The fear of death follows from the fear of life.  A man who lives fully is prepared to die at anytime.
~Mark Twain

Just seems there should be little demand to visit venues in Santa Barbara or even Southern Cal, as a whole, where the in crowds frequent. You know, where people say “like” repetitively and thoughtlessly as if the word is a linguistic filler.

So many glorious campsites with scenery that is flat breathtaking, serenely overlooking the Big Blue where the plethora of marine mammals exist — pastoral stuff. There is a campus of radiantly hued tents, and above that are the parked RV’s usually hooked to electricity inlets/outlets (none of which can be seen from the cloth huts).

Almost each foggy or overcast morning, before she departed to the “glamping” joint across the way, we crawled out of our tent and after morning ablutions, promptly began the fire and heating the tortillas so the meal completo could be packed inside. Donned in aprons (I likely looked absurd) we grilled each tortilla feast on state-provided, round, grated, dug-in, barbeque pits after just barely scrambling the eggs and cooking the meat aside ever so assiduously on a pan. Rosemary sprigs from nearby plants were plucked and dropped into the fire when ready. Then, there were exquisite avocados plucked by friends from close sprawling ranches and, of course, tomatillo sauce, salsa verde, salsa rojo, queso fresco, crema, cilantro, radishes and rekindling the goods...with several cups of joe. Our grub for the day.

The skies cleared, it warmed as the sun shone through in mid-morning just slightly toasting the eucalypti leaves so their scents diffused, then she disappeared for work, and I tried to heal thyself (often by watching dolphins graze).

This post may prove trivial to some, but it was the boon of our existence every morning.

EGGS, BACON & AVOCADO TORTILLAS

3-4 T unsalted butter
3 T cream cheese
6 fresh, local, free range eggs
1 T whipping cream or creme fraiche
1/8 T sea salt
1/4 T freshly ground pepper

Small pinch of cayenne pepper
Small amount of herbes de provence and/or thyme

Melt the butter and cream cheese in a heavy nonstick skillet or a iron cast pan. Combine the eggs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, herbes de provence and/or thyme and a dollop of cream or creme fraiche in a glass bowl and whisk briskly.

Pour egg mixture into the skillet, with the heat on medium low. With a flat, wooden spatula, gently stir the eggs, lifting it up and over from the bottom as they thicken. Stir away from the sides and bottom of the pan toward the middle. Continue to stir until the desired texture (a mass of soft curds) is achieved. They thicken, dry out and toughen very quickly toward the end, so if you like them soft, fluffy and moist, remove them from the heat a little before they reach the desired texture — the eggs will continue to cook after being removed from the heat.

(As an alternative, try fried eggs covered in the skillet top cooked in a smearing of olive oil with salt and pepper only).

Gently cooked guanciale, pancetta, bacon, serrano or proscuitto

Avocado slices, alluringly fresh

Salsa verde and/or salsa rojo
Queso fresco and/or fine goat cheese
Crema

Radishes, sliced
Cilantro leaves, chopped

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BEC (Bacon + Egg + Cheese)

August 15, 2015

In my next life, I want to live backwards. Start out dead and finish with an orgasm.
~Woody Allen

Transcendent finger food.

Not too unlike a BLT, croque, panini or that alleged lowly grilled cheese sandwich, a BEC (Bacon-Egg-Cheese) sounds rather mundane. But, much like its more venerable predecessors, a BEC is often anything but banal. Not merely relegated to sometimes portable breakfast menus, but also a lunch and dinner (or even later) plate with a simple side. BECs can prove to be simply sublime — eye-rolling, shallow panting, deep breathing, heart bursting, rouge chested, thigh clenching, toe curling, oozy fingered, nasal dripping, raw pleasures, rhythmic passions, eager hormones, tablecloth grasping, intense looks, open moans, declared raptures, blissfully orgasmic, dances in your mouth — un petit mort grub. Where have you been all my life, oh gluttonous soul?

If not, just have your mate or lover(s) cook BECs for you. Often, sharing provender is more intimate and toothsome that way.

BEC (Bacon + Egg + Cheese)

Bacon
6 slices superior bacon

Bread
Artisanal bread, sliced, toasted on both sides and buttered on one side, or
English muffin, sliced, toasted on both sides and buttered on one side, or
Bagel, sliced, toasted on both sides and buttered on one side, or
Torta, opened, toasted on both sides and buttered on the inside or

Cheeses
Gruyere, Taleggio, Fontina, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Cheddar (White or Yellow), sliced thinly

Eggs
6 local medium or large eggs
Extra virgin olive oil (a small dollop)

In a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat, turn until crisp about 8 minutes. Transfer to drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy non-stick skillet with EVOO and from a small saucer drop in 3 eggs on two occasions and right before the yolk begins to set, slide on the cheese slices and cover so the cheese melts. But, please do not overcook the egg yolk — it should gush at first bite.

Arrange with bacon on the bottom slice of toasted bread, then eggs and cheese over the bacon and finally top with bread.

Pourboire: just use your kitchen imagination and consider a variety of breads and cheeses as well as pancetta, guanciale, sausage, and eggs whether poached or scrambled with some fresh or dried herbs. Each permutation is a variation on the theme of BEC.

What’s done cannot be undone.
~William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Eggs “up, sunny side up, with a skirt, basted, over easy, over light, flipped, dippy, runny, broken, over medium, stepped on, medium well, over hard, hard, done, over well, over cooked, nuked, dead“…an expectant diner’s heaven, but often a server’s and line cook’s hell. So many chefs and home cooks have dabbled with, have pondered and toiled over, have been bewildered and bullied by, and have sometimes finally mastered the divine fried egg.

The lipid of choice tends to set the stage whether unsalted butter, olive oil, canola oil, chicken fat, duck fat, goose fat, bacon fat or some other shared friend(s). But, the chosen mixes and methods for eggs, fat, heat, and timing tend to rule in the end.

While some consider them prosaic, when done right and softly savored, fried eggs are flat deific.

For me? Try frying one or two eggs at a time so your attention is focused on those brief moments that it takes to transform the critters. Melt a couple tablespoons of “fat” in a heavy, medium skillet over medium heat until it is gently foaming or just lightly shimmering. While the fat melts, crack fresh, local eggs into a glass cup or saucer then slide them into the foaming butter or shimmering oil. Cover with a clear domed lid and adjust the heat so that the butter does not brown, but is just hot enough that the white begins to set. Begin spooning the hot butter or oil over the eggs until the runny whites turn opaque and the yolks begin to set ever so slightly, but remain rather runny. (The white no longer clear and the yolk still loose.) Remove to a plate by simply sliding them out of the pan or use a slotted spatula. Season promptly with salt and pepper, and dine barefooted with a knowing smile.

Still, some disagree on the perfect technique. So because a fried eggs are rather personal by nature, a loosely wound decet (in no order of preference) follows.

FRIED EGG

1 fine egg, fresh and locally raised with a robust orangish yolk, at room temperature
Fat (unsalted butter, extra virgin olive or canola oil, poultry or pork fat)
Sea/kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbs, if desired

(1) In a small, nonstick skillet, melt unsalted butter over moderate heat. Add the egg and fry, turning once, until crisp around the edges, about 4 minutes total. The yolk should just begin to set, but still be in a runny state. Cook longer should you so desire. Remove to a plate with a slotted spatula or spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(2) Bring 1/4 cup of olive oil to medium high heat in a heavy, sided, smaller sauté pan. Tip the pan at a steep angle, so that the oil collects in a small bath, and slide the egg into the hot oil from a glass cup. Spoon the oil over the egg. After about 30 seconds or so of cooking, the egg white forms a protective coating around the yolk without becoming attached to it. Once the egg develops a golden hue from the oil, remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and season with salt only.

(3) In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Meanwhile, crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer, and then add the egg and cook gently in the heated oil. Even consider cracking the egg into a cool pan, and allowing it to heat with the oil until soft and silky. Remove to a plate with a slotted spatula or spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(4) Crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Gently slip the egg into a well buttered medium, heavy pan which is on low heat. Fry the egg over low heat, with the butter allowed to foam rather than simply melt. Cover the pan for the duration of the cooking process, which results in a soft, but firm white, and a runny yolk. Remove to a plate with a slotted spatula or spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(5) Place a smaller, heavy nonstick frying pan over the lowest possible heat. Add unsalted butter and allow to slowly melt. When all the butter has melted but has yet to foam, swirl the pan to coat the skillet and then crack the egg into a small glass bowl or saucer. Gently slide the egg off the dish into the frying pan and cover with a lid. Continue cooking approximately 4-5 minutes until the egg white solidifies from transparency into snow white cream; the yolk will thicken slightly as it heats.

(6) Crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer and set aside. Heat unsalted butter in a heavy, smaller skillet over low heat. Once the butter has melted, but has yet begun to foam, swirl it around the pan to coat, then slide in the egg. Cover with a domed lid and cook until the white is set, about 3 1/2 minutes. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(7) Heat unsalted butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. When foam subsides, reduce heat to low and break the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Slip in the egg and then add a sprinkling of water to the pan (not the eggs themselves). Cover and cook slowly until done. The steam will cook the whites over and around the yolks.

(8) Break the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Meanwhile, heat poultry fat (chicken, duck, or goose) in a heavy skillet over low heat. Once melted and before shimmering, slide in the egg. Cover with a lid and cook until the white is set, occasionally basting with the melted fat, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon or spatula and season with salt and pepper.

(9) Heat canola oil in a heavy, smaller skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Once the oil is hot, slide in the egg. As it cooks, spoon hot oil over the egg whites. Towards the end of cooking, carefully pour a couple of spoonfuls of oil over the yolks. Cook to desired doneness. Remove to a plate and serve.

(10) Put a few bacon strips in a skillet. Start with the heat at medium high, but as the bacon begins to cook, reduce it to medium so the bacon does not burn. Cook the bacon slowly until it is slightly crisped on one side and then turn to cook slowly on the other side. When the bacon is done, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and tent loosely with foil. Allow the skillet to cool for several minutes before cooking the eggs. Pour off any excess bacon fat.

Break each egg into a small glass cup or saucer and then slip the egg into the warm bacon grease. Place the pan back over low heat and allow the eggs to cook slowly. When the egg whites begin to set, tip the pan and baste with some hot bacon fat to cook the yolks. Remove to a plate and serve.

Clam Chowder Without Winter?

February 20, 2012

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
~Andrew Wyeth

Waiting for a frigid, stark white night to savor some chowder seems futile this winter. The weather has bordered on the absurd here. In the lower 48, temperatures have been freakishly warm particularly from the plains to the east coast, confusing flora and fauna and upending snow resort life. This week was no different with another balmy February stretch and no end in sight to the warmer than usual temps. Cold refused to settle in this year, and a measly percentage of the land has been blanketed in snow. Even rainfall has been lacking.

Besides drought, there are downsides to this t-shirt and shorts weather. Our friendly mosquitoes, flies, fleas and ticks may emerge earlier and if the temps remain moderate, and they are given a longer times to reproduce, pest populations could be noticeably larger this summer. Yet another danger looms as plants, tree and shrubs start to grow sooner in response to warmer temperatures and longer periods of sunlight. If fooled by these warmer periods they may begin to bud, shedding their winter coats. Should freezing temperatures arrive, it can prove fatal to some.

Some of this aberrant winter weather has been caused by the Arctic Oscillation, a pressure system that drives where the jet stream divides warm and cold air masses across the country. This year, cold northern air was fenced off at higher latitudes than usual which helps explain our warmth and why Alaska has been enduring such a raw, arctic winter. Others have also credited the mild conditions to the La Niña climate pattern, a system in which low pressure systems pull warm air north from the equator.

Chowder is a generic name for seafood or vegetable stews and thickened soups, often finished with milk or cream although others prefer briny or tomato based. Debate rages on whose is better. The English word “chowder” was coined in the mid 18th century, apparently from the cooking pot called a chaudière (12th century term from fishing villages along the Atlantic coast of France), traced from the Late Latin caldaria (a place for warming things). The word and technique were introduced in Newfoundland by Breton fishermen and cooks, then later spread to New England. Others claim that the word derived from the old English word jowter (fish monger).

CLAM CHOWDER

8 ozs thick sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 ” lardons
Extra virgin olive oil

2 T unsalted butter
2 C leeks, white and green parts, clean and coarsely chopped
2 C yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 C celery, finely chopped
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, lightly smashed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 T unsalted butter
1/4 C all purpose flour
3 C whole milk
3 C heavy whipping cream
2 bay leaves

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Tied cheesecloth with thyme, oregano, and parsley
Sea salt
Water

4 C clams, chopped, strained with juice reserved
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Chives, chopped

Drizzle a slight amount of olive oil in a large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the bacon first to a cool pan, then heat to medium, and let render for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and strew on a paper towel covered plate to drain. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.

Return pan to stove and add 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions, celery and garlic to the pan and stir to coat with the bacon fat and butter. Season with salt and pepper, and cook slowly over medium until the vegetables are translucent and tender, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard garlics. Add 3 more tablespoons of butter and when melted, stir in the flour to coat the vegetables and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cream, add bay leaves, season some with salt and pepper, and bring to a low simmer. Slowly stir in some reserved clam juice to taste.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes, cheesecloth with herbs, and salt in a pot or large saucepan, add cold water to cover, bring to a lively simmer, and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and spread potatoes on a pan to cool and discard the bag with herbs.

Remove and discard bay leaves from the chowder. Again season with salt and pepper to your liking. Gently add the potatoes, reserved lardons and then the clams, and simmer about 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring frequently.

Ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with chives.

…continued from the previous post (before these mates become separated). This by no means relegates these luscious, humble beans to a side for huevos rancheros. Please don’t pity these promiscuous souls, though. They are far from chaste or monogamous—sharing the plate and forming the base for so many dishes. Frijoles refritos get around for good reason.

Refried beans should be kept warm by spooning them into a bowl seated in a pan of hot water over low heat. If they become a touch dry, stir in a little broth.

FRIJOLES REFRITOS (REFRIED BEANS)

2 1/2 C dried pinto or pink beans
1 T bacon drippings or pork lard
1 T vegetable or canola oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 qts water

1-2 t sea salt

On a baking pan, sort through the beans, removing any stones or debris. Slide the beans into a colander and rinse.

Then, pour the cleansed beans into a deep, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add water and remove any beans that float. Add the drippings or lard, vegetable or canola oil, onion, and bay leaf then bring to a rolling boil, promptly reducing the heat to keep the liquid at a very gentle simmer. Cover with the top just slightly ajar and simmer, adding water as needed to keep the liquid level roughly the same, until the beans are thoroughly tender, about 2 hours.

Stir in the salt and simmer for about 15 minutes longer to allow for absorbtion, then taste and adjust. Remove and discard the bay leaf. The beans may then be mashed and cooked for frijoles refritos.

2 T bacon drippings
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 t cumin seeds, roasted and then ground

4 C undrained, cooked beans (see above), slightly warm

Sea salt, to taste
1/2 C queso fresco or queso anejo, crumbled

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until nicely golden, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and cumin, cook for a minute or so, then spoon in about 1/4 of the beans, leaving the bean broth behind for later. Mash the beans into a coarse purée.

Add another large spoonful of beans, mash again, and continue until all the beans have been added and coarsely mashed. They should not be smoothly puréed—rather more textured like smashed potatoes.

Add a cup or so of the bean broth and stir over heat until the beans are still a little soupy as they will thicken while resting. Taste and season with salt, if needed.

Sprinkle with the crumbled queso fresco or queso anejo.

Less is more.
~Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect

Bleat: Middle English bleten, from Old English blǣtan; akin to Latin flēre to weep, Old English bellan to roar — more at BELLOW; before 12th century; intransitive verb: to make the natural cry of a sheep or goat; also: to utter a similar sound, such as whimper.

Classic comfort with simple, balanced charm. A BLT may lack culinary show but when constructed of noble, hand hewn ingredients, it should be canonized. Superb bacon, artisanal bread, indulged aioli, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh lettuce. Should you take the next step (which I invariably do)…farm fresh eggs. This is food synergy rarely replicated, and done in the right ratios, BLT is the stuff of fetish. You know who you are.

The first bite will make you whimper, and on a good day, the last will produce a sated bellow (or bleat).

BLT

4 thick slices of superior slab bacon

2 thick slices artisanal bread, such as ciabatta, pain au levain or focaccia, toasted
Aioli
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heirloom tomato slices
Butter lettuce leaves

2 t unsalted butter
1 t extra virgin olive oil
2 large farm fresh eggs

Fresh avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced (optional)

In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, turning, until crisp, about 8 minutes or so. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Spread the aioli on the top slice of toast. Then top the bottom slice of toast with the bacon, tomato and lettuce. However you stack it, avoid having the bleeding fresh tomatoes directly touching the bread which can turn sodden.

In a small, nonstick skillet, melt the butter and oil. Add the eggs and fry over moderate heat, until cooked with the yolk should still runny. They are done when the whites are set and the outer edges are just starting to curl. If the edges start to curl before the whites in the center are fully cooked, cover the pan with a lid. Carefully slide the eggs onto the lettuce and close the sandwich.

Pourboire: this may need be a forethought and not an option. The restaurant technique of chucking the skillet and oven roasting the bacon allows you to cook more strips which are more evenly cooked with less mess. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Arrange strips on a metal rack and place on the lined baking sheet. Roast–rotating the pan once halfway through cooking–until brown and crispy, about 20-30 minutes. Cooking time varies based upon oven and bacon thickness. Drain on paper towels.

QSR: Linguini Frittata

July 1, 2010

Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

~Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Admittedly, this creature comfort food could well be born of the sophomoric culinary loins of Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee, but it does bind some basics—linguini, cheeses, bacon, and eggs.

As an aside, did you see the ever color coordinated, semi-homemade SL’s lasagne recipe replete with Campbell’s condensed canned tomato soup, pre-minced garlic, dried oregano, cottage cheese and a pkg of already shredded mozzarella? Not only a Roman nightmare, but a heinous breach of food ethics. Even her lover’s mama and soon to be in-law, Matilda Cuomo, was pointedly disparaging. “That’s not how you make a lasagna,” she bluntly offered.

Linguini frittata is a fast food alternative to those calorie laden, sodium packed, fat fraught cardboard boxes of hazmat mac & powdered cheese served your offspring all the while meticulously regulating your fad diet to maintain that anorexic, x-ray figure…still openly professing your selfless love for them.

Express kidling or adult après quoi-woi-woi-woi eats.

LINGUINI FRITTATA WITH PANCETTA

1 lb dried linguini
Sea salt

4 thick slices imported pancetta or high quality slab bacon, cut into 1″ pieces for lardons

8 farm fresh large eggs
A dollop of heavy whipping cream
Fresh thyme leaves, stemmed and finely chopped
1 C parmigiano reggiano, grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1/4 C gruyère, shredded

Preheat broiler to high.

Cook the pasta in liberally salted boiling water until close to al dente. Drain well and empty into a large mixing bowl. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cook the pancetta or bacon lardons in a large, heavy skillet until rendered and beginning to crisp. Remove to paper towels and drain.

Whisk the eggs and cream, add them to the cooled pasta, and mix carefully yet thoroughly. Stir in the grated parmigiano reggiano, pancetta, salt, pepper and thyme to taste. Pepper liberally as you would carbonara.

Heat a heavy large ovenproof non-stick skillet over medium high heat, and add the olive oil and smashed garlic. Before the garlic turns too brown, remove and discard. With the olive oil still hot, pour in the linguini mixture and spread it evenly in the hot skillet, shaking the pan so it settles. Cook until the underside is golden brown, about 5-8 minutes or so. Strew some gruyère evenly over the top of the linguini mixture. Place the skillet under the broiler about 5″-6″ from the element and cook until slightly golden and the eggs are set, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from oven and slide the frittata onto a large platter cutting board and allow to cool some. Slice into wedges and serve warm, room temp or chilled.

Pourboire: as an alternative, consider using orzo as the pasta in this recipe.