Whenever I daydreamed of a dish at work that I couldn’t afford I’d go to Harris Teeter after my shift and attempt to recreate it. They weren’t perfect copies. It’s hard to match McCormick & Schmick’s crab and gorgonzola stuffed salmon when the fish counter is closed. But slices of smoked salmon wrapped around a creamy combination of crabmeat and gorgonzola, and then breaded and baked in a dish came pretty close. At the very least it whetted my appetite.
And then there was the Tavern, where my romantic failure with a conceited sous chef only strengthened my competitive edge. When he turned out poached pears and baked brie with a red wine reduction I used up most of a bottle and all of my mother’s sweet tooth in order to make mine drizzle onto the brie like his did. And it worked. Eventually. Their jalapeno tequila cream served with fried plantains was the basis for mine, spread onto a sandwich. The fried zuchini and garlic aioli that came from a carry out Italian place in NYC became fried eggplant with a garlic dipping sauce. My favorite salad at Macaroni Grill, a simple sauteed spinach, garlic and lemon juice salad has become the foundation for many a salad and a building block in a layered dish. All because they discontinued it after I’d developed an insatiable addiction. Green apples started to appear in my tomatoe sauces after having them in a red sauce at an Afghan restaurant. In fact, lots of odds and ends started to make their way into my tomatoe sauces because I’d lost any fear of bucking the conventional tomatoe sauce that tastes as though it’d been through the food processor. And many a sandwich idea has stemmed from lunches I had at ‘Wichcraft while an intern at Tribeca.
So when I saw an article on the yeast rolls served at Bourbon Steak, the ones topped with a truffle butter? Right up my alley. Except maybe the truffle butter, those being a little hard to come by on my budget. While Julia tackled cinnamon buns I was beside her, eschewing the cinnamon and sugar in order to make my own version of these. They will go nicely with a cup of white bean and chicken chili simmering in the crockpot at the moment.
Active time: 40 min Start to finish: 2 1/2 hr
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm milk (105–110°F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
Special equipment: a muffin pan with 12 muffin cups
Stir together milk, yeast, and 1/2 tablespoon sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Pulse flour and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs, then stir together with salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir just until a dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a work surface (not floured) and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to an oiled large bowl and turn dough to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough and turn out onto work surface (not floured). Divide into 12 equal portions.
Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 9- by 1-inch strip with a rolling pin, rolling and folding lengthwise and crosswise to make sides as straight as possible. Starting with 1 end, roll up strip and put, a spiral side up, in a muffin cup. Make 11 more rolls in same manner.
Cover rolls loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Lightly beat egg with 1 teaspoon water and gently brush tops of rolls with some egg wash.
Bake in middle of oven until tops are golden and bottoms are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.