World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Breakfast

Breakfast Mexican Style: Huevos Motuleños

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Over the last year I have become more than a little obsessive with huevos rancheros, the fried eggs on tortilla splashed with a spicy sauce breakfast dish.  The results of my journey has been both confusion but also an education in variations on a theme. You must know that before living on the West Coast I had never known the egg at breakfast outside of a frying pan, benedict or a quiche.  Eggs a la mexicano is a spectacularly terrific start to a lazy Sunday. This post is focused on a few of the egg specialty dishes that I’ve come across.

Literally "ranch eggs" huevos rancheros (ranch eggs) are prepared so many ways that legions of lovers of this dish adamantly state that traditionally speaking, the eggs should be fried (no poaching!). This may be so, but the confusion may come in that restaurants need to create a sense of special-ness with breakfast– poaching does that. I would also add that the tortilla should be corn and it needs to be lightly toasted to stand up to the essential runny egg yolk.  The best, I’ve had are from Primavera, at the Saturday SF Farmers’ Market. In my book they do very little wrong in their cocina.

I’ve also enjoyed Huevos al Albañil or bricklayer’s eggs that are popular in Central Mexico. The central ingredient is a green tomatillo and serrano chile sauce  that is added to the pan with the cooked scrambled eggs.  Rather pretty and really a bit of harmony on the plate is huevos divorciados (divorced eggs)where two sunny-side up eggs are "separated" by a red and green sauce over a fried corn tortilla.

And then there’s Huevos Motuleños: two sunny-side up eggs served over a fried corn tortilla and beans covered with red sauce, fried ham, green peas and cheese. Originating in the Yucatán town of Motul, there are variations that are made with black beans, plantains, and salsa picante. This dish is an uptown sophisticated type of breakfast. I first had it a few years ago at Casa Carter during our Oaxacan reunion weekend.  Homemade eggy, spicy goodness. I have thought often about that dish for the past two years.

While in Chicago in late August I brunched at Salpicón! where the Mexico City-born chef Priscilla Satkoff offers amazingly tasty and traditional dishes (pictured above this recipe).  In September while in Boulder visiting the Carters once again, I put my plea out for this breakfast.  The variation served here is from Chef Rick Bayless.  The Carters prepare an American variation on pork in the form of bacon instead of ham —no complaints here!

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And then there’s migas and chilaquiles….but that’s for another day!

Cazuela de Huevos Rancheros (good for a brunch of 4)

Cooking Light’s Huevos Rancheros with Queso Fresco

Motul-Style Eggs

Adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen

This dish is time consuming, but you can shortcut with store-bought tostadas, and by using canned and doctored black beans.  You should not shortcut the sauce–it’s an essential component to this dish.  Also the plantains can be done ahead, refrigerated over night and warmed before serving.

Tomato Habenero Sauce

2 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes

1/4 to 1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 medium white onion, thinly sliced

1 1/2 fresh habanero chiles, halved

Salt, a generous 3/4 tspn

2 very ripe plantains

1 1/2 to 2 cups coarsely mashed, seasoned black beans

6 oz. good ham cut into matchstick sized pieces

1 1/3 cups frozen peas, defrosted

1/2 cup/2 oz crumbled Mexican queso fresco (or a French feta)

6 eggs

6 crisp store-bought tostadas

Instructions for Tomato-Habanero Sauce:

Make a day ahead: Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet 4" below a very hot broiler until blistered and blackened on one side, about 6 minutes. Flip and roast on the other side.  Cool then peel  the tomatoes while catching all the juices over a bowl. In a food processor coarsely puree the tomatoes and juices.

In a 2-3 qt. saucepan heat 1 tblspn of the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, fry, stirring regularly, until golden, about 8 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and Chile halves and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring often, until the sauce is beginning to thicken but is still juicy looking. Season with salt; remove the chile halves. Store in fridge.

The next day:

Peel the plantains, cut into diagonal slices about 1/2" thick.  Heat 2-3 tblspns of the vegetable oil in a 10-12" well-seasoned or non-stick skillet that has a lid, over medium heat.  Lay the  plantain slices in a single layer for 3-4 minutes per side until richly browned.  Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and hold in a warm oven.

In a small pan warm the beans over low heat.  Mix together the ham strips and the peas in another small pan or dish, and warm over low heat.  Crumble the cheese into a small bowl and set aside. Set the pan of tomato sauce over low heat.

Finally, fry the eggs in 1-2 tblspns of vegetable oil.  You will want the egg yolks to be runny.  Spread some of the beans over each tostada, slide an egg on top, drizzle the tomato sauce over and around the eggs letting it run off the tostada and on to the plate. Sprinkle each plate with the ham, peas and cheese, decorate with plantain slices.

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On the Road: Chicago

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No not another tribute to the "man", Jack Kerouac whose 50th anniversary of On the Road has been sufficiently covered elsewhere.  I’m in the middle of a two week run of business travel, Seattle, Chicago and Greensboro, North Carolina. (Fret not there’s BBQ to be had!). I also have a bit of down time planned with the Carters in Denver at the end of all of this shuttling around; we’ll be dining well, that’s a guarantee–even if it is the Denver/Boulder area.

As many of you know by day I am a marketing professional.  I’ve worked in many industries.  For the past couple of years my time has been spent within the travel industry.  Believe me when I say that this line of work is not one big consideration of which vacation to take next.  However the product is a lot more interesting than semi-conductor chips or anti-virus software where I’ve previously put my attentions. The business of travel is a curiosity for me: big ships, big tours, and big  or small wanderings. 

This is all a way of saying that I just returned from Chicago.  The city was the location for our annual national marketing conference.  This is the time when we sit with many of our partners and talk marketing and sales.  After numbers and plans we also talked about the next travel destinations that we’ll be held sway over: Italy and Spain (even if you’ve been there many times!). We also talk about trends such as volunteering vacations or staying on a working farm.  And we also consider the new edge of travel, Dubai and the fascination many, including myself, are having with South America.

So before you think ‘gee whiz doesn’t sound too bad’, understand that this business is as competitive as the next.  Isn’t it all, eh? The longest day began with a 7am breakfast meeting in the Renaissance Hotel’s Great Street restaurant and ended over stone crab at 10pm.  The night before was a long one with the time zone shift and well, the effects of more than a few glasses of wine at a reception and dinner were very present. So it felt right to indulge with a proper breakfast for the long day ahead.  The pancakes offered were from the hotel’s sister, The San Francisco Renaissance Stanford Court.  I’ve re-created my interpretation of the breakfast as it would make a great brunch menu item.

And if your curious about who the breakfast was with and what the banter was and you are a Harry Potter fan mark your calendars to be in Florida in late 2009!  This opening promises to be full of all kinds of wizardry.

Lemon Souffle Pancakes with Raspberry Syrup

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons lemon zest (or more for those "tart" lovers)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup milk

3 egg whites

Raspberry Sauce (recipe below)

Pine Nuts (optional)

Butter (optional)

Fresh raspberries (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg yolk slightly. Stir in melted butter and milk. Add egg yolk mixture to dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). In another medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer at medium speed until stiff peaks form (peaks stand straight). Gently fold egg whites into flour mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white. Do not over mix.

For pancakes, pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 2 minutes per side or until pancakes are golden brown. Turn to second side when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and edges are slightly dry. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with raspberry syrup, pine nuts, butter, and fresh raspberries, if desired.

Raspberry syrup:

2 cups frozen or fresh red raspberries

1 cup maple syrup

If using frozen berries, thaw but do not drain. Place the berries in a blender container or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until berries are smooth. Press berries through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Discard seeds in sieve. Cook and stir juice over medium heat until just heated through. Stir in maple syrup; set aside.

Sticky Gold #2

Mapletap

Although there are about 150 species in the maple tree family throughout the world it is only in North America, specifically in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, that all the right elements of climate and geography come together to provide enough sap to support a syrup industry. Maple syrup is produced from sap from black and sugar maple trees. These trees are the most preferred due to their high sugar content and can be found in sugar bushes or maple-syrup producing farms. A sugar bush is a forested area that contains mostly maple trees.

Trees can be tapped after 50 years of age by boring holes in the trunks. This “opening” of the tree to gather the colorless, almost tasteless “sugar water” occurs in the late winter/early spring. Each mature tree may have as many as four taps. Each opening yields about 10 gallons of sap a year.

Buckets fill slowly, drop by drop, with a sweetish, watery liquid that is boiled down to make the flavored syrup. The tree sap is boiled in a sugar shack or cabane a sucre. During this heating process the clear sap begins in a watery form that contains about two per cent of sugar, it eventually transforms into a high concentration of sugar suspended in water.  This explains why it takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup. It will take anywhere from 6-8 hours until the sugar content is more than 67 per cent it is officially maple syrup. 

If the sugarmaker continues the evaporation process, the result is maple honey (a thicker consistency), followed by maple butter (which is thick and spreadable), and, once almost all the water has been evaporated, maple sugar. Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as granulated white sugar. It also browns more quickly, and imparts much more flavor than white sugar.

Making maple syrup requires freezing nights and warm (but preferably not over 50 degree) days. Typically, three or four weeks in early spring, when the nights fall below freezing and the days are beginning to warm up the sap or “sweet water” flows up from the tree roots. Extended periods of either below freezing temperatures or days without freezing nights will stop the sap flow. As a result, sugarhouses often start and stop boiling at different times due to local weather factors. A sugarmaker’s life during tapping season can be unpredictable with 24 hour work days interspersed with two or three days of inactivity until the next sap run. One thing’s for sure, when the trees begin to “bud out” the harvesting of sap is over. On average the sap flows takes place for only ten to 20 days, often with up to a third of the season’s yield in a single day.

Today only weekender or boutique tappers still use tin spigots and white pine buckets. Larger operators use a gravity flow system that brings the sap from the trees to a holding tank where it goes through an osmosis unit to remove impurities and about two-thirds of the water. It’s easier and more efficient for the farmer, and has less of an impact on the trees. It allows for a shorter boiling down time, saves time and fuel costs. The next step in the flow is the evaporator, where it is reduced to a syrup, and takes on its typical rich coffee hue. Large sugarhouses can process as much as 1,700 gallons of sap an hour. The final step is a boiling in a sterile stainless steel tank.

Peter Singhofen/ PennsylvaniaMaple Syrup (photo essay)

A Sugarbush Tale 11minute documentary on of sugaring (awesome!)

Sticky Gold

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Today begins a series on maple syrup. Over the next few weeks all thoughts and writings will be turned toward this very American product.

One of the life’s simplest extravagances is maple syrup. People go crazy for this liquid and very edible form of gold. I have a Canadian friend who when invited to attend a brunch will ask, will there be pancakes? If so, she’ll arrive at the event open her bag and a jug of pure Canadian syrup is placed on the table—later it is tucked back into the bag. I also remember my Dad bringing home a very coveted gallon of maple syrup from a friend newly transplanted to Vermont. Don’t even think of passing the inferior stuff around the breakfast table. New Englanders can’t be fooled.

The production of maple syrup traces back beyond the Colonial period and into Native American culture. The North American Maple Syrup Producers bulletin suggests one legend involving a Native American chief who “supposedly hurled his tomahawk (probably in disgust) at a tree. The tree happened to be a maple, and sap began to flow. The clear liquid that dropped from the wound was collected in a container that happened to be on the ground below. His wife, believing the liquid was water, used it to cook venison. Following cooking, both the meat and the sweet liquid that remained were found to be delicious. Retracing how this occurred revealed that sweet sap from the maple trees was the only difference.” Another bit of New England lore suggests that perhaps the Native Americans discovered the sweetness of the maple tree by eating "sapsicles," icicles of frozen maple sap that form from the end of a broken twig. As the ice forms, some of the water evaporates, leaving a sweet treat hanging from the tree.

Contrary to public perception, production does not take place in winter. It takes place in late March and early April at the sugar shack, where feasts are held with traditional "cabane à sucre" (sugar shack) foods: pea soup; baked beans; maple-cured ham; oreilles de crisse (fried strips of salt pork), omeletes, and maple-sweetened desserts such as, crepes and grands-pères (dumplings poached in maple syrup). To round it all out at the end of the meal everyone goes outside for the traditional hot maple taffy pull, served on a bed of fresh snow and scooped up with wooden sticks where it hardens and can be twisted, sucked and chewed.

Lovely Leftovers – Chilaquiles

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Since Thanksgiving I’ve made tukey chilaquiles, which begat sopa de tortilla with turkey, and also breakfast for the week with a pecan sweet potato cranberry quick bread.

I love chilaquiles. Primavera, at the Saturday market makes a remarkable version.  In California, the Southwest and all throughout Mexico and down into Guatemala chilaquiles, pronounced "chee-lah-KEE-lehs" is a practical and tasty way to extend the life of stale corn tortillas and now turkey.

Editor’s Note: This is my entry for Slashfood’s Lovely Leftovers event.

Tagged with Recipes, Lovely Leftovers

Simple Turkey Chilaquiles (adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen)

Serves 4

Combine in a large skillet a full recipe of the sauce (below) with 2 cups of broth and about 1 1/2 cups shredded leftover turkey. Turkey should be warm before beginning next step.

Add 8 cups (8oz.) of tortilla chips (preferably thick ones), a handful of epazote leaves (can sub with 1 cup or 2 sliced chard or spinach). Cover and simmer over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, until the chips are softening.  Uncover, stir well–you don’t want mushy chips.  Spoon onto plates and sprinkle generously with crumbled Mexican either queso añejo, cotija or Parmesan.

Salsa de Chile Chipotle y Jitomate – Essential Quick – Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce

Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen

Makes 2 cups

3-4 canned chiles chipotles en adobo

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 1/2 pounds (3 medium-large round or 9 to 12 plum) ripe tomatoes

1 tblspn rich -tasting lard, olive or vegetable oil

Salt, about 1/2 tsp

Instructions:

Remove canned chiles from the adobo.

On a heavy, ungreased skillet over medium  heat roast the unpeeled garlic, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and soft, about 12-15 minutes.  Cool, slip off the papery skins, and roughly chop.

Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4" below a very hot broiler.  When they blister, blacken and soften on one side, about 6 minutes, turn them over and roast on the other side.  Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.

Scrape the tomatoes and their juices into a food processor or blender and add the chiles and garlic. Pulse the machine until the mixture is nearly a puree–it should have a little more texture than canned tomato sauce.

Heat the lard or oil in a heavy, medium-size (2-to 3-quart) saucepan over  medium-high. When hot enough to  make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and concentrates to an earthy, red, thickish sauce–about the consistency of a medium-thick spaghetti sauce.  Taste and season with saltSauce will keep for several days, covered and refrigerated. 

What the Three Bears Knew

Mccanns_2 Oatmeal is one of the all-time great breakfast comfort foods. In addition the slow-burning carbs keep you going long past mid morning, while the fiber keeps your insides healthy. Simple, budget and time friendly oatmeal is one of the best ways to start the day off.

The world over eats porridge of some kind. Scottish shepherds traditionally made their porridge once a week only, pouring it into a draw to set to a gelatinous firmness. Each day, they would cut off a slice or two of this gray mass to take with them to work. Today Scotland plays host every September to the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship. La Ba Zhou, a mix of rice, millets, peanuts, chestnuts, Chinese dates, lotus seeds and red-beans is served on served on the 8th day of 12th lunar month in China.  More commonly found jook, also known as congee or rice porridge which is said to have healing proprieties. Polenta tiragna, a thick maize porridge made with butter and cheese, comforts many an Italian on a cold morning. In India, to herald the coming of summer, bowls of Khara pongal, a savory porridge-like dish made of rice and dhal, is traditionally prepared in the south during the Makar Sankranti festival.  It’s flavored with curry leaves, tumeric, chiles, ghee, mustard seed and cashews.

The recent recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report for Americans suggests that we should be eating more grains. One of the easiest ways is with oatmeal–either for breakfast or as an afternoon snack with some dried berries or fruit. The benefits of insoluble fiber to a healthy digestive system have been known for a long time. Insoluble fiber speeds food through the intestine, promotes regularity and helps prevent colon cancer.

In the May issue of Healthmagazine, awarded Quaker’s Golden Maple flavor a part of their Quaker Take Heart Instant Oatmeal product line the best Hot Cereal in its first ""Best of Food Awards". Two of my other breakfast favorites, Kashi GoLean Frozen Waffles Original Flavor and Stonyfield Farm Organic Lowfat Yogurt Just Peachy are other winners in the breakfast category.

So for those of us who are looking to get a bit healthier, Shape <shape</shapemagazine offers the following nutritional tip–"aim for at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of sugar per serving, as some hot cereals get 30 percent of their total calories from sugars." Okay but there’s many types of oatmeal out there. Most Americans, according to A.C. Nielsen, (64%) prefer the instant oatmeal followed by quick oatmeal (20%) and regular oats(16%). What’s the difference? 

  • Instant is thin, precooked oats that need only be mixed with a hot liquid, and may have salt added to it–it’s ready in a flash.
  • Quick/quick-cooking are also thin flakes of oats that are ready in about three or four minutes, typically it is made without added salt.
  • Old-fashioned oats take longer to cook than instant and quick or quick-cooking oats and are usually made without salt.

All of the above oatmeal variations are known as rolled oats which are flaked oats that have been steamed, rolled, re-steamed and toasted.  All of this additional processing causes the final product to lose some of its natural taste and texture. These are also the types of oats you’ll find added raw to granola or muesli mixes, and of course used to make oatmeal cookies.

Then for the discerning gourmet oatmeal eater there’s steel-cut oats. Irish and Scottish oatmeal fit into this category. Whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) cut into two or three pieces to enhance the flavor of the oat. Some sources say that one cup of steel-cut oatmeal contains more fiber than a bran muffin and twice as much fiber as Cream of Wheat. This variation of oatmeal is chewier and takes longer to prepare. In addition Irish oatmeal, which is steel-cut, reportedly, has a lower glycemic number than the traditional oatmeal eaten in the US.

One of the finer Irish oatmeals you will find on the shelf is McCanns. It tastes nothing like Quaker oatmeal and once you try it you will find it’s worth the extra time spent in preparation time. Whatever the brand or style, oatmeal is a food we can all easily fit into our daily menus in some form.  Just like Goldilocks and her bears knew all along.

Irish Steel-Cut Oat Pudding– via IrishAbroad.com- made with eggs, Kerrygold butter, orange zest, raisins and Irish Cream liqueur.  Wake me when it’s ready!

Sunday Late Breakfast

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Sunday morning reading with Cha Siu Bao (Chinese Pork Buns), Mama Janisse’s Chile Pepper Sauce & Tea