Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Waking Up: Better Than the Alternative

Restaurants are something I frequent far less than I used to - you have much less control over what goes in your food, and it doesn't seem like a treat if you have to order salad with no dressing, or fish broiled and your potato with no butter on it. Going out to eat is a treat, not a necessity when you know what you're doing in the kitchen - I've been out of town long enough to crave making my own meals, and it's because I'm just a better cook than most restaurant staff. That sounds kind of snobby, but I've been a line cook myself, and I'm pretty sure that most restaurants shouldn't be calling their staff cooks, and certainly not chefs - altho there are those who are much better at cranking it out than others.

My station was primarily eggs - I also did lunch, but mostly breakfast, and I got really good at it. With a good pan, I can still turn out an exceptional omelet - and I am so picky about eggs that when Handsome Stranger is cooking the first meal of the day, he waits until he's done cooking everyone's eggs before he picks which one's I'm getting. It's a lot harder to make them right when you use spray instead of butter...slippery is good when you flip 'em. And I remember my dad refusing to eat eggs with any scorch whatsoever on them....I'm the same way. I used to get a horrendously delicious sandwich at Jack in the Box for breakfast, and I swear they deep fried the eggs...they were CRUNCHY. I would open it up and start peeling the brown skin off, and by the time I was done I would end up with mostly just a hard yolk...mmmm, yolk.

A couple egg tips: Heat your pan and melt the butter, coating the entire bottom of the pan before you put the eggs in; if you don't like runny whites, use the tip of a fork to break the membrane that holds the thick part of the whites around the yolk - it is runny because it's too thick to cook through before it starts to brown; For perfect eggs, flip em and remove from the burner....they will keep cooking but it will slow it down and they won't scorch if they're not on the heat.

I make omelets by beating the crap out of 3 eggs, then adding about a Tablespoon of milk - water will work too - AND a little salt and pepper. Salt makes your eggs tough, blahblahblah...it does NOT. You pour it in your medium hot skillet that is well oiled/buttered, and swirl it up the sides, then use a rubber spatula to push the sides back down and create an "edge". Then you start in one spot by lifting the edge with the spatula, then tilting the pan so the egg runs underneath. Keep going around the pan doing that until there is no longer any runny eggs on top, just a wet surface. Add a little butter, lifting the edge so it goes under, then shake the pan so it's all loose (use the spat to unstick any problem areas), then pick up the pan and hold it about hip level and give it a flip. If it sticks together in a fold, you can use the spat to gently pull the fold out from underneath...it does take some practice. Do not put back on the burner - it's already done.

Put your fillings on it, then fold the left side over the top, then tip the pan over your plate and slide and roll it off the pan so it forms a burrito shape right on the plate where you wanted it. A little cheese, a few pieces of whatever you put inside and voila! We used a white sauce in the restaurant, which would cover up some boo-boo's....but it was gross, and if you totally screw it up, just call it frittata and keep trying.

My most FAVORITE omelet in the WORLD, and actually the ONLY omelet I like, is one we used to get at Sweet Oregon Grill. It was housed in a big old renovated barn, and one night it unfortunately burnt down...I miss that place because it had cool old kitchen dinettes and one of the best chicken fried steaks I've EVER had. Altho the cream gravy, as creamy and delicious as it was, still wasn't as good as my sausage gravy. I forget what they called this offering, but never forgot how it was made - it is worth the time and effort, and if you bugger it up, it will still taste heavenly...and cream cheese is KEY. I love, Love, LOVE this omelet....I may have to save up some bonus points and make it this weekend!

The OMGoodness Omelet

Eggs (3 per person)
Milk (1 T. per omelet)
Salt & Pepper
Home fries (recipe follows)
Cream cheese
Mushrooms (optional)

You will need to make home fries first - it's essential, and you must use red potatoes. Onion is optional - in my house they were a point of contention, but it was finally determined that cooking them this way would result in a product that was guaranteed no longer crunchy, therefore more acceptable than sprinkling eggshells in the potatoes. (funny tho, he likes the crunchy part of burnt EGGS, but not onions...what a weirdo).

Home Fries
6 red potatoes, scrubbed, quartered and sliced thin to moderately
1/2 onion, quartered and sliced thinly
Olive oil

Rinse sliced potatoes and shake dry in a colander, heat oil in large skillet (preferably cast iron) and add potatoes, spreading out evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper, add 1/4 cup hot water and cover, then leave them alone on medium heat for at least 5 minutes or until they get a nice golden brown on the bottom and the water has steamed the spuds and evaporated. Turn potatoes and add onion, let alone again for another 5 minutes, and turn when nicely browned again. It will take 20-25 minutes to cook them properly - check them by tasting to see if the potatoes are done. There is nothing grosser to me than raw potatoes in a cooked dish...that is why I do not buy potato salad from a deli. (Except Elsie's potato salad at the Canby Thriftway...that woman is magic!) Onions should be nicely caramelized and potatoes tender and bronzed...you will want to eat them right then and there, but patience, grasshopper....

Now you can cook the bacon. A whole package if you dare....this should be enough to make 6 huge omelets, so adjust amounts according to the size of your group. I cut it crosswise in slices and fry it that way, it's easier than crumbling and it cooks faster and more evenly. Drain on paper towels and hide it from the mouth breathers. I am notorious for nibbling the fat off bacon, so if necessary, hide it from yourself.

Soften the cream cheese by scraping it off the foil and into a freezer ziploc bag, then either knead it until it warms up and softens, or zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds. You are going to use the bag to pipe the cheese out of, so don't seal it or it might blow up in the mic. Cut off the corner fairly large unless you want a hernia like Uncle Ernies...too small and it's gonna be like sucking an orange through a straw, but backwards.

OK, this is where my memory escapes me. I swear it had sauteed mushrooms, but I could be so wrong....but since I love mushrooms, I'm going to add it anyway. I put some in my shepherds pie tonight, and used my egg slicer to cut the mushrooms - DAMN that worked fine! Saute over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until browned and cooked through - do not add salt until they're done or they will lose all their water and just boil in it and you'll lose the brown.

OK, now you're ready - line up your filling: cream cheese, home fries, bacon, mushrooms. Now start cooking your omelets, and have someone else man the toaster. When you flip your first omelet (after you're done cursing), squirt a nice healthy squiggle of cream cheese across the center, then a layer of home fries, bacon and mushrooms. I suppose you could use cheese as well - but cream cheese is what sticks it all together tho and give it it's signature flavor and texture. Fold omelet onto first plate, garnish with a little smudge of cream cheese, a potato or two and a piece of bacon and mushroom slice, then start on the next while your homie slathers the toast with butter ALL THE WAY TO THE EDGES PLEASE (when I worked as a cook my toast was ALWAYS buttered to the edge) and puts it on the plate. Continue until everyone has one, then make your own, putting all the hidden bacon fat on it, then make the toast man cry if he forgot to put some down for you.

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