Friday, January 30, 2015

Khagina








     Khagina!
     Khagina is a traditional egg entrée in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This egg entrée can be served for breakfast or any meal.  There actually is two two names for today's egg recipe.  Khagina is the name most often used for this entrée in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Egg Bhurji is the other name for this entrée.  Some folks in Pakistan and many people in India refer to today's recipe as Egg Bhurji.  One thing that is certain, is if an egg recipe like this is popular in three countries and it has two names, then it must be a great egg entrée!

     Khagina is made like no other egg recipe.  Ghee or clarified butter is not used to make Khagina.  Unsalted butter is cooked to the beurre noisette or beurre meuniere stage.  In plain English, the butter is cooked, till it becomes brown and a rich nutty aroma develops.
     Whole cumin seeds are added to the hot butter and they are cooked till they pop.  The complex flavor of cumin seed changes when the seeds are popped.  Care must be taken to not cook the seeds till they scorch.  Cumin seeds do not make a loud popping noise like mustards seed do, so watching the seeds move as they pop is best done by eye.

     The vegetables are always finely chopped for Khagina.  One Thai Chile is required for this recipe and Thai Peppers are fiery hot.  Green Thai Chile has a different flavor than rip Red Thai Chile.  Either can be used for this recipe.  I had Red Thai Chiles on hand, so red Thai chile it was!

     The cumin seed, onion, tomato and cilantro are required ingredients for Khagina.  Green peas are optional, but they are often added because they increase the nutritional value.  Garam Masala is also often added as an optional ingredient, when Khagina is prepared in some parts of Pakistan and Northern India.
     Khagina is usually finished with a light sprinkle of red chile powder.  Khagina is most often served with flat Naan or Roti, but rice can also accompany Khagina.

     Khagina:
     This recipe yields i entrée portion.
     Be sure to prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time.  This recipe progresses quickly after the butter is browned!
     Step 1:  Heat a seasoned sauté pan or non-stick sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Cook the butter, till a rich nutty aroma develops and the butter turns a light brown color.
     Step 2:  Add 2 pinches of whole cumin seeds.
     Sauté till the seeds pop.  (About 30 to 45 seconds.)
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.  (Do not brown the onions!)
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped plum tomato.
     Sauté till the tomato becomes tender.
     Step 5:  Add 2 whisked large eggs.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro and cilantro stems.
     Add 1/3 cup of thawed frozen peas.  (optional)
     Sprinkle 1 very thin sliced Thai chile pepper on the eggs.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala.  (Optional, but if no garam masala is used, then add 1 pinch of black pepper.)
     Lightly scramble the eggs till they are only a loose texture.
     Step 6:  Use a rubber spatula to push the eggs to the center of the pan, so they form a round shape.  By doing this step, the eggs and ingredients will become taller and thicker!
     Sauté till the bottom half of the khagina becomes firm.
     Step 7:  Flip the khagina.
     Use a spatula to round the khagina shape and to build height again.
     Step 8:  Cook the khagina, till it becomes firm and the eggs are fully cooked.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
   
     Presentation:  
     Slide the khagina onto a plate.
     Serve with plain white rice, naan or roti bread.
     Sprinkle a little bit of cayenne pepper or paprika over khagina.
     Garnish with cilantro leaves.
 
     Khagina is very aromatic and it is comfortably spicy! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Italian Sausage, Onion, Pepper & Egg Sub








     Big City Style Italian Sausage & Egg Sub Sandwich! 
     Today's breakfast sandwich is like what may be find on a Philadelphia or New York Italian sub shop menu.  When I was cooking in Philadelphia early in my career, I noticed that nearly every sub shop had an Egg Sub on the menu.  Even if the sub shop did not open for breakfast, there were plenty of people in the city who worked the night shift and they often started their day with an Egg Sub.
     Nearly every good sub shop in Philly is owned by locals.  Local folks in cities like Philly really do shun national chain restaurants, because they prefer real deal authentic food.  In most east coast big cities, supporting the locally owned Italian sub shops is really where its at and this is the way to gain respect.  

     Italian sausage was on nearly every sub shop menu in Philly.  In a Philladelphia sub shop, if the menu board says sausage, then this refers to Italian sausage only!  Kielbasa is always listed by its own name on a menu board.  The same goes for smoked sausage.  Sometimes you get a choice of mild or spicy Italian sausage.  Cheese is extra in some sub shops, or it can be included in the price.  Onions and peppers usually offered for no extra charge.  Tomato sauce is also is usually a free option.

     For those who are not familiar with the word "Sub" in a sandwich context, "Sub" is a description of how the sandwich looks.  The sandwich looks like a submarine!
     Subs can be hot or cold sandwiches.  "Grinder" is the name for a hot oven baked sub and this name is never used to describe a cold sub sandwich.  Technically, today's Italian Sausage & Egg sandwich could be called a Grinder, but the word "Sub" has an appealing ring to it.
  
     Italian Sausage:
     Place a 6 ounce Italian sausage on a roasting pan.
     Roast the sausage in a 325º oven, till it becomes browned and fully cooked.
     Keep the sausage warm on a stove top.

     Pepper and Onion Eggs:
     Step 1:  Heat a non- stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onions.
     Add 1/3 cup of mixed chopped green bell pepper and red bell pepper.
     Sauté the onions and peppers, till they are al dente.
     Step 2:  Add 2 whisked large eggs.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Scramble the onions, peppers and eggs together, till the eggs become fully cooked.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the pepper and onion eggs warm on a stove top.

     Italian Sausage, Onion, Pepper & Egg Sub:
     Step 1:  Split an 8" to 10" sub roll open on one side.
     Cut the sausage in half lengthwise.
     Place the sausage halves on the sub roll.
     Place the eggs, peppers and onions on the sub roll.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 ounces of grated provolone cheese over the eggs and sausage on the sandwich.
     Step 2:  Place tha sub on a baking pan.
     Bake the sub in a 350º oven till the cheese melts and the sub roll is warmed.  (Try not to brown the cheese!)
     Step 3:  Place the Italian sausage and egg sub sandwich on a plate.
     Sprinkle a little bit of oregano over the melted cheese on the sandwich.
     Garnish the plate with Italian parsley sprigs.
     Serve with breakfast potatoes of your choice or sport peppers and giardiniera.
   
     Italian sausage and eggs go well together.  This is a good tasting Italian sausage breakfast sub sandwich! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Porridge of Steel Cut Oats, Black Currants, Sun Dried Mango and Walnuts







     Tasty Porridge For A Winter Day!
     Every country around the globe that harvests grain of any kind has porridge in their cuisine.  Nearly any kind of grain can be used to make porridge, including rice.  
     In Ireland and Scotland, steel cut oats are traditionally used to make porridge.  Steel cut oats are groats.  Groats are the inner portion of an oat kernel.  Steel cut oats are are groats that have been cut into small pieces.  Steel cut oats are not like rolled oats.  Rolled oats require only a short cooking time and they are usually referred to as oatmeal when they are prepared as porridge.  
     Steel cut oats require a much longer cooking time than rolled oats.  Even after simmering in a pot for a long time, steel cut oats can still have a firm texture.  They also have a nutty kind of flavor.  Because steel cut oats do not easily turn into a pasty mush when simmered, they are perfect for making a rustic style porridge.

     There are many traditional Irish and Scottish steel cut oats porridge recipes.  I chose to create a nice flavor for today's steel cut oats porridge recipe with ingredients that on hand.  I live in Las Vegas and this city is in the middle of an arid desert, so just like home kitchens in the Sahara and the Middle East, my cabinets are stocked with many dried nuts, fruits, mushrooms, grains, herbs and spices.  Dried staples do not last long in a tropical humid climate, but they sure do keep well in the arid desert air.  I honestly have dried fruits that have been stowed for a year and they look as new as the day that they were purchased.  

     Dried mango really keeps well in an arid climate.  The mango flavor actually becomes more intense when mango is dried.  Dried mango becomes soft when boiled and it leaves plenty of color and flavor in the water.  Dried mango is a good choice for flavoring porridge, even though very few cooks think of using it for that purpose.

     In Europe and America, brown sugar is often used to flavor oatmeal or steel cut oats porridge.  Brown sugar and oats is a flavor combination that is hard to beat, because it provides a warm satisfying rich flavor that is perfect for a cold day!

     Porridge of Steel Cut Oats, Black Currants, Sun Dried Mango and Walnuts:
     This recipe yields 1 large serving!
     Step 1:  Boil 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 to 3 ounces of sun dried mango slices.
     Boil till the mango slices start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Remove the mango slices from the boiling liquid and place them on a cutting board.  Leave the boiling liquid on the heat.
     Cut the mango slices into short thin strips and set them aside.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/4 cups of steel cut oats to the pot of boiling mango liquid in the pot.
     After the liquid returns to a boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved mango strips.
     Add 2 tablespoons of black currants.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 very small pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of brown sugar.  (to taste)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 5:  Gently simmer the porridge.  Add water as necessary, but allow the porridge to reduce and thicken to a medium heavy consistency as the steel cut oats become tender.
     Step 6:  Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Simmer the porridge till it reduces to a medium heavy consistency.
     Step 7:  Ladle the porridge into a deep serving bowl.
     Try to expose a few pieces of the mango and black currants on the surface.
     Sprinkle some coarsely chopped walnuts over the porridge.

     This is a nice porridge flavor!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cajun Crawfish and Andouille Omelette Étouffée








     The Importance Of Self Motivated Culinary Research!
     Cajun cooking requires many specific ingredients and unique cooking techniques.  Cajun cuisine can be described as a combination of 300 year old French cooking techniques combined with new world ingredients.  Many Spanish, Native American and African food items have been incorporated into Cajun cuisine and the result is unique flavors that are unsurpassed.  
     A few centuries ago, Cajuns created their own cuisson rules that continue to be a tradition to this day.  To cook authentic Cajun food, understanding Cajun technique guidelines is necessary.  Cooking shortcuts are taboo in this cuisine.  Only traditional Cajun cooking methods can be used to make classic Cajun food.  
       
     Years of cooking experience will result in the ability to properly season food in a variety of international cuisines, but library research is truly the key to proficiency.  I spent years at public libraries reading old dusty classic international cuisine books.  I actually wrote volumes of notes, while reading and researching.  None of this culinary research was required by a chef school or job.  The effort to learn classic cuisines was self motivated and it turned into a great learning experience.  

      Home cooks, the restaurant dining public and upcoming chefs can all benefit by doing some self motivated culinary research.  Being able to know whether a purchased meal is authentic and worth the price paid, actually is a form of consumer protection.  Being able to distinguish whether a recipe is traditional or not, is the result of accumulated research knowledge.  It does not matter whether the culinary research is done for thirty minutes per month or an intensive study is involved.  Sooner or later, the accumulated culinary information will result in expertise!  
           
     Cajun Crawfish and Andouille Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 generous large portion for Étouffée applications.  Étouffée translates to smothered!
     Tomato is not always added to old time Cajun sauces, gumbo and jambalaya.  There is no tomato in this recipe, but adding a little bit of tomato is an option.  
     Be sure to have all the ingredients ready, before starting this recipe!  The vegetables will be used to stop the brown roux from cooking any further. 
     Be sure to wear protective clothing when making dark roux!
     Step 1:  Place these vegetables in a bowl and set them aside:
     - 4 tablespoons of small chopped onion
     - 2 tablespoons of small chopped celery
     - 2 tablespoons of mixed small chopped red and green bell pepper
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a wire whisk.  (The roux should be shiny looking and not caky! )
     Constantly stir, till the roux is a dark brown color.  (A brown roux will scorch and taste bitter, if it is not constantly stirred!)
     Step 3:  Immediately add the reserved vegetables and stir. 
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 chopped green onion. 
     Stir till the garlic becomes aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 2 1/3 cups of shrimp stock or broth.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 3 ounces of shelled crawfish tails.  (Be sure to add the orange fat from behind the crawfish heads.)
     Add 3 ounces of sliced andouille sausage.  (about 1/4" thick)
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, while stirring occasionally.
     Reduce the the temperature to low heat.
     Step 5:  Add each of these herbs:
     - 2 pinches of thyme
     - 1 pinch of tarragon
     - 1 pinch of marjoram
     - 1 pinch of oregano
     - 1 pinch of basil
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped parsley.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (or to taste)
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add black pepper and sea salt to taste.
     Step 6:  Slowly simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Keep the Cajun Crawfish and Andouille Sauce warm over very low heat.  Add a splash of water if the sauce becomes too thick.

     Cajun Crawfish and Andouille Omelette Étouffée:
     A 2 egg omelette is petite and a 3 egg omelette is a full portion.  The omelette in the photos was petite.  
     For Louisiana style omelets, a few golden highlights on an omelette is traditional.  This creates more flavor!
     Step 1:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 whisked large eggs.  (Or 3 large eggs for a full portion.)
     Even the edges of the omelette with a rubber spatula. 
     Step 2:  Flip the omelette when the bottom half is cooked firm.
     Step 3:  When the omelette is cooked firm and the eggs are fully cooked with golden highlights, remove the pan from the heat.
     Spoon a small portion of the Cajun Crawfish and Andouille on the omelette.
     Triple fold the omelette while sliding it onto a plate. 
     Step 4:  Spoon a generous portion of the Cajun Crawfish and Andouille Sauce over the omelette.  The omelette should looked like it is smothered in sauce.  (Étouffée)  
     Sprinkle some thin sliced green onion over the omelette.
  
     This Louisiana Cajun Crawfish and Andouille Omelette Étouffée is tasty beyond belief!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Egg, Pepper and Portobello Breakfast Pita Pizza






     Pita Pizza For Breakfast!
     Breakfast pita pizzas are a cool way to start a day!  A breakfast pita pizza that only takes minutes to cook is a hip item in any language!

     I lived in Pittsburgh in the 1960's when I was a little kid.  Memories of steel mill workers drinking beer and eating pizzas in the living room while playing cards on a Friday night, was par for the course in Pittsburgh back in those days.
     When Saturday morning rolled around, the bleary eyed crew ate the stale dried up leftover pizza and drank the the warm leftover flat beer for breakfast.  That was a Pittsburg steel mill worker's fine dining breakfast in the old days!

     For some people, cold leftover stale pizza in the morning does appeal to senses when bleary eyed.  In a house full of party animal college students, somebody usually stands there munching on a slice of long dead cold pizza like a zombie staring blankly into the distance.  About that time, a roommate walks by and says, "How is it?"  
     Inquiring about the status of the old dried up pizza is kind of a question that a stone age cave dweller would ask, if that early morning hunter gatherer had never eaten that animal species before.  Usually the answer to the question was, "It tastes like lousy dried up pizza."
     Of course since neanderthals take negative words as a cue for something edible in the morning, no matter how bad the cold leftover pizza may be, taking charge of the situation is necessary.  "Good.  Save me a slice!"

    Since cold leftover pizza in the morning appeals to so many people, it only makes sense that a warm fresh breakfast pizza of any kind would be a smash hit.  Since relatively few home cooks are willing to spend a couple hours making pizza dough from scratch early in the morning, the easiest breakfast pizza to make is a pita bread pizza.
     All that needs to be done is to spread tomato sauce on the flat bread, place some appealing breakfast food on the sauce, top it off with cheese and pop it in the oven for a few minutes.  Viola!  A mouth watering aromatic Breakfast Pita Pizza, instead of plain old lumpy cream of wheat in the morning!    
     
  
     Pizza Sauce:
     This recipe yields enough sauce for 2 to 3 pita pizzas, depending on the size.
     Traditionally, pizza sauce is not cooked.  It is mixed cold.  The sauce cooks on the pizza while it is in the oven.  For a breakfast pizza, the amount of garlic can be cut back a little bit if necessary.
     Place 1 cup of imported Italian crushed plum tomato in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (optional)
     Stir the ingredients together.

     Pizza Cheese Mixture:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 to 3 pita pizzas.
     Just because its a pita pizza, does not mean that cheese mixture has to be plain!
     Place 1/2 cup of grated mozzarella in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of grated provolone.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely grated romano.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely grated parmesan.

     Egg, Pepper and Portobello Breakfast Pita Pizza:
     This recipe yields 1 breakfast pita pizza!
     Cooking the eggs loose and runny will ensure that the eggs will be moist after baking in the oven.
     Step 1:  Spread a thin layer of the pizza sauce on an 8" to 10" wide pita bread and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 whisked eggs.
     Cook the eggs, till they become loosely scrambled and so they are still runny.
     Place the scrambled eggs on the pita pizza, so they are evenly distributed.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle some of the cheese mixture on the pita pizza.  (About 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup.  Too much cheese results in the cheese running off of the pita bread when it is baked.)
     Step 4:  Sprinkle some mixed diced red bell pepper and diced green bell pepper on the pita pizza.
     Place a few portobello mushroom slices on the pita pizza, so it looks nice.
     Drizzle a tiny amount of virgin olive oil over the toppings.  (About 2 teaspoons.)
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano over the pita pizza.
     Step 5:  Place the pita pizza on a pizza pan.
     Bake in a 400ºF oven, till the toppings become cooked and till the cheese melts.  (A few golden brown highlights on the cheese is best for a breakfast pita pizza.)
     Step 6:  Slide the finished pita pizza onto a cutting board.
     Cut the pita pizza it into 4 slices.
     Slide the breakfast pita pizza slices on a serving plate.
     Garnish with a few Italian Parsley leaves.
 
     The aroma is pure breakfast pizza heaven!     

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Almond Crusted Sourdough French Toast with Cabernet Cherry Syrup








     Petite Portion Gourmet French Toast!
     A big plate of low quality French toast with diluted cherry pie filling slopped all over it is par for the course at national brand breakfast chain restaurants.  Some folks only care about quantity and familiar flavors when dining out.  If canned food and instant mix food was served at home, then that same food is what will be satisfactory when dining at a chain breakfast restaurant that makes up for low quality by serving big quantities of low cost easy to prepare food.  
     Personally, I avoid chain breakfast restaurants like the plague.  I also avoid privately owned breakfast restaurants that serve the same kind of low cost canned food and preprepared instant mix food.  Basically, these kinds of restaurants offer a menu that lacks imagination and only the bottom dollar counts.
  
     If a menu item disclosure statement is requested at a chain breakfast restaurant, then plenty of imitation ingredients will be seen.  Imitation butter, imitation maple flavored corn syrup, freeze dried hash browns, instant hollandaise sauce and canned sausage gravy are loaded with chemicals, preservatives and stuff that just plain old does not digest.  
      Some of the instant mix imitation food at chain breakfast restaurants really does pose a health threat, yet it is served only because the bottom dollar is what counts.  The regular customers at breakfast chain restaurants do not care, because the price is cheap and the middle of the road food is not challenging to the senses.

     When low cost quantity breakfast food verses quality breakfast food, quantity loses every time, both esthetically and from a health standpoint.  A moderate portion of nicely prepared breakfast food that is made from scratch, is far more satisfying than a huge portion of breakfast food that is made with plenty of cheap imitation ingredients. 

     A big hearty breakfast made scratch is fine for people that eat one big meal per day or people who are physically active.  A skilled laborer will have no problem burning off the calories that a big old fashioned breakfast provides.  

     On the other hand, not every breakfast customer drives a sledge hammer at work all day.  Some folks are not physically active and petite portion breakfast food is more appealing, because fewer calories have to be burnt off during the course of a day.  
     Classic fine dining breakfast cuisine from over 100 years ago averaged 6 ounce portions of high quality food, which is petite by modern breakfast restaurant standards.  Unfortunately, most fine dining restaurants no longer offer a breakfast menu, which is a lackluster mistake in my opinion, because there is consumer demand for fine dining breakfast cuisine in this modern age.  

     Since fine dining breakfast cuisine is not an option in most restaurants, offering a menu section of petite portion gourmet breakfast food is a good option.  Those who prefer a petite portion refined breakfast do tend to be salaried workers and high wage earners.  These kind of customers want perfectly prepared food that features some gourmet ingredients and nice plate presentations.  These folks will pay a few dollars more to get what they want and they expect the best.

    Today's simple gourmet French toast recipe is an example of what is meant by quality oriented petite portion breakfast food.  
     Almond crusted French toast is not easy to make.  A careless cook will scorch the almonds every time.  When made properly, almond crusted French toast is aromatically appealing and it goes well with a deep rich fruit syrup or fruit sauce.  
     The cabernet cherry syrup was made to accent the flavors of the almond crusted sourdough French toast in today's recipe.  Dried cherries create the richest flavor and the tannins in cabernet wine offset the sweet sugar syrup to achieve a little bit of flavor balance.   

     A tall stacked presentation makes a petite portion look bigger than it really is.  The amber sugar garnish adds a nice visual effect to the stacked presentation.  The example in the photos is not excessively garnished, but lavender flower petals or streaks of crème fraîche could add even more appeal.  
     The point is that only one thick slice of sourdough boule bread was used to make today's petite breakfast entrée, yet the plate looks full.  A well prepared small portion of breakfast food does appeal to those who are stuck at a desk in an office at work all day.    

     Cabernet Cherry Syrup:
     Cherries are now out of season.  Years ago, excess fruits that were dried for the winter had to be consumed before the upcoming harvest season.  Dried fruits that needed to be eaten were used in many different ways.  
     Dried fruits are perfect for making syrups, because the flavor of the fruit is concentrated when it is dried properly.  
     Dried cherries reconstitute quickly.  Dried cherries create an intense syrup flavor that pairs nicely with the flavor of French Cabernet Wine Grapes.
     The sugar is not cooked to the candy temperatures stages in this recipe.  This sauce is made like a simple syrup.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of water in a sauce pot.
     Add about 15 pitted dried cherries.  (Dried wild cherries are the best!)
     Add 3/4 cup of cabernet sauvignon wine.  (Always use a wine that you would be happy drinking.)
     Add 5 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 clove.
     Step 2:  Place the sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till a thin syrup is formed.
     Keep the syrup warm over very low heat.  Add a small splash of water if the simple syrup becomes too thick.
     Remove the clove before serving.  

     Amber Sugar Garnish:
     Step 1:  Place a silicone baking mat on a countertop.
     Place a basin of cold water on a countertop.  (This will be used to cool the pot.)
     Step 2:  Place 3 tablespoons of sugar in a small sauce pot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of water.
     Place the sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the molten sugar foams.  
     Keep an eye on the sugar!  When the sugar turns a yellow amber color, remove the pan from the heat.  
     Step 3:  Dip the base of the pan in a basin of cold water to keep the sugar from cooking any darker.  Repeatedly dip the pan in the cold water, till the pot cools and the amber sugar becomes a thick honey consistency. 
     Step 4:  Immediately use the handle of a spoon to dip into the amber sugar and drizzle the sugar on the silicone mat.  Drizzle the molten amber sugar in an abstract lacy pattern that will look nice as a garnish.  (If the amber sugar becomes too thick, then reheat the pot.)
     Step 5:  Allow the sugar garnish to cool and harden.
     After the sugar cools and becomes a solid candy, use a cake spatula to very gently pry the amber sugar garnish off of the plate.
     Set the fragile amber sugar garnish aside where it will not be disturbed.

     Almond Crusted Sourdough French Toast:
     Step 1:  Cut 1 thick slice of boule shaped sourdough bread that is about 1/2" thick.  (If the bread has a chewy crust then trim the crust off.)
     Cut the bread slice into 4 pieces that are about 2 1/2" to 3" square.
     Step 2:  Place 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 3 drops of vanilla extract.
     Whisk the ingredients together.  
     Step 3:  Heat a non-stick griddle or sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add about 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Step 4:  Dip the sourdough bread in the batter.
     Remove the bread from the batter and set it on a dish.
     Sprinkle a few sliced almonds on both sides of each battered toast slice.  (This has to be done quickly, before the bread becomes soggy!)
     Step 5:  Place the almond crusted French toast slices in the hot buttered pan.
     Grill both sides of each slice of French toast, just long enough to cause the batter to become cooked firm, so the almonds stick to the batter.  
     Flip the bread occasionally and do not allow one side to grill for too much time, so the almonds do not become too dark and they cook to an even light tan color.
     The French toast is ready, when the batter is fully cooked and the almonds are lightly toasted.
     Keep the almond crusted french toast warm on a stove top.

     Almond Crusted Sourdough French Toast with Cabernet Cherry Syrup:  
     Stack the petite almond crusted French toast slices on the middle of a plate.
     Cut a shallow slit in the top slice of French toast for the amber sugar garnish.
     Spoon the cherries and cabernet cherry syrup over and on the plate around the stack of French toast.
     Insert the amber sugar garnish into the shallow slit on the top slice of French toast.
     Serve with creme fraiche on the side.

     This is a nice petite portion plate of tasty French toast!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Egg Spamwich with Swiss Cheese






     An Outdoorsman's Favorite!  The Eggs Spamwich!
     Campout breakfasts are almost always simple easy to make food item.  It really does not get much simpler than an Egg & Spam Sandwich!
     Fishermen and campers like to take a can of Vienna Sausage or Spam on the trip as a symbolic non-perishable survival item!  The aroma of Spam and eggs sizzling in a cast iron skillet is kind of nice in the morning, especially when civilization is nowhere to be found.

     Here in the American desert southwest, winter is the best time of year for camping.  During summer, the temperatures at sunrise are rarely less than 90º!  A hot breakfast is not very appealing in the extreme heat.  During winter, the morning lows can be below 50º.

     Today's recipe is simple and the entire meal can be cooked in a few minutes.  For those who plan to do a day of touring scenic national parks or ghost towns, cooking a quick meal at home is a much better option than taking a chance on fast food road kill.  At least a meal at home is guaranteed to not cause stomach distress when driving in the vast wide open spaces of the desert southwest.

     Publishing simple recipes that are easily forgotten can revive interests.  It is interesting to see how some readers respond by saying that they completely forgot about the good old breakfast Spamwich over the years.  Reviving simple ideas does bring back memories of simple times.
     Most cooks need no recipe for making a Spamwich, but it is my duty to write one anyway.  This recipe website is viewed internationally and not everybody around the globe is familiar with classic American delicacies like the almighty Spamwich.  

     There are many Spam fans around the globe and Hawaiians reign in the majority.  Spam fans are do like their Spam cooked a certain way.  Some like Spam grilled dark brown and some like Spam lightly sautéed.  Some even like Spam straight out of the can.  Spam is its own thing and Spam is here to stay.  Any chef that overlooks the popularity of Spam is certainly missing out on satisfying the needs of a hungry market!

     Egg Spamwich with Swiss Cheese:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich!
     Step 1:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan or a seasoned cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Split open a Whole Wheat Kaiser Roll and brush it with melted unsalted butter.
     Grill the roll till it is toasted.
     Place the toasted roll on a plate and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter to the hot pan.
     Add 2 slices of canned Spam.  (About 1/4" thick)
     Grill the Spam on both sides, till they are browned to your preference.
     Place the grilled Spam on the toasted kaiser roll.
     Step 3:  Add a little bit of unsalted butter to the hot pan, if there is not enough butter in the pan to fry an egg.
     Add 1 large egg.
     Pop the egg yolk.
     Pan fry the egg on both sides, till it is fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Place a few thin slices of swiss cheese on the egg.
     Add 1 tablespoon of water to the pan.
     Cover the pan with a domed lid and allow the steam to melt the cheese.
     Step 5:  Use a spatula to place the egg and cheese on the Spamwich.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika on the Spamwich.
     Serve with breakfast potatoes of your choice.
     Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig.

     A tasty old fashioned campout style breakfast Spamwich!  The flavor is easy to imagine.  Turkey Spam or Spam Lite are new Spam product options.  Spam Lite is something that makes me chuckle just by thinking about it!

Poached Eggs on Toast with Crème Spinach and Smoked Bacon Bits




     Florentine?
     At many restaurants, it seems like every recipe that is made with créme spinach is called Florentine.  In reality, the city of Florence, Italy, has nothing to do with spinach.  Spinach is not a major crop in Florence.  There are no traditional recipes in Florence that have spinach as an ingredient.
     There is a refined breakfast entrée called Eggs Florentine that requires créme spinach and hollandaise sauce.  A poached egg entrée that is made with only creamed spinach is not really an authentic Eggs Florentine.
     Call it what it really is!  Crème spinach is nice on its own as a vegetable side dish and it is a great accompaniment for eggs.  Crème Spinach and Eggs On Toast is a very nice breakfast entrée that does not need to be called Florentine to be great.  A little bit of smoked bacon bits and a mushroom garnish adds to the charm.  

     Smoked Bacon Bits:
     Smoked bacon is fully cured and it actually is better tasting when it is lightly cooked.  
     Coarsely chop 1 or 2 slices of smoked bacon into small pieces.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the chopped smoked bacon.
     Sauté the bacon bits, till they are golden brown and crispy.
     Place the bacon bits in a strainer over a heat proof container to drain off the excess grease.
     Keep the smoked bacon bits warm on a stove top.
  
     Crème Spinach:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 entrée.
     Do not make the crème spinach too far ahead of time or the spinach will lose its bright green color!
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 of a minced clove of garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon and of minced shallot.
     Gently sauté till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon flour while stirring to make a small amount of white roux.  The roux should be white in color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of cream while stirring.
     Add 1 cup of milk while stirring.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and stir occasionally as the sauce thickens.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce is a medium cream sauce consistency.  The sauce should easily coat the back of a spoon.  The volume of the sauce will be about 2/3 cup.
     Step 6:  Add 2 1/2 cups of trimmed fresh baby spinach leaves.
     Stir the spinach into the hot cream sauce as it wilts.
     When the spinach is cooked tender, then the créme spinach is done cooking.
     Keep the creme spinach warm over very low heat.  Add a splash of milk if the sauce becomes too thick.  
  
     Mushroom Garnish:
     Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 thick mushroom slices.
     Sauté the mushroom slices, till they become tender.
     Set the mushrooms aside and keep them warm on a stove top.

     Croutons:
     Trim the crust off of 2 slices of bread.
     Cut the bread slices into 2 round croutons that are as wide as a poached large egg.  (About 3" to 4".)
     Brush the croutons with melted unsalted butter.
     Grill the croutons on a griddle or sauté pan over medium/medium low heat, till they become toasted.
     Keep the croutons warm on a stove top.

     Poached Eggs:
     Poach 2 large eggs in gently boiling salted water over medium/medium high heat.  (Never add vinegar to the water when poaching eggs.  Vinegar will give poached eggs an undesirable rubbery texture and harsh flavor!)
   
     Poached Eggs on Toast with Crème Spinach and Smoked Bacon Bits:
     Place the croutons side by side on a plate.
     Use a slotted spoon or slotted spatula to set the poached eggs on the toasted croutons. Be sure to allow all the water to drain off.
     Spoon a generous amount of the crème spinach over the eggs.
     Sprinkle the smoked bacon bits over the sauced eggs.
     Place 1 sauteed mushroom slice on top of each egg.
     Serve with your choice of breakfast potatoes.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.
  
     This is a very nice looking breakfast entrée with an appealing comfortable flavor!         

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crawfish Creole Omelette








     Today's Recipe
     Crawfish Creole is a classic Louisiana cuisine recipe that is usually served as an entrée over rice.  Crawfish Creole can also be used as a sauce for fish, poultry and eggs.  Crawfish Creole Omelets are offered on many restaurant brunch menus in New Orleans.
      A Crawfish Creole Omelette can also be offered for lunch or dinner.  Many restaurants used to offer fancy dinner omelets on dinner menus.  While working in Philadelphia in the early 1980's, nearly every casual restaurant had about five fancy dinner omelette creations on the menu.  The portion size for dinner omelets was 3 to 5 eggs back in those days, so thrifty customers got a belly full of food for a modest price.
     The orange colored fats in crawfish are full of flavor.  The orange fat is essential in a good Crawfish Creole recipe.  Crawfish fat makes the Tomato Creole taste very rich, so it is important to not wash the orange fat off of the crawfish tails.
    Crawfish sell for a relatively cheap price.  About 25 crawfish are needed per portion of Creole Tomato Sauce.  Shelling crawfish for breakfast is somewhat labor intensive, but the effort is well worthwhile.  For the cost of just a couple of dollars, Crawfish Creole can jazz up plain boring eggs with plenty of classic New Orleans flavor!

     Omelet Portions
     Breakfast and brunch omelette portions at restaurants traditionally were 2 egg petite omelets for ladies and 3 egg omelets for men.  In this modern age of healthy dining trends, petite omelets have become more popular.  A 2 egg omelette offers plenty of satisfying flavor and it is light enough on the tummy to avoid that heavy weighed down feeling that big omelets are notorious for creating.

     Most of my omelets recipes are 2 egg portion omelets, because I eat the food that I cook for the photo examples.  My student lifestyle consists of about 80 hours of college writing projects per week, so most of my week is spent sitting at a computer typing away.  Two egg omelet portions reduce caloric intake and this helps to prevent weight gain, which can become a problem when there is no time for burning calories off.
     Many readers lead a similar lifestyle of limited physical activity and portion size control becomes a factor for maintaining health.  Some readers of this website out do physically demanding work every day, so a three egg omelet is more appealing.  To convert a 2 eggs omelet portion to a 3 egg omelet portion, the featured ingredients or accompanying sauce recipe should be increased by one third or about 30%.  Most savory food cooks can figure proportions by eye, so this is a relatively easy task.

     Single Portion Yield Recipes
     Single portion recipes are a rarity in the world of food writing.  Most recipes are written with a yield of 4 to 16 portions.  The problem with multi portion recipes is that they are designed to feed large families.  Single people and couples are left out of the game.
     Many single people avoid multi portion recipes, because of the baker's math that is involved with converting a high yield recipe to one or two portions.  Psychologically, it is also more difficult to imagine how an entrée should look and taste, as the volume of ingredients increases.

     Single portion entrée recipes are the easiest for a reader to imagine and grasp.  Single portion recipes are also the easiest to expand to multiple portions, because only addition or multiplication skills are required.  Individuals that only want to cook one or two portions of something new, just to try it out, do tend to prefer single portion recipes that are written for that purpose.
     From a professional chef standpoint, single portion recipes are best for training cooks.  Demonstrating how to prepare a solitary food example is a good training device.  After a pro cook learns how to prepare a solitary recipe once, the cook can prepare that same recipe by memory thousands of times.          
 
     Creole Tomato Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/4 cups of sauce. 
     Be sure to select the ripest red tomatoes for this recipe! 
     The Trinity in Louisiana style cooking is one part celery, one part bell pepper and two parts onion. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 teaspoon of pomace olive oil.
     Add 3 chopped garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of small diced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of mixed small diced green and red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 2 chopped green onions.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced seeded jalapeño pepper.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender. 
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped ripe red tomato.  (Use Louisiana Creole Tomatoes or deep red heirloom tomatoes if they are available.)
     Briefly sauté till the tomatoes start to become fragrant.  
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine. 
     Add 1 1/2 cups of rich shrimp broth. 
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped Italian parsley. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (Or to taste.  Creole Sauce should be mildly spicy.)
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till most of the liquid evaporates and it becomes a coarse tomato sauce consistency. 
     Set the creole sauce aside and let it cool.
     *Creole Sauce will lose its fresh bright character if it is kept warm for an extended amount of time.  It is best to reheat the sauce to order.  Creole Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.  

     Crawfish Preparation: 
     About 20 to 25 crawfish are needed for an omelette portion. 
     *Reserve one whole crawfish to use as a garnish. 
     Peel the shells off 20 to 25 poached crawfish tails.
     Try to retain the orange colored fat from the back of the crawfish heads.

     Crawfish Creole:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 omelette.
     Heat 1 cup of the Tomato Creole Sauce in a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add the crawfish tails and the crawfish fat.
     Simmer the creole sauce and crawfish tails gently together for a few minutes.
     Keep the crawfish creole warm over very low heat.
   
     Crawfish Creole Omelette:
     Step 1:  Heat the reserved whole crawfish in gently boiling water, so it can be used as a garnish later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Whisk 3 eggs, till they become foamy.
     Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the whisked eggs.
     Use a rubber spatula to even the edges of the omelette.
     When the bottom of the omelette becomes cooked firm, flip the omelette to cook the other side.
     Step 3:  When the omelette becomes fully cooked, spoon a generous amount of the Crawfish Creole on the omelette while it is in the pan.
     Fold the omelette in half over the Crawfish Creole filling.
     Slide the omelette onto a plate.
   
     Presentation:
     Spoon the remaining Crawfish Creole over the top of the omelette.
     Place an Italian Parsley sprig on the sauce.
     Place the warm whole crawfish on the parsley sprig.
     Serve the Crawfish Creole Omelette with home fry potatoes or a vegetable of your choice.
     Garnish the plate with a slice of lemon and an Italian Parsley sprig.

     The flavor of this traditional New Orleans style omelette is incredibly great!