Tortilla breakfast

November 12, 2017

OK, so it fell apart. It was good. Especially with oranges.

It’s been years since I made a tortilla, but I was in the notion for one recently, so I made it.

Child B is here, and she’s gluten intolerant, so I have to think a bit when it comes to breakfast goodies for her. I was contemplating latkes Friday morning, but that was more trouble than it was worth. And somebody had posted on the food forum about making a tortilla. And I thought, “Yeah. That.”

So I set about doing same. Truth be told, it was probably as much trouble as making latkes, but, hey, the flavor profile was what I wanted.

I peeled four potatoes, sliced them thin and boiled them in salted water for a few minutes, until they were barely soft. I drained them, and layered them in what started out as a nice spiral in the pan.

Which, by the way, was the 10-inch Lodge carbon steel skillet I bought back in May. Finally got those suckers seasoned. I love them. Get you some.

Layer 1, potatoes and proscuitto.

Anyway. I put a layer of potatoes, and then I added half of the proscuitto that I’d cut into strips. Put another layer of potatoes, and added some more proscuitto. I let them cook on medium heat until they’d started to brown on the bottom. Then I beat up four eggs with a little half in half, added in some paprika and a cup and a half or so of grated romano, and poured that over them.

Note to self. Use six eggs next time. Four was a bit skimpy.

Leave that skillet alone! Let those eggs cook!

The key at this point is to leave the damn skillet alone. Let the eggs cook, undisturbed, until they start to look set around the edges. Then, gently, push the edge of the tortilla  away from the edge of the pan, tilt the pan, and let the uncooked egg run into the gap. Do that all the way around the pan, and then leave it alone some more. You’re still on medium heat, here. It’s gonna take a LONG time to burn.

Once there’s no more liquid egg lingering around the surface, get a plate. Carefully slide your spatula under the tortilla to loosen it all over, then tilt the pan and slide it out onto the plate. Put a little more oil — not much — into the skillet. Invert the skillet over the plate, and, with hot pads in both hands, grab hold on each side and flip that sucker over. If all goes as it should, the uncooked side of the tortilla will wind up in the pan, and you’ll have a lovely browned surface looking at you.

Browned yum, right there. Would look better with more eggs.

Let that side cook for another 3-4 minutes, and slide it back out onto the plate. Let it cool for just a minute or two, and carve it into wedges. If I hadn’t been too skimpy on the eggs, it would have retained some structural integrity and made a nice wedge.

Like a quiche, these things are great an hour or two later, at room temp, so make it whenever you please. With some fruit and a muffin, it’s a pretty classy brunch. It ain’t a bad breakfast on its own.

When you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em are in the notion for something different for breakfast, try this. There’s no reason you can’t customize it the way you want; change up the meat, change up the spice, add some onion or other veggies, change up the cheese. Just don’t skimp on the eggs.




Breads, fast and slow

November 10, 2017

Sweet potato pecan bread. Good toasted with butter.

I love bread.

That’s a rather odd thing, seeing that I grew  up not eating it very much. My mother was diabetic, and could eat very little bread, so we didn’t as a rule have bread with a lot of meals. Daddy had to have bread with a meal, but was perfectly happy with a slice of sandwich bread from the Sunbeam loaf, and I could do without that. I have, in fact, often tended to eat the insides of sandwiches and leave the bread, unless it was integral to the structure (think PB&J).

Now, I’d always happily eat a biscuit or cornbread or a yeast roll if it were available, but Mama was not, in general, a bread baker, except for rolls on holidays. And I wasn’t one, either.

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A fine breakfast, this is. Trust me.

Next time you’ve got some leftover ham, do this.

Then you can call me and thank me. Or just send money.

Take a couple of decent sized chunks of it the spiral slicer didn’t get to, cut it into pieces about an inch or so square, and toss it into the food processor. Pulse it a few times, until it’s coarsely ground with no big chunks left, but not pureed. You need about a cup and a half of it.

Grate about two cups of your cheese of choice. I like smoked Gouda. Monterey Jack, Swiss or even Cheddar would work well, as would fontina or Havarti. Or use whatever you like.

Take a half a recipe of bread dough. I used half of Miz Mary Loyd Young’s yeast rolls recipe, which will make two dozen dinner rolls or two one-pound loaves of bread. Use the other half for, oh, I don’t know, rolls? Bread? Or make cinnamon rolls out of it.

Roll the dough out into as nearly a rectangle as you can approximate. Aim for about 12 by 18 inches, with your dough somewhere between a half and one inch thick. Push the ends and sides back in to make it more rectangular if you need to.

Sprinkle the ground ham evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the cheese over that. Start rolling like you were making cinnamon rolls, from a long side. Pinch the seam closed when you get to it. Pinch the ends closed as well.

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Back to our friend, the pig

November 6, 2017

Ham with his mustard and brown sugar glaze, ready to go in the oven.

I’ve been craving ham.

Specifically, I’ve been craving ham and cheese rolls that you make like cinnamon rolls, and I have a batch of dough I saved from yesterday’s yeast rolls in the fridge, and that will be happening soon. But to get to the marvelous byproducts of the ham, one must first have a ham.

We’ve been eating Honeybaked Ham for the last several Christmases and Easters, but I didn’t want to plunk down that kind of money, plus I really didn’t want the sweet taste that permeates the ham (and is very good, but just not what I wanted). I had heard several friends talk favorably about the spiral sliced hams at Aldi, so that’s what I got.

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The skinny on thinfish

October 30, 2017

Thinfish. Nothing skinny about the taste.

Logic and a familiarity with fried catfish will tell you that filets need to not be too thin in order to avoid overcooking them when you deep fry them.

Reality will tell you to chunk that supposition over your shoulder when you’re heading in the door at Middendorf’s Restaurant in Manchac, La., where “thinfish,” catfish filets sliced about 1/4 inch thick, are breaded in an impossibly light, almost tempura except that it isn’t, breading and fried in what must be a screamingly hot fryer to a level of light golden crispy perfection on the outside, and moist, creamy fish inside.

Think catfish chips.

On second thought, don’t think. Just eat. Before they get cold.

Lots of fish fried here since the mid-1930s.

Manchac, a tiny group of houses and boat docks on the northern shore of Lake Ponchartrain, just off Interstate 55, would be a blink in the rear-view were it not for Middendorf’s, which has been packing them in for lunch and dinner since the mid-1930s. They serve regular catfish filets as well, along with the full menu of shellfish that any self-respecting south Louisiana eatery will offer, but it’s the thinfish they’re known for, and it’s the thinfish that brings the crowds off the interstate.

We stopped shortly after noon on a Saturday, and were promised a table would be available shortly; were given a pager that’d summon us. We spent maybe five minutes perusing the T-shirts, alligators and frozen goodies in the shop before it buzzed.

Had I not been set on trying thinfish, I’d have been most tempted by the Oktoberfest menu, albeit that was really a dinner, and not lunch, menu. But I wanted thinfish, and thinfish I would have. I asked for a small order.

I’d have hated to see a large order. Mine had three filets which, had they been flattened out (they curl up a bit when fried) would been the size of a trade paperback book, or my two hands outstretched and laid side by side. They came with hushpuppies, fries and slaw, as well as cocktail and tartar sauce; my request for lemon wedges quickly brought me a dish of half a dozen of them.

Let’s get the less-than-stellar out of the way first. The slaw was OK. It’s creamy, mayo-based with a good bit of vinegar, fairly sweet. Adequate. Comes, for some reason, with a dill pickle chip perched on top of it. The hushpuppies were OK. Decent flavor, fairly coarse texture. Some jalapeno, but minced fine enough so’s not to be objectionable. The fries were pretty good, and came from a real potato.

The fish. The fish was just damn well heavenly.

Those filets were lighter than air — I’m surprised, on reflection, they didn’t float off the plate. Light golden tan. Ethereally light breading that was almost like, but not quite, tempura. Inside, a thin, thin layer of moist, creamy fish. Damned if I know how they do it. I’m just glad they do.

I got through two and a half of those three filets before having to give up the ghost. Lord have mercy, but that was some of the best catfish I’ve ever had in my life.

Next time you’re going to or coming from the Big Easy, time it so you’ve got some time, and some space left in your tummy, for a stop at Manchac. You can’t miss Middendorf’s. And you shouldn’t. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em need thinfish in your life.


Seafood safari

October 29, 2017

Perennial Gulf Coast fave — shrimp and crab au gratin from Mary Mahoney’s.

Just got back in town from a jaunt to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans, which included a significant number of calories contained in some excellent meals.

As beach trips go, it was not the greatest. I’m not crazy about the Mississippi Sound beaches (no waves!), though an excursion on a shrimp boat was entertaining. But I gambled for several hours over two days on thirty bucks before I lost it all, and ate several memorable meals as some old and new favorite restaurants, so on the whole I call it a success.

We started things out at lunch on the road in Jackson, Miss., with a stop off at Lou’s Full Serve, tucked in behind a grocery store near downtown. It may be hidden, but it’s no secret — place was packed when we got there between 11:30 and 12. Extensive sandwich menu, extensive salad menu, and a daily blue plate special. Wednesday’s was meat loaf.

Well, now, y’all know me and meat loaf. People, this was MEAT LOAF. They brought me a full half-pound portion of it, coated in a marvelous tomatoey-ketchupy glaze, with nary a nasty bell pepper lurking anywhere about it, and it was GOOD, I am here to tell you. Sweet Baby Jesus good. It came with lima beans and mashed potatoes which benefitted greatly by the addition of a tad of bacon. I got through all the veggies and three-quarters of the meat loaf, and looked at the little waitress with absolute disbelief when she inquired about dessert.

Lucky I was riding and not driving. I may well have napped en route from Jackson to the Coast. Short story: Lou’s deserves its No. 1 place on the Yelp ranking for lunch spots in Jackson, and I’ll go back.

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What season is this, again?

October 22, 2017

Market haul from yesterday: Tomatoes, muscadines, cucumbers, and fall strawberries!

If there are strawberries, it must be spring, yes?


Made a whirlwind dash through the Farmers Market (next week is the last one for the season, and I won’t be here, and I did want a final batch of tomatoes), and found…fall strawberries. I have been around gardening and farming most of my life, and I had never heard of such.

The berry people said they’d bought seedling plants in the spring, and held some of the plants in the cooler all summer. The seedlings, thinking it was winter, went dormant.  Once the hot weather passed, they planted them. Seedlings thought, due to our long, warm fall, “Oh! It must be time to do our thing!” So they grew, bloomed, and grew fruit.

Damndest thing I ever saw in my life. Well worth me paying $4 a quart for them (local berries? in late October? you better believe it!), no matter strawberries from Mexico or somewhere were two quarts for $4 at the grocery.

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