Archive | Recipes RSS feed for this section

Breakfast Tacos

17 Nov

A Texas staple that will become a regular part of your repertoire

Breakfast Tacos

Breakfast Tacos

It was called The Lazy Daisy: a 24 hour restaurant on ‘the drag’ in Austin, a locally owned Denny’s like place that was so much better than Denny’s. When I was in college at The University of Texas at Austin, The Lazy Daisy was always filled, even at (or particularly at) 2:30 AM in the morning after all the bars closed and people wanted good sustenance to help mitigate their buzz.

“The Daisy” as we came to call it, was also one solitary stumbling block from my fraternity house. The most inebriated person in the world, and their equally drunk date, could manage to get there in minutes on foot.

Needless to say, many of us were fixtures.

While I enjoyed a lot of different foods at The Daisy — they had surprisingly good salads, for instance, and a better than decent chicken fried steak — by far the greatest menu item, which I came to know intimately, were the breakfast tacos.

Breakfast tacos are one of my favorite foods. They are so incredibly satisfying I’m always shocked I can’t find them anywhere but Texas. Yes, breakfast burritos are ubiquitous. I like them, too. But there are subtle yet huge differences between a breakfast burrito and a breakfast taco. Give me a breakfast taco any time.

First, a true breakfast taco never has potatoes/hash browns. This element is the bane of my existence with breakfast burritos. It’s filler, people! A way the restaurant saves money! Why do you want to fill your breakfast burrito with potatoes?? It’s like when a restaurant adds sour cream to guacamole to stretch it. (WTF??) Potatoes take up a ton of territory in a breakfast burrito, eliminating valuable space that should be reserved solely for the wonderfulness of the most important ingredients: eggs, cheese, bacon and/or sausage. Why on earth would I want to sacrifice any space for potatoes??

Also, a breakfast burrito has way more flour tortilla than a breakfast taco. In a breakfast burrito, the flour tortilla and the potatoes (or rice, another WTF) are all you taste, they take over completely. In a breakfast taco, the flour tortilla exists to quietly support what God in Genesis divined was the perfect breakfast trio… eggs, cheese and meat, with perhaps a few very important supporting elements added to elevate the breakfast taco into the stratosphere.

Breakfast tacos also have a completely different mouth feel than a breakfast burrito, because instead of wolfing down mostly flour tortilla and potato with every bite you’re tasting a perfect melange of ingredients made to go together. You taste everything in every bite.

A good buddy of mine likes his very simple: scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese. With a little hot sauce. Finished off with the other very important addition that is a must: chopped white onion. Not sweet onion or red onion but regular ole’ white onion. The onion on top is classic Tex-Mex and this cool crunch with a slight bite, juxtaposed with the soft warm feel of the rest of the ingredients, is divine.

Check the recipe below for my other favorite additions as well as my perfect way of crafting a breakfast taco. My fellow Texans are sure to have all these ingredients on hand. For others, a quick run to the store will give you everything you need.

Prep them. Eat them. Then thank me later.

BREAKFAST TACOS

Ingredients

Flour Tortillas – You want smaller tortillas, not big huge burrito size. These are often called ‘fajita size’

Eggs – softly, slowly scrambled. See note below.

Bacon – crisply cooked, crumbled into pieces. OR:

Sausage – ground pork sausage, cooked and crumbled into pieces.

Cheddar cheese, shredded

White Onion, diced

Hot Sauce – my fresno chili hot sauce is perfect here. If you haven’t yet made some, Tapatio is my favorite hot sauce for a breakfast taco.

Refried Beans – I’m a fan of Old El Paso refried beans but there are many good canned beans out there.

Best. Guacamole. Ever. (optional)

Sour Cream (optional)

Directions

Once you have cooked and assembled all your ingredients, this how I like to build my breakfast taco:

Take a flour tortilla (or a few) and gently swipe a light layer of refried beans on the tortilla. Not too much, you don’t want the beans to overwhelm everything else.

Sprinkle on some cheddar cheese.

In a pan on the stove or in a preheated oven (350 is fine), let the tortilla warm so that the cheese is starting to melt and the beans are warmed through. I don’t like to get them hot. Just a bit above room temperature.

Spoon on some scrambled eggs. Then add some crumbled bacon and/or sausage.

If you are using guacamole or sour cream, add now but go easy. Both of these can also overwhelm everything else. Sour cream in particular is gilding the lily here but some mornings I do like to add a touch.

Then sprinkle on your white onion.

Fold in half and enjoy!

NOTE:  Americans cook eggs hard and fast, which give eggs a bitter flavor. I’m an egg fanatic but for years never liked scrambled eggs or omelettes because of this bitter taste. When I was finally served slow cooked scrambled eggs, I couldn’t believe the difference in taste and texture! These eggs are a revelation. Yes they take some time but the time is so worth it.

It’s not difficult:

Beat your eggs with a touch of cream and a small dollop of Dijon mustard (this adds an incredible umami. Try it, you won’t know it’s there but it makes a big difference.)

Melt a pad or two of butter over medium-low heat. Pour in your eggs. Then begin to stir. Slowly stir the eggs as they cook, adding some salt and pepper as you go. You can take a break here and there but you never want to leave them so long they start to harden on the bottom of the pan. Depending on the heat, this can take up to ten minutes (I’ve gone fifteen on low heat) but wow, the difference in your eggs, and then your breakfast tacos, will blow your mind.

I like my eggs really soft but cook them to your desired temperature and texture. But not too hard!

 

 

A Hearty Mushroom Ragout

4 Oct

A delicious Autumn meal I eat year round.

IMG-0993

I love fall. Hands down my favorite season. It’s not because I look my best in fall clothes… although, to be honest, that is part of it. I love everything about fall: cool crisp sweater weather, football games at twilight, County Fairs, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Fall Back from Daylight Savings Time (an extra hour of sleep, yes!!), earth tones, melancholy (can’t be beat) and of course all kinds of fall food… from soups to stews to root vegetables to pie to, well, any food that warms the soul and speaks to Autumn.

I love Fall so much I even have a playlist I created that makes me feel like Fall, all year round:

“The Fall” on Spotify

To start fall off right I present to you a divine Mushroom Ragout, one you can serve in a variety of ways. Vegetarian to the max (and even Vegan if you omit the final pad of butter) you’ll never think of this as a vegetarian dish, it’s so hearty and meaty and satisfying.

A twist on a ragout by the incredible chef David Tanis (his books are wonderful) this easy ragout will satisfy your soul.

IMG-1006

Mushroom Ragout over polenta

Continue reading

A Platter of Tomatoes

19 Sep

A perfect way to slide from summer to fall… with an additional secret recipe.

I realize the subject of tomatoes is late given some of you are probably past tomato season. Summer in Southern California, however, starts and ends late (mid-July thru sometimes mid-October) and we remain in the midst of a glorious tomato bounty.

Tomatoes are like my other favorite food, the egg: the uses and recipes for each are endless. Even so, if you’re lucky enough to be in possession of fresh, best of season tomatoes, nothing satisfies like a simple platter of tomatoes.

Platter of Tomatoes

a platter of tomatoes

I realize there are a few sad souls who don’t like tomatoes raw. One of my best friends is such a person… I’m looking at you, Tanja! (We’ve somehow managed to remain close friends.) In my house growing up, we ate tomatoes off the vine like you would a fresh apple. Just pick and bite right in. If it squirts all over your face and runs down your forearm, you know you have the perfect tomato.

Like any good southerner, l don’t serve a meal during tomato season without a platter of tomatoes. This is as ubiquitous on the dinner table in the South as salt and pepper or bread and butter. I’ve easily made over a hundred of these platters and while the prep is fast and easy, there’s an art to the prep as well, a perfect combination of seasoning and herbs to maximize your tomatoes. I’ve tried many variations and have landed on the best.

So scroll down to find out to prepare your perfect platter of tomatoes. Then keep scrolling for the other perfect use for a perfect tomato… 

Continue reading

Cauliflower Steak

13 Sep

A different kind of steak, but just as wonderful.

Cauli steak dinner

pan roasted cauliflower steak

Last week, we had steak and pasta. This week, a different kind of steak… Cauliflower Steak!

Before you run screaming, these are terrific. Even the staunchest carnivore alive might be surprised to find out how much they like these steaks. And yes I’m calling them steaks because, if you slice them thick and cook them properly (easy) they are steak-y satisfying and quite hearty.

I guess in some ways this has been my year of the cauliflower on the blog. I do love cauliflower — so much — and love many preparations, from a simple oven roast to wonderful soups to, of course, my cauliflower pizza crust, my cauliflower mash (updated, btw, with an additional, killer, preparation) and even my breakfast fried rice, which you can make with cauliflower rice. 

These steaks, however, are different from the other recipes and so satisfying. They make a wonderful fall dinner.

Continue reading

A Favorite Dinner Vol. I

6 Sep

Back from Summer Hiatus with a quick easy dinner I love, steak and pasta.

SteakandPasta

NY Strip with a side of Cacio e Pepe

If I’ve learned anything over the years from favorite chefs like Patricia Wells, Suzanne Goin, Nigel Slater and more, often times when cooking simplicity is best. I may love to make cassoulet over seven days, but I love just as much a simple dinner.

One simple dinner I’ve come to enjoy over the last few years is the combination of steak and pasta. It’s not something I ate growing up; we had a cattle farm so we ate a lot of steak, but we always had steak with a baked potato. Whether loaded with everything or dressed only with butter, salt and pepper, a baked potato is a perfect food, particularly when the inside is moist and tender and the outside crispy as hell. Oh my.  After discovering the wonderful combo of steak and pasta, however, I don’t serve a baked potato with a steak nearly as often.

I believe I was turned onto this combo on my first visit to the LA institution Dan Tana’s. Located next to the equally famous Troubador on Santa Monica Blvd, Dan Tana’s has been open well over fifty years and I dare say will be open well over fifty more. An Italian steakhouse with wonderful cocktails, Dan Tana’s serves up terrific versions of Italian classics (the veal parmigiana, for instance, is to die for) but they also serve the Dabney Coleman, a 20 oz New York Strip that might be the best steak I’ve ever tasted. It comes with a side of pasta and the first time I tried this pairing, I knew I’d be having a lot of steak and pasta from then on. 

Continue reading

Breakfast Fried Rice

30 May

(Your next favorite killer comfort breakfast is good for you and has various tweaks for various diets…)

Breakfast Fried Rice

Breakfast Fried Rice, sans necessary extras

After a few years of On Food and Film (time sure flies!), it must now be obvious how much I love breakfast. Savory breakfast at least. Sure, I’ll eat a pancake or french toast if you shove it in front of me but otherwise, savory breakfast rules.

Well, then. Let me give you a savory comfort breakfast that will satisfy you completely. It’s also fairly healthy and can adapt to a variety of diets.

You see, along with loving breakfast, and chicken, and pasta, and salad, and… I love rice. I’ve mentioned that growing up Cajun the starch that was our staple was white rice not potatoes. Rice is a wonderful vessel for so many things… Gravy! Au jus! Red beans! Butter! Gumbo! Etouffee! When I was in grade school, I loved white rice topped with French’s Yellow Mustard (long story). Oh hell, I still do. But I even love rice all by its lonesome.

I also love fried rice. Once a week growing up in my hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, Mom, Dad, my brother David and I went to The Dragon Inn, a restaurant in downtown Port Arthur run by a wonderful man named Johnny. If you’ve seen the final scene of A Christmas Story, you know what Johnny and the restaurant were like, although The Dragon Inn was a long rectangle shooting in perpendicular fashion back from the street. It had a bar on one side and booths all along the other. Painted on the booth side wall, winding the length of the restaurant, was a single, very long Chinese dragon that enthralled me for years. Johnny is who hooked me on Mu Shu Pork, Sweet and Sour Pork, Beef with Snow Peas and amazing fried rice. 

Back to breakfast: I’ve been working out early mornings as of late, with a terrific trainer named Ryan, who suggested the best time to eat carbs was after a hard workout. When he said, ‘You can even use white rice’ I lit up, given I’ve been avoiding rice lately trying to slim down. His suggestion was the only encouragement I needed and voila! Breakfast Fried Rice was born.

Click here for the recipe: Continue reading

Homemade Crème Fraîche??!!

19 May

(how to make homemade crème fraîche you will eat with a spoon, plus suggested uses and recipes)

CremeFraiche

homemade crème fraîche

I can’t believe I’ve been cooking for years and didn’t know I could make crème fraîche at home with 90 seconds of prep. Well. Now I’m making it at least once a week, if not more, using this incredibly delicious and decadent ‘soured cream’ on everything. 

Less tart and much creamier than sour cream, I’ve used store bought crème fraîche for years. It’s terrific in soup and stews, wonderful on eggs, a better way to make creamy salad dressings, and is the perfect foil for both sweet and spicy dishes: it brings a slight tartness to a sweet dessert, adding depth and balance (how ‘chef’ does that sound!) and tempers a spicy dish, such as my skillet chilaquiles. 

Trust me… give this a try and you will ever after always have a jar of homemade crème fraîche in your fridge. The uses are near innumerable. 

Click here for the recipe: Continue reading