Tag Archives: eggs

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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NORTH DAKOTA CHEESE BUTTONS (KÄSE KNÖPFEN OR KASE KNOEPFLA)

The State of North Dakota has only one official food. That’s the official fruit: choke cherry, used for jams jellies, and of course home-made wine. Many believe that cheese buttons should be the official food. As far as I have been able to learn, they are absolutely unique to the state. My step-grandmother made them often as a celebratory dish when I was growing up. I loved them, but I have never eaten them since she stopped making them many years ago. She came from a large German family who farmed on the prairies of eastern North Dakota. No doubt they were part of the immigrant wave of German farmers who came to the Dakotas at the end of the nineteenth century. The immigrants actually came from Russia where they had originally moved with the urging of Catherine the Great. There they were successful wheat farmers, so successful in fact that the native Russians grew increasingly hostile and drove them out. Apparently, North Dakota has many similarities with that part of Russia, so it was only natural that the immigrant Germans again became successful wheat farmers.

My step-grandmother cooked meals for an itinerant threshing crew headed by my grandfather. He had two little boys in tow after their mother had died in the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918. Both my grandfather and my step-grandmother thought the little boys needed a mother, and so they married. The little boys and their offspring grew up eating a lot of German food including sauerkraut and cheese buttons. There are many variant spellings of the local name of the dish. Perhaps the most common is kase knoepla, but the literal German translation is Käse knõpfen, so I’ll go with that.

Cheese buttons have some amazing similarities with Italian ricotta ravioli. The recipe for the noodle dough is exactly the same as a common recipe for pasta, and the recipe for the farm cheese is similar to at least one version of ricotta. You will note that the dish is remarkably deficient of any green vegetable. Instead it is heavy on bread and flour from the wheat as well as eggs, milk,  and butter from the barn yard. That should serve as a warning that this is not a dish for you if you are worried about your cholesterol. But if you like butter, it is hard to think of a better dish. It goes without saying that you cannot substitute margarine or oil.

RECIPES

Farm Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • pepper to taste

Method

  1. Pour the milk into a large, heavy bottomed pot and heat slowly over a medium-low flame, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching on the bottom. When the milk has reached 150°F, stir in the vinegar, remove from the heat, and cover. Stir occasionally as the mixture cools, and the curds form, about 45 minutes.
  2. Line a large colander with fine-mesh cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel. Pour the curds and whey into the towel and allow them to drain. The curds should form a ball in the bottom of the cheesecloth. Twist the cloth gently between your hands and over the sink to squeeze out any remaining whey.
  3. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and combine with the eggs and salt.  Add pepper to taste and set aside.

Cheese Buttons

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour + more for kneading and rolling
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5-9 tablespoons water + more to seal the edges of the buttons

Method

  1. Pour the flour in a mound in the middle of a large, clean, flat work surface. Make a deep well in the center of the mound
  2. Break the three eggs into the well, and using a table fork, beat the eggs gently. Stir in 3 tablespoons of water and then begin to draw the flour in from the edge of the well, stirring and mixing as you go. Continue to draw in the flour, adding 1 more tablespoon of water. Avoid adding too much water, or the dough will get sticky. When the flour is completely incorporated, form the dough into a ball and knead for a 5 to 10 minutes until it is glistening and forms a smooth ball.  Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. When you are ready to roll out the dough, flour the work surface lightly. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out one piece with a rolling pin, covering the remaining pieces in plastic while you work. Roll each piece into a round about 16 inches in diameter. Dust the dough lightly with flour if it is too sticky.
  4. Cut the dough into 2 inch squares. Place a scant teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the center of each square. Moisten the edges of the squares with water and fold over into triangles and/or rectangles (Your choice!). Gently squeeze the edges between your fingers until they are well sealed.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. In batches, add the cheese buttons to the boiling water. They will sink to the bottom but eventually float. Let the buttons continue to cook for a few minutes after they have floated. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and keep warm in the oven until all of the buttons have been cooked.
  6. Cut any extra noodle dough into thin strips, boil for 4 -5 minutes, drain, and add to the buttons.

 

Fried Bread Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ to 1 cup (1 or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • about 5 ½-inch slices of home-made or good quality white bread, crusts removed and cubed

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat
  2. Stir in the bread cubes and sauté until the bread cubes are lightly browned and crisp.
  3. Pour over the boiled cheese buttons and noodles, stirring gently to mix.
  4. Serve immediately.

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BREAKFAST BURRITOS

When I was considering this post, I thought, “Who doesn’t know how to make a breakfast burrito? More than that, who doesn’t have his or her own favorite?”  While all of that is probably true, I decided to write this post anyway.

Part of the reason is that I just made some breakfast burritos for my wife, who started out before dawn to drive more than 14 hours and more than half way through Texas to visit her sister in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and then to pick up our grandson from the airport to take him to Shreveport, Louisiana, where his parents will be involved in a two-week-long food and cooking demonstration. I will join them and plan to send posts about the events, including my daughter’s demonstration on how to butcher a whole hog! You read that right, and I plan to document the event for posterity.

The second reason for the post is that whenever I visit San Francisco, I always make breakfast burritos for Evan and Sarah as they rush out the door to the restaurant. After the birth of their new son, they have both gone on diets, so I have been told that there will be no more breakfast burritos. So I thought I needed to share with somebody.

RECIPE

Breakfast Burrito

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil + more as needed
  • ¼ pound breakfast sausage
  • 2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 3 crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup diced green chiles
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • Cholula hot sauce, to taste (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 extra-large flour tortillas (10½ inch wrap size) I used garden spinach herb flavor, but you can choose any flavor)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté until the pink color is lost, breaking it up as it cooks.
  2. Stir in the frozen hash browns, adding more oil if needed. Stir frequently until the potatoes begin to crisp.
  3. Stir in the mushrooms and sauté until they give up their liquid and the mixture is nearly dry. Then add the red onion and tomatoes. Sauté until the onions and tomatoes are softened.
  4. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir in the eggs, mixing them in thoroughly. When the eggs have nearly set up, stir in the green chiles and salsa. If you want more spiciness, adjust the seasoning with hot sauce, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low as you prepare the tortillas.
  5. Heat a large cast iron skillet or comal over a high flame. When the surface is hot, place one of the tortillas on the skillet and bake for 15 seconds or until it is lightly browned. Turn and bake the other side until lightly browned and the tortilla is softened. Do not cook too long, or the tortilla will become stiff. Set the first tortilla aside and then bake the second.
  6. Place half of  the sausage and egg mixture  in the middle of each tortilla. Fold over opposing edges, and then roll up from one end. Serve immediately or wrap in foil so it can be taken on the road. If you are going to eat them at home, you can cover them with red or green chile sauce.

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SCRAPPLE

Scrapple is a great family favorite that comes from my wife’s heritage. Although she grew up in Texas, she was born in Wilmington, Delaware where many of her family still reside. Wilmington is on the edge of the scrapple epicenter which lies in the Pennsylvania Dutch communities of southeastern Pennsylvania and extend into nearby New Jersey and Delaware.

One of our favorite family breakfasts remains scrapple fried in butter (nothing else will do), sunny-side-up eggs so that the scrapple can be sauced with runny egg yolk, and ketchup. (You may want to take an extra dose of your cholesterol medication that morning – just kidding, of course.)

The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford University Press, 2007, page 529) has a comprehensive treatise on scrapple. The dish is the descendant of European pork puddings. What makes it American is the use of cornmeal, but grits and buckwheat may also be used.  The Pennsylvania Dutch  called it pawnhas before it was called scrapple, and the origin of the word “scrapple” remains cloaked in mystery and controversy. For a long time it was a regional specialty, but more recently it has been distributed throughout the country.

There is also some discussion about ingredients. Traditional recipes call for pork neck bones cooked until the meat is ready to fall off, or pig knuckles, and other pig parts. I discourage you from reading the ingredient list on packages of commercial scrapple; it is reminiscent of the ingredient list for Mexican chorizo. If you can’t find commercial scrapple, it is easy to make a close semblance of the real thing in your own kitchen.  If you have a favorite sausage recipe, you can make the scrapple even better by using your home-made sausage. After you have eaten your fill of freshly made scrapple, you can freeze any extra and use it whenever you have a craving for fried eggs and scrapple with ketchup.

A technical note: I used two large (9×5 inch) bread pans but medium (8½x4½ inch) would also work.

Ingredients

  • 2½ quarts water
  • 1 pound sausage, homemade or commercial
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • additional salt and pepper to taste
  • butter for greasing bread pans

Method

  1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Break up the sausage into chunks and drop into the boiling water. Return to the boil, and with a wooden spoon break up the sausage into fine lumps as it cooks. Fat will float to the top, but don’t worry. It will get incorporated into the mixture and help it to hold together when it cools and when it is fried.
  2. When the sausage is cooked and well-dispersed, whisk in the cornmeal very slowly . With a wire whisk, whisk vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce heat to the simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the cornmeal is well cooked.
  3. Add salt, sage and optional red pepper flakes. Adjust seasoning and remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the slightly cooled mixture into two buttered bread pans ( large or medium will do)
  5. Completely cool the scrapple-filled bread pans. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  6. The next day, run a knife around the edge of the chilled loaves of scrapple to remove from the pan. Cut into blocks to be wrapped in plastic film and aluminum foil for freezing.
  7. Use fresh, or thaw the appropriate amount when you are ready to use. Cut into ½ inch slices. Fry in melted butter until browned on both sides.
  8. Serve while still hot with fried eggs and ketchup.

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HAM, POTATO, AND ONION GRATIN – CLEARING OUT THE FREEZER, PART THREE

In my quest to get to the bottom of our freezer, I found a plastic bag containing four thick ham slices separated by waxed paper. I managed to break one of them free and decided to make a gratin of potatoes, onions, and ham. One of our family favorites is Julia Child’s râpée morv andelle (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1, page 153). In that recipe, though, you are supposed to grate the potatoes and finely dice the ham. The ham steak from the freezer seemed too big and thick to suffer the indignity of fine dicing.

I was reminded of a wonderful dish that a Swedish friend of ours always prepared for her Christmas smörgåsbord: Jansson’s frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation). Potatoes and anchovy filets were arranged in alternating rows and then topped with onions, cheese, cream, and eggs. The casserole was baked until the mixture was puffed and golden.  I decided to try that same thing, substituting thinly sliced potato for the grated potatoes and ham cut into bâtonett instead of dice. Scallions would serve as the onion representative.

RECIPE

Ham, Potato, and Onion Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 medium russet potato, unpeeled
  • 1 ham steak, ½ inch thick and about 8 ounces
  • 3 scallions including green tops, cut into ¼ inch rings
  • 4 ounces Swiss (Emmental) cheese, grated
  • 3 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • nutmeg
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

  1. Using a mandoline, slice the unpeeled potato crosswise into 1/16 inch thick rounds. Soak in water until ready to assemble the casserole.
  2. Remove any fat and bone from the ham steak and cut into strips ½ inch x ½ inch x 2 inches. Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
  3. Combine the beaten eggs with the cream and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  4. In a well-greased 8 x 8 x 2 inch ovenproof glass pan, arrange an overlapping row of potato slices that have been drained and patted dry.
  5. Next to the row of potatoes, arrange a row of the ham slices. Then begin a second row of potatoes, another row of ham pieces, and finish with another row of potato slices.
  6. Sprinkle the top with half of the cut-up scallions, half of the grated cheese, and cover with half of the egg and cream mixture.
  7. Make a second layer of alternating potato and ham slices, using all of both. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and grated cheese.  Cover with the remaining egg and cream mixture
  8. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350° (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top becomes too brown, cover with aluminum foil.
  9. When the casserole is golden brown and the potatoes are tender (test with a small knife), remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes to set up a bit, and serve immediately while still warm.

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MORE EAST TEXAS CORN – SPOONBREAD

A well-made spoonbread is haute cuisine cooking with corn. There are lots of recipes for spoonbread, but many of them are not much more than a version of cornbread. The version I love is more like a cornmeal soufflé, and baking one requires many of the methods and techniques used to make a soufflé. According to Bernard Clayton in his classic, The Complete Book of Breads, spoonbread was developed by accident in colonial Virginia when a batch of cornbread was forgotten. To me, that seems likely to be apocryphal because spoonbread – at least this recipe – uses entirely different techniques from cornbread.

When we were dating, my wife, Susan, often made spoonbread at my request. She had many special dishes that proved she was a great cook, but without a doubt, spoonbread was one of her major achievements. After our children became old enough to have favorite foods, spoonbread was one of them, so much so that Susan sometimes made two separate spoonbreads for one meal.  

During our most recent visit to East Texas, Susan made spoonbread  for her brother, sister, and brother-in-law. I flew in for a late dinner, and all I got was a dab. That was better than nothing, though, and many a late diner has missed out on Susan’s spoonbread.

 

Some recipes call for added cheese. This version gilds the lily with added ham, mushroom duxelles, and scallions. The cheese can be added by serving the spoonbread with Mornay sauce. You don’t have to add all of those things. The basic model is good enough to keep you coming back for more.

For this post, I combined the dressed up spoonbread with fresh asparagus and braised lamb shanks – both go well with Mornay sauce.

RECIPES

Ham and Scallion Spoonbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 extra-large eggs, separated
  • ½ cup cooked Black Forest ham, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup finely diced sautéed mushroom duxelles, squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup scallions, finely chopped, including the green tops

Method

  1. In a  4-quart saucepan, combine the cornmeal and milk. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until the cornmeal is soft.
  2. Remove the cooked cornmeal from the heat. Then stir in the salt, baking powder, melted butter and additional milk.
  3. Beat the egg yolks until foamy. Stir into the cornmeal mixture. Mix well to reduce lumps – you won’t be able to get rid of all of them.
  4. Stir in the chopped ham, mushrooms, and scallions.
  5. Beat the separated egg whites to form stiff peaks. By thirds, fold the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Do not beat.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased two-quart soufflé dish and bake for 1 hour  in the middle of an oven preheated to 325°F (163°C).
  7. Serve immediately while the spoonbread is still puffed.

Mornay Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup grated Swiss cheese
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • juice of ½ lemon

Method

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat
  2. Stir in the flour and cook for several minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
  3. Add the half and half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese until it is completely melted.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest and juice and adjust seasonings.
  6. Keep warm until ready to serve with the spoonbread.

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SANTORINI AND SPANAKOPITA

The ship sailed into the harbor at Santorini just as the dawn broke over the Aegean Sea. We were surrounded by mountaintops glistening a blazing white. Snow, I thought. In the Mediterranean? Impossible. And then I realized that the villages of Santorini were perched on the peaks surrounding us, washed an incredible white, and glued to the impossibly steep slopes all the way to the harbor below. No wonder so many tour guides call Santorini the best island escape in the world.

The islands have been populated for thousands of years, but they have also been the scene of unthinkable human disasters. Even from a ship, it is clear that the villages have been built upon the remaining walls of an ancient volcano, and that the harbor nestled in the ring of islands is the caldera of that volcano.

Minoan culture once thrived on the islands, not that of the capital in Crete, but clearly more than just an outpost. Ancient ruins have been excavated showing vivid wall paintings, impressive buildings, and a thriving population center. All of that came to an abrupt end in about 1600 BCE when the volcano exploded with one of the largest flows of smoke, lava, and ash during historical times. Crops failed in China because of the explosion, and the civilization on Santorini was annihilated. The islands remained uninhabited for hundreds of years. Some believe that the disaster is the source of the legend of Atlantis.

There have been other eruptions over the centuries, and seismic and volcanic activities have been recorded in recent years. Still the inhabitants seem oblivious to all of this, and the visitor is soon caught up in the apparent tranquility of the scene.

The sands of the popular beaches may be red or black or white depending upon the color of the volcanic layer from which they come. The environment is that of a desert with desert plants and no natural sources of water except the rains. Some of the buildings are painted in pastel shades, but the great majority are whitewashed with bold blue trim. Churches are everywhere, and their vivid blue roofs meet the clear blue of the cloudless skies. Narrow streets weave along the crests of the hills. Everyone seems to relax in a casual stroll.

Our  visit ended with a ride down the cable car with a panoramic view of the harbor down below. It is easy to see why many Greeks as well as celebrities have chosen Santorini as a quiet getaway.

 

SPANAKOPITA

More than forty years ago when we lived in Salt Lake City, Susan was well-known amongst our friends for one of her hors d’oeuvres which she served with drinks. The recipe came from the local Junior League’s Heritage Cookbook and was called “crab triangles”. The dish was equally popular when we moved to Shreveport. It called for flaked crab meat, cream cheese, phyllo dough, and butter. At the time, neither of us knew that the triangles were a riff on the Greek treats, tyropitas (phyllo triangles filled with cheese) or spanakopita (phyllo triangles filled with spinach and cheese)

The following recipe is not necessarily authentic (every Greek family has its own recipe so, what, after all, is really “authentic”?) But it’s pretty close to the real thing, and it is good enough that you probably will not have any leftovers. It uses frozen phyllo dough which usually comes in a 1 pound box containing two separate rolls of 20 leaves of dough in each roll. Be sure to read the label.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter
  • 1 roll (½ pound) phyllo dough thawed according to instructions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 9 ounce package of pre-washed spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Prepare clarified butter by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Skim off the foam that rises to the top. Let milk solids settle to the bottom of the pan. Then pour the skimmed butter slowly into a glass measuring cup, being careful not to pour the milk solids into the cup. Set aside the clarified butter in a warm, not hot, place.
  • Heat a medium frying pan over a medium-low flame. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, stir in the shallots and cook until wilted and translucent. Do not brown.
  • Add the chopped spinach, cover, and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the wine and Pernod. Cook until the mixture has given up most of its moisture and is dry. Do not brown or allow to burn. Cool for 5 minutes.
  • Combine spinach mixture, feta cheese, eggs, and Parmesan. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.
 

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