Presenting The Faux Gourmet!

The Faux Gourmet has been on hiatus for a while. I began this blog as a creative outlet during law school. After law school, I started other blogs on other topics and no longer needed this as a creative outlet, not to mention my diminishing free time.

But I kept cooking, kept taking food pictures and garden pictures, kept wanting to share the little tidbits of what I'd made. I occasionally did this on my personal blog (to which, I'm sure, people yawned and wondered when I'd post another cat picture). But I started to miss this space. Of all the blogs I have, this format, culled over several dedicated years and incorporating that adorable illustration by Sam Wedelich (see info the left) is by far my favorite.

So I'm back!

Expect short and sweet posts. Less food porn, more recipes and tips. If you want food porn you can look at any of the 5000 million existing food blogs. I don't have good lighting in my apartment and don't have time to style plates. I just want to make something yummy and eat it. If that sounds ok with you, stick around.

Looking forward to being back in touch!


The Faux Gourmet

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    Friday, December 26, 2008

    Vacation Worthy Breakfast

    Two holiday breakfast treats, my Christmas gift to you.

    Taste & See: Holiday vacations are all about relaxing, being with family, being grateful for what you have, and, at least at the Faux Gourmet's house, long leisurely meals--beginning with hot breakfasts. Vacation is one of the few times we eat something other than cereal. Hotcakes (like the many versions a fan of Kenny Shopsin may be inspired to make), egg sandwiches (of which I'm a particular fan, as is, apparently, my alter ego), even sausages (of which I'm not a particular fan, but sometimes you need to put some meat on the bones to go fell that tree).

    The possibilities are endless, and the holidays are just laid back enough to give you the time to use your imagination. The two recipes below, one complex but worth the effort, the other
    a breeze, are two of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family & I do.


    Do It Yourself:

    Eggs Benedict

    If you're going to do hot breakfasts, you might as well go all out. What better way to wow your houseguests or loved ones than with a dressed up Eggs Benedict? I think Eggs Benedict is tasty in its traditional form, with some kind of pig product, and tastier still without the pig . . . but topped with seasonal luxuries like crab or smoked salmon--currently available at non-luxury prices--it is downright indulgent. Get a head start on New Year's resolutions by using this slightly modified version, making something composed largely of egg yolks and butter as healthful and guilt-free as it can be.

    Eggs Benedict is all about Hollandaise sauce, and there are about a million ways to make it. The basic components are egg yolks, butter, & lemon juice. The basic method is to heat egg yolks over a double boiler, adding a bit of lemon juice and whisking constantly. As the eggs thicken, slowly drizzle in butter under constant whisking, followed by salt, pepper, & cayenne powder.

    Sounds easy enough, no? Um, no. The sauce is about chemistry, and if you get the pieces wrong, the egg emulsion breaks and the sauce turns into a nasty mess.
    Getting the sauce right takes some practice, and getting all the ingredients for Eggs Benedict ready at the same time takes some planning (or better, a friend), but it is oh, so good. While making it several times using different methods, I learned a few things that make it easier.

    Hollandaise Tips

    One, the yolk to butter ratio is not set in stone.
    The usual ratio is 1 egg yolk to 4 Tbsp butter but I opt for less butter and cut a little fat. (Somewhere, a French chef is rolling in his grave.) Lower ratios still produced tasty sauces, if slightly less rich and creamy than would a higher butter ratio.

    Two, the water temperature is key. If it is too hot, the egg emulsion separates or even scrambles. If it is not hot enough, they don't heat at all and you're left with cold runny eggs with oily pools of butter, not Hollandaise sauce.

    Three, if the sauce does separate, a little bit of cream or half and half smooths things out.

    Four, especially when cutting on butter, the sauce tastes pretty plain, even if perfectly formed, without a healthy doses of flavor--cayenne powder, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Not that you can't experiment; far be it from me to prize an "authentic" recipe above whim and imagination.

    Five, if you are so lucky, have a sous-chef toast the muffins, poach the eggs and prepare your chosen topping(s). You just concentrate on the sauce and take the credit. (Or not, if you want your buddy to be backing you up for future endeavors.)

    Here's how I made the sauce--and the rest of the Eggs Benedict. If you don't like this version, take my tips with a grain of salt and cross-check my version with this sauce-primer or one of the many recipes available elsewhere online. This serves four; adjust as needed.

    1. Prep I: Pans
    Place double boiler on one burner, the bottom approximately half-way filled with water. Turn heat on high and allow to boil.
    Place a frying pan with approximately 3 inches water and 2 Tbsp salt on one burner. Turn heat on medium and allow water to simmer.
    Set a second frying pan on a third burner.

    2. Prep II: Ingredients
    Meanwhile, prepare the following ingredients and set aside near stove:
    Slice two whole wheat English muffins- the fiber helps keep the blood from getting digested.
    Crack four whole eggs into small dishes.
    Crack four egg yolks into one dish, separating the whites into another dish and reserving for future use.
    Melt 6 Tbsp butter.
    Squeeze 1/2 lemon.
    In addition, have cayenne powder, salt & pepper, and cream or half and half easily accessible.
    Pour a small amount of hot water from double boiler into a separate bowl. Cover and reserve with other ingredients.

    3. English Muffins I:
    Arrange the four English muffin halves in the empty frying pan, face down. Turn the heat on low.

    4. Hollandaise Sauce Part I:
    Turn the heat on the double boiler down just slightly so water barely boils, if at all, and ensure the water is not so high as to touch the top of the top pan.
    Pour the four egg yolks and 1 tbsp lemon juice into the top of the double boiler, whisking constantly. If the eggs begin to scramble remove from heat briefly and reduce heat on double boiler burner.

    Gradually add 3 Tbsp hot water from the reserved bowl, whisking constantly.
    When egg yolk mixture has thickened, remove from heat and slowly drizzle in melted butter, followed by 2 Tbsp cream, whisking consantly.

    5. English Muffin II:
    Turn the English muffins; turn down heat if too hot.

    6 Poaching Eggs Part I:
    Slide each of the four whole cracked eggs gently into the simmering frying pan of salted water. Don't be alarmed if it spreads out a bit. Set a timer for 4 minutes.

    7. Hollandaise Sauce Part II:
    Season sauce with cayenne (approximately 1/2 Tsp), salt and pepper to taste; additional lemon juice may also be added for flavor.
    Mixture should be hot; if it is not, whisk again over heat on the double boiler.
    Mixture should be somewhat thick; if it is too runny, a bit of cream or an additional egg yolk may also be added, always with constant whisking.
    When you are pleased with the flavor, texture and temperature, cover sauce in a small boil and set aside briefly.

    8. Poaching Eggs Part II:
    Cover a large plate in a paper towel. When timer goes off, use a flat spatula to lift each egg out of the water and onto the paper towel. Turn off the heat. The yolk should still be a little runny.

    9. Assemble Eggs Benedict:
    Set up all the components in one place for quick assembly.

    Place one half English muffin on a plate. Place one poached egg on top. Add any toppings (see below). Cover with 1/4 the Hollandaise sauce. Enjoy!

    10. Topping Options:

    Crab: Crack approximately 1/3 cup crab per serving before prep. After step 8, or while waiting for eggs to finish, microwave briefly to heat.
    Smoked Salmon: Set aside during prep.
    Canadian Bacon (the traditional topping) or Bacon: Fry one slice per person briefly after prep and set aside on a plate covered in paper towel.
    Spinach: Defrost spinach from bag or box of frozen spinach after prep and set aside in a bowl.


    Grandma Field's Cinnamon Coffee Cake

    If Eggs Benedict is a little more . . . uh, work, than you're up for, here's another breakfast treat any joe with a mixing bowl & this recipe can make successfully. At the Faux Gourmet's house, a beloved family tradition, served only on special holidays (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Super Bowl Sunday) is my grandma's famous cinnamon coffee cake. One of my top ten sensory experiences has got to be waking up to the smell of cinnamon wafting through the house on a snowy day, sipping on a latte and reading the papers as the cake finishes baking. I can't guarantee snow, good coffee or good news, but good food I can do. From my family to yours, Grandma Field's Cinnamon Coffee Cake.

    1/2 Cup Butter
    2/3 Cup Sugar
    2 Eggs
    1 1/2 Cup Flour
    2 Tbsp Cinnamon
    1 Tsp Baking Soda
    1 Tsp Baking Powder
    1/4 Tsp Salt
    1 Cup Buttermilk

    1/2 Cup Sugar
    1 Tbsp Butter,
    softened but not melted
    1 Tbsp Cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 350.
    dry ingredients in a large bowl.
    Add melted butter, sugar & eggs and buttermilk to dry ingredients until combined.
    Pour batter in 9 x 9 x 2 inch greased pan.

    Stir topping ingredients together in separate bowl. Mixture should be lumpy, not smooth or creamy. Sprinkle atop the batter.

    Bake for about 30 minutes at 350. Done when cake does not stick to toothpick.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Go Team!

    Resisting the urge to make mussels-muscles jokes.

    Taste & See: Today a previous entry on Idaho received a comment requesting I not blog about the well-kept secret that is Wallace, Idaho, jewel of the Northwest, gateway to Yellowstone & Glacier. If you must visit, please do so on the low.

    However, I can't very well keep quiet when my team is playing in the Poinsettia Bowl today, one of the great matches of Bowl Season, BCS bowl though it is not. (Boo to you, Utah.) Whatever. Boise State vs. Texas Christian (I'm rooting for Boise, obviously!) is going to be good. I hope my Idahoan commentator doesn't mind if I throw a little love Idaho's way.

    What does this have to do with food? Well, not so much. I just wanted to draw attention to my team & their quarterback, a hometown hero. But while we're on the subject, I'll also draw your attention to two delicacies in season right now. If you're at all like me, you're more used to pizza & beer for your game-day fare but I for one don't mind a bit if crab and mussels make an occasional December appearance.

    Do It Yourself:

    Image courtesy Quamut, a brief guide on buying & preparing crab.

    is at its best (at least in the Northwest) now.
    I like to go out & catch my own . . .

    but when that is not possible, per pound it is probably cheaper than beef at the supermarket. (Even if the shells you don't eat are the heavy part . . . ) Current prices run about $3.50 for half a crab, enough for one person. See here for a quick video demonstrating how to clean whole crab before eating.

    As for serving, it is hard to beat hot butter. I also like to mix a little dish of equal parts lemon juice, melted butter, and a nice Viognier (a big fan McKinley Springs), warm in the microwave for about 30 seconds, and soak my crabmeat in it. A Caesar salad and bread round out the meal.

    Mussels, also in season and fairly cheap (
    an enormous bag-enough for about 10 people-was about $11 the other day) may be a better choice for those among us who don't like to work so hard for our food. I gave you an easy Faux Gourmet mussels recipe in my post on Brussels (how could I not?). For another tempting recipe, and an article singing mussles' praises, see this post by The Wednesday Chef.

    Image courtesy Legal Seafoods, one good source for all things seafood.

    Last night, I browned a little butter & olive oil, adding a chopped onion, about a cup of a grassy, slightly sweet white (think Spanish AlberiƱo or Austrian Gruner Veltliner), a couple dried chilies, and a heaping tablespoon of Spanish paprika. Throw in the mussels, cover, and about five minutes later (when the shells have opened) you've got a steaming, fragrant dish to snack on (in between the pretzels and tortilla chips) with whoever shows up to watch the game.

    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    Fell That Tree!

    A hearty breakfast providing all the fuel
    you need to be a lumberjack.
    Or a couch potato.

    First, a brief personal note:
    Like Britney, I know I shouldn't have kept you waiting. But I'm here now. Really, I have been ridiculously busy with my day job the past few weeks but I plan to spend some serious time over the next month hunkered down with cooking, eating, and updating What's in the Pot?. Your patience--those of you still with me--will be rewarded.

    Second, Faux Gourmet Wants to Know: I wrote about airport food a few months ago, pleasantly surprised as I was to find a delightful eatery in PDX (Portland International Airport). Matt Gross wrote a great piece for the New York Times recently highlighting other great (or, in Chicago & LA's cases, not so great) places to get a meal between flights. He missed out by not traveling to Portland or Seattle; both have great food. Any of you (un)lucky enough to be stuck there during the present blizzard are probably having more time than you'd like to sample it. For my part, I like the wine flights at Vino Volo at Sea-Tac. The Faux Gourmet wants to know . . . What do you like to eat at airports?

    And finally, a real update . . .


    Taste & See: The other morning I awoke to a snowy dusting covering my parents' home. After a stressful last few weeks & a harrowing trip back from the East Coast, I was delighted to stretch out in a lazyboy & relax, watching the snow fall outside as I sipped on a latte and perused the headlines. Ah, vacation.

    As the various members of my family staggered into the front room in various stages of yawning sleepiness, I was inspired to cook a hearty breakfast for a cold day, the perfect fuel for hitching up the sleigh and trotting out to the woods to fell a Christmas tree. Not that I or anyone I know actually does that. But turns out my chorizo & egg breakfast burritors were also the perfect fuel for . . . lazing around the house enjoying vacation.

    Chorizo is a spicy pork or beef sausage colored a peppy red by dried red peppers.
    You can buy it cured, in which case you can eat it by the slice (prosaically, with crackers, cheese, beer & football). You can also buy it raw, with or without casing. Chorizo is originally from the Iberian Peninsula but at least one version has long been a Mexican staple. (In fact, there's more or less a chorizo family tree.) Mexican-style chorizo has long been part of the cultural heritage of a good chunk of my little town--but the piquant, smoky flavor has also made fans of many of the rest of us.

    Do It Yourself: A quick & easy meal with raw chorizo, my preference:

    Stuffed Chorizo Sausages:

    1. Flatten out about 3/4 cup chorizo into a rectangle.
    2. Line one side with roasted red peppers and a mild, melting white cheese (I've used both White Cheddar & Asiago because I had them on hand; use your imagination).
    3. Roll up like an eggroll to make a stuffed sausage.
    4. Pan fry without oil (the meat has enough of its own fat) until cooked through.

    5. Serve with a simple salad. Voila!

    Chorizo con Huevos Breakfast Burritos:

    For a hearty breakfast, I take my cue from chorizo con huevos, a popular Mexican dish. I make no claims of authenticity, per se, but I make big claims of deliciousness & ease, and that's enough for me.

    What you need:
    1 onion
    1 lb raw chorizo
    2 roasted red peppers (buy ready-to-use in a jar)
    six eggs
    1 can black beans
    cheddar cheese
    olive oil
    large tortillas

    Sour Cream

    1. Dice the onion and cook til translucent in a large saute pan on medium heat in about a tablespoon of olive oil.
    2. Open the can of black beans and cook over medium heat in a small sauce pan; rinse out the can with water and add to beans. Stir occasionally and if they start to boil, turn heat down. They should thicken while you're preparing the rest of the meal.

    3. Add the chorizo (if in casing, remove) to the onions and cut up with heavy spatula like ground beef.
    4. Dice the roasted red peppers and add to the chorizo when it is cooked all the way through.
    5. Crack the eggs into a bowl and add to the chorizo, stirring constantly to mix the eggs in. They'll look a little different from your typical scrambled eggs but cooking the eggs & meat together integrates the flavor much better than cooking them separately & adding at the end.

    6. To make each breakfast burrito:
    • Toast each tortilla on a dry, hot saute pan for about 20 seconds aside.
    • Add a scoop of the egg mixture, a few spoonfuls of black beans, and a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese.
    • Top with any of the fresh ingedients you desire. Cool tomatoes, avocado, sour cream & salsa are a good foil for the rich, salty egg & meat mixture.

    Now go out & fell that tree!