Food You Can Eat: The Muffin Tin is the Unsung Hero of the Kitchen

Great things come in small packages

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I don’t think FYCE has covered the 1,001 uses of the humble muffin tin. Then again, my memory is not what it once was. 

Muffin tin recipes for non-muffin and -cupcake applications are genius. They produce individual portions and cook much faster and more evenly than if you made the same equivalent all at once.

Well, Mattie, what do you do with your muffin tins?

1. Make mini-fruit pies.

Whisk an egg or two in a small bowl. Unroll two sheets of thawed puff pastry. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray if your muffin tin is not non-stick to begin with. Do not butter your muffin tin because that will lead to Mary Berry’s bête noire, soggy bottoms.

If you have a 4” diameter cookie cutter use that. I do not, so I use a drinking glass whose lip is approximately 4” across. You might have a coffee mug that will do the trick. Whatever you use, create 12 circles and fill the muffin tin cups with those. This will create “pleating” around the sides.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Fill each dough-lined cup with 3 or 4 tbsp. of canned pie filling: apple, blueberry, strawberry, cherry, whatever you want. Now, with the leftover pastry dough, create a top. I just use the scraps and place them on willy-nilly, but you can reroll the dough and create more circles that fit the top of your muffin tin cups (so less than 4”). Brush with the whisked eggs to make an egg wash. If you strive toward something a little more formal and have capped them with the rerolled tops, make a slight slit in them. Sprinkle with sugar or brown sugar in the case of the apple version.

Put these in the oven until the tops are golden brown, about 25 minutes. When they’re done, let them cool for a while and very carefully use a very dull butter knife to separate them around the edges. They should kind of pop out. Refrigerate any you have leftover because these are excellent the morning after, if you get my drift.

2. Make vaguely Tex-Mex egg-and-sausage breakfast bites.

There is a story behind this, of course there is, but I’ll save it for the very end.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Non-stick spray a 12-cup muffin tin. Crumble 1 lb. of sausage into a skillet and cook for about 5—10 minutes, until browned. To that add a little jar of green chiles (about 4 oz.) and 3—4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese. Stir it around a little bit but it doesn’t really need to cook; just get the cheese to melt a little.

Divide this among the 12 cups in the muffin tin.

In a bowl, whisk 4 or 5 eggs, a little milk (not too much because you’re not making scrambled eggs, maybe 1/4 cup) and some drops of hot sauce, depending on how hot you want this to be. In my case I used many drops. Pour that on top of the sausage mixture. Put it in the oven for 15—20 minutes until the egg topping is just crisped and browned. Keep an eye on this so nothing burns.

Remove the muffin tin and let the contents cool for a couple of minutes. Then, again with a knife, carefully work around the edges and try to get the 12 “muffins” on to a plate and serve.

3. Make mini-meat loaves.

If you go online and search for “muffin tin recipes” the ones for meat loaves will come at you fast and furiously. I don’t know why. Here’s one I made from Southern Living (!) because they say it is a take on Julia Child’s meatloaf. It’s really tasty, but uses quite a few ingredients, so prepare yourselves.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees and non-stick spray that 12-cup muffin tin. In a large bowl (and with your hands, as you do for any good meatloaf recipe) gently mix together: 1 egg, 2 1/4 lb. lean ground beef, 2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), 1 grated yellow onion (1/2 cup), 3 tbsp. chopped flat parsley, 4 minced garlic cloves, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar (pain in the neck to find in my neighborhood, so good luck), 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. ground allspice, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and a partridge in a pear tree

Apportion this among the 12 cups of your muffin tin. They will slightly overfill, so make a little mound. Spoon a little ketchup (I used spicy) to coat the tops of each one. Put them in the oven for about 25 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, stick it into the thickest part of one of them in the center of the tin and it should read 160 degrees (at least but this is the ideal.)

Once again, using a knife, carefully separate around the edges. They should hold together but if one or two of them loses their integrity serve it/them to yourself and explain to your guests that that’s how you prefer them.  

4. Make mini-frittatas (I will call these frittatitas, because that is a fun word to say)

Spray that 12-cup muffin tin and preheat an oven to 375 degrees.

Sauté 1 good-sized chopped onion in a little olive oil for about 8 minutes, until translucent. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk 9 eggs (with a little salt and pepper added) but not to the point of frothiness. Keep an eye on the onion to make sure none of it is burning or sticking and stir a little. 

Into the muffin cups add a little chopped spinach. Not too much, maybe 1/8”-worth, or a little more if you’re feeling in a spinach-y mood. Apportion the onions over the spinach. Top the onions with a little shredded cheddar cheese (shred it yourself; don’t use pre-packaged), about 2 or 3 pinches. If you like cheese add a little more. Pour on the eggs. Your cups should be about 2/3 full. If you added more cheese you’ll get to about 3/4, which is fine. You need the extra room because the frittatitas will aspire onward and upward in the cooking process. 

After about 12 minutes start probing them with a toothpick. It should come out clean and the tops should look a nice golden-brown. Check for signs of burning. 

Get out the knife, carefully slide along the edges, etc.


The not particularly interesting story about the vaguely Tex-Mex breakfast bites:

What happened was Better Half and I agreed to meet up with another couple for dinner and drinks. Lord could those two put it away. We didn’t know them very well but we got along great. They lived far away (not in Manhattan; Brooklyn, I think) so I said, “Oh just come stay with us.” I got the hostile glare from Better Half but it is in my nature to be hospitable. 

So we returned to the apartment, more drinks, as if any of us needed any, and Better Half disappeared. “What happened to BH?” “He’s making up your bed. We have a den/guest room…?” “Oh. We thought we would all—“ “Would what?” So that was a little awkward. 

The next morning, while the Little Wanderers were sleeping it off, I very quietly made the Vaguely Tex-Mex Egg-and-Sausage Breakfast Bites. I was saving the ingredients to do something else but I thought it would be just the thing to soak up all the residual alcohol and the hot sauce would spark some life into them. I was right!



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