Posts Tagged ‘eggs


mis migas: autenticas o no?

Late night –> slow morning –> lazy breakfast.

Are these migas? All the elements are there: stale tortilla chips (the eponymous migas, or crumbs), eggs, cheese, salsa picante. Does it matter that the salsa is the liquid variety (Tapatio, specifically), rather than pico-like? How much does that change the identity of the dish? If I’d had a jar of Mrs. Renfro’s or Green Mountain Gringo in the fridge and had used that instead, would my breakfast have been more authentic? What if I had ginned up my own salsa? It’s what I would have done if there’d been onions and canned tomatoes in the pantry. (I really need to get to the grocery store.) And would my salsa have been even more authentic if I’d had fresh tomatoes instead of canned?

In The Farmstead Egg Cookbook, Boston suburbanite Terry Golson presents her recipe for huevos rancheros with an apology: “I don’t claim that these are totally authentic huevos rancheros, but they are delicious and very easy to make.” She fries an egg, puts it on top of a fried corn tortilla, and tops that with salsa from a jar and some queso fresco (more authentic than my cheddar). Clearly it’s the ease of the dish that worries her, but I also remember reading about someone of a similar background to Golson’s seeing a Mexican woman cooking a sauce from scratch for a breakfast dish and being slightly appalled at the effort required. (It’s not that hard, really, if you have the ingredients on hand.) It seemed primitive and patriarchal, and not something that a busy, modern woman could take home to the US.

How should we judge the authenticity of Mexican or Tex-Mex egg breakfasts, parvenus to the public faces of both cuisines? In Que vivan los tamales, Jeffrey Pilcher reports Marilyn Tausend’s finding that “The habit of eating eggs for breakfast, when transferred [through mid-century tourism] from the United States to Mexico, stimulated creative experimentation rather than slavish imitation. In searching for national counterparts to Eggs Benedict, Mexican chefs served huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) fried with tomato-and-chile sauce, huevos albañiles (bricklayers’ eggs) scrambled with a similar sauce, and huevos motuleños (from Motul, Yucatán) fried with beans, ham, and peas. Soon, no hotel with pretensions to luxury could neglect its own ‘traditional’ egg dish on the breakfast menu.”

The taint of Americanism seems to be one of the factors that earns Tex-Mex scorn from Diana Kennedy and her followers. Does the fact that these egg dishes are a product of U.S. tourism make them any less authentically Mexican? They did originate in Mexico, after all. You can’t get much more “authentic” or “interior” than the Yucatán. Does the fact that they are innovations, rather than traditional dishes, make them less authentic?

Whatever the answers, my lazy migas were very tasty.


How come I cook so little Tex-Mex?

The world gets in the way sometimes. Today there were two ingredients lurking in the fridge, incompatible with Tex-Mex but threatening to go bad: broccoli and an open tin of sardines, just one used in a salad dressing yesterday.

Even though I’d told John-Paul I’d come up with something, my thoughts kept straying. We had sweet potatoes: I could make my grandmother’s chicken with sweet potato dressing. Just sweet potatoes, potatoes, butter, piloncillo, cinnamon, cumin, onions, pecans, raisins, and a little salt. Okay, we don’t have pecans, but wouldn’t the hazelnuts left over from yesterday’s salad be delicious in it?

Yes, they would. But you have broccoli and sardines.

All right… How about thawing some ground meat and making chili mac? That sounds yummy.

Yes, it does. But you work tomorrow, and chili mac will be super easy to make when you get home. You should save it, and right now while you can still manage some creativity, focus on the broccoli and sardines in your fridge.

Okay, sure, broccoli and sardines… I’ll just go get some chicken, and we’ll have arroz con pollo.

No! Focus, would you?! Broccoli and sardines! Broccoli and sardines!

I used the sardines in a Piedmontese sauce called bagna cauda (hot bath), which I got from one of the egg cookbooks I’ve been reading. Melt three tablespoons butter and soften three cloves minced garlic in it. Add most of a can of sardines and 2/3 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Pull from the heat. Add salt and pepper; taste and decide it’s somehow even richer than you’d imagined, so add the juice of half a lime and a handful of chopped parsley. This makes an obscene amount for two people, but I plan on scrambling eggs and toasting bread in the leftovers.

Tonight, the bagna cauda topped broccoli and plain risotto. Since I had a batch of black beans (for weekend work lunches) simmering in the pot that fits the steamer basket, I blanched the broccoli in a smaller pot. I drained that into a bowl so that I could use the broccoli water as the broth for the risotto. I browned the rice in a little of the bagna cauda but otherwise added nothing but salt, pepper, parmesan, and a pinch of dry yellow mustard.



Here is my molcajete:

It’s of authentic Swedish post-modern design, because I never could figure out a good way to move a Texan model halfway across the continent. But this time, someone offered to pay movers to haul this Ikea one all the way from one coast to the other. Fine by me.

Sometimes, though, I use this set up for small jobs–like grinding coriander seeds and lemon zest to season last night’s sweet potato and broccoli frittata. Ikea pinch bowl, tail end of an unbranded juicer.

The frittata, by the way, though delicious, was the one dish in which the Clark Summit eggs have disappointed. Everything I’ve read led me to believe that fresh eggs from happy chickens would cook up much fluffier than other eggs, but this was one flat frittata.


things that are good for the soul

Slept in this morning (quarter til 8), then scrambled two 68-cent Clark Summit eggs, one of which was a pretty blue Araucana. Cooked them in duck fat left over from the holidays, finished them with black truffle salt. Ate them while gazing out the kitchen window: camellias, roses, weeping birch, orange tree, banana tree, palm.

Counting the per-egg price reminded me of my best episode of haggling while I lived in Guatemala–where it is not uncommon to buy eggs individually. I was asked to go to the market to buy fruit for the snack at a workshop I was helping out with. I finished shopping–a little friendly haggling here and there–and found myself toting probably 25 pounds of food, half a mile from where I needed to be. I asked one of the (usually long-haul) pick-up drivers how much he’d charge for the trip. He quoted me 40 quetzales, or $5–as much as it would cost to go 20 miles. I stared at him, told him to stop messing with me, and picked up the bags to go, even though it was clear I would never make it. He grinned and lowered his price to 5 quetzales. Which I accepted.

Jenny texted during breakfast, and we met at Atlas Cafe, where we talked about relationships and she gave me a bottle of apple cider syrup. I first had it a few weeks ago with a beautiful, crunchy cornmeal waffle at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland. I have plans tonight to try the syrup over ice cream.


farm fresh eggs

I just ate my first Clark Summit Farm eggs this morning, in anticipation of a bike ride. They were very orange, and very yummy. Also, priced like spun gold–I’ll think of it as 68 cents per egg, which doesn’t sound as bad as $8.10 per dozen.


East Austin urban farms tour

On April 11, I took a tour of four East Austin urban farms. At Boggy Creek, the grande dame of East Austin farms, I asked Carol Ann whether her eggs vary by season, and she said no–Austin grows yummy things for chickens to eat year-round, and in fact, winter’s cole crops make “fabulous” eggs. Carol Ann also protects her chickens from predators by stringing solar-powered red LEDs on their coop’s fencing. She says the lights make possums, raccoons, and other pests think “somebody else is already in there doing the job.”

At Boggy Creek I also learned about Treaty Oak Platinum Rum, which the tablers said is distilled in Austin from molasses processed in Texas from Texas-grown sugarcane, and available at Spec’s. They claim their rum is unique in its local sourcing and production, but a Google search turned up three other rums that may rival it. Railean Rum is distilled near Houston from “Gulf Coast” (though perhaps not Texan?) molasses and will be on the market July 1. And Texas-based Au Naturel Spirits distills two rums, also not yet on the market, under the Temptryst label: Cherrywood and Mesquite. No word on the source of Temptryst’s molasses–and no word from any of the companies about who works the cane fields, or under what conditions.

At Hausbar Farm, which supplies all of the eggs for East Side Cafe, I saw Jim Hightower roaming the grounds. At Shady Lane, I admired the clever use of spare parts from the Yellow Bicycle Project, especially this bamboo chicken tractor with a bicycle wheel:

But my favorite story of the day belonged to Springdale Farm, which the owners of Texas Trees and Landscape founded about a year and a half ago as their business began to suffer from the recession. The urban farm would give owners and employees alike something to do and, they hoped, a new revenue stream. In fact, the farm had to expand due to its success in selling its produce through a farm stand, CSAs, and contracts with local chefs. Although they at first feared that Boggy Creek would see them as interlopers, Carol Ann was happy to be their mentor, and sales at both farms have been brisk. Said a friend of the owners, “There’s a market here that just really wants this.”

And despite my strong misgivings about the disconnect between urban farmers and most farm workers, the phrase “my soul feels fed” crossed my mind and wouldn’t leave as I walked between Springdale and Hausbar, pausing to block a runaway soccer ball and kick it back to the kids playing with it in the street.

More pictures here.

Also, a belated thanks to Mission Local for yesterday’s link to Stuff White People Like.


Red Beans and Rice (and cascarones)

We’re still without a pressure cooker, but today is slow and rainy, so I made red beans and rice in the hope of having leftovers to last into the busy week ahead.

I followed the Joy of Cooking’s recipe, more or less, which calls for 2 cups of red beans, 8 cups of water, a cup each of finely chopped celery and onion, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, a teaspoon each of dried oregano, thyme, and white pepper (I used black), two bay leaves, and a half teaspoon red pepper flakes. As well as a ham hock and a cup of finely chopped green bell pepper, neither of which I had. So I minced a small pile of pickled jalapeño to take the place of the bell pepper (more to my taste, anyway). To compensate for the missing ham hock, I added a scant tablespoon of salt to the cooking water, as well as the 3/4 cup or so of mushroom-soaking liquid left over from this wonderful meal J-P made last weekend.

These were good substitutions, but when I sniffed, the overall effect was surprisingly vegetal. Herbal. Not what I’m looking for in red beans. So I added a teaspoon dried parsley and a half teaspoon yellow mustard powder (a flavor-boosting combo I recently used to good effect in a potato-leek soup that had to be dairy free), and then a teaspoon smoked paprika, an 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, and a splash of white wine vinegar. Much better.

We served this with andouille sausage over white rice, with a side of kale sauteed with garlic, and Liza brought a chocolate honey cake for dessert.

And I had a present for Liza, who said yesterday that it wouldn’t seem like Easter without cascarones.

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