As it seems like the world is melting down around us, I had to find a way to keep my mind in a positive place and hopefully share some of those good vibes with you Coast News readers. With that, this is an all-good news column, spanning a variety of topics and even a recipe and some cooking tips you may find useful.
First off, it was nice to walk through Leucadia this past weekend and see restaurants opening up in a limited capacity while continuing their carryout service. I am all about distancing and staying healthy during this time of transition and most of the places I walked by were adhering to those guidelines. I know this is a touchy and divisive subject, but please, folks, mask up when out in public places until we are told otherwise.
Usually this time of year I am back in Empire, Michigan, running in the Kick Your Ass-paragus 5k and judging the Asparagus Festival there. The name for the race is tongue in cheek but there really is a serious hill at the beginning of the race that does some serious damage to my normally respectable time. It’s one of my favorite food festivals anywhere and, like all of them, it was canceled this year. That said, they got creative and made the recipe contest, 5k and poetry contest all virtual this year. I decided to participate in the 5k and the recipe contest and ran my 5k on the Surfing Madonna beach course with two bundles of asparagus in my hands. The looks and comments were very entertaining, with the best one coming from a guy who asked me if I was going to an “asparagus sacrifice ritual.”
My recipe ended up pleasing the judges enough to be included in this year’s recipe book, which was one of those things that made me very happy. It was a variation on a simple yet elegant way I’ve been enjoying asparagus for years, with a fried egg on top. I had to take it to another level, though, so I got creative with some ingredients I had on hand.
I called it “Oh Canada Bacon, Egg + Asparagus” as a tribute to my many Canadian friends and the fact that I happened to have some Canadian bacon in the refrigerator. Just FYI, they do not call it Canadian bacon in Canada. That’s a whole other story for another time.
So here is how the recipe goes: Dice 4 slices Canadian Bacon, melt butter in sauté pan, add bacon and asparagus to pan together — add a splash of chicken stock and cover for 3 minutes, season with salt and “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning mix, take cover off and brown bacon and cook asparagus until al dente. Then transfer asparagus and bacon to bowl and deglaze the pan with splash of chicken stock and fry an egg over easy in same pan. Arrange the asparagus attractively on a plate and top with egg, bacon and parmesan (or other dry Italian cheese). Enjoy for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner with a crispy baguette.
I’d also like to share some tips I’ve picked up from culinary chefs over the years that I use on a regular basis.
We all think about salt as the primary seasoning when cooking, but it’s equally important to finish your dish with a splash of acidity. Try using lemon juice, lime juice or even a bit of vinegar as a last step to finish off pastas, stews, stir-fries, or grilled meats. This is the primary use of the lemon tree I have growing at my house.
This is a quick but important tip for making the best fried chicken. First off, fry your chicken once, then take it out and let it rest for about 10 minutes, then fry it again for around 3 minutes. It’s the same concept used on fries and, oh boy, does it work if you like extra crispy chicken.
Fish sauce … trust me, get some and use it. Pour it on meat or poultry when grilling. I always use fish sauce when grilling. It not only helps caramelize but also produces an amazing flavor.
This is a fairly new one to me, but it works wonders for scrambled eggs. Try scrambling your eggs in a double boiler for slow, gentle cooking. Pour beaten eggs into a heatproof bowl, place it over a pot of simmering water that is not touching the bowl and stir until your eggs are ready. It takes a while but the results are glorious … especially with some heavy cream in the eggs.
And finally, this one is so simple yet extremely effective. Rinse your rice with cold water before you cook; it helps get rid of excess starch. It stops the rice from becoming clumpy and makes it fluffy when cooked.