Feeding Frenzy

A professional gastronaut feeds the blogosphere with tales of his culinary adventures - sometimes on-the-job, sometimes just-for-the-hell-of-it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's For Breakfast? (Part One)

Hot Dish began life, conceptually, as a breakfast joint. And there’s an argument to be made that it’s what we did best - except for everything else we did. Anyway, it seems only right to start these articles of recipes from my professional cooking life with breakfast foods from Hot Dish. An article will follow that will explore the same subject as approached by Feeding Frenzy (by the way – that’s where the scone recipe properly belongs even though we served them at Hot Dish). And so:

Breakfast At Hot Dish

The Good Stuff

First of all, as much as I’d love to take full credit for what went right at Hot Dish a lot of the credit fell squarely on the shoulders of the ingredients we used (while I was there). I’ll take a moment to mention a few of the more interesting breakfast ingredients now.

We used 100% maple syrup. After I left in July, 2007 that changed. They started using Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. Hand to God. Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. If you don’t think that people can tell the difference between the real thing and the fake thing – well, you’re wrong. Don’t cut corners on this stuff. Use Mrs. Butterworth’s if you honestly prefer it, but don’t pretend to yourself that it’s as good as maple syrup. My partner Craig is from New Hampshire. I thought he was going to have an aneurysm when we discovered they’d made this particular change. He’s okay now. A couple years of therapy, a few glasses of wine – he’s right as rain.

We served Greek-style yoghurt. It was alive with flavor. I mean really, literally alive. And it lit up your mouth. The one we used was Greek God’s honey yoghurt, which is a local brand. But there are all kinds of brands, including ones imported from Greece. Everybody has their favorite.

We cracked every egg we used. Fresh that morning. Go ahead -go ask your typical egg house line cook if they do that. Not even many of the old-timers do it anymore. We did. We had to jump through some hoops to do it, though. The King County Public Health department tried to end the practice but we switched to pasteurized whole eggs and they gave us a variance. Crisis averted. Thank god. I can taste the difference between a fresh egg (even a pasteurized one) and liquid eggs out of a carton and I'll bet you can, too.

We served our vanilla-glazed grilled smoked pork chop at both breakfast and dinner. We cut the chops from kasslers (smoked pork loins) that we got from Bavarian Meat Company. This is a wonderful pork loin. Just the right amount of fat. Just the right amount of smoke. We made a vanilla simple syrup and we dropped the chops into that and let them soak for, oh, a day or so at least. Then we grilled the chops to order – for grill-marks, mostly, and to heat them through - basting them frequently with butter. Were they good? Are you kidding me?

The recipe for simple syrup goes like this: equal parts sugar and water. Combine these in a saucepan and heat, stirring all the while, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the water is absolutely clear again. Add vanilla extract to taste. Use enough vanilla extract to turn the syrup the color of fairly strong tea. Don't boil it. Let it cool completely before adding the meat to it. Refridgerate the loins while they soak.

By the way: you get the chance, try the bacon from Bavarian Meats. Tom Douglas is using it, I hear. It's amazing. I tried to get it on our menu but was over-ruled.

One of my favorite breakfasts at Hot Dish was the Greek omelet. This is how we made it:

We made a folded omelet in the usual way. Just before folding it we spread it with hummous and then filled it with fresh spinach (not cooked – not even wilted), feta cheese and sliced kalamata olives. Fold. Serve with fruit and potatoes. Or not.

I added the hummous to the mix when I was typing out the original menu. I sat here in front of the same computer I’m sitting at now wanting to separate our Greek omelet from everyone else’s without making it fusion-y – and the inspiration just fell into place. The hummous was like a missing link. By the way, my recipe for hummous is right here.

Since leaving Hot Dish, I’ve discovered Ajvar (an Indo-European pepper and eggplant spread). I spread that onto my Greek omelets along with the hummous now and the results are spectacular. I use hot Ajvar, but mild Ajvar would work just as well. By the way, you can get Ajvar at PFI. As I sit here, I realize that I want to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the fillings just before I fold the omelet. You try that at home. Lemme know how it goes.

And then there was Oatmeal.

Rebecca Denn said in her review of Hot Dish that we really should have called the oatmeal something else. It had transcended its essential oatmealiness and needed a new name. Never mind. It was oatmeal. I'll admit it was pretty over-the top. This is how you make it:

Use 1 part steel cut oats to four parts very lightly salted water (1/2 teaspoon of salt for every quart of water).

Combine these ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes or so, again stirring occasionally. When it’s a nice, thick oatmeal consistency, spread it no more than an inch thick onto a shallow baking pan. A jelly roll pan will work. Cool the oats completely in the refridgerator. So far this is something like making polenta for grilling, right?

Now bear with me while I digress slightly. This is what’s in my lemon curd: 12 large egg yolks, 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 6 ounces unsalted butter (very soft), a pinch of salt, 9 fluid ounces lemon juice and 2 tablespoons lemon zest (finely grated). I can’t emphasize enough that the eggs should be fresh, the butter should be sweet and unsalted and the lemon juice should be squeezed just before you make the curd.

Here are the instructions for the curd: in a saucepan, cream together the eggs, the butter and the sugar. When I say “cream together”, I mean that I want you to mix them together until they form an homogenous and smooth glob. Do not beat air into the mixture. You want use the sugar and butter to protect the eggs from the cooking action of the lemon juice, which you add only once the creaming together of the first three ingredients is done. When you add the lemon juice, also add your pinch of salt.

Slowly, patiently heat the pan, stirring all the while and using a candy thermometer to gauge the curd’s progress. Stir deeply into the corners with a heat-resistant “rubber” spatula (I think most of these are actually silicone now). Keep stirring until the thermometer reads about 205 – 210 degrees. Don’t let the curd turn into scrambled eggs. Don’t beat air into the curd. Stir it gently but thoroughly and for goodness sake don’t let it get too hot too fast.

When you’re done it should be thick enough to coat the spatula – and a lovely translucent yellow.

This is the point at which you add the lemon zest. If you add it before you cook the curd, it will turn orange and you don’t want that. It looks funny. Add the zest at the end. But don't forget the zest.

Pour your curd into a nice shallow dish and let it cool in the fridge. Once it was cold we stored our curd in a squeeze bottle. That worked pretty well.

So now we’re ready to make Hot Dish Oatmeal. You take yourself an 8 or 12 ounce ceramic gratin dish. Or whatever nice, ovenproof individual serving bowl you have handy. Line it with a generous puddle of lemon curd. How big the puddle should be is your call. If you’re trying to duplicate Hot Dish Oatmeal, just use your best judgement as to how much lemon curd to use. Then add about 50% more.

Now cut your chunk (or slab) of steel cut oats. Our oat chunks were in the neighborhood of 3” wide by 5” long by not quite 1” tall. Whatever size your oatslab is, set it tenderly onto your lemon curd pool. Bake it like that until it’s warmed through. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes in a conventional oven at about 350 degrees. It takes much less time in the microwave oven and it’s very nearly as good – just wrap it in cling wrap prior to heating it if you use the microwave oven.

Once it’s hot, take it out of the oven and sprinkle it with dried cranberries (plenty of them – this is a Hot Dish breakfast you’re making) and then drizzle the whole works liberally with crème fraiche (which you can purchase from most higher-end grocery stores now). If you don’t have crème fraiche you can use good yoghurt (see above) or sweetened sour cream. But get the crème fraiche.

A final note: you might like your oatmeal a little chewier. I do. In that case, use three parts water to one part steel cut oats. Otherwise the instructions are the same.

Gingerbread Pancakes

These guys were rock stars. They really were. None of the reviews mentioned them, but they had a huge fan base among our guests. And when I mentioned on my Facebook page that I planned to post Hot Dish recipes, the Gingerbread Pancakes recipe was requested almost at once. So here it is.

But before I give the ingredients, I think it’s fair to mention that it’s a better dish if you use fresh ginger in place of the dried ground ginger. Fresh ginger lends the dish a nice citrus/spice bite that it just doesn’t quite have with the stuff in the jar. We used the stuff in the jar at the restaurant, though. You decide: do you stick with authenticity or do you improve the dish? If you use fresh-grated ginger, remember that it is actually milder in some ways than dried. You can increase the amount used up to (and even more than, if you like) 4 to 1, fresh over dried. It will change the end product, so you might want to experiment with it a little first.

Anyway: Gingerbread Pancakes

3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups flour (the precise conversion we used was 1 5/6 cups but who measures like that?)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground clove
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 or 2 tablespoons milk

Cream together the eggs and brown sugar. Add the buttermilk, water, molasses, and coffee, and stir until smooth. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly mixed.

Combine wet and dry ingredients with the melted butter. Add just enough milk to make a pourable batter – if necessary. Make these just exactly the way you would ordinarily make pancakes. Use a nice, hot, well-oiled cooking surface. At home we use a cast iron griddle that Craig seasoned with rendered fat from Prosciutto di Parma and that's what I suggest you use, too.

Serve with custard sauce (crème Anglaise – see below) in a cruet on the side. People will ask for maple syrup, too. Go ahead and give it to them - in a cruet on the side. Real maple syrup though, or Craig will jump all over your case about it and you want no part of that. Oh - and while you're at it, use real butter, will you?

Custard Sauce (crème Anglaise)

3/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
2 each large egg yolks
dash salt

Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk over medium heat, scraping the pan occasionally, until somewhat thickened. Cool.

I'll take our attention from breakfast for the moment and focus it on dessert long enough to talk about Ginger Poofs. The affable, frankly adorable juvenile delinquent who practically lived at Hot Dish – sometimes as a server, sometimes as a dishwasher, sometimes as a carpenter – came up with the genius idea of dropping the batter for Gingerbread Pancakes into deep fat and cooking them as fritters. HOT deep fat is necessary (at least 350 degrees F) and the whole thing would work a little better if the batter was just a little drier. So back off the liquid ingredients just a little if you make the fritter version of this recipe.

The results, called Ginger Poofs, are ridiculously good. We dusted them in confectioners sugar (although I think I’d have preferred superfine baker’s sugar instead) and served them with Whipped Cream. They’d have been great with berries. They’d have been great with a little lemon curd. They’d have been great with ice cream.

If you don’t mind the mess, try them at home. Serve them hot.

This would be a good time to acknowledge the suggestions and creativity of many of the Hot Dish staff. Their contributions were invaluable.

One final note? This isn't diet food. But that’s between you and your cardiologist.


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