Migas - Eggs, Bacon, Tortilla

More holiday breakfast. All guests are gone and entertaining is over, but just because this is the middle of a long, long weekend, it seems that a dressed up breakfast is in order.

I'm still in shock that my girls (age 4 and 12) prefer fried eggs to scrambled. Go figure. But that leaves the more creative concoctions for the adults.

This recipe was little more than Mexican ingredients in a lazy-man's omelet. But the addition of large crumbled pieces of fried tortilla (or chips) added an additional element of robustness, much like the thin potato layer in Spanish tortilla (omelet) or certain fritatas.
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 1/2 poblano pepper, seeded
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, or 1/2 t cayenne
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 C ham, chopped
  • 2 pieces bacon, crumbled
  • 2 C tortilla chips or fried tortilla - 1" pieces
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 C grated cheese (I had gruyere)
Saute shallots, peppers, garlic, ham. Add crumbled bacon, tortillas, tomatoes and scallion. Whisk eggs with cumin, S&P. Pour over pan, sprinkle cheeses. Low heat to set eggs, don't stir. Cover and allow cheese to melt and center of eggs to set.

Adapted from Migas, Gourmet Cookbook, pg. 630

Holiday Results

Pretty uneventful holiday cooking, now that it's done. The strategy of trying to keep the menu simpler than usual in order to not be on my feet for hours each day worked well. Though few dishes were over the top, especially for the Christmas feast, each meal was pretty well balanced.


Bob's mother-in-law (age 80ish) and her sister draining eggnog to the last drop and spooning out the last traces of foam from their cups.

Bourbon Marmalade glaze. Traditional approach is to include pineapple in a glaze like this. No need - it adds little and mostly falls to the bottom of the roasting pan. 50/50 English marmalade and bourbon were heated, then poured over a trimmed, clove-studded ham which had been dusted with brown sugar. 30 minutes in oven, add sauce, then heat 1.5h. Pour off liquid, de-fat (depending on ham) and add a T of butter to smooth sauce.

Gazpacho pasta. Nice combination of flavors, definitely benefited from addition of sliced, grilled sausage. Recipe proportions for vegetables not great - too much onion (and I cut in half). Be sure to grill tomatos over highest heat to get some charring without overcooking them. Pureed sacue ingredients were excellent.

Steamed Cauliflower. Butter, Salt and Pepper. Nothing else. Kept florets very large, helped prevent overcooking. AWESOME. Why don't we eat Caul. more often? There's no reason.

UPDATE: Well, it's not polite to keep adding to the list of successes, but I have to mention that Alex is addicted to the roasted sweet potatoes. He had two helpings at Christmas dinner, and last night, finished off the potatoes before he touched anything else on his plate. The preparation was 3 large sweet potatoes, two of which were the ruby garnet style, chopped into 3/4 cubes. Toss in 1/4 C olive oil with cumin (about 2t,), chili powder (1t), cayenne, oregano and thyme (1/2 t each), S&P. Could season even more, but I held back a bit for the kids and glad I did. .


French onion soup. The early stages of the process were excellent, and resulted in remarkably rich, brown onions, with absolute ease. 5 pounds of sliced onion were placed in a buttered dutch oven, and roasted for 2 1/2 hours in 400 deg. Effortless. Then brown onions on stove, creating moderate frond. After deglazing 3 times with water, I added 1/2 C sherry and the aroma was killer.

However, after adding the stocks and herbs the soup finished as somewhat bland. It needed additional intensity. Also, the ratio of onions to liquid was too high, especially after large croutons began to soak up soup in the bowl. But adding more liquid would only exacerbate the flavoring problem. Since I matched the recipe precisely, I'm surprised that a Cooks Illustrated "best....ever" recipe needs more attention or adjustment.

So now for leftover pasta, leftover ham, leftover cauliflower, ........


1 C water
1 stick (8T) butter, cut into pieces
1 C flour
1/4 t salt
4-5 Eggs

  • Boil water and butter
  • Take off heat, add flour and salt, incorporate fully. Rest 3-5 minutes
  • Stir eggs into flour one at a time - expect glossy sheen
  • Add cheeses and other ingredients
For Bacon and Roasted corn:
- 1C sharp cheddar, shredded
- 2T parmesan, grated
- 5 slices bacon, chopped
- 2 ears corn, slow sauteed in small amt of bacon fat - 5-8 min
- 2 T chives, chopped
- S & P

Pipe dough from pastry bag or ziplok bag with corner snipped, to approx. 1" mounds. Bake 375 for 20 min - slightly browned bottoms.

From: Gourmet, November 2007, p.158

Salmon and creative use of leftovers

Solo dinner last night after getting home late. There was a fresh piece of sockeye and some leftovers in the fridge Here's how I went:

- Pan roasted sockeye salmon with fennel and garlic sauce
- Pasta and roasted corn with balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of asiago.

Toasted fennel seed, chopped it with salt and garlic, added pepper and stirred into a very small amount of sour cream and mayo. After first minute in pan, added sauce to salmon and broiled until set.

Simply added some shallots to the corn, and sauteed with the pasta to reheat. Not bad. Had enough salmon left over to bring for lunch today.

Holiday Menus

Mom and Dad are flying in from Chicago this weekend. Menu plan is as follows:

Sat Evening
  • Local Texas cheeses - 'Plain Jane' goat cheese, Bosque Blue, Blanca Bianca (wine washed, similar to Taleggio), Veldhuizen's Texas Aged Cheddar
  • Pasta with Grilled Gazpacho Sauce with Sausage, Gourmet, July 2007
  • Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb, marinated with fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary

Sunday Breakfast
  • Quiche, bacon, sausage

Sunday Afternoon at Bob's
  • Bacon and Roasted Corn Gougeres, Gourmet Nov 2007
  • Homemade Eggnog (Rum and Bourbon)

Christmas Eve Breakfast
  • Strata of Gruyere and Sausage, Cooks Illustrated, long ago...
  • Homemade Eggnog (Rum and Bourbon)
Christmas Eve
  • Cheese Plate
  • Veggie Tray
  • French Onion Soup, Cooks Illustrated, Jan 2008
  • Homemade Eggnog (Rum and Bourbon)
Christmas Breakfast
  • Strata and quiche leftovers
  • Huevos Rancheros if needed
  • Homemade Eggnog (Rum and Bourbon)
Christmas Dinner
  • Smoked Salmon Spread - scallion, dill, lemon, Cuisine Rapide
  • Bacon and Roasted Corn Gougeres, Gourmet Nov. 2007
  • Tossed Salad, with Ricotta Salata and Balsamic Viniagrette
  • Ham with Orange Marmalade Glaze and Orange Bourbon Sauce
  • Cumin and Chili Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Steamed Cauliflower
  • Snow Peas with Tomato and Mint
  • Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme, Gourmet Dec. 2007
Not sure if I'm kidding about the eggnog or not? Nope, no joke. At least until we run out, anyway.

Kumquat and Satsuma Cordial

I am not a fan of homemade Christmas gifts - especially related to cooking. However, if alcohol is involved, I ease my restrictions slightly. This year I made a dozen bottles of Kumquat and Satsuma cordial. This recipe was adapted closely from a NYT article in December. I made a batch thusly, letting it steep first in a large container for several days, then filling 375ml bottles with the cordial, spices and a reasonable amount of fruit slices.

1 C sugar, mixed with 1/4 C boiling water
3/4 C juice of Satsuma (5 or 6)
1.75 L Cruzan light rum (aged 2 years, tastes great and a good value)
8 star anise
12 allspice berries
24 kumquats - sliced and seeded
12 clementine slices

By finding a homebrew supply store, I acquired clear bottles, corks, heat-shrink foils and had custom labels printed. $25 covered the cost for the bottles and supplies. Both the foils caps and the printed labels made the presentation quite professional. So I may repeat this endeavor in the future. And if reviews of the taste are positive, may make this for other occasions.

It can be enjoyed straight up (chilled), on the rocks or with a splash of tonic or seltzer. A tablespoon or two drizzled over berries or ice cream (or both) is another suggested use. The base is rum, with star anise and allspice berry seasoning. Don't let the bright citrus colors fool you - the taste is rich with wintery spices.


Citrus unshiu is a seedless and easy-peeling citrus mutant of Chinese origin, introduced to the West via Japan. In Japan, it is known as unshu mikan, meaning “sweet citrus”. In China, it is known as Wenzhou migan 温州蜜柑, literally "Wenzhou honey citrus".

It is commonly called mikan in Japan, satsuma in the UK, naartjie in South Africa and mandarin or tangerine in Canada. In the United States, they are called satsuma tangerines, satsuma oranges, satsuma mandarins, or simply Satsuma.

Its fruit is sweet and usually seedless, about the size of other mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata), One of the distinguishing features of the satsuma is the distinctive thin, leathery skin dotted with large and prominent oil glands, which is lightly attached around the fruit, enabling it to be peeled very easily in comparison to other citrus fruits. The satsuma also has particularly delicate flesh, which cannot withstand the effects of careless handling.

The Chinese and Japanese names reference Wenzhou a city in the Zhejiang Province of China known for its citrus production..

In the UK and the U.S., mikan are commonly available in the winter months (December through January). Clemintines are not the same variety as the unshiu or satsuma mandarin


Kumquats are slow-growing, evergreen shrubs or small trees from 2.5–4.5 meters tall, with dense branches, sometimes bearing small thorns The leaves are dark glossy green, and the flowers pure white, similar to other citrus flowers. Kumquats originated in China (they are noted in literature dating to the 12th century) and have long been cultivated there and in Japan. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 by Robert Fortune, collector for the London Horticultural Society, and shortly thereafter into North America.

In appearance the kumquat fruit resembles a miniature oval orange, 3–5 centimeters long and 2–4 centimeters wide. Depending on variety, peel color ranges from yellow to red. A Nagami kumquat has an oval shape, while a Marumi kumquat is round.

Kumquat fruit is generally in season from late autumn to mid-winter.

Sichuan Hotpot

My four and a half year old daughter is from Fuling, in Sichuan province, China. Coincidentally, Sichuan shares climatic similarities to my our hometown of Houston, Texas, despite great differences in topology, and hydrology (?) - river vs. gulf. The summers are oppressively hot and humid (95 degrees average, 50-90% humidity common). The winters are significantly damp, creating an extremely chilling effect. While the temperature rarely is lower than freezing, the moisture in the air and winter winds make up for the low double digit temps.

We adopted Amy via in Chongqing in early February 2004, and experienced all the chill and dampness we could tolerate. One of our greatest comforts was local hotpot cooking. I had heard the phrase 'hotpot' from time to time but never accurately placed it to a specific dish or cooking technique. It's essentially a spicy fondue, using an oily broth and virtually any mix of ingredients.

Hotpot probably carries similarities to American barbecue. While there are fiercely claimed origins, the arguments matter little, as the finished product, in any variation, is all that counts. Hotpot benefits from a better understood origin, and has now flourished across China with the panoply of flavor variations ala the diversity of BBQ.

Hot pot is said to have originated on the banks of the Yangtze in Chongqing, and was widely popularized in the early 20th century. Poor boatmen and fishermen scrounged the dregs of their catch, or whatever they could afford to buy (read offal), and boiled these scraps is in spicy Sichuan oil. Outdoor woks were used over open fires near the riverbanks that they plied.

This workingman's meal traversed the riverbanks and made it's way to the city of Chongqing and beyond, upgrading the contributing ingredients, but not leaving behind it roots of fiery red oil, spiced with many styles of local pepper. The result is a dish that carries the multi-layered and numbing spiciness of Sichuan, ideal for a damp, chilling day. Comparing the Sichuan spiciness to Mexican or Thai, one must think of a tingling sensation, that eventually overtakes the whole body, as opposed to a fiery burn that lives mostly on tongue and throat.

Culinary history lesson ends here. Today was one of the rare deeply chilling days in Houston. 33 degrees when we teed off this morning at 7:44. Yet, we're still thankful that we're not in Jersey or Chicago anymore, at least weatherwise. Blizzards are so much more enjoyable when you watch them two minutes at a time on TWC. Hotpot was a perfect conclusion to our cold day.

Hotpot can be built from scratch, and requires many authentic Sichuan ingredients. While I pretty much have all these ingredients, tonight I used a packaged hotpot mixture that I bought in a Chinese market. We obtained the same brand of hoptpot mix while in Chongqing, so it upped the credibility of this choice. I made a second hoptpot, mild, so that that Alex and Amy would be able to eat it too.

Mild Hotpot:
  • 4-5 C organic or homemade chicken stock
  • 1/4 C onion - chopped
  • 2 chunks fresh ginger - 1" each
  • 3-4 fresh tomato slices
  • 3-4 scallions
  • 1 T sesame oil
Spicy Hotpot
  • 1 package prepared hotpot mix - 200g
  • 4 C water
  • 3-4 fresh tomato slices
In Chongqing, the finer restaurants have hotpots with two concentric bowls, the inner bowl with a mild broth, the outer bowl with spicy broth.

Ingredients - cook in fondue fashion
  • Thinly sliced lamb leg (partly freeze first, to slice paper thin with an electric slicer
  • Chicken strips - 1/4" square, any length
  • Peeled shrimp
  • Squid rings
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Potato slices
  • Tofu cubes (firm)
  • Large mushroom wedges
Tonight, Nora preferred the spicy pot rather than the mild. I'm so proud of her. It was not as spicy as Chongqing, but it had a punch.

In Beijing in 2005, Nora and I had hotpot with Nelson and Nancy Lie, their son Tom and a female friend Nora's age. Meat slices were lamb, and the broth was very mild. At the end of the meal, a chef arrived at our table carrying a white blob, similar to bread dough. He proceeded to whack small strips of this dough into our hotpot, using a cleaver-sized flat blade. As the strips warmed in our pot they plumped into the delicious noodles, deeply infused with flavor from the broth that held three or four trays of previously cooked lamb slices.

Roasted Chicken and Hominy Soup

A few qualifiers to this recipe.

A) It comes from Bobby Flay - this is both good and bad.
B) Flay Persona = ??? or worse.
C) Flay Recipes = some awesome, some just OK.
D) Flay Volume = how can you trust someone who does so much - appearances, TV series, restaurants. Does he have any control over all this, or is he throwing things out that that he just thinks are going to work? This is what I suspect.

On to the soup. Well - Nora liked it, even if she thought it was a bit spicy. Maybe my palate is dulling, because I thought spiciness here was tres mild. Bur Margie agreed. Well, that's not much of a spiciness endorsement either. Wimpy women in this house I say.

Overall, this is a respectable recipe, and deserves to be included in a larger meal. But shouldn't be considered an entree' soup, even on a football night.

Basic approach:

  1. Roast chicken thighs - olive oil, S&P, garlic in hot oven until 165 deg plus. 20-25 min. Flay called for boneless breast. In soup? No way.
  2. Steep porcini and dried peppers in hot H20. I used Chinese facing heaven peppers becasue I was out of mexican dried peppers AND couldn't find any at store last night. Extremely unacceptable. But I now understand where I live.
  3. Heat chicken stock. Add posole (hominy), mushrooms and peppers. Simmer 20 min.
  4. Add cilantro and roasted chicken (shredded or sliced).
  5. Serve with grated cheese, tortilla strips, etc. I squeezed a lime wedge.

Fennel and Coriander Crusted Tuna with Aioli

Best new recipe of the summer. Proportions of spices came from Bon Appetit, as I had a free subscription this summer. But rest of recipe was a wreck - trying for a one-pan meal with vegetables and couscous. Plus 1 1/2" tuna could not have been rare if cooked for 4 minutes a side. That's 1 1/2" ribeye cooking time, not tuna.

2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoons kosher salt

3 T mayonnaise
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons fresh chives
2 garlic cloves

1 1/2 pounds tuna steaks (1 inch thick or more)
Olive oil

  1. Prepare grill.
  2. Toast fennel, coriander and pepper over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Grind spices and add salt.
  3. Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, and half of garlic in small bowl. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store spice mixture airtight at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate lemon aioli.)
  4. Coat tuna with olive oil. Sprinkle with spice mixture, press down. Sear tuna until. Rare center is about 2 minutes per side. Optional: refrigerate 1 hour, then cut into slices.
  5. Serve with aioli.

Tacos Redux

Tacos show up again, but mostly because the kids need to eat. I get home close to 8 after picking up Nora at swim practice, but need to spice things up, cause I won't eat Tacos seasoned from a package.

Planned a chicken and hominy soup, courtesy of Bobby Flay. I don't like the persona, but he creates some nice bold dishes, and one of his recipes was part of an ad in the NYT food section today. Figured I'd use some roasted chicken thighs for my taco. But arriving home, Margie had eaten already and was wiped from a late night with a sick Amy.

So taco night ended up this way:
  • Handmade local tortillas - One of the most awesome local ingredients down here)
  • Beef Taco filling - Seasoned from a mix. For the kids. Really. That's why we needed to put some lipstick on this.....I'd better not call my wife's home cooked meal for the children "swine", now shiould I?
  • Paragon Cheese - last bit of this locally produced, medium yellow/white - mild, but pleasant flavor
  • Mix of sauteed poblano pepper, onion, crimini. Tossed with oregano, cumin, ancho chili powder and fresh tomatos.
  • A small touch of sour cream to smooth evrything out.

All this is a lead in for the originally planned Chicken and Hominy Soup. Hopefully there's time for that tomorrow, but will have to start after 7:30. Perfect main course for the Texans game tomorrow night. Since the Bears tanked so badly last Thursday, maybe the Texans can keep their playoff hopes alive.

End of a Busy Weekend

Sunday morning golf followed by day 2 of Nora's swim meet in Magnolia. Margie bought salmon and we tossed together a quick dinner for just Tom, Margie and Nora.

No recipes, just staples.

  • Cucumbers with Asian seasoning (sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, rice vinegar, S&P)
  • Carrot sticks
  • Asian Dipping sauce (same as above)
  • Mustard sauce (mayo, sour cream, grainy mustard, vinegar)
  • Pan Roasted Sockeye salmon - finished in hot oven
  • Tapas style rice - onion, stock, thyme, tarragon, S&P

Everyone had a second helping.

Start of a Busy Weekend

Saturday Morning Taco Bar for Family

Family breakfast prior to going downtown for the Houston Symphony Orchestra's Christmas family concert - which was great. Bass Santa sang a great version of It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and did an extended soft shoe. Then to Magnolia for a swim meet for Nora.

No recipe - just leftovers and staples.

  • Wheat tortillas
  • Lightly scrambled eggs with cream
  • Sauteed potato cubes
  • Paragon Cheese, sharp cheddar cheese
  • Corn
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa - regional Texas brand. Too watery

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