My Love for the Chicken

Can I please tell you that I love this stuff so much, I just slather it on bread and eat it?  I love hot sauce in general, but this stuff is the bomb.  Where have you been all my life, Huy Fong?

The first time I ever had this was when I was doing a week-long river rafting tour down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho a few years ago.  We had these awesome guides that would set up our tents each night and cook us three incredible meals a day while we fished , hiked and rafted all day.  The first morning at breakfast, the main guide was putting out the spread and was worried because he couldn’t find ‘the chicken sauce.”  I was getting worried because the last thing I’m eating for breakfast is eggs with chicken sauce as I  have a serious problem with eggs and chicken in the same meal – it seems wrong on many levels.  Turns out “the chicken sauce” was Huy Fong brand Siriacha chili sauce.  He found it, I tried it, and I’ve probably consumed 10 gallons of it since then.

The sauce is a Vietnamese-inspired sauce made from red jalapeño peppers, garlic, sugar, salt and vinegar invented by Huy Fong Food’s founder, David Tran.  He took the sauce one step further by making it his own concoction and marketed it a “sauce for everyone” instead of just for the Asian community.   There have been many imitators over the years, but no one beats Huy Fong brand.

I eat it on everything: soups, sandwiches, pizza, potatoes, sushi – you name it.  But, for some reason (must be the rooster on the label) it goes the best with eggs in any form.  Now, if they make a cocktail out of this, I may have to give up the rum.

Just kidding.

( If you’re interested, here’s an interesting article about the sauce, from the New York Times from last year._

World’s Best Meatloaf, 1955

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Who knew that Miracle Whip makes the “World’s Best Meatloaf?”  Frankly, I think the only miracle about Miracle Whip is that people actually think it tastes better than  mayonnaise.  I think it has something to do with what you had as a child – most people I know that love the Whip are those whose Mom made tuna salad (or some equally mayonnaise-y thing) with it.  (Or, someone who had more than six siblings…)  To me, it tastes like mixing sour cream and sugar together and I really hate it.  But, to each his own – I like to eat dry Lipton’s Noodle Soup Mix right out of the envelope, so what do I know?

Anyway, if you like the MW, then have at this 1955 meatloaf recipe which proclaims to be the “World’s Best!”  I have to say, I am loving the crinkle-cut beets – I might have to try that sometime.  And, who doesn’t love a ring of meat filled with mashed potatoes?  That just seems un-American.

Foods I Love: Croque Madame

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There is nothing better on this Earth than a really good Croque Madame.  I had my first Croque Madame via room service in the Sofitel Hotel in Chicago.  It was heavenly and I have been searching for one as good as that one in the US since.  They have since taken it off the menu at the Sofitel, so the search goes on.  (I did have a few while in France last year, and as with anything else, some were incredible and some were inedible.)  All in all, it’s a hard sandwich to screw up – as long as you use the right ingredients – since it’s basically a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich.

The original grilled sandwich, minus the fried egg on top, is known as a Croque Monsieur – which loosely translates into “Mister Crunch.”  The Croque Madame has the fried egg, which resembles a little hat, or so the story goes.  It is not true that a Croque Madame is made with chicken instead of ham or mornay sauce instead of béchamel.  The only difference between the two is the egg – but to me it makes all the difference in the world.

  • TRADITIONAL CROQUE MADAME
    Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
    Serves 4
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 8 slices sweet batard bread, each 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 8 slices Black Forest or Jambon de Paris ham
  • 4 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is pale golden, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Simmer, continuing to whisk, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the 1/2 tsp. salt plus black pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Set the béchamel sauce aside.
  2. Preheat a panini press to 375ºF or medium according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Brush one side of each bread slice with oil. Place the slices, oiled side down, on a clean work surface. Spread the mustard on 4 of the slices and top each with 2 slices of ham, folding the ham if necessary to keep it even with the edges of the bread. Spread the béchamel sauce evenly over the ham and sprinkle the cheese on top, dividing evenly. Top each with one of the remaining bread slices, oiled side up.
  4. Place the sandwiches on the preheated panini press and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. When the butter foams, break the eggs into the pan, spacing them about 1 inch apart. If using egg rings, spray the inside of 4 rings with nonstick cooking spray, place in the pan and break an egg into each ring. Season the eggs with salt and black pepper. Cook until the whites are firm, about 3 minutes. Remove the egg rings, if using. Flip the eggs over and continue cooking until the whites are cooked through but the yolks are still runny, about 1 minute more.
  6. Slide an egg onto each sandwich, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Tatchos!

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I’ve been busy today working since much of my day yesterday was spent collecting, wrapping, taping, boxing and shipping a box of poo.  So, I’ve had this lovely shot of “tatchos” sitting on my desktop for awhile and thought I’d share.

Tatchos: n. |ˈtä ch ōz| Nachos made with Tater Tots!

Is there anything better than Tater Tots?  I think not!  Tater Tots were invented in 1954 by the Ore-Ida potato company.  According to the company, Americans consume over 70 million pounds of Tater Tots annually. (Mostly in Mississippi, I’m guessing.)

Foods I Love: Biscuits & Gravy

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Lord help me, but how I love a big plate of Biscuits & Gravy.  Could there be anything worse for you on the planet?  No, that’s why it tastes so good.

Biscuits and Gravy is the quintessential Southern breakfast – made with fluffy hot biscuits and white floury gravy over the top.  The gravy must have the perfect mixture of grease and spice, as there is nothing worse than gloppy, tasteless white glue atop your biscuits.  And, you must have your biscuits and gravy from either a well-versed Southern home cook, or a small greasy spoon diner – if you eat biscuits and gravy out of a box from the supermarket, then I am afraid you are a tool.

I searched the web for a good biscuits and gravy recipe, and figured the best one would be from Southern Living as their readers wouldn’t stand for an inferior version.  Enjoy!

 

Gravy:

Yield

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 8  ounces  pork sausage
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/3  cups  milk
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  pepper

Preparation

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove sausage, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet.

Whisk flour into hot drippings until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened. Stir in sausage, salt, and pepper.

 

Biscuits:

Yield

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1/2  cup  cold butter
  • 2 1/4  cups  self-rising soft-wheat flour
  • 1 1/4  cups  buttermilk
  • Self-rising soft-wheat flour
  • 2  tablespoons  melted butter

Preparation

1. Cut butter with a sharp knife or pastry blender into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle butter slices over flour in a large bowl. Toss butter with flour. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender until crumbly and mixture resembles small peas. Cover and chill 10 minutes. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed. With floured hands, press or pat dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour. Fold dough over onto itself in 3 sections, starting with 1 short end. (Fold dough rectangle as if folding a letter-size piece of paper.) Repeat entire process 2 more times, beginning with pressing into a 3/4-inch-thick dough rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches).

3. Press or pat dough to 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place, side by side, on a parchment paper-lined or lightly greased jelly-roll pan. (Dough rounds should touch.)

4. Bake at 450° for 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; brush with 2 Tbsp. melted butter.

 

 

Eggs Benedict: Best Invention Ever.

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God, I love Eggs Benedict.  I completely hate poached eggs in any other incarnation, but when they are nestled atop a toasted english muffin with Canadian bacon and the perfect Hollandaise sauce – pure heaven!  I think I first fell for the Benedict in college when I dated a guy that worked at the Pour la France chain in Aspen where they had three or four different benedicts on the menu.  I used to sit at the bar and get them for free, so I ate one practically every day he was working. (I also discovered the Mimosa this way.)  My favorite was the Veggie Benedict, which was avocado & tomato instead of bacon. The guy was a total tool – I think I kept on seeing him because I enjoyed the free Benedicts.  Yes, I was an Eggs Benedict Whore.

Anyway, my love affair with the Eggs Benedict has endured long past my days in Aspen.  When you get a really good Eggs Benedict, there is nothing better.  When you get a bad Eggs Benedict, there is nothing worse.  The best Eggs Benedict I have ever had was at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida.   The secret to great Eggs Benedict really lies in the Hollandaise, an unforgiving sauce that you must make from scratch – anything in a bottle is nothing short of an abomination.  I have had the best luck with the basic Hollandaise found in the eponymous Mastering the Art of French Cooking from one Julia Child.  I have included her sauce below, along with her recipe for classic Eggs Benedict.

 

 
FOR THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or more, if needed
6 to 8 ounces very soft unsalted butter
Salt
Freshly ground white pepper

FOR POACHED EGGS
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar per 2 quarts water
4 large eggs, the fresher the better

FOR THE EGGS BENEDICT
4 slices English-muffin halves
Butter
4 thin slices Canadian bacon
Thin slices of black truffle (optional)
warm poached eggs
1 cup Hollandaise Sauce

MAKE THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

  1. Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in the saucepan for a few moments, until thick and pale (this prepares them for what is to come).
  2.  Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan, where the eggs tend to overcook. To moderate the heat, frequently move the pan off the burner for a few seconds, and then back on. (If, by chance, the eggs seem to be cooking too fast, set the pan in the bowl of cold water to cool the bottom, then continue.) As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat.
  3. By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. As the emulsion forms, you may add the butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed. Continue incorporating butter until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you want.
  4.  Season lightly with salt and a dash of cayenne pepper, whisking in well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Serve lukewarm.

POACH THE EGGS

  1. Fill the pan with water to a depth of 2 inches or so, add the vinegar, and bring to a slow boil.
  2. Rapidly crack and open each egg into the water, holding the shell as close to the surface as possible. The eggs will cool the water; adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer. After a few moments, when the whites have just begun to set, drag the back of the slotted spoon gently across the top of the eggs, to move them off the pan bottom so they don’t stick. Cook the eggs for about 4 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
  3. To test for doneness, lift 1 egg from the water with the slotted spoon and press both white and yolk. The whites should feel fully set but not too firm, and the yolks very soft. Poach longer for firmer eggs.
  4. When set the way you like them, remove the eggs from the saucepan with the slotted spoon or strainer and immerse them in a bowl of warm tap water to wash off the vinegar. Set the spoon on a clean towel (or folded paper towels) for a moment to remove excess water, and serve eggs immediately.

ASSEMBLE THE EGGS BENEDICT

  1. Just before serving, toast the bread circles or muffins lightly, butter both sides, and warm the ham and the optional truffle slices in a frying pan with a tablespoon of butter.
  2. Center a toast round on each warm serving plate; cover with a slice of ham and then a poached egg. Spoon hollandaise sauce generously over each egg and top with an optional warm truffle slice. Serve immediately.