Monday, November 21, 2011

It's another Tequila Sunrise...

“Not Thanksgiving At All” Steak and Jalapeno Quesadilla
The morning after Thanksgiving I have no desire to eat the leftovers.  By the end of Thanksgiving evening, I have spent a great portion of discussing, planning, shopping for, cooking, and complaining about the dinner.  My skin smells like stuffing, turkey repels me, and I drank probably half a bathtub of Beaujolais Nouveau and whatever Alsatian-style whites Jen, my sister-in-law with exactly the same tastes in wine as I have, has brought.  The film coating the kitchen matches the film over my eyes, and as I start the coffee, I think about brunch.

In addition to shopping for the big day with all its Brussels sprouts, flour, and butter nonsense, I throw a couple of items in the cart so I can start my day after the Day consuming completely differently tasting food.  This year, I will be making a little item I developed while opening Mad Mex # 11 in Willow Grove, PA (Philly suburb).  

Most non-restaurant people don’t know that it is eminently important to drink until the wee hours after the first real day of business at a new restaurant.  It builds camaraderie and relieves stress after that 18-hour day.  The best part is arriving back at work the second real day of business after four hours of sleep to attack another 18-hour day.  To celebrate surviving this long, stressful, and hung-over day, it is again important to drink tequila until the wee hours. 

The Sunday morning after these two long opening days greeted us with the inconsiderate feature of a brilliantly sunny morning and a lot of work to do.  The opening team needed inspiration.  It was important that I make a rich, flavorful, greasy breakfast that was achievable with the ingredients on hand yet did not really taste like Mad Mex food.  I grabbed a flat of eggs, an onion, some jalapenos, and some flank steak and got to work.  The following is a reconstruction of what occurred that morning.

1       #          Flank steak
1       Tbs.    Dijon mustard
1       Tbs.    Salt
2       Tbsp. Olive oil
½      ea.      Stick of butter
1       C.        Medium sliced raw onion
1-4   ea.      Jalapenos, sliced into rings
1       Tbsp.  Mexican Oregano, dried
2       tsp.     Cumin, ground
2       tsp.     Salt
8       ea.      Eggs
More butter
4       ea.      10” flour tortillas
1       C.        Shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
Salt and pepper
Sour Cream
1)    Prepare Guacamole.  Reserve.
2)    Place steak in a bowl.  Add mustard, olive oil, and salt.  Allow to marinate.
3)    Heat cast iron skillet over high heat.  Sear steak until crusty on the outside and a gentle medium in the center, about 140°.  Set aside and allow to rest.  Return skillet to heat.
4)    While steak is cooking, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, peppers, oregano, cumin, and salt.  Cook with stirring until onions soften but do not become soggy. 
5)    Heat comal (flat cast iron skillet).
6)    Slice beef across the grain.

7)    In skillet, add a generous knob of butter.  Crack 2 eggs into the pan.  If you desire, poke the yolks so that they cook solid.
8)    While eggs are cooking.  Place a tortilla on the comal.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Allow to melt.
9)    Place onion and pepper mixture across half the tortilla.  Add some beef.  Add two eggs. 
10)Fold and remove from the griddle.  Cut into thirds and serve with guacamole and sour cream.
11)Repeat steps 7 – 10 until everyone is fed.  Hopefully, one of these bums will have made you a Tequila Sunrise.  Sip it as you cook.
3       ea.      Avocados
Juice of 2-3 limes
1       ea.      Large clove garlic grated on a microplane grater
¼      C.        Chopped Cilantro
1-2   ea.      Diced ripe tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste

1)    Peel, seed, and dice avocados
2)    Add everything else.  Adjust seasonings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

You Too Can Write a Book Review!

John Allison of the Post Gazette asked me to write a review of Adam Gopnik's newest book, "The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food" Sweet!  Nothing more fun for an amateur writer than to criticize in print a professional writer!   When I got the book, the first advance copy I of my life, anxiety set in.  "I agreed to read this book, intelligently assess it, and deliver an engaging written review.  All in a reasonable amount of time." 

Turns out, getting the book read presented the biggest challenges.  Two active young children, a busy and growing restaurant company, a professional spouse, and silly things like friends and sleep all conspired to keep me from finishing the book.  After getting through a dozen or so pages over the course of three nights reading in bed, I switched to reading on the couch.  I covered more ground but at the cost of having to drag myself up to bed at 4 AM. 

John would send gentle e-mails, checking on my progress.  Still not much past halfway through the book, I assured him that the review was progressing well and I just needed to do a little more work.  I assume that this little lie to an editor surprises nobody.  I look forward to a time in my life where I have an opportunity to deliver immense lies camouflaging catastrophic delays to a really powerful and frightening editor. 

Finally I finished.  I mostly dug the book.  In reading it I saw the reflection of a lot of my thoughts on current and future food trends.  Gopnik's dissertation on the birth of the modern restaurant out of the same social changes that drove the French Revolution engaged me.

But most of all, I developed an incredible jealousy of his life.  How is it possible?  Traveling the world, dining at brilliant restaurants, cooking for his family in NYC, chatting with hot French food revolutionaries like Zoe Reyners, being brilliant and well-educated, and seeming to have a blast at it all.  Amazing!  By what accident of birth did I miss that all?

Anyhow, here's the review.  I haven't seen a check for it.  When I get it, if I get it, I plan to use it all to buy Cognac.

Gopnik Review