Monday, July 4, 2011

Breakfast at the Palomino Room

The old Palomino Room in Sacramento was a steak house. They served lunch to local businessmen, and, at night, they produced fine grilled steaks. True, they had other stuff on the menu, but what the regular crowd showed up for were the steaks. Dad liked the lion sized rib steak, grilled rare, with a baked potato on the side – Dad like his slavered with butter and nothing else.

Then, on Sunday mornings, there was something really special.  See, the Palomino Room was closed every Sunday, as used to be traditional in the restaurant industry.  But some Sunday mornings, Harry and Ray and their chef, Nick would be in the restaurant, cleaning things up, making necessary repairs, and preparing for the week to come.

Whether this custom started merely to feed the staff that was in house on Sunday morning or as a thank you to their regular customers, I do not know, but word got around to the regulars that, if they came by on Sunday morning, breakfast would be served. The bar was open, and Mon and Dad usually ordered Ramos Fizzes or Bloody Marys.

The star of the show, however, was the salty and succulent breakfast served up by Nicolas. He got tremendous quality city style hams that he cut into thick, ½” thick steaks, 10” around. He broiled them on the grill until they had crosshatched carbon grill marks, making the ham utterly delicious. As a garnish for the ham, he grilled a slice of fresh pineapple. It was magnificent in its simplicity. He served it with simple, coarsely cut spuds that were buttery and had a hint of onion, and a pair of eggs, cooked to order. In those days, mine were scrambled wet, Mom’s were poached, and Dad’s, over easy.

Early on a Sacramento summer Sunday, it was heaven. I cannot find ham that compares to that in quality and texture, nor can I find the ambition to fire up the Weber at that time of day, but I may try soon.  It will never be the same at home – it will never be the dear old Palomino Room.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Volcano Combo


When I was a wee lad, as the temperatures headed for the triple digits, my sainted mother would break out the backyard barbecue grill, a decidedly pre-Weber Kettle affair, and she would often serve dinner at a picnic table in our gargantuan back yard. To ease the dense Northern California heat, she would break out a variety of cool beverages, and one of the adult favorites was the Volcano Combo.

She credited its invention variously to a restaurant or a resort located in Volcano, California. Her version of it was, however, her own interpretation, and it was a classic. I remember Sally & Doc, Sully & Eddy, and numerous others sitting in the back yard, deep in grown-up conversation and drinking pitchers of these things. Here is the secret of ice-creamy, boozy deliciousness:


Volcano Combo

Ingredients

·         1 quart, good vanilla ice cream
·         1 pint, Cognac
·         1 pint, Dark Crème de Cacao
·         2 quarts coffee, room temperature

Method

Put all in a big pitcher, allowing the ice cream to get soft and the liquids to get icy cold before serving. Serve in chimney glasses with long straws. Be sure to provide lounge chairs for all.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Hot Toddy

Grandma had elixirs that were surefire recipes to get you back on your feet in no time flat. These mysterious remedies included chicken soup and hot compresses and, of course, the hot toddy.

Personally, I do not know if the hot toddy is a cure for anything, but it sure makes living with a cold a lot easier! This is my grandmama’s recipe and it works every time.
  1. Brew a pot of black tea adding a cinnamon stick, some cloves and a few whole cardamom seeds
  2. Pour a mug of it. Add a liberal dose of honey or brown sugar
  3. Add a slug (approximately 2 oz.) of rye whiskey
  4. Stir until the honey is not gloppy anymore, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice (for the vitamin C)
Drink at regular intervals until you feel better.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Veggie Tacos

Ingredients

·         Olive oil
·         1 cup of roughly chopped zucchini or summer squash (1-2 zucchini or squash, depending on the size)
·         1/2 medium onion, chopped
·         1 garlic clove, chopped
·         1 large fresh mild green chile (Anaheim or Hatch), seeds and stem discarded, chopped
·         1/2 fresh jalapeño chile pepper, seeds and stem discarded, minced (or more, if you desire more heat)
·         Salt
·         Pinch of ground cumin
·         Pinch of ground oregano
·         1 small to medium tomato, chopped
·         4 corn tortillas
·         4 slices cheddar cheese
·         1/4 cup crumbled Mexican cotija cheese (a salty, crumbly cheese, you can substitute feta)
·         A few sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped (okay to include the stems, if small)

Method

1 Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the zucchini, onions, garlic, green chiles, and jalapeño to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and cumin. Stir to coat the vegetables with the oil in the pan. Spread the veggies out in the pan and then stir only occasionally, until they are all lightly browned. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and oregano, lower the heat to low. Let gently cook for several minutes while you are preparing the tortillas. 

2 You are going to want to heat up the tortillas first, first to soften them, and then to melt the cheese. Heat a dollop of olive oil (or other vegetable oil) in a large cast iron frying pan, on medium high. Add a tortilla to the pan, moving it around a bit, and turning it over, so that it spreads around the oil. Let the tortilla heat until it develops little bubbles of air pockets. Then place a piece of cheese on one side of the tortilla, and use a metal spatula to fold the other side of the tortilla over the cheese. Heat until cheese is melted, then remove from pan. Note that if you have a big enough pan, you can have one tortilla folded over while you have another tortilla doing its initial heating.

3 Open the tacos and spoon some of the cooked veggie filling into them. Sprinkle on chopped cilantro and crumbled cotija cheese. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 tacos. Serves 2.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eggs on Horseback Revisited


Twenty-five years ago I read a terrific book by Robert Heinlein titled Friday. It was a fun and sexy science fiction adventure, up to Heinlein’s typical standards, the details of which are for another post. One of the things that I remember about it was when some of the principle characters are on the lam, and they stop by the coffee shop in the San Francisco Airport Hilton. The requisite old guy in the group orders breakfast for them all, and it is called something like “Eggs on Horseback.”

Sadly, I no longer have a copy of Friday to refer to, and I am not even certain of the name of the dish, but it sounded good, so I thought that I would try to wing it. To say that my memory of this brief passage in a book from a quarter century ago is vague would be significantly stretching the meaning of the word “vague.” Let us say rather that I found inspiration in this delightfully described breakfast in this fiction and leave it at that. Years after reading that passage I stopped by the Airport Hilton at San Francisco Airport to see if they had anything like on the menu. I read that stupid plastic covered menu over about six times to no avail. It wasn’t there.

The elements of this dish, as I remember them, are simple: Filet mignon, cut thick and butterflied, two poached eggs and, in the original, probably, Hollandaise sauce. Since I am working from memory, and since this is, admittedly, my reinvention, I am substituting Bearnaise for the Hollandaise because it marries with the rich beef better.

Eggs on Horseback Revisited
With thanks to the late Robert A. Heinlein

Ingredients

2 filets mignon, cut 2” thick and butterflied
4 eggs, poached, yolks runny
Bearnaise (recipe follows)

Method

1) Grill, broil or pan-roast the steaks to taste, but don’t go more than medium rare. Filets are wasted if cooked more well-done than that. If you are cooking for someone who wants their meat gray, get them a nice sirloin or flatiron steak instead and send the filet to me.

2) Gently balance two of the eggs on each of the steaks.

3) Enrobe the egg topped steaks with a generous blanket of sauce Bearnaise.  Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Sauce Bearnaise

Ingredients

1/2 pound, unsalted butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
4 white peppercorns, crushed
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant pinch cayenne, if desired
Additional tablespoon of finely chopped tarragon

Method

Warm butter just to melting point.

Do a reduction of shallots, tarragon and peppercorns, vinegar and wine to about 1/4 cup. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into the top a double boiler. Whisk the yolks into the wine/vinegar reduction.  Place over barely simmering water. (The water in the lower portion of the double boiler should not make contact with the upper portion of the pot.) Whisking constantly, watch until it starts to thicken – this is a pretty subtle change. Do not stop whisking and watch very carefully. 

Turn off the heat and remove the top portion from the double boiler.

Begin drizzling the butter in while whisking. (It really helps to have a third arm or an assistant here.) Keep the hot water handy, and work on and off the heat. If the sauce looks as if it is about to break, take it off the heat and whisk aggressively to cool. A teaspoon of cold water may be added to facilitate cooling. When all the butter is in, season with salt, a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon and a bit of cayenne pepper.

This makes for an insanely rich breakfast. You should probably wash it down with Mimosas made with brilliantly fresh orange juice.

 ____________________
UPDATE
____________________

My memory is worse than even I suspected. I gave Friday a re-read the other night, and when I came to the breakfast in question, it was much divergent from my memory. Suffice to say, the Hilton was not in San Francisco and the Eggs on Horseback were nothing more than a pair of sunny-side up eggs on a steak. I still like my version better.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Flat Iron Steak

The Flat Iron Steak, aka the Top Blade Steak, is the end of the chuck. It was developed in university labs, which is incredibly cool to those of us food geeks who find the science of food as appealing as its nutritive and flavor qualities. The reason for laboratory development was because they took the genes of the best tasting. . . . OK, no, that's wrong.

The reason that it took teams in two major United States universities to develop the flat iron steak is because, sitting at the end of the Chuck where it does, it has a chunk of connective tissue in the middle of three pieces of succulently tender and flavorful beef that had to be navigated around. They took this garbage cut of meat and cut it in such a way that it got rid of the leathery connective tissue, leaving only the beautifully marbled, tender and delicious beef.

Locally, this is still a pretty cheap cut of beef, comparable to the Top Sirloin, but the flavor is incomparable. I have waited for years to try this cut, and now I want to try it in every way possible. When in Gardnerville, Nevada last time, at a little Basque restaurant, I had a garlic steak. They used a shell steak, but I think that I am going to try this with a nice thick Flat Iron.