This brunch dish is inspired by a sublime dish from Thomas Troupin of La Menuiserie in Belgium. He competed in this year’s S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year Cooking Cup in Venice and walked away with the People’s Choice Award. I was one of the media judges tasked with tasting all of the dishes. His dish, which was rich, creamy, sharp and salty, gave new dimensions to breakfast eggs.
Michelin-starred chef Maria Jose San Roman of Monastrell in Alicante, Spain was in Toronto recently for the Campo Viejo Streets of Spain dinner. It was designed to raise awareness of the great food and remarkable wine of Spain. Spanish products are woefully under-represented in Canada, which is sad because they are some of the best in the world. Their olive oil (a particular favourite of mine) is aromatic and rich, their white anchovies are silkily spectacular and their bellota ham has a wonderful nutty taste. Added to my list of Spanish must-haves are smoked paprika and great cheeses such as the ever-popular manchego.
Working with chef Stu Cameron from Toronto’s Patria restaurant, Maria produced an authentic and flavourful dinner for Streets of Spain. Her fiery personality comes through in her food and each dish had an interesting storyline. To start, she made this seasonal twist on gazpacho with local strawberries and white asparagus (if the latter is unavailable, use thick stalks of the green variety). Although she cooked her egg yolks sous-vide, I found I could create exactly the same effect by lightly poaching my yolks in water.
A quick, make-ahead dish that is always a huge hit. Substitute vegetables such as mushrooms, onions or spinach for the leeks, if desired. Use white bread if you want the bread to disappear or whole wheat for more flavour. Make up to one day ahead of time and refrigerate until needed. Let stand at room temperature for an hour before baking.
This is one of my favourite egg dishes because it’s simple to make and has a smooth, silky texture. If you prefer, bake the flan in four individual ramekins, reducing the baking time slightly. You can serve the flan hot or cold with the tarragon and fennel biscuits. They can be made by hand or in the food processor, making sure you don’t overprocess the dough; otherwise, they will be tough. To speed things up in the morning, you can measure the ingredients the night before but don’t mix them together. Alternatively, you can make the biscuits ahead of time and reheat in a 350 F oven for 5 minutes.
Several Middle Eastern restaurants have opened up recently in Toronto, no doubt sparked by the cult of the Ottolenghi cookbooks and a desire for spicy, flavourful food.
The latest, Byblos, the brainchild of restaurant impresario Charles Khabouth, is spectacular. Executive chef Stuart Cameron, who also oversees the kitchen at Patria, has developed a memorable menu. He graciously gave me his recipe for Shakshouka, which is essentially a spicy tomato, red pepper sauce with eggs. He brings it to greater heights by liberally garnishing it with a lip-smacking garlic sauce. Bring your breath mints.
Although the eggs are poached in the tomato sauce in this recipe, they can also be fried or poached separately and then placed on top of the sauce in a soup bowl. Small, cast-iron frying pans make a lovely presentation, if you have four. You can also divide the sauce in half and cook four eggs in two frying pans then divide for serving.
There are various components to this dish, all of which may be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to a week. The spice mixture is useful for extra flavour in all kinds of cooking. Cameron uses a Turkish red chili spice paste found at some Middle Eastern stores, but a perfectly fine substitute is equal amounts tomato paste and harissa.
Ready time: 1 hour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 red peppers seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp chili paste
2 tbsp Turkish paste or tomato paste plus harissa
6 cups puréed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
Chervil sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley
Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, add onions, and cook at a low heat for 5 minutes or until softened slightly. Add peppers and garlic and continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes longer or until vegetables are very soft. Add cumin and chili paste, and stir until aromatic. Add Turkish paste and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tastes incorporate and the sauce is thickened.
Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
Divide sauce into four small stove-safe pans. Bring to a good simmer. Crack two eggs into each pan and cover. Cook over medium heat until the egg white has set but the yolk remains runny, 4 to 5 minutes.
Swirl toum over dish, sprinkle with grated pecorino and garnish with chervil. Serve with crunchy bread.
It’s a shame there’s no longer much wine made in Algeria. Not long ago, the former French colony was the world’s largest wine exporter, but its post-independence output has slowed to a trickle. This dish is popular not only in the Middle East but also in north Africa. To me it sounds like a great “breakfast” for dinner dish, a non-alcoholic answer to France’s oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in red-wine sauce). Chef Cameron’s preparation is rich, aromatic and tangy. I’d suggest a bright, crisp, light-bodied red, such as Beaujolais from France or a Canadian gamay (red Beaujolais is made from the gamay grape). And if you have time, chill the bottle in the fridge for 20 minutes to accentuate the zippy acids and bring it into better harmony with the tomato sauce. Beppi Crosariol
Andy Ricker’s dish is extraordinarily tasty. I could not stop eating it. The eggs are cooked until they are puffed and crispy, the yolk still soft, and then they’re cut and mixed with vegetables. Instead of using palm sugar, I made a simple syrup of 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar and then used the amount called for in the recipe.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
5 teaspoons lime juice
5 teaspoons palm sugar syrup (equal parts palm sugar and water, dissolved)
1/2 teaspoon sliced Thai chili
1 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic
1/2 cup julienned celery
1/2 cup julienned onions
1/2 cup julienned carrot
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/4 cup cilantro sprigs
Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet until very hot. Have a plate close by to transfer cooked eggs onto. Working quickly, crack eggs, one at a time, into hot oil. Fry, ladling hot oil over the eggs until edges are crispy and the yolk cooked, about 30 seconds. Remove to a plate and repeat.
Heat fish sauce with lime juice, sugar syrup, chili and garlic in a skillet until just warm. Add all vegetables and eggs cut in quarters.
Scatter cilantro over top. Spoon on platter and serve.
I've always loved devilled eggs, and these ones with subtle Japanese flavours offer a twist on the classic. Blanching the cucumbers gives them a vivid colour that they do not lose as they sit. Older eggs peel better than really fresh ones. If you are having problems with the white tearing, try peeling under cold running water. Instead of cutting the eggs in half, a neat way to serve a whole egg per person is to take a slice off the top, scoop out the yolk, mix it with the mayo and pipe or spoon it back in.
Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour 5 minutes, including draining time
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon wasabi paste (or to taste)
1 tablespoon pickled ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced, preferably using a mandoline
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon wasabi paste
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
Place eggs in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain, and run eggs under cold water to cool. Peel.
Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop yolk into a small bowl, reserving whites on a plate. Mash yolks with a fork, stir in mayonnaise, wasabi, ginger and chives, and season with salt and pepper. Place yolk mixture in a piping bag and pipe into the whites, or spoon them in. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Add cucumber slices, bring back to boil and drain at once. Run cucumber slices under cold water to stop the cooking and maintain the colour. Leave cucumbers to sit in strainer for 30 minutes, then blot with paper towels to remove moisture and place in a bowl.
Stir together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and wasabi in a bowl. Just before serving, pour mixture over cucumber slices and toss to coat.
Place cucumbers on a platter, or divide among individual serving plates, and top with eggs. Sprinkle with mint.
When I dined at the French critical favourite Le Chateaubriand in Paris, one of Restaurant magazine’s 50 best restaurants in the world, I had a phenomenal dessert that looked like a fried egg but was, in fact, a caramelized egg yolk sitting on a bed of crushed-nut meringue. The taste was sublime and I wanted to re-create it. Chef and owner Inaki Aizpitarte told me his recipe is a version of tocino de cielo , a dessert from southern Spain that was originally created by nuns who were given leftover egg yolks by wineries, which used the whites for clarification. Mixed with sugar syrup and baked, these incredibly rich, luscious bites evoke crème caramel. This adaptation of his recipe consists of an egg-caramel custard perched on a meringue base.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Ready in: 4 hours
2 egg whites
Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Oakland, Calif., pays homage to Beauty’s in Montreal, where owner Blake Joffe’s father grew up. His savvy take on vegetarian deli food includes an unforgettable egg salad on a Montreal-style bagel that is balanced with salt and does not have that underlying sweetness. Everything is lovingly handmade. For this recipe, use horseradish as a great flavour enhancer. Serve it on bagels for a Sunday brunch or spoon over lots of bitter lettuce as a first course.
Prep time:25 minutes
Ready in: 35 minutes