SPAETZLE, THE LITTLE DARLINGS

Recently I have written about noodles and pasta and some of my travails in turning out good products. Part of the stimulus for my effort has been watching an outstanding video cooking course by Chef Bill Briwa of the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America and produced by The Great Courses. Chef Briwa made pasta-making look so easy, especially after my history of struggle over the years.

Actually, I found the basics of pasta and noodle making to be fairly straightforward. (How complicated can anything be with the ingredients limited to flour, eggs, and water?) At the same time, refinements come only with practice and attention to detail.

Here is my effort at a close relative of pasta/noodle: spaetzle. The word is German, and translates to either “little sparrows” or “little darlings”. Personally I prefer the “little darlings” translation because I would rather not have birds floating around in the sauce, and the little  noodlets do look cute, snuggling in the brown butter. Spaetzle are basically made from a soft noodle dough that you force through holes into boiling water where they immediately cook and float to the top. You can use a cookie press with a spaetzle attachment, but those holes are too small. You can use a colander with large holes, but there is a lot of effort with a spoon in pushing the dough through the openings. The last time I visited Los Angeles, I found a spaetzle maker at the Surfas kitchen supply store in Culver City. As an aside, I would highly recommend a visit when you are in Los Angeles. They have more kitchen gadgets than you can imagine along with a small sandwich and pastry shop.

Back to the spaetzle, the device I bought at Surfas makes spaetzle-making a breeze. You load the dough into the little box on top, move the box back and forth across the pierced plate, and the dough automatically feeds until you need to load it again. The spaetzle drop into the boiling water, and you scoop them out into waiting melted butter at the same time you reload the box.

I served the spaetzle in brown butter sauce with croutons, along with braised pork chops, apples, and onions. Pretty German – and pretty monochromatic. You might want to add a green vegetable to brighten up the plate.

RECIPES

Spaetzle in Brown Butter with Croutons

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup croutons
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 quarts salted water for boiling the spaetzle
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter  and cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned, being careful not to let it burn. Remove from the heat, stir in the croutons, and have it next to the cooking water for the spaetzle so that you can transfer the pasta immediately into the butter.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, water, salt and flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
  3. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Place the spaetzle maker over the boiling water. Load the metal box with dough, and using a back-and-forth sliding motion, pass the dough through the holes in pierced plate.
  4. The noodles should drop into the boiling water and sink to the bottom. After they float to the surface, let them cook for a minute or so, and the lift them out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon or a spider. Transfer to the melted brown butter, stirring them so that they are completely coated with butter.
  5. Repeat the process until all of the dough has been used up.
  6. Correct the seasoning of the buttered noodles with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or you can chill them and reheat them later if yo wish.

 

Braised Pork Chops, Apples, and Onions

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 boneless, 1 inch-thick pork chops
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½ inch rings
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly (Use a mandolin if you have one.)
  • ¼ cup Calvados
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pan with tight-fitting lid, big enough to hold the pork chops and other ingredients. Brown the pork chops on both sides. Add the chicken stock, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf. Cover and place in the middle of oven preheated to 220° F.
  2. Braise for one hour, turning the pork chops from time to time, and adding water if necessary.
  3. Add the apple rings and onions, and continue to cook for another 45 minutes.
  4. Transfer the pork chops, apples, and onions to a plate, cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven.
  5. Strain the cooking liquid, and return to the pan. Boil the liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about one-half and is slightly thickened. Stir in the Calvados.
  6. Serve the pork chops, apples, and onions, topped with the sauce and with the spaetzle on the side.

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GINGERBREAD

This is definitely the time of year for gingerbread. The aroma of baking gingerbread is one of the most elemental of Christmas fragrances, and gingerbread houses and gingerbread people have been important parts of our family’s celebrations for many years.

When our children were little, we spent a full weekend every year making a gingerbread house and decorating it with gum drops, candy canes, and Christmas sweets. The plans for the house came from Cooking of Germany from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Sometimes, a corner of the roof would mysteriously disappear, but mostly the house stayed intact throughout December. More than once we would try to preserve the house for the next year by wrapping it tightly in plastic and putting it in a secure, cool place. That never worked, and I suspect that various varmints got their own Christmas celebration.

This year, one of our younger grandchildren announced that gingerbread would be on the menu for Santa’s visitation treat. Probably the little one was referring to gingerbread people, always fun for children’s hands to make and decorate.

This year, too, Sarah decided to make a deconstructed gingerbread dessert for Rich Table. She asked her mother for the favorite family recipe that she remembered from childhood to use as the beginning point for the dessert. The finished plate doesn’t look anything like gingerbread that I have made.

Toasted gingerbread, Meyer lemon panna cotta, lemon meringue

Toasted gingerbread, Meyer lemon panna cotta, lemon meringue

Susan pulled up her old standby, “Edith’s Gingerbread” from M.F. K. Fisher’s classic book, How to Cook a Wolf, first published in 1942 and in a revised edition in 1951.

If you have never read anything by M.F.K. Fisher, I would encourage you to do so. A contemporary of Julia Child, James Beard, Craig Claiborne, and the cookbook editor, Judith Jones, Fisher is unique as a food writer. Her first recognition came as the English translator of The Physiology of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (Counterpoint Press, Washington, D.C.) But she ultimately became well known for her own writings, including the books, How to Cook a Wolf, Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, The Gastronomical Me, An Alphabet for Gourmets, and the compendium, The Art of Eating along with The Cooking of Provincial France in the Time-Life series, Foods of the World . Fisher had an unusual ability for describing eating as a sensuous activity, but she also wrote interesting anecdotes, revealed much of her own life, and included simple and excellent recipes for all sorts of food including boiled eggs and gingerbread. Try Edith’s gingerbread.

You might also want to try serving your gingerbread with lemon sauce. That was a combination my mother always used, and I loved it. You might enjoy it, too.

RECIPES

Edith’s Gingerbread

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method

  1. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar.
  2. Beat the baking soda into the molasses until it is light and fluffy. Add to the shortening and sugar.
  3. Sift the spices, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  4. Stir the remaining ¼ teaspoon of baking soda into the boiling water. Then add alternately with the dry ingredients to the shortening, sugar, molasses mixture.
  5. Fold in the beaten egg.
  6. When all is well mixed, pour into a greased and floured 8 x 8 inch baking pan. (Fisher’s notes instruct you not to be worried if the batter seems too thin and not, under any circumstances, add more flour!)
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 325°F for about 20 minutes. Cool on cooling rack for about 5 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

Notes

  • This is not as sweet as many gingerbread recipes. I like it that way, but if you want it to be sweeter, you can always add more sugar.
  • If you are baking at high altitudes, you may want to cut back to ¾ teaspoons of baking powder to reduce the risk of the dreaded central collapse during baking.
  • Gingerbread seems to beg for whipped cream, ice cream, hard sauce, or something sweet on top. My favorite is the lemon sauce below.
Sift together the flour, ginger, cloves, baking powder, and salt

Sift together the flour, ginger, cloves, baking powder, and salt

The batter is not as thick as you might think. Don't add more flour.

The batter is not as thick as you might think. Don’t add more flour.

Fresh from the oven and cooling

Fresh from the oven and cooling

Lemon Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Limon cello

Method

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the sugar, water, corn starch and salt.
  2. Stir frequently while slowly bringing the mixture just to the boil. It should become thick and translucent.
  3. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and Limon cello.
  4. Serve while still warm.
Gingerbread with lemon sauce

Gingerbread with lemon sauce

 

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CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP TO TREAT WHAT AILS YOU

We have been back home nearly a week after visiting our family in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are still recovering from a “cold”  (could it be the plague or whooping cough??) that we got from our infant grandson on the Monday before Thanksgiving. He was quite ill for three days and then recovered to his usual bouncy self. Since then, he seems to have forgotten anything about the illness. In the meantime, grandparents are dosing up with various remedies and stoking up the nebulizer at night. Ah, there is a resilience of youth that seems to have left me.

Over the last several weeks, Sarah has been experimenting with dumplings. Of course, that means she has made the classic, chicken and dumplings. It occurred to her on our last night in San Francisco that chicken and dumplings might be therapeutic. There is the belief in more than one society that chicken soup, especially the broth, can cure any cold. There is even some limited scientific evidence that that might be so. We were not about to turn down free medical treatment. Sarah made a delicious version of chicken and dumplings, and we felt better. But the cure did not last.

Sarah's chicken and dumplings

Sarah’s chicken and dumplings

That made me think that maybe a repeat dose at home might do the trick, so I made a batch of chicken soup. Instead of dumplings, though, I decided to use home-made noodles as the starch. The soup was tasty even though the noodles were a little heavy. As to the therapeutic powers, we still have the “cold” (could it be the plague or whooping cough?)

There are three elements to the usual bowl of chicken soup:

First, the chicken. Most recipes call for a whole chicken. After boiling, the meat is removed from the carcass and finely shredded. Since there would only be two of us for the therapy, a whole chicken would be way too much, so I went with four chicken thighs.

Second, the broth. If you are a serious cook, you will make a rich stock from the boiling chicken and aromatic vegetables. For me, that always results in a watery broth that begs to be reduced and flavored. Alternatively, you can use packaged stock. Some cooks sniff at that approach as the commercial stuff contains lots of additives. Read the label, and you will find things like “chicken flavor”, salt, dextrose, celery juice concentrate, carrot juice concentrate, and yeast extract. Actually, the yeast extract may not be all that bad as it adds to the umami flavoring and richness of the stock. My preferred alternative is to use commercial stock in which to boil the chicken and aromatic vegetables. That has the pleasant result of yielding a rich, well-flavored stock. Then you use that for your soup.

Third, the starch. There are several good choices, matzoh balls, kreplach, dumplings, spaetzle, and packaged noodles among them. I went with homemade noodles as I have recently been trying to perfect what seems like an impossibly simple but confounding recipe. I rolled the dough as thinly as I could, but that was not enough. You need strong arms and determination. When you think the dough has been rolled thin enough, roll it out some more. Even better, use a pasta machine and work through the settings to the thinnest or next-to-thinnest setting.

Here’s my effort at homemade chicken noodle soup:

Chicken noodle soup

Chicken noodle soup

RECIPES

Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 48 ounces packaged chicken stock
  • water
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on
  • ½ large yellow onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 cloves onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning. More if you prefer
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 2 scallions, including the green tops, sliced

Method

  1. In a soup pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken, the half onion, one of the carrots, one rib of celery and the remaining ingredients. Return to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken thighs are cooked. Add additional water if needed.
  2. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate, and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and cut the meat from the bones, shredding the meat to the size you prefer. Set aside.
  3. Remove the vegetables and strain the broth through a fine sieve. Wipe the pot clean, and return the broth to the pot. Bring to the boil.
  4. Peel the remaining carrot and slice thinly into rounds. Slice the remaining celery stalk into ¼ inch slices.
  5. Add the mushrooms, scallions, celery, and shredded chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, stir in the dried noodles, return the soup to the boil for an additional 10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked and tender.

Dumplings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons basking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup whole milk

Method

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together
  2. Beat the egg lightly and stir in the milk
  3. While stirring continuously, add the egg and milk mixture slowly to the dry mixture. You should have a smooth but stiff batter.
  4. By teaspoonfuls, drop the batter into boiling soup. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Noodles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4-8 tablespoons water

Method

  1. On a clean, dry work surface, make a mound of the flour. With your fingers, form a well in the middle of the flour that is big enough to hold the eggs.
  2. Break the eggs into the well. Add one tablespoon of water. With a dinner fork, lightly beat the eggs, and then begin to pull the flour gradually into the well.
  3. Continue to mix the eggs with more of the flour. Add another tablespoon of water. The dough should be well mixed and begin to hold together. If the mixture is too dry, add more water by a few drops at a time. The finished dough should be smooth and hold together, but should not have any stickiness. Knead for a few minutes with your hands until the dough is smooth. Cover with a bowl or dust lightly with flour and wrap with plastic wrap. Let relax for 30 minutes.
  4. When you are ready to roll out the noodles, cut the ball of dough into fourths, working with only one part at a time and covering the remaining pieces to prevent them from drying out.
  5. Shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Then using a sturdy rolling pin, roll the dough to the desired thickness – the thinner the better. Dust very lightly with flour and fold the dough over on itself so that you have a long roll with four layers. With a sharp knife, cut the roll into noodles of the desired width.
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining three pieces of dough.
  7. Dry the noodles for 20 – 30 minutes. Then add to the boiling soup and cook until the noodles have puffed up and cooked through. It should not take as long as with packaged dry noodles.

 

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AZIZA AND THE OUTER RICHMOND

A while back I wrote about the great restaurant, Outerlands, located in the Outer Sunset District of San Francisco. Outer Richmond is a bit different. First, it is not to be confused with the City of Richmond located north of Berkeley and Oakland and home to the (in)famous Chevron refinery. Outer Richmond lies just north of Golden Gate Park and south of the Presidio and the very toney Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, and Seacliff (home to the Barber family of the popular radio show of the Second World War, One Man’s Family – if you are old enough to remember.)

Outer Richmond does not lack for restaurants. It is home to many immigrant groups including Russians, Vietnamese, Koreans, Greeks, and Chinese. In fact, some people say that San Francisco’s REAL Chinatown is in the Richmond rather than the touristy version near Union Square. There are whole blocks with nothing but ethnic restaurants, many of them quite good, but none exactly a tourist destination.

Aziza is the exception. A number of years ago, it started out as a Moroccan restaurant serving the traditional cuisine. With time, it has morphed into an upscale California-American restaurant but with Moroccan overtones. And the food is delicious. Aziza has a Michelin star to prove that.

Main dining room

Main dining room

We spent a great evening there in the recent past. One of the secrets of our success was booking an early reservation. The place got very crowded as the evening wore on. On top of that, Aziza  sits on the corner of Geary and 22nd, so parking is impossible. You should definitely begin your hunt for a parking space well in advance of your scheduled reservation.

The menu changes fairly often, so you may not have the choices we had, but you can buy the cook book if you want to sample what’s available: Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou, Artisan, 2011, $40.00.

Spreads: eggplant, yogurt-dill, and piquillo-almond-tahini served with flatbread

Not your usual Middle Eastern dips and spreads, although they are clearly based on the traditionals. They are creamy-smooth with distinct but subtle flavorings.

Spreads

Spreads

Beets  with cabbage, persimmon, cheese, peanuts, and rye tuiles

These days, nearly every restaurant serves a beet salad, but not like this. The beets are roasted and come with the root completely intact, nestled on a soft cheese with purees of seasonal fruits and vegetables. The delicate rye tuiles make a perfect foil.

Beet salad

Beet salad

Couscous

The couscous is hand-made in house. Ours came with thin curls of fresh pumpkin, delicately cooked pieces of winter squash, and cranberries. Two dollops of harissa were served alongside so you could season to your liking.

couscous with pumpkin, winter squash, cranberries and harissa

couscous with pumpkin, winter squash, cranberries and harissa

Market fish

The night we were there, the market fish was black bass. It was served with Dungeness crab, which is in season, along with shaved, roasted brussels sprouts and oyster.

Market fish

Market fish

Lamb shank

Cooked exactly as it should be, it was falling off the bone and wonderfully seasoned. It came topped with shaved tart apple along with fennel, barley, and nettle.

Lamb shank

Lamb shank

Desserts

Don’t pass up desserts, because the pastry chef is a James Beard-recognized chef in her own right. We got a medley of bites, all of them delicious. Her version of Turkish delight (lokum) was the best I have ever tasted.

Dessert

Dessert

Aziza is definitely worth your making the trip to Outer Richmond. Besides, San Francisco is only nine square miles in size. How long a trip can it be?

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CIOPPINO AND THE OLD CLAM HOUSE, SAN FRANCISCO’S OLDEST RESTAURANT

The other evening, Peter and Rene treated us to a night out as an early Christmas present. Cirque du Soleil had a touring show in town, so we went to see it. For old fuddy duddies who have never gone to  one of these productions, it was quite a treat. It is still hard to believe that humans can do all of the things that they do in such a spectacular event.

Before the show, we went to dinner at the Old Clam House, reportedly the oldest still-operational restaurant in San Francisco. That is not hard to believe. It sits on a grimy thoroughfare in the middle of an industrial area that was once on the wharves of San Francisco. The restaurant had its start in 1861, as the first wave of the Gold Rush was winding down.

The place is an old clapboard building with a peaked roof. It is now painted, but it apparently spent many of its days as a raw wood establishment similar to those you see in old western movies. Inside, the original embossed tin ceiling is preserved, and the bar is a huge mirrored, ornately carved wooden structure that is at least twenty feet high.

Before and after

Before and after

I was prepared for the food  to be ordinary and tourist-driven, much like that at Fisherman’s Wharf, but I was wrong. Tourists probably don’t get there much, and the customers all looked like they were regulars, especially those sitting at the bar.

As soon as we sat down at the table covered with a blue-checked tablecloth, the waitress brought us a round of warm clam broth served in little glass cups along with a big loaf of Acme bread. That gave us a chance to study the menu.

The menu is fairly long and largely restricted to seafood, especially shell-fish. There is a nod to some California specialties like sand dabs, and because the season for Dungeness crabs has just opened there are several crab dishes. Susan ordered clam chowder – she always does, even at the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York. Rene ordered crab cakes, and Peter ordered a whole crab, thus requiring the obligate bib.

I ordered the cioppino because, after all, this is San Francisco and it occupied a prominent place on the menu. With a wink, the waitress assured me that this was the original version of the dish. I’m certain that is not true, but I am equally certain that this version is delicious and enough for a longshoreman, if there is such a person around the place anymore. The bowl was a cast iron pot, piping hot and filled with a tomatoey broth rich with crab, clams, shrimp, mussels, and calamari along with new potatoes and chunks of corn on the cob. One local food critic claims the soup is diluted bottled marinara and the clam broth is mostly chicken stock.  I don’t believe either of those assertions, but I don’t have the cultivated palate of a food critic.

Here is a recipe for cioppino that has been in our family for nearly 40 years. It was given to us by our friend, Nancy Swanson, who prepared it for a group of couples with the ski patrol in Park City. Of course, there are many versions of cioppino. I am certain the food critic would declare this one not to be authentic, but if it tastes good, why worry about authenticity?

RECIPE

Cioppino

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 11 1/2 ounce can, clams
  • 2 pound can, tomatoes
  • 6 ounce can, tomato paste
  • 1 3/4 cups red wine
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup fish stock
  • 1 1/2 pounds cod or halibut
  • 1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled

Method

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, saute the garlic, onion, and green peppers in the oil
  2. Drain the clams, reserving 1/4 cup clam juice. Add the remaining clam juice to the sautéed mixture.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, herbs, salt, pepper, and fish stock. Bring to the boil and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces. Add the clams, fish and shrimp to the soup and simmer, covered, for 35 minutes.
  5. Remove cover and simmer for 15 more minutes. Serve with good San Francisco style bread.
  6. (Add fresh calamari, clams, crab, mussels, or other shell-fish as you wish)

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OUTERLANDS: EXCELLENT SAN FRANCISCO RESTAURANTS

Many visitors to San Francisco only know about the famous restaurants in the heart if the city or in Berkeley or Napa/Sonoma. They think of the outer districts as somewhat alien neighborhoods with undistinguished cafes. Nothing could be further from the truth, and many a resident delights in discovering a new gem to try to keep to themselves.

Outerlands is well past the “secret gem” stage, and it is a favorite among chefs and other culinary professionals. The restaurant is in the Outer Sunset District, and sits on a corner of Jonah Street just a few blocks from the Great Highway and the beach on one side and Golden Gate Park on another.  It has an unassuming facade that, along with the interior, was built by the owner, Dave, much of it from driftwood and surplus lumber.

The restaurant fits into the neighborhood that serves as a turn-around point for the Muni and is filled with the kinds of rag-tag shops that give much of the city its charm. Outerlands is almost always busy, but the staff tries hard to minimize your wait. You can sit inside, outside, or at the bar, but usually you’re happy with whatever is available.

Inside, the place is a beehive: friendly staff to take your order and keep your water glass full, cooks in front of the stove in the open kitchen, and pastry cooks making bread and delicious desserts in a back little cubby hole.

The menu is filled with interesting choices,but the restaurant is perhaps most famous for its bread. Much of that is because Dave learned to bake bread from Chad Robertson, the famous baker and owner of Tartine Bakery in the Mission District. In fact, you can read about Dave’s learning experience with bread on pages 84-87 of Chad Robertson’s classic cookbook, Tartine Bread, (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2010).

Bread forms a base for many of the restaurant’s best known dishes. You really should not miss their grilled cheese sandwich. This is no ordinary grilled cheese. It is made from thick slices of freshly-baked bread filled with delicious cheeses and toasted to perfection so that the cheese just oozes out, begging to be eaten. If you want, the sandwich comes with a well-made, well-seasoned soup of the day.

The pastrami sandwich is another good choice. The thinly-sliced pastrami comes dressed with a lightly brinded cabbage that has the sourness of sauerkraut but remains crisp and fresh.

If you feel like a salad, they have those, too. The charred chicory salad comes topped with a perfectly poached egg that has been lightly dusted with freshly grated Parmesan. The bitter greens balance off the vinaigrette and the creamy egg yolk.

On weekends, check out brunch. The grilled cheese has disappeared from the menu, but other bread-based treats replace it. On a recent day, I had “eggs in jail”, which is a riff on the old standby of my childhood, toad-in-the-hole. But this version comes with a thick slice of bread toasted on the grill, egg nestled in the middle and topped with tasty wilted greens and a thick slice of perfectly fried bacon.

Excellent mixed drinks any time of the day, and a small but good selection of wines.

The wait staff reflect the neighborhood and many of the clientele – young, well-inked, wearing knitted caps, outgoing, and enthusiastic.

Outerlands is well worth the trip to the outerlands of San Francisco.

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PANCETTA AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO BREAKFAST STRATA

Breakfast strata is so easy to make and so impressive when it comes to the table puffy, golden, and as high as a soufflé. You need to start it the night before, but otherwise the ingredients and the method are very straightforward.

I made this for Carol’s recent visit to Santa Fe, but it is a perfect breakfast during the holidays. You won’t need much more than juice or fresh fruit and a beverage.

 

RECIPE

Pancetta and Sun-Dried Tomato Breakfast Strata

Ingredients

  • 6 – 8   ½-inch slices of sourdough or French bread, crusts trimmed
  • 6 tablespoons butter + more to grease the baking dish
  • ½ cup dry-preserved sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
  • boiling water
  • 8 thin slices pancetta
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups cream
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

Method

  1. Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet in a 200°F oven for 40 minutes, turning once. When cooled, butter one side of the bread and set aside.
  2. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Then drain, chop finely, and set aside until ready for assembly.
  3. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, lightly brown the slices of pancetta. Set aside.
  4. In the same sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the minced shallot and sauté until translucent. Add the wine and simmer until reduced to about half.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy. Stir in the cream and the shallot and wine mixture. Set aside until ready to assemble.
  6. Heavily butter an 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Line the bottom with a layer of buttered bread, buttered side up and trimming pieces to fit. Spread the slices of pancetta evenly across the bread. Top with the chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Pour one-half of the shallot, egg, and cream mixture over the top. Sprinkle on one-third of the grated cheese.
  7. Place another layer of bread on top. Pour over the remaining cream mixture and sprinkle with half of the remaining grated cheese. Reserve the rest of the cheese to sprinkle on top immediately before baking.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil. Weight down with a brick or other heavy object and refrigerate over night.
  9. About an hour and a half before you are ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator. Remove the brick and the covering and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and place in the middle of the oven preheated to 325°F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the center is puffed and brown. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes and then serve. Four to eight servings, depending on appetite. Like quiche, it is delicious cold the next day.

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