely before inverting onto a cutting board. Using a warm, thin-bladed knife, trim off the edges and cut into bars.

Store at room temperature or freeze in an airtight container, separating the layers with waxed paper. 

Chicken Piccata

By Tony Rosenfeld
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Photo: Scott Phillips
In this Italian-American favorite, the thin-cut chicken breast cutlets cook up in no time and the flavor is light and bright.

8 boneless, skinless, thin-cut (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) chicken breast cutlets, (about 1-1/2 lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
3 Tbs. capers, rinsed and chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 cup lower-salt chicken broth
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more as needed
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. unsalted butter

Season the chicken with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add as many cutlets as will fit in a single layer and cook until lightly browned on both sides and just cooked through, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Shingle the chicken on a platter and tent with foil. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding another tablespoon of oil between batches if the pan seems dry.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the capers, garlic, and the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the garlic softens and becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and lemon juice, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until the mixture reduces by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Off the heat, swirl in half of the parsley and the butter and season with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken breasts, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve immediately.

Serve with a simple Orzo with Brown Butter and Parmesan or Sautéed Spinach with Shallots on the side.

Creamy Thai Basil Polenta By Ming Tsai

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Creamy Thai Basil Polenta

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, minced
4 cups whole milk
8 cups chicken stock
3 cups instant polenta
1 cup packed Thai basil leaves
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, hand cracked
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions
Add 1 tablespoon butter to large sauce pan over medium-high heat and melt. Add onion, sauté until softened, and season with salt and pepper. Add milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Whisk in polenta and cook until creamy and smooth. Check flavor and season, if necessary. Whisk in remaining butter. Meanwhile, toss Thai basil with lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve polenta in bowls and top with Thai basil salad and pink peppercorns.
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Ming Tsai is the host and executive producer of public television series Simply Ming. Each week, Simply Ming brings mouthwatering recipes inspired by the combination of East and West into homes across the country.

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