gallitos (costa rican breakfast tacos)

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Dave lived in New Jersey for half a year while I was finishing up graduate school three hours away in upstate New York. We took turns visiting each other on the weekends, but the weekends in NJ were undoubtedly more fun, because we always took the train into Manhattan. I love Manhattan.

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Just about every meal I’ve eaten in Manhattan has been exceptional, but one of my favorites was at Calle Ocho. We went for brunch and ordered the gallitos. I love tacos any time of the day. Dave and I don’t live as close to Manhattan anymore, so I can’t just go order gallitos whenever I want. But it took me two years to realize that there was nothing stopping me from making them myself.

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I don’t remember the meal exactly, but the menu description helps – “Platter of Traditional Costa Rican Tacos, Scrambled Eggs, Chorizo, Calle Ocho Fries.” I could have sworn there was squash too, and pico de gallo just makes sense.

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I will admit that this recipe is a bit of a project, and not much of it can be prepared in advance. I think it would be great for guests arriving late morning for brunch. Everyone can build their own tacos, which would be fun, and I imagine it’s not something many people have had before. Of course you should serve it with mimosas, as is fitting for any brunch, and which also accompanied my gallitos at Calle Ocho.  You can never go wrong serving champagne with breakfast.

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The only problem I’ve had with the recipe is figuring out what to do with the tortillas. I feel like corn tortillas is more appropriate than flour, and they’re also a little lighter. However, they tend to crack instead of bend, even after being warmed and wrapped in foil. I’m not willing to fry them individually for breakfast. Unless someone has a better recommendation, I’m thinking I’ll start using flour tortillas instead. I did recently see a brand of corn tortillas that looked more flexible, so I’ll try those as well.

The gallitos are pretty great. There’s so many flavors working together – the sweet squash, salty potatoes, spicy chorizo, and fresh pico de gallo are wonderful. For me, this is definitely worth the effort involved.

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Gallitos

Serves 4 to 6

To save time, you can cook the potatoes and squash together.

2½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
12 ounces (about 2 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into ¼-inch cubes
salt
16 small flour or corn tortillas
16 ounces (1 medium) butternut squash, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
½ teaspoon sugar
12 ounces chorizo, diced into ½-inch cubes
4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Pico de gallo (recipe follows)

1. Heat oven to 200F. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in warm oven.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and ¾ teaspoon salt and stir until the potatoes are coated with oil. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are browned and tender, about 20 minutes. (If potatoes aren’t beginning to brown after 12 minutes, remove lid.) Pour potatoes into heatproof serving bowl and place in warm oven.

3. Meanwhile, in small nonstick skillet, cook chorizo over medium heat until evenly browned. Place chorizo in heatproof serving bowl and place in warm oven. Wipe pan with paper towels.

4. In now empty large nonstick pan (no need to clean or wipe), heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add squash, ½ teaspoon salt, and sugar and sauté, uncovered, until browned and tender, about 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, heat remaining ½ tablespoon oil in small nonstick pan over medium heat. Crack eggs into a medium bowl. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, pinch black pepper, and milk. Whisk until evenly combined. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Gently lift and stir the eggs until they form large, mostly dry curds. Pour eggs into serving bowl.

6. Serve tortillas, potatoes, squash, chorizo, eggs and pico de gallo separately, allowing each person to build their tacos as they please.

Pico de gallo: (adapted from the Pioneer Woman)
4 roma tomatoes, diced fine
1 small red onion, diced fine
1-2 jalapenos, minced
½ cup cilantro, chopped fine
juice of half a lime
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients.

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spinach, artichoke, and red pepper strata

This recipe has a lot of ingredients in it, and I wasn’t sure how well they would all go together. Cheddar and parmesan and spinach and red peppers and marinated artichokes don’t seem like natural compliments. But I wanted to make a strata, and I had some spinach and scallions and cheddar to use up.

Typing up the recipe now, it really doesn’t seem like a lot of work, but it certainly seemed so at the time. Stratas are supposed to be convenient because you can make them the night before and just pop them in the oven in the morning. However, I’m rarely in the mood to make breakfast the night before. On the weekends, I’ve usually just made an ambitious dinner and probably dessert, and the last thing I want to do after enjoying that is go back into the kitchen and make breakfast.

I made a third of the recipe in a loaf pan, since it was just for me and Dave. I used fresh spinach, sautéed for a few seconds in the same pan the red peppers had just been removed from. I had the spinach leftover from something else, and I’m not generally a huge fan of frozen spinach anyway – too stemmy. I used Country Crust bread, which is my favorite recipe anytime white sandwich-type bread is called for.

The strata exceeded my expectations. All of the flavors meshed quite well. I had also been concerned that it wouldn’t be rich enough, since my other favorite strata recipe uses half and half instead of milk, but the texture of this one was great. It’s a fairly healthy, and very tasty, take on a breakfast strata.

Spinach, Artichoke, and Red Pepper Strata (from Vegetarian Classics, by Jeanne Lemlin)

JL notes: Choose a firm homemade-style bread such as sourdough, a Tuscan-style chewy bread, or a day-old loaf of Italian or French bread. Avoid very soft packaged bread. Make sure the strata is cooked enough when you remove it from the oven. Test it like a cake. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips 2 inches long
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
9 large eggs
3½ cups milk
½ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper
2½ tablespoon butter, softened
9 slices firm white bread
2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, well drained
2 scallions, very thinly sliced
3 cups (12 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat and sauté the red pepper until tender, about 7 minutes. Set aside.

2. Place the thawed spinach in a strainer and press out all of its liquid with the back of a large spoon. Set aside.

3. Thoroughly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the spinach, milk, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

4. Using ½ tablespoon butter, grease a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. With the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, coat 1 side of each slice of bread. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 9 cups of cubed bread.

5. Place half the bread cubes in the baking dish. Sprinkle on half of the red peppers strips, 1 jar of artichokes, and half of the scallions. Ladle on half of the spinach mixture, then sprinkle on half of the cheddar cheese. Repeat this layering and end with the cheddar cheese.  Cover the dish with place wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.

6. Remove the dish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the strata, uncovered, for 1 hour, or until golden brown on top and firm in the center. Let the strata sit 15 minutes before cutting it into squares.

sausage and red pepper hash

Hey, look at that, more eggs on stuff. I made this because I wanted hash, but something different from corned beef hash. I just love the idea of egg yolk dripping into browned crispy potatoes and salty breakfast meat and flavorful sautéed vegetables. Sausage and peppers sounded like a great base to go with potatoes and eggs.

Looking now at the recipe I think I was using, I apparently simplified it quite a bit. That’s the thing about making an Emeril recipe in the morning – chances are it’s going to get simplified. First I replaced chicken and apple sausage with standard breakfast sausage, and then I eliminated all of the spices and herbs that Emeril calls for, assuming that there would be enough seasoning in the sausage.

What I ended up doing was following my standard hash method of browning the meat, then cooking the vegetables in the rendered fat, then adding parboiled potatoes and cooking until they brown. Then I break eggs over the mixture and cover the pan, cooking until the whites are set and, if all goes well, the yolks are warm and viscous but not solid.

You really can’t go wrong with these ingredients combined in that method. The onions are a little caramelized, the peppers are soft, the potatoes are crispy, the sausage is peppery – everything is at its best, and then it’s taken one step further with a perfectly cooked egg on top.

Sausage and Red Pepper Hash (substantially adapted from Emeril and from Cooks Illustrated)

The potatoes can be parboiled the night before and refrigerated.

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ -inch dice
Salt
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 pound breakfast sausage
4 large eggs
Ground black pepper

1. Bring the potatoes, 5 cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the water boils, cook for 4 minutes, drain, and set aside.

2. Place the sausage in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the fat is partially rendered, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and browned, about the edges, abut 8 minutes. Mix in the potatoes and lightly pack the mixture into the pan with a spatula. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes, then, with a spatula, invert the hash, a portion at a time, and fold the browned bits back into the hash. Lightly pack the hash into the pan. Repeat the process every minute or two, until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked, about 8 minutes longer.

3. Make 4 indentations (each measuring about 2 inches across) equally spaced on the surface of the hash. Crack 1 egg into each indentation and season the egg with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook until the eggs are just set, about 6 minutes. Cut the hash into 4 wedges, making sure each has an egg, and serve immediately.


country egg scramble

In my mind, there are basically two kinds of breakfasts – there are savory breakfasts, which are generally based around eggs, and then there are sweet breakfasts, which include pancakes and waffles and the like. The best savory breakfasts involve potatoes in addition to the eggs. And bacon of course, unless you’re saving the bacon for BLTs and have to use sausage instead.

This skillet scramble is a simple but tasty example of a savory breakfast.  I did make some changes to the recipe here and there. Like most Betty Crocker recipes, this one tries to trick you into thinking it’s easier than it is by calling for cooked bacon in the ingredient list, rather than including the instructions for cooking bacon. Like I’m going to have cooked bacon laying around, just waiting to be sprinkled over breakfast. And why would I brown the potatoes in butter when there’s bacon fat right there?

Still, this recipe for a great savory breakfast is not complicated. You pretty much cook some tasty breakfast meat, then brown some par-boiled potatoes and add beaten eggs, cooking until they set. Easy though it might be, it involves most of my favorite breakfast ingredients – eggs, meat, and potatoes – and thus makes for a delicious and classic meal.

Country Egg Scramble (adapted from Betty Crocker)

Serves 4

1 pound (6 to 7) new red potatoes, cubed
6 slices (6 ounces) bacon (or breakfast sausage), chopped
6 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
4 medium green onions, sliced (¼ cup)

1. Place potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt in 2-quart saucepan. Add water until it reaches 1 inch above potatoes. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Once the water boils, cook for 6 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.

3. Beat eggs, milk, ¼ teaspoon salt, the pepper, and the green onions with fork or wire whisk until it’s a uniform yellow color; set aside.

4. Cook potatoes in bacon fat over medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned. Stir in reserved bacon.

5. Pour egg mixture into skillet. As mixture begins to set at bottom and side, gently lift cooked portions with spatula so that thin, uncooked portion can flow to bottom. Avoid constant stirring. Cover pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until eggs are thickened throughout but still moist.

grits, cheese and onion souffles

Opinions vary among food bloggers on whether it’s worth publishing the recipes we didn’t like. Some people feel that the point of their blog is to share recipes, and there’s no point offering one to your readers that you don’t recommend. Others have a blog simply to keep a log of what they’ve cooked, good or bad. For the most part, I feel that as long as I’m offering some useful information, it’s worth having in my blog. This recipe was in a recent issue of Bon Appetit, so people may be planning on making it, and my review could be useful to them.

Also, I made grits soufflés. Something as unusual as grits soufflé deserves a blog entry, even if it didn’t knock my socks off.

It was just too…eggy. It’s probably my fault; I think I was expecting the grits to give the soufflés more structure. I always think cheese soufflé is too eggy too, so maybe I just don’t really like soufflé. Except that I have no problem with the chocolate soufflés that I’ve made.

The reviews for this recipe are much more positive than I would expect based on my experience. It seems like a lot of the reviewers added more cheese, some almost doubling the original amount. In general, more cheese = good, so maybe that would have helped. I don’t know. I haven’t given up on savory soufflés yet, but I’m starting to have my doubts about them.

Grits, Cheese, and Onion Soufflés (from Bon Appétit June 2008)

Makes 4 main-course servings

2 tablespoons (¼ stick) butter
¾ cup chopped onion
¾ cup chopped leek
1½ cups whole milk, divided
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup quick-cooking grits
4 large eggs, separated
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup (packed) grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese (about 4 ounces), divided

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter four 1¼-cup soufflé dishes. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and leek; sauté 3 minutes. Mix in 1¼ cups whole milk and ½ teaspoon salt, then grits; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until thick, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining ¼ cup milk and yolks in small bowl to blend.

Remove grits from heat. Stir in yolk mixture, then green onions and ¾ cup cheese. Beat whites in medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold into grits in 3 additions. Divide mixture among prepared dishes (mixture will come all the way to top of dishes). Sprinkle with ¼ cup cheese.

Bake soufflés until puffed and brown on top, about 18 minutes. Serve immediately.

fried egg and sausage ciabbata breakfast pizzas

By now it must be obvious that I like eggs on top of stuff. Poached are my favorite, but fried is fine too. With some potatoes or bread to soak up the creamy yolk and any number of other additions, a lot of my favorite breakfasts are based around eggs on stuff.

I’m not completely sure that this particular breakfast deserves its own recipe, although I apparently needed one to give me the idea. All it really is some crusty bread, halved horizontally, brushed with oil and topped with green onions, cheese, and cooked sausage. The pizzas are cooked until the cheese melts, then topped with a fried egg and more green onions.

I kept the basic structure of the recipe the same, but varied the details. I used some extra pain a l’ancienne that I had in the freezer, plus cheddar instead of pepper jack and breakfast sausage instead of Italian. The recipe instructs that chopped green onions should be mixed with a half cup of olive oil, which is rubbed on the bread and then drizzled over the egg at the end. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that is a heck of a lot of oil (even for eight servings). I used just enough to coat the bread before adding the other toppings, and I (meant to but forgot to) sprinkled more chopped green onions over the egg, leaving the oil behind.

Dave and I couldn’t quite figure out if we should eat these with silverware or hands. Dave tried using silverware, and it seemed like sort of a disaster. I ended up picking mine up to eat it with my hands, and it worked pretty well. I was thinking that the yolk might be a drippy mess, but it mostly soaked into the bread below. So disregard the silverware in the pictures – I’m pretty sure silverware is not the way to go here. It is pizza, after all.

You can vary the ingredients to use whatever seems good to you. Any crusty chewy bread will work, and any cheese or cooked meat. Any way you go about it, this should be an easy and fun breakfast to put together and eat.

Fried Egg and Sausage Ciabatta Breakfast Pizzas (from Bon Appétit January 2008, but really epicurious.com)

BA note: Make this recipe your own by using different sausages and cheeses. For a Middle Eastern spin, sub in lamb sausage and feta. Serve pizzas with hot sauce.

Bridget note: I used breakfast sausage, cheddar cheese, pane a l’ancienne, and far less oil.

Makes 8 servings

1 loaf ciabatta bread (about 1 pound)
1 cup chopped green onions
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces sliced hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese
1 pound spicy or sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
8 large eggs

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut bread horizontally in half. Place bread halves, cut side up, on separate baking sheets. Mix onions and 6 tablespoons oil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve 2 tablespoons onion oil and spread remaining onion oil over bread. Top with cheese.

Sauté Italian sausages in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up with spoon, about 7 minutes. Divide sausage among bread halves. Bake pizzas until cheese melts and bread begins to crisp, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 large skillets over medium-high heat. Crack 4 eggs into each skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let eggs stand in skillets while pizzas bake.

Arrange 4 eggs atop each pizza. Spoon reserved onion oil over eggs. Cut each pizza between eggs into 4 pieces.

croque-madame


If you’re looking for the best decadent breakfast ever, here it is. Even better than Eggs Benedict. I think. It’s basically Eggs Benedict with cheese.

The first time I made this, I thought I was making something complicated. But as I slowly worked my way through the recipe, I realized that it’s really a fancy ham and cheese sandwich. One slice of bread is slathered with swiss cheese sauce and the other slice with mustard. The sandwich is “grilled” the same way grilled cheese sandwiches are – browned on the stove with butter, and then it’s smeared with more cheese sauce and broiled until the sauce is spottily browned. The sandwich is topped with a fried egg. (Without the egg, it’s a Croque-Monsieur.)

The first time I had this, I got that heavy feeling afterwards that’s clearly a result of a meal full of fatty proteins and refined carbs. The next time, I made some efforts to lighten up the recipe. Mostly I eliminated some of the nice-but-not-necessary butter and reduced the cheese sauce. I have to admit that the most influential adjustment had to be my portion size.

It’s worth the indulgence. While it’s nigh on impossible to pick favorites, the combination of crispy bread, salty ham, spicy mustard, creamy cheese sauce and smooth yolk certainly makes this a contender for the best breakfast out there. Especially if you have plans to get in some activity later to work off some of that guilt…

Croque-madame (adapted from Gourmet March 2007, as found on epicurious)

Makes 4 servings

Bridget note: You can of course use all shredded cheese. I found it easier to only shred what was going into the sauce and to slice the rest. I’ve used both Country Crust Bread and storebought Italian bread for this recipe and enjoyed both.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk
⅛ teaspoon salt
pinch teaspoon black pepper
pinch teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup (1 ounce) shredded swiss cheese
4 slices (1.5 ounces) sliced swiss cheese
8 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ pound thinly sliced cooked ham (preferably Black Forest)
4 large eggs

1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 1- to 1½-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and shredded cheese until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Stir occasionally while preparing sandwiches to keep hard surface from forming on top of sauce. (Alternatively, place plastic wrap directly on surface of sauce.)

2. Adjust an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

3. Spread 1 tablespoons sauce evenly over each of 4 slices of bread, then cover evenly with remaining cheese. Spread mustard evenly on remaining 4 bread slices and top with ham, dividing it evenly, then invert onto cheese-topped bread to form sandwiches.

4. Melt ½ tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the sandwiches and cook until golden, 3-4 minutes. Remove sandwiches from pan, add remaining ½ tablespoon butter, and return sandwiches, unbrowned side down, to pan. Cook until golden on second side. Transfer sandwiches to prepared baking pan. Do not wash skillet.

5. Top sandwiches with remaining sauce, spreading evenly. Broil sandwiches until sauce is bubbling and golden in spots, 2 to 4 minutes.

6. While sandwiches are broiling, heat the same nonstick pan over medium heat. Spray the pan with nonstick spray if there’s not butter leftover from browning the sandwiches. Crack eggs into skillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry eggs, covered, until whites are just set and yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately.

poached eggs with arugula and polenta fingers

This is the weirdest thing I’ve made in a long time. I think I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit and caught that I liked each component – arugula salad, poached eggs, polenta – but didn’t stop to consider that those items might not belong on the same plate.

I’m not really that close-minded. Someone obviously enjoyed this, so there must be something good about it. I just needed to focus on that good.

There were moments of doubt. The coconut milk in the polenta is unusual, not to mention fattening, but then tasted surprisingly good. The original recipe recommends frying the polenta fingers on high in extra virgin olive oil, which is silly. I used a mixture of olive oil (not virgin) and canola oil, and it still smoked on medium-high heat. I did find that the heat must be turned up pretty high to brown the polenta.

I doubled the amount of dressing and greatly increased (quadrupled maybe) the amount of arugula. It was all going fine until I was actually putting the egg on the salad, and then I realized that egg on salad actually might not be my thing.

But, never mind, I guess it is my thing, and maybe Dave’s too. The egg was quite a nice topping for the salad, and the polenta fingers were a great accompaniment, especially when they were used to sop up extra vinaigrette. So if poached egg on salad is your thing, or if you’re willing to try something new, this recipe is worth your effort.

Poached Eggs with Arugula and Polenta Fingers (adapted from Bon Appetit May 2008 )

Makes 4 servings

Bridget note: I’ve made the recipe a bit more detailed than it is in the magazine, as well as changing the polenta and poached egg method to those of Cooks Illustrated.

For the polenta:
1 13.5- to 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
water
½ cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon canola oil

For the salad:
8 cups arugula
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch salt
pinch black pepper

For the poached eggs:
4 eggs, each cracked into a small handled cup
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

1. For the polenta: Pour coconut milk into 2-cup measuring cup and add enough water to make 2 cups liquid. Bring liquid to boil in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, add salt, and pour the cornmeal into the water in a very slow stream from a measuring cup, all the while whisking in a circular motion to prevent lumps.

2. Cover and cook, vigorously stirring the polenta with a wooden spoon for about 10 seconds once every 5 minutes and making sure to scrape clean the bottom and corners of the pot, until the polenta has lost its raw cornmeal taste and becomes soft and smooth, about 30 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour polenta into pan and spread to corners. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of polenta and chill until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.)

4. Turn polenta out onto cutting board. Cut into 4×1-inch rectangles. Heat oils in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, add polenta fingers; cook until golden, about 3 minutes per side.

5. For the salad: While first batch of polenta cooks, whisk oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in small bowl until combined. In large bowl, toss arugula with dressing and divide among salad plates.

6. For the poached eggs: While last batch of polenta cooks, fill an 8- to 10-inch nonstick skillet nearly to the rim with water, add the salt and vinegar, and bring the mixture to boil over high heat. Lower the lips of each cup just into water at once; tip eggs into boiling water, cover, and remove from heat. Poach until yolks are medium-firm, exactly 4 minutes. For firmer yolks (or for extra large or jumbo eggs), poach 4 ½ minutes; for looser yolks (or for medium eggs), poach 3 minutes.

7. Top each salad with a poached egg. Break yolks with tip of knife. Sprinkle with black pepper. Serve with polenta.

hash browns with sauteed vegetables and poached eggs

I’ve become enamored with poached eggs lately. They’re such a great topping for so many breakfast ideas. Besides eggs benedict, I like to serve them on toast with a bit of cheddar cheese sprinkled over. Hash browns and a bed of sautéed vegetables is my favorite poached eggs base.

The trick to great hash browns is to use starchy potatoes like russets, but to rinse some of the outside starch off of the shreds, then thoroughly dry them before starting to cook. Because I consider this breakfast one of my healthier options, I use olive oil for cooking both the vegetables and the potatoes, although vegetable oil and butter are also good choices. How often you stir the potatoes depends on how you like your hash browns. If you want a crispy base and a tender interior within a bed of potatoes, pack the shreds into a medium-size pan and leave them alone until the bottom browns, 5-6 minutes. Then flip the whole mound over and brown the second side. I tend to put the potatoes in a large skillet and stir every few minutes. After 10-15 minutes, they’re pretty evenly split between crispy browned and tender.

The vegetables you use are completely adaptable. My favorite combination is red onion, red peppers, and mushrooms. This time I used spinach instead of the red peppers, and I loved it. I like the vegetables chopped so that I can get some of each in one bite, so pretty small. (I’m particular about how vegetables are chopped anyway.)

Mound some cooked potatoes on a plate, spread the sautéed vegetables over it, and top with a poached egg – it’s a perfect combination of flavors and nutrition. Once the egg is cut into, warm yolk drips down and blends with the potatoes, and your morning is off to a terrific start.

Hash Browns, Sautéed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs (Poached Egg recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 2

1½ tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cremini or button mushrooms, halved if large and sliced thin
salt
½ small red onion, halved and sliced thin
1½ ounces spinach, cleaned and chopped very coarse
ground black pepper
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and washed
2-4 eggs, each cracked into a small handled cup
2 tablespoons white vinegar

1. Heat oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off. Place 2 large plates in warm oven.

2. Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering but not smoking, add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid released by mushrooms has evaporated. Add onion and cook until browned at edges. Add spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a bowl. Put bowl in warmed oven.

3. While vegetables cook, shred potatoes in food processor with shredding blade or on large holes of box grater. Rinse thoroughly in a strainer, then move to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze and pat dry.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same skillet (no need to wash) over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt and mix thoroughly. Cook potatoes, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until slightly browned and cooked throughout, a total of 15-20 minutes.

5. While potatoes cook, fill an 8- to 10-inch nonstick skillet nearly to the rim with water, add 1 teaspoon salt and the vinegar, and bring the mixture to boil over high heat. Lower the lips of each cup just into water at once; tip eggs into boiling water, cover, and remove from heat. Poach until yolks are medium-firm, exactly 4 minutes. For firmer yolks (or for extra large or jumbo eggs), poach 4 ½ minutes; for looser yolks (or for medium eggs), poach 3 minutes.

6. While eggs are cooking, divide potatoes between warmed plates. Top with sautéed vegetables. With a slotted spoon, carefully lift and drain each egg over skillet, then lay each over vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

more fish from cans (deviled eggs with tuna)

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I know, I know, deviled eggs? Does anyone really need a recipe for deviled eggs, or a blog entry about them?

But, these have an extra ingredient that I assure you, makes a blog entry just for them worthwhile. (Plus, look how cute they are in pictures! They look like little boats from the side!)

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That ingredient is tuna. That’s right, we’re talking about good ol’ canned tuna. I recently heard a few people say that they don’t eat canned tuna, and, what?! Not eat canned tuna?! I looove canned tuna!

The first time a really remember eating it was a few years ago, when a friend brought me some fancy canned tuna from Spain. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but my friend encouraged me to just mix it up into tuna salad. (In retrospect, I should have just eaten it from the can.) I decided that an experiment was in order. Was expensive Spanish tuna worth the difference in price? So Dave and I did a side-by-side comparison of tuna salads made with the Spanish tuna and with StarKirst Solid White Albacore. (This is the brand recommended by Cooks Illustrated.)

In tuna salad, at least, the difference was minor. And since that test, I have become enamored with tuna salad sandwiches. It’s something that, for me, is best eaten at home, because I’ve gotten so picky about how it’s made. No celery or pickles, but enough minced red onion and parsley to make up for it.

There are a few tricks to getting the most from your tuna. First, drain the heck out of it. Then add salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and let that set while you prepare the other ingredients. This gives the tuna time to soak up those flavor-enhancers.

I made the filling for these deviled eggs very similar to how I make tuna salad, just leaving out minced red onion and of course adding the egg yolks. Best deviled eggs ever, I assure you!

One more thing – while I agree that a sprinkle of paprika adds some color to a deviled egg, I think a little minced something makes them just so cute. I used tomato in this case, but I think a purple olive like kalamata would look, and taste, great as well. (My husband does not agree that olives improve anything, hence the tomatoes in January.)

Deviled Eggs
Make 16 appetizers

1 6-ounce can tuna, preferably StarKist Solid White Albacore in Water
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced parsley
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ plum tomato, minced (optional)
4 kalamata olives, minced (optional)

1. Drain the tuna very well. Using a fork or your fingers, break up any large pieces. Add salt, pepper, parsley and mustard.

2. Cut each egg in half from pole to pole. Use a spoon to remove the yolk. Using a fork, mash the yolks well. Add to tuna mixture, then stir in mayonnaise.

3. Either spoon mixture into egg whites, or transfer mixture to a decorators bag or zip-top bag. If using a zip-top bag, cut out a corner. Squeeze mixture into egg whites. Garnish with tomatoes or olives, if desired.

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