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Monkey See, Monkey Bread

The first time I tasted Monkey Bread it was a disappointment. The pastry itself was very good, but when I heard the name “Monkey Bread,” I expected, well, monkeys, or at the very least some bananas or other tropical flavors. I’ve tasted a lot of versions over the years, some good, some not so good, and they’ve all featured the same cinnamon caramel flavors. No banana. No coconut. No monkeys. Monkey bread ought to have a little monkey in it, right? Goddamnit!*

Monkey Bread is a mid-century American classic of no definitive origin. It is typically made of sweet, yeasted bread dough balls that have been dipped in butter and rolled in sugar or coated with caramel. They’re piled on top of one another in a cake or bundt pan and served warm so that they easily pull apart. No wonder the name leaves us scratching our heads.

We’ve decided the time has come to monkey around with the recipe. By adding both fresh and dried banana, plenty of coconut (sugar, oil and cream), and a hearty kick of booze (in lieu of the monkeys), we’ve given a well-worn staple a tropical upgrade. The Graham flour isn’t necessary, but it does add a nice bite to the bread, and after all the sugar and booze it’s nice to know there’s a bit of nutrition in the bread.

This is a great breakfast or brunch treat that can be assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving.

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Banana Coconut Monkey Bread with Graham Flour

1/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
3 eggs
1 cup plus 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground dehydrated banana chips
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoons sea salt
1 cup graham flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoon coconut oil (solid form not above 77 degrees)
Nonstick cooking spray, for bowl
Coconut & Maple Butterscotch (see recipe below)
1 1/2 ripe bananas, pureed until smooth
1 cup dried banana chips, broken up
1 cup chopped pecans (walnuts, pistachios, and cashews are also good)
1/4 cup bourbon (or other booze such as Grand Marnier, Scotch, or Rum)

DIRECTIONS

In a small saucepan, heat milk until just warmed through. Transfer to a large bowl and add yeast; stir to combine. Let stand 1 minute until yeast is dissolved. Add 1 egg and whisk to combine. Add 1/2 cups flour and mix until well combined. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup flour over top of mixture; cover with plastic wrap and let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Transfer dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add remaining 2 eggs, powdered banana, coconut sugar, remaining all purpose and graham flours, and salt. Mix until dough forms a ball, adding more all purpose flour if necessary. Increase speed to medium and mix for about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add butter and coconut oil; mix until fully incorporated.

Lightly coat a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and transfer dough to prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down and cover again with plastic wrap. Transfer to refrigerator until ready to use, up to 1 week.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup butterscotch and pureed bananas. Lightly coat 5 1-cup ovenproof dishes or ramekins with cooking spray; set dishes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place one tablespoon butterscotch in the bottom of each baking dish. Sprinkle some of the soaked banana chips and nuts over the butterscotch; set aside.

Divide dough into 6 equal pieces (about 6-ounces each). Working with 1 piece at a time, roll into a 6-inch-long rope using your hands. Cut rope into 8 equal pieces, add pieces to bowl with butterscotch mixture and toss to coat. Transfer dough pieces to a prepared baking dish; repeat process with remaining pieces of dough. Sprinkle each baking dish filled with dough with more banana chips, nuts, and a drizzle more of the banana butterscotch. Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until spongy, about 1 hour. (Can also be frozen at this point. To bake remove from freezer the night before and place in a warm area overnight before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush tops of dough with more butterscotch mixture. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating halfway through baking, until golden and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with remaining butterscotch, for dipping.

Coconut Maple Butterscotch

1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cups Stout beer

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt both sugars and butter over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and gradually add the coconut cream about 1/3 cup at a time.

Continue cooking at a gentle boil for 15-20 minutes or until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add salt and vanilla; stir to combine. Add stout and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool. Continue to stir occasionally as it cools to keep from separating.

* No little monkeys were harmed in the making of this sweet doughy treat!

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Chilaquiles Esteban

Steve is obsessed with chilaquiles. He talks about them endlessly. And he’s been talking about making them forever. A staple Mexican comfort food, chilaquiles is essentially fried corn tortillas simmered in chili sauce and topped with lots of cheese. A sort of soft, saucy nacho dish. Chilaquiles are relatively simple to prepare. We used the stale leftover homemade tortillas from the last post, but you could use store bought just as well. But be sure to find good quality, thick tortillas. They’ll stand up better to the frying and the sauce.

On Saturday afternoon, after days of futzing around making homemade tortillas (and talking about chilaquiles more than anyone should),  Steve decided to jump into cooking his beloved dish, a la Steve—at the last minute. Luckily our dinner guest is more like family, so all we needed to do was to supply her with a cocktail while Steve put the finishing touches on the dish. Alas, the chilaquiles came together deliciously!

Lots of people add an additional protein like shredded chicken or fried chorizo. In this iteration, we added some chopped venison steak leftover from a dinner earlier in the week. Finally, garnishes. Chilaquiles is fine with no embellishments, but it’s  traditionally served with thin slices of onion, radishes and jalapeños. Some crema, sour cream, or plain yogurt, and probably a little more grated cheese, preferably a crumbly white queso and a fried egg, to gild the lily.  

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Chilaquiles Rojas

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Serves 6

Sauce:

8 Guajillo or New Mexico chilies
1 28 oz can tomatoes
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 medium onion, cut into large dice
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Tortillas/Assembly:

vegetable oil for frying
12 6 inch corn tortillas (homemade or store bought)
Kosher or sea salt
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, fried chorizo, left over steak, or other meat (optional)
1 cup crumbled queso fresco or mild feta
1 cup shredded white cheddar
6 large eggs
Finely chopped white onion (or thinly sliced green onions)
Thinly sliced radishes
Chopped fresh cilantro
Crema, sour cream, or yogurt
Sliced jalapeño
Lime wedges
Preparing the sauce:

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chills, break them into large pieces and place them in a large enough bowl to cover with 2 cups boiling water. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes (do not discard the soaking liquid).

In the container of a blender, add the tomatoes, the rehydrated peppers, garlic, jalapeño, onion and paprika, along with a cup of the soaking liquid from the peppers. Purée until you can no longer see pieces of chili pepper skins. It should be very smooth.

Heat two tablespoons vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add purée to the pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover the pot while the sauce cooks and thickens, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.[Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead, kept in the fridge. Be sure to reheat it before using.]

Tortillas/Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy pan or skillet at a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees (we guessed, but you should be sure about the heat and a deep fry thermometer is very useful here).

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut tortillas into quarters or sixths and carefully add them to the hot oil one at a time until you have enough in the pan to cover the surface of the oil without the chips overlapping. Fry until golden brown and then remove to the paper towels to drain. Season with salt.

Once the chips are fried, add them to a large mixing bowl and toss them with a cup of the chili sauce until they are well coated. Add half to a casserole or large baking dish and sprinkle with half the cheese. Add remaining chips, the remaining sauce and the rest of the cheese.

Cover the casserole with foil and place into hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and turn the oven to broil. Place the casserole under the broiler for 6-8 minutes or until the cheese getting toasty brown spots. Slice into 6 portions.

Plate the chilaquiles and top with a fried or scrambled eggs.  Top with an array of sliced radishes and jalapeño, with chopped red, white, or green onions, crumbled fresco queso or feta, and a little drizzle of crema, sour cream, or yogurt.