Monthly Archives: October 2015

POACHED MIGAS

Sarah always has a lot of new cookbooks. She and Evan buy a lot, and on top of that they receive others from publishers. During our last visit, we spent a lot of time looking at recent selections. One, in particular, caught the attention of both Susan and me. I wound up buying a copy because I think that anyone who likes cookbooks would want this one on his or her bookshelf.

The name of the book is Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook. The book is written by Kristen Miglore, Executive Editor of the food website, Food52.com. It is filled with beautiful images by the author and published by Ten Speed Press, Berkeley.

Genius Recipes

Genius Recipes

Some critics complain that the recipes are not really “genius” and that some of them don’t work. They are partially correct. Some of the recipes, at least in my hands, don’t work and some of them I will not make again.

The real genius behind all of the recipes is that they contain tricks that you never knew or methods that make you think, “Now, why didn’t I think of that.” As well, there are recipes that have become classics. An example of that is Shirley Corriher’s Touch-of-Grace Biscuits that was daughter Carol’s first contribution to our family cookbook. Who would think that a wet blob of dough could turn into light Southern biscuits?

Another recipe that intrigued me was Daniel Patterson’s Poached Scrambled Eggs. Daniel is chef/owner of Michelin-two-star Coi where Evan and Sarah worked before they opened Rich Table. The story behind the recipe is that Daniel’s wife made him toss out his beloved Teflon-lined sauté pan, so he had to come up with a new way of scrambling eggs for his breakfast. The genius of the recipe – why didn’t I think of that – is based upon a common folly of cooks who have tried to poach the perfect egg only to have it break in the cooking water. Patterson simply mixed the eggs before he put them in the poaching liquid, and mirabile dictu, he had a scrambled egg.

This recipe takes that technique one step further. Migas are a great Tex-Mex dish which requires two basic elements – eggs and stale corn tortilla pieces – and whatever else suits your fancy. I first ate them at a cafe in Austin near the University of Texas campus. Since then they have become a family favorite that is always on the menu at family gatherings. One of the keys to this recipe is to have all of the add-ins prepped and ready to go before you cook the eggs.

RECIPE

Poached Migas

Ingredients

  • 3 corn tortillas
  • 4 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 scallions, cut in ¼ inch slices, including green tops
  • 2¼ ounces sliced black olives
  • 3 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled
  • ½ green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 snacking peppers, chopped
  • 4 ounces Hatch green chiles, diced (optional)
  • 1 medium tomato,  seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (use a combination of the two if you wish)
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • salt and pepper
  • salsa
  • sour cream for topping

Method

  1. Lightly coat the tortillas with vegetable oil. Cut into ¼ inch strips and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 200° F for about 20 minutes or until the strips are crisp. Cool and set aside.
  2. Sauté the mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Set aside
  3. Gather the add-in ingredients on your work surface.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to the boil. Turn off the heat, stir the water vigorously to create a vortex, and pour the beaten eggs into the vortex. Cover the saucepan tightly for a full minute. Remove the lid and drain the cooked eggs in a fine-meshed sieve, shaking to remove any excess water.
  5. Return the drained eggs to the saucepan along with the melted butter. Stir to loosen the eggs and incorporate the butter.
  6. Stir in the tortilla strips, mushrooms, scallions, olives, bacon, peppers, optional green chiles, tomato, cheese, and cilantro.
  7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Top with salsa. Serve immediately while still hot. Pass sour cream for topping if desired.

 

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…A JUG OF WINE, A LOAF OF BREAD, AND…

When I was in college, many of my friends memorized lines from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat so that they could impress their true loves. Most of the swains used the quote in the title of this piece, but they probably had not read much else. I think that the book has virtually disappeared from today’s college campuses.

We went on a picnic recently that made me think of the quote. Since our first year of marriage, Susan and I have had an autumn tradition whenever we lived near mountains. We would pack a picnic lunch or evening meal and drive into the mountains to take a walk among the beauty and to sit under the beautiful golden quaking aspens. Of course, the children came along when they were younger. We followed the ritual even when we lived in Louisiana because the Arkansas mountains were not far away; and even though there were no aspens, the colors were spectacular. Only when we lived in Texas,  too far from mountains, did we forego the experience. In most Texas places where we lived, the leaves, except for the beautiful gums, just turned a dull brown and fell off the trees around Thanksgiving.

This year the aspens put on an especially good show, and so we packed up a simple lunch and headed up Hyde Park Road to the ski basin. By now, our hikes have gotten shorter and our drives a little longer. This time, except for about a half-hour walk, it was mostly driving. We were surprised to see the crowds, even in the middle of the week. Aspen Vista, where the entire mountainside is laid out in front of you and the trail is flat, was a huge traffic jam. All of our favorite picnic spots had already been occupied.

Fortunately, we ventured up the road in the state park with its assessment of a $5 day-use fee. There was no one around, and we easily found a table under some beautiful autumn colors.

A lovely spot for a picnic

A lovely spot for a picnic

We unpacked our simple lunch: a nice bottle of Cotes du Rhone, a fresh baguette, a roll of hard Italian salami, a wedge of Manchego, a slab of Havarti, and some chocolate. We feasted under the shimmering aspen leaves and thought back on similar days over the decades. It could not have been a more perfect meal or better afternoon. You see why I thought of Omar Khayyam.

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FOR WANT OF A NAIL – THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

On the last leg of our marathon child-tending expedition in California, we headed back to the Bay Area.  This was also sort of holiday, so we drove up Highway 1 through Big Sur, one of our favorite places to visit.

For the first few days we were in Silicon Valley while our daughter-in-law was in Prague at a meeting. (Someone has to do it, right?) She sent us back images of goulash, beer, and sausage. Otherwise, there were no food adventures. We ordered a lot of takeout. I made macaroni and cheese and opened a jar of spaghetti sauce with NO additional seasoning. Both of the girls have very specific and definite food biases, One night at the dinner table the 9-year-old was asked if we could get her anything. Her reply was, “A good cook.” You get the idea.

Then we went back to San Francisco with the two toddlers while their parents went out of town to judge a cooking contest. That is the source of my tale and the title of this little essay. You recall the old proverb … “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, a horse was lost; for want of a horse, a knight was lost; for want of a knight, a battle was lost; for want of a battle, a kingdom was lost.” Also, there is the butterfly effect in chaos theory which stems from the suggestion that the fluttering of a butterfly can influence a subsequent hurricane.

Sarah and Evan left for Shreveport early in the morning. They talked about getting an Uber car to the airport, and then decided to drive. In retrospect, a big mistake. Then the little one awoke unexpectedly as they were heading out the door. First delay. Interstates 280 and 380 were both busier than expected even though it was early during the morning rush hour. Next delay. Then the airport parking lot was full, so they had to go to the off-site lot. Next delay. The man in front of them couldn’t get the gate to the lot opened so they had to wait for him to solve his problem. The shuttle to the terminal was delayed. But they still had time. Then they faced a long line for baggage and check-in, but they got their bags checked.

Of course, security was impossible, but they finally made it through, only to discover the gate had closed. Unfortunately, their bags had made it on the plane to go through Dallas to Shreveport, so they couldn’t change airlines, and the next available flight was eight hours later. (The lesson from this: don’t check bags if you are running late.) They were told that there were no late flights to Shreveport so that they would have to spend the night in Dallas. Meanwhile their luggage made it to Shreveport.

It is only a 3 hour drive on interstate between DFW and Shreveport, so they decided to rent a car at DFW. By now it was after midnight, and the car rental had a hard time finding a car. Finally, that was solved, and they were in fairly good spirits. UNTIL – about 2 AM, with Sarah asleep as they made it through the East Texas Piney Woods, Evan said, “Oh, my God,” waking Sarah just in time for a loud crash and a huge rush of steam onto the windshield. The steam blocked their view of the road. When they were able to pull over, Sarah got out of the car (Evan was afraid of getting hit by traffic) to find a deer impaled on the radiator. A highway patrolman did come and pulled the deer out of the car, but the car was not driveable.  So the next task was to find a tow truck – a challenge at 3 AM. They were finally towed into the Shreveport airport so that the ruined car could be deposited and the hapless couple could retrieve their luggage. There was no replacement car available, but with some effort one was found at a competing rental agency in exchange for more money.

By this time, it was 6 AM. When they arrived at their hotel, Sarah and Evan were told that their room had been given away, and that the hotel was booked up. Sarah burst into tears; a room was found; and the two were able to catch a couple of hours of sleep before the event.

Everything then went well, and Sarah and Evan had a good time serving as judges for a sort of “Chopped” event featuring some local cooks. They even won a few dollars at the sponsoring casino.

The story ended happily when they came back to their smiling boys. Besides, they will now have a great tale to tell their grandchildren many years from now.

Just remember, your fate may hang on the wings of the butterfly you see in your garden.

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THANKS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME

We’re back home at last from our 5-weeks child-ending adventure. We have rested a few days, done the household chores that needed to be done after a long absence, paid bills, and caught up on 700+ e-mails.

I have to admit that another reason for my absence from posting lately is a certain loss of enthusiasm. I have 300 posts over four and a half years, and some readers may think that I have run out of things to say along with needing some new recipes. But the main reason I have been a little quiet is receiving a couple of snarky comments that made me wonder, at my age, if I really need that. The way I look at it, if you don’t like my blog, just don’t read it. After some soul-searching, I have decided to write at least a few more posts. To do otherwise would let the boo-birds win, and I have never been inclined to do that.

So…

This post is to thank all of our children for their gracious ways of thanking my wife and me for our efforts.

The Los Angeles family made a point to go to a nice restaurant. Unfortunately, I missed the event so there are no images of food, but they took my wife to Bashi, the Asian-inspired restaurant at Terranea Resort. It has a wonderful ocean view, great service, a lovely dining space and delicious food. The only thing I can report is that they had a great time.

The San Francisco family made sure we had an evening at Rich Table. Evan was cooking that evening, so he pulled out all the stops. The list of things he sent out included:

Sarah’s popular fennel pollen levain served with house-cultured butter. The warm slabs of bread smeared with a delicious butter could be a meal by themselves.

An amuse that was just a bite, but a delicious bite.

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Octopus with grapefruit, hearts of palm, and sansho pepper.

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Oysters on the half shell with charred corn mignonette. Rich Table oysters always come well-scrubbed so there are no fragments of shells that you often encounter at some of the best seafood restaurants.

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Avocado, sea urchin, fermented jalapeño, prawn crackers. I couldn’t even think of such a combination of flavors, but it definitely worked.

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“Green juice” granite, avocado mousse, Stobe fruit, and brown butter ice cream.

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Scallops, sweet potato, red curry, macadamia nut, brown rice. Again, a combination that defied our imagination. The predominant flavor, of course, was the sweet scallops.

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Grilled rib-eye with roasted cauliflower, almond, and sake lees. The steak is heavily marbled with a lot of fat. Whatever you do, don’t cut off the fat, but pop it in your mouth. The fat has absorbed all of the other flavors and just melts away as a delicious extra treat.

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A dessert of sweet corn pot de creme with creme fraiche, strawberries, and lemon crumble. A little vegetal, but surprisingly sweet and refreshing.

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The Silicon Valley family sent us some beautiful artisanal chocolates and a beer mug from Prague where our daughter-in-law had gone to a business meeting.

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All of that was so unnecessary because taking care of the kids was gift enough, but it made us feel truly thanked and truly blessed.

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