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Cook’s Notes – Gluten Free Benny BLT (Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato, Eggs Benedict Style)

Gluten-Free BLT Eggs BenedictMaking the Gluten-Free Benny BLT was a fun one to put together. Not only is it a chance to practice a few techniques – poaching eggs, making hollandaise sauce, plating for visual appeal – but it’s a chance to use some fantastic cured pork I had prepared myself as part of The French Pig workshop.

Let’s talk bottom-up on this one, then:

Tomatoes are great when they’re ripe and in season, and bland when they aren’t. None of them looked right in the grocery store, but I was able to find some really nice ones from local farmers at Revival Market. Don’t do this with a sub-par tomato; find something else – a biscuit, an English muffin, some baked beans – to substitute.

There’s a bit of a story behind the parsnip leaves. What I really wanted – what I had my heart set on – was a nice crisp piece of Boston lettuce. Not too big, but curved slightly to act as a cup for the bacon and egg. However, this is one of the hazards of eating locally from good markets – occasionally, they don’t have what you want. I asked for any other lettuce, which they were out of – and reminded me that the day prior, they had done a Burger Sunday special to strong demand and had used every bit of lettuce they had. Whoops. There were bunches of beet greens and other strong greens, but these were going to be far too earthy and bitter for what I wanted.

If not having something is a hazard, then one of the saving graces is the people on hand. Always, ALWAYS build a relationship, not just a transaction, with the people who provide you with food. In this case, Edgar came to my rescue. I asked about the parsnips leaves (I’ve tried using carrot greens before, but with limited success). In a chain grocery, I’d have gotten a “we don’t sell that” response. In contrast, Edgar’s reply was “Let’s try it!”. He came out to the produce case, pulled a leaf off a parsnip, tasted it, and suggested it might just work for what I was doing – and cut off a small bunch for me. It’s these little moments that make getting to know your suppliers so useful.

The bacon is shown in pieces. It works. Truth be told, I had wanted to cook it and keep its spiral shape, but I didn’t think to put a press on it as it cooked in the test batch (hey, any excuse to eat more bacon) and it tightened up into a bowl shape instead. Afterwards, I tried it with a press to some success but still curling action. Lardons are best here.

There’s an entire other post coming on how to poach an egg – this is one of those things that are surrounded by as much kitchen myth and old tales as actual science. Short version – hot-but-not-boiling water, deeper than you think you need, and have a few extra eggs on hand.

If I describe hollandaise sauce as just a warm mayonnaise that uses butter for the oil, some of you might realize how easy it is to make a hollandaise. (Of course, for anybody who followed that description, you’ve probably already covered making hollandaise.) I did this one over a double boiler because I could do a small volume that way and because I wanted to see if I could do it the old-fashioned way. I’ve not tried it, but I believe it can be done with a stick blender in small quantities – the hot butter will heat up the egg yolks – and I’ve seen it done in larger quantities in a proper blender. There’s still something fun about doing it by hand, though, so whisk away!

The chives on top are there for a bit of flavor but to really give a shot of color to the dish. Adding small accents of green at the last moment does a lot to make a plate seem more fresh and enjoyable.

And that’s about it! I won’t say this was especially fast to put together, but with a bit of practice it will be. Enjoy!

Be sure to check out the original recipe post for the Gluten-Free Benny BLT if you haven’t already!

Gluten Free Benny BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Eggs Benedict Style)

Gluten Free Eggs Benedict BLT

Back in April, Mike went off to the state of the art butchery classroom at Francis Tuttle School of Culinary Arts, Oklahoma City to attend The French Pig: Farmstead Charcuterie Two-Day Workshop. (Mike will be writing about the whole experience soon, and if you are curious you can read more at the Kitchen at Camont website.)

One of the many pork items he came home with was ventrèche roulée, also known as French bacon.

French Pig ventrèche roulée bacon

French Pig ventrèche roulée bacon

Inspired by the French bacon, Mike decided he wanted to make gluten-free Eggs Benedict. In order to make them gluten-free, he could not use an English muffin as the base. Thinking of various options, he thought of using a thick slice of tomato, and from there he created the Benny BLT – Eggs Benedict meets the BLT, all without the bread so it is gluten-free.

Cutting thick slices of tomato for the BLT base

For the base, he started with a thick cut slice of tomato from Revival Market. Revival was out of lettuce the day he was there, so instead he used parsnip tops as the “lettuce” in the BLT.

Cooking the bacon lardons for the Benny BLT

Next came the ventrèche roulée, the French bacon, which he cut in to lardons and cooked over medium heat until they were well seared and the fat was rendered out of them.

Separating the egg yolks for Hollandaise sauce

To prepare the Hollandaise sauce, he separated the yolks of two eggs. Mike prefers to do this by hand so that he makes sure he doesn’t break the yolk and so he can separate all the whites out. He discarded the egg whites along with the shells, which are in the bowl beneath his hands.

Preparing the Hollandaise sauce

Preparing the Hollandaise sauce involves whisking so fast that it was hard for me to photograph it. You get the point though – if you want it to come together, whisk it quickly.

Poaching an egg

Mike then poached an egg to place on top of the BLT. Meanwhile, he arranged the base of the BLT on the plate, ready to add the egg and the sauce over the top.

Benny BLT base, ready for the egg & Hollandaise sauce

The poached egg for the Egg Benedict

The Benny BLT ready for the Hollandaise sauce

Pouring the Hollandaise sauce over the top

The Benny BLT - Gluten Free Eggs Benedict BLT

Gluten Free Benny BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Benedict-style)

Gluten Free Benny BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Benedict-style)

Ingredients

  • 1 thick slice of tomato
  • 1 thick slice of ventreche (French bacon - you can substitute thick-cut bacon instead)
  • 1 leaf of lettuce (Parsnip tops are substituted for the lettuce in the original recipe)
  • 1 egg
  • For the Hollandaise sauce
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1.5 Tbsp water
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • lemon juice (at least 1 Tbsp; to taste)
  • salt and white pepper

Instructions

  1. Slice tomato and set aside.
  2. Wash, dry, and trim lettuce and set aside.
  3. Cut ventreche (or thick-cut bacon) into lardons and cook in pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When well seared and fat rendered, remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Prepare Hollandaise sauce (below) and hold in gently warmed saucepan.
  5. Poaching the Egg
  6. Bring water to simmer in wide, shallow pan. Whirl water to create motion. Crack egg just at surface of water and drop gently into pot. Leave it alone for 4-5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to an ice bath to shock and stop the cooking.
  7. To serve: Place the tomato in the center of the plate. Place lettuce on tomato. Arrange ventreche on top. Rewarm poached egg in hot water for 30 seconds and perch on top. Spoon over hollandaise sauce. Garnish with chives.
  8. Hollandaise Sauce
  9. In a bain marie or double boiler (or a large bowl set over simmering water), whisk egg and water together until frothy. Keep going until egg thickens and tracks are evident in bottom of pan, but before egg has scrambled.
  10. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in butter in 1 Tbsp chunks. If the sauce cools too much to melt butter, return bowl to heat. Season, whisk in lemon juice, taste and adjust as desired.
http://spoonandknife.com/gluten-free-eggs-benedict-blt/

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Recipe

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Recipe

Poor Brussels Sprouts. They get such a bad rap as being one of the most hated vegetables out there. I won’t deny it, until I started eating a 4-Hour Body / Paleo style of diet, I thought I hated them too. Then Mike made these, and he turned my perception of them around with this recipe for Caramelized Brussels Sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts Recipe

A member of the cabbage family, these beautiful little morsels are quite delicious! (Maybe because we cook ours with bacon?) The key is to not overcook them, as that will bring out the strong flavor in them. Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, which have a lot of health benefits, but also release lots of sulfur the longer they’re cooked. Take care when cooking your Brussels Sprouts and you will have a delicious dish that is full of nutrients and vitamins!

(Today’s random trivia: did you know the spelling is Brussels, not Brussel like I thought? I had no idea. I thought Mike had made a typo at first, so I had to look it up.)

Preparing to make Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts to be Caramelized

Cut down the Brussels Sprouts in to halves or quarters

Trim end of the sprouts and pull off tough/loose outer leaves, leaving a tight leaf ball with a bit of core to hold it together. Cut into halves or quarters, depending on if the sprouts are small or large.

Cut Brussels Sprouts

Rendering the Bacon for the Brussels Sprouts

Cut bacon into pieces, place in pan, and cook over medium heat until the fat has cooked out and the bacon is crispy and dark golden brown. Remove the crispy bits and put them in a bowl to the side.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts cooking in a pan

Turn the heat up to high and add the sprouts to the pan. Ideally, the cut side should be down – this will draw out the moisture in the sprouts and help them to caramelize better. Even heating will help make sure you don’t overcook them and draw out that sulfur flavor.

Leave them to cook for 2-3 minutes, then toss in the pan. Keep cooking, tossing occasionally, until they look well caramelized and become tender. (With larger sprouts, you might add a quarter cup of water to the hot pan to create some steam and help them get tender. Do this at the end.) Remove the sprouts from the pan to a bowl and set aside.

Brussels Sprouts set aside

Sauteing the Shallots for the Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

Add the minced shallots to the pan and sautée them for a minute or two. Add 2-3 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

Return the Brussels Sprouts to the pan along with the crispy bacon. Toss to combine it all together.

Tossing the Brussels Sprouts

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Bacon Recipe

The next time you’re looking for a new vegetable to bring something to your dinner table, give these Brussels Sprouts a try. You may discover that you think they are delicious after all!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 3-4 Servings

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb. brussels sprouts
  • 4-6 strips of bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 shallot
  • Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Trim end of sprouts and pull off tough/loose outer leaves, leaving a tight leaf ball with a bit of core to hold it together. Cut into halves or quarters, depending on if the sprouts are small or large.
  2. Render bacon in pan. (Cut bacon into pieces, place in pan, and cook over medium heat until the fat has cooked out and the bacon is crispy and dark golden brown.) Remove crispy bits to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Turn the heat up to high and add the sprouts to the pan. Ideally, the cut side should be down - this will draw out the moisture in the sprouts and caramelize better. Leave them to cook for 2-3 minutes, then toss in the pan. Keep cooking, tossing occasionally, until they look well caramelized and become tender. (With larger sprouts, you might add a quarter cup of water to the hot pan to create some steam and help them get tender. Do this at the end.) Remove the sprouts from the pan to a bowl and set aside.
  4. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of oil back to the pan and sautée the minced shallots for a minute or two. Add 2-3 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  5. Return the sprouts and bacon to the pan, toss to combine, and season to taste
http://spoonandknife.com/caramelized-brussels-sprouts-with-bacon-recipe/

Easy Flounder Ceviche Appetizer Recipe

Easy Fresh Flounder Ceviche

I’ll confess, I had never heard of Ceviche until I went to Belize to photograph a destination wedding a few years ago. We went for an all day boat cruise with Ras Creek off of Caye Caulker, Belize and had a chance to swim with the stingrays among the coral. As part of the experience, Ras dove down and caught a fresh lobster and made Lobster Ceviche on the boat for us to snack on between stops.

I was amazed. I had NO idea you could “cook” seafood with just the acidity of citrus juice! Incredible!

Flounder Ceviche - Prep Items

It doesn’t have to be lobster either. For this ceviche appetizer recipe, we used flounder fillets from PJ Stoops, which Mike picked up at Revival Market. Fresh fish is brought in on Saturday, so Mike tries to make it over there every few weeks to pick some up.

(Our Vermilion Snapper Meuniere was from PJ as well, and you can read more in the Cook’s Notes on the Meuniere on why finding good local suppliers is important.)

Rolling the Oranges to maximize the juice

Mike rolled the oranges to maximize the juice he could get out of them, and then squeezed them by hand over a bowl, catching the seeds that came out.

Hand squeezing the oranges for flounder ceviche

Preparing the flounder ceviche

After combining the juice of 1 orange and 2 lemons and adding the salt, Mike added the Sriracha to taste. How much you add is entirely up to you and the flavor you like. Whisk it together to prep and set it aside.

whisking the citrus juice together for the flounder ceviche

Shallot

Cutting Shallots

Cutting Shallots - Knife Techniques

Cutting Shallots - Knife Techniques

Prep the shallots, the scallions, and parsley. When Mike cuts shallots, he first cuts them horizontally through all but the end, and then vertically through all but the end, and then minces them. That way, they stay together and are easier to mince.

The Flounder from PJ Stoops, purchased at Revival Market

Flounder prepared for Ceviche

Add to a bowl the scallions and shallots with the flounder cut similarly sized pieces so that they will “cook” evenly.

Preparing Flounder Ceviche

Stir to coat well – you want the fish to be submerged if possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 10-15 minutes or until fish is “cooked” (opaque white all the way through). Add the parsley after it has cooked.

Flounder Ceviche with parsley

Now amaze your friends with your “cooked” Ceviche appetizer, which has never touched the stove! (Ok, maybe this is only impressive to me. I clearly need to be more adventurous in my eating.)

You can serve it with tortilla chips, sweet potato chips, or something else crunchy. Delicious!

If you would like to learn more on making Ceviche or get other ideas on fish and ingredients to use, check out the inspiration for this recipe, Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto.

Flounder Ceviche Appetizer Recipe

Flounder Ceviche

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. flounder fillets, skinned, cut into 1/2" by 1" or so strips
  • 3 scallions, white and light green part, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • Salt to taste (1-2 tsp)
  • Sriracha to taste
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Combine juice of 2 lemons, 1 orange, salt and Sriracha in a small bowl. Whisk to stir well. Set aside.
  2. Combine chopped scallions (both white and light green part), minced shallot and flounder in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Add liquids, and stir to coat well - you want the fish to be submerged as much as possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 10-15 minutes or until fish is "cooked" (opaque white all the way through).
  4. After the fish is cooked, add parsley for garnish.
  5. Serve chilled with tortilla chips, sweet potato chips, or something else crunchy.
http://spoonandknife.com/easy-flounder-ceviche-appetizer-recipe/

Vermilion Snapper Meuniere with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Part of what makes food and cooking so wonderful is the community that surrounds it, and we are lucky to be in Houston and surrounded by some of the very best. Mike is pretty engaged with the food community of Houston over on Twitter. (You can find him at @CoffeeMike.) On a recent Saturday, Mike and PJ Stoops, one of Houston’s great treasures, got together at Revival Market, and Mike returned home with a Vermilion snapper.

Update: Be sure to read the Cook’s Notes: Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette for tips on how the recipe came together, tips on the preparation process, making the dish gluten free, why Mike selected the leeks as a side dish, and the importance of finding local suppliers.

Vermilion Snapper Meunière Recipe

Now might be a good time to point out that I don’t like fish. I don’t like the smell of fish. I don’t like that “fishy” flavor. When Mike wants to cook fish, he normally saves it for when I’m not at home. But that wouldn’t make for a very interesting Cooking with Mike project now, would it? Fortunately, the Vermilion Snapper wasn’t as “fishy” as some cuts can be. That gave me hope!

Ready to cook - everything we would need for the meal

Preparing the leeks for our side dish

Cooking down the bacon for the leeks

First Mike prepared the leeks and the bacon for our side dish. As he cut down the leeks, he cooked the bacon in our Le Creuset pot. He then removed the bacon and the fat, reserving them for use later, leaving just those little bits of bacon flavor behind. He added in the leeks to let them sweat and cook down.

Bacon flavoring for the leeks

Set the bacon aside to use later

Adding the leeks so they can sweat down

Smashing the lemons helps get the juice flowing

I had no idea before I met Mike that if you roll the lemons and “smash” them before cutting them, you will get the juice flowing and make it much easier to get out afterwards.

Next we moved on to making the lemon, bacon & mustard vinaigrette. Mike juiced the lemons by hand, catching the seeds with his other hand. He then added the mustard and as he blended it with the stick blender, he added the bacon fat reserved from cooking down the bacon earlier. This helped to emulsify it all together to be a delicious addition to the leeks.

Mike juicing the lemons and catching the seeds

lemon juice, mustard and bacon fat

Adding the bacon fat to the vinaigrette

Preparing the parsley for finishing the snapper

Preparing the Vermilion Snapper

Coating the Vermilion Snapper with cornstarch

As the butter melts down, Mike prepared the Vermilion Snapper. He seasoned the fish with kosher salt and pepper, and since I am gluten free, he then coated them in corn starch instead of flour.

In to the pan, corn starch side down, and then coating the other side with more corn starch.

Vermilion Snapper in the pan

Vermilion Snapper in the pan, coating with corn starch

Vermilion Snapper in the pan, glazing with the pan juices

Once you turn the fish over, glaze the fish with the butter sauce that is in the pan to keep it moist and well flavored.

Adding the bacon to the leeks

With the fish almost ready, Mike added the lemon mustard vinaigrette and the reserved bacon to the leeks. He then added lemon juice to the butter sauce in the fish pan to make a sauce to pour over the fish.

Adding lemon juice to make a pan sauce

Pan sauce cooking down

Adding the pan sauce to the Vermilion Snapper

The finished plate! The verdict? I might just be converted from not liking fish. I actually ate a whole filet! The buttery lemon flavor was perfect, and the leeks with bacon were the perfect complement to the fish. Just strong enough to support it, but not overwhelm it in flavor. Delicious!

Recipe: Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Yield: Serves 2

Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 snapper filets, cleaned and skin removed
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
  • Cornstarch
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • For the Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette:
  • One bunch of leeks, trimmed, quartered, sliced thin.
  • Four rashers of thick cut bacon (or six of regular bacon)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Juice of three lemons

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over high heat, melt the butter until foaming subsides and the butter just begins to brown.
  2. Dust the fish with cornstarch, and pat off any excess. Place fish in skillet and cook on the first side until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip the fish and cook until the other side is golden brown and the fish is cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove fish to warm plate. Return the pan to heat and squeeze lemon juice into butter. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.
  4. Serve fish on warm plate, spoon brown butter/lemon sauce over, and sprinkle parsley over top.
  5. For the Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette:
  6. In a medium pot over medium-low heat, render the bacon until crispy and dark golden.
  7. Remove the bacon to a small bowl and reserve. Pour out most of the bacon fat into another small bowl and reserve, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pot.
  8. Put the pot back on the heat, turn up to medium-high, and add the leeks to the pot. Give a generous pinch or two of salt (a couple of teaspoons), stir well, and cover. Let that sweat for 5-6 minutes until the leeks have cooked down and are soft.
  9. Meanwhile, while the leeks cook, mix the lemon juice and mustard in a bowl. Whisk in the bacon fat slowly (well, whisk vigorously, slowly add the fat) to form the dressing. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper.
  10. (Note - the vinaigrette can be made in a snap with a stick blender an a pint glass or other tall container just larger than the blender head. Blend the juice and mustard, then with the blender running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream.)
  11. Remove the pot of leeks from the heat and stir, scraping up any stuck bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the bacon pieces back to the pot, pour over the vinaigrette, and stir to combine.

Notes

Be sure to read the Cook's Notes: Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette for tips on how the recipe came together, tips on the preparation process, making the dish gluten free, why Mike selected the leeks as a side dish, and the importance of finding local suppliers.

http://spoonandknife.com/vermilion-snapper-meuniere-with-leeks-in-bacon-vinaigrette/