Fresh and Flavorful Huevos Rancheros

I love having breakfast for dinner. It’s a nice change of pace to mix in from time to time, and I enjoy breakfast foods more when I don’t have to prepare and eat them quickly before heading out the door.

To literally spice up the breakfast-for-dinner fun even more, we recently tried Rick Bayless’ recipe for Huevos Rancheros, or Rancher’s Eggs, as described in his “Mexican Everyday” cookbook.

The dish offers an authentic Mexican take on the “simple” breakfast, but it’s filling enough to feed a heavy appetite such as that of a hard-working farmer or rancher, as the name suggests.

Fresh ingredients create a rush of flavor in the sauce for these Huevos Rancheros, but for those who don’t enjoy much “heat” in food, it’s not too spicy.

Here’s how it’s done. (And we’ve cut down the recipe’s yield for two people.)

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Ingredients

4 corn tortillas

4 eggs

1 jalapeno (or chile of your choice)

5 tomatillos

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

2 small garlic cloves

1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream

½ teaspoon salt

queso fresco

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Instructions

1. Chop garlic, chile, tomatillos and cilantro.

2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan.

3. Add chopped ingredients to pan and cook on medium-high heat for 7 minutes until sauce thickens.

4. Add chicken broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

5. Stir in heavy cream. Taste and season with salt.

6. Cook four sunny-side-up eggs. Leave yolks exposed if prettier presentation is desired.

7. Heat four corn tortillas. (For fresher tortillas, wrap them in about six damp paper towels. Insert into a large plastic zip-closing bag. Fold over, but do not seal. Microwave on defrost setting for 4 minutes. This is Rick Bayless’ trick for freshening your store-bought tortillas, and we very much approve after trying it!)

8. Place 2 tortillas on each plate. Top each tortilla with an egg. Spoon sauce over everything. Sprinkle with cilantro and queso fresco. (We bought a block of queso fresco and grated it ourselves.)

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Matthew’s Take: Before trying this recipe, we had never before cooked with tomatillos or cilantro. Along with all of the other ingredients, those two items added so much flavor to this dish. And I highly recommend freshly grating queso fresco to sprinkle on top. Yolk-exposed sunny-side-up eggs are not my forte, so that was perhaps my greatest challenge with putting together this plate. It takes some practice to get the eggs done enough for our taste, while still acing presentation. This isn’t your fastest breakfast-for-dinner meal, but it might be your most flavorful.

Molly’s Take: Wow! From the grocery trip where I packed my cart with fresh ingredients to the final delicious product enjoyed over eggs and warm corn tortillas, this recipe experience was banging! The sauce poured over the fresh, sunny-side-up eggs contributed a powerful flavor and every bite was delightful. We did not have a food processor to finely blend the chopped ingredients, but as you can see, chopping them as we did worked out just fine. You really can’t beat the freshness and wholesomeness of this dish. It just makes you feel at home and warm and taken care of. Treat yourself sometime with these Huevos Rancheros. You won’t regret it.

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Foodie Travels: The Real Deal, Spartanburg, S.C.

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The name says it all, folks.

The Real Deal crafts Philadelphia-style (Philly) cheesesteaks. And the combination of lightly toasted bun, tender seasoned beef, melty cheese and other toppings…well, it melts in your mouth.

We learned about this foodie stop from an Upstate S.C. resident while talking over a meal at a bed-and-breakfast inn. That should’ve been our first clue to take his advice, right? If you’re talking about other food while enjoying food, it’s a foodie match and a suggestion worth pursuing.

Less than a week after the recommendation, we made the short trip down I-85 to Spartanburg for a Saturday afternoon treat. We almost drove right past the restaurant and its simple signage, so pay attention on your route.

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Inside, the cooks behind the counter greeted us and told us they could tell we were first-timers by the way we studied the menu. I should’ve known the cheesesteak would be good by the cooks’ observations.

Molly and I both ordered the Liberty Bell, a cheesesteak with onions and melted cheese. She added mushrooms, and I added green bell peppers.

We decided to enjoy our cheesesteaks in the restaurant. I might not have known that was an option until the cook asked “for here or to go?” At first glance, it looks like a take-out-only place, but a step around the corner reveals a few tables for dining in.

Waiting on the food was a sensory experience all around. The walls are covered (and I mean covered) in photos of patrons. The cling-clang of the cook’s sandwich assembly rings. And the smell of cheesesteak ingredients wafts.

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Now, I must confess, when these cheesesteaks came to our table, we were so excited that we started eating without sharing a blessing for our food. In two years of marriage, we’ve never completely forgotten to pray for our meal, but these cheesesteaks were so inviting that we didn’t say a word of grace. Just “mmm” and “mmhm.” We realized it moments later and paused for a prayer.

Molly’s enjoyed an authentic Philadelphia-made cheesesteak, and The Real Deal was the next best thing, in her assessment. She also enjoyed that she could order Kool-Aid as a drink at this foodie destination.

There aren’t many places to get a cheesesteak in the South, and even fewer places offer such a sandwich that’s worth its price. I’m not a big fan of dining out to eat a sandwich because I often feel I can make something just as good at home and pay less for it. Not so at the Real Deal.

We’ve made cheesesteaks at home, and they were good. But they weren’t The Real Deal. If you like a cheesesteak, this place must be on your list.

The Real Deal

1311 Asheville Highway, Spartanburg, S.C.

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Simply Sweet Homemade Doughnuts

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I’ve been craving doughnuts lately. Several local doughnut shops have fed my desire for sweet, fried dough, but I’ve been wanting to try to make our own doughnuts at home. The new CBS comedy “Superior Donuts,” a show about a longtime Chicago doughnut maker and his innovative new assistant, has further fueled my intense yearning to create our own baked treats at home. But I didn’t want to deal with a complicated or time-consuming recipe. After all, I’m not much of a baker. Molly fills that role in our house.

So I went online searching for doughnut recipes. Many use yeast, and I didn’t want to go that route. Others use shortening, and I’m not a fan of working with that ingredient. It’s more the consistency I have an issue with. (Though Molly’s biscuits are delicious!)

After some browsing, I finally found a recipe on cooks.com, a recipe search site, that seemed to meet my criteria of simple ingredients, easy process. We tried it out on a weeknight, and I’ll just say that we were extremely pleased with the results. You’ll have to read our comments below the recipe to get the full verdict!

Ingredients

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

2 ½ tbsp butter

3 eggs

5 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

Cooking oil (your choice of kind)

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Steps

  1. In a medium or large mixing bowl combine sugar and butter. Blend in eggs. Add milk and mix all together.
  2. In another large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Gradually add liquid mixture to flour mixture, beating vigorously. (It is possible to hand-mix/beat with a whisk or large spoon, but it is probably easiest to use a mechanical mixer.)
  4. Flour a work surface generously. Knead mixed dough on surface and add flour to all sides to keep from sticking.
  5. Roll out dough about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Use a solid-edge cup or other circular item (we used a solid plastic drinking cup) to cut out doughnuts. Be sure to flour the edge of the cutting surface to keep from sticking. Use a small utensil (we used an apple corer) to cut out holes in the middle of doughnut, if desired.
  7. Fry in deep, hot oil, beginning at a medium-high heat on stovetop. We used a large pot for frying. And we used a metal slotted spoon to slide doughnuts easily into the hot oil.
  8. When doughnuts rise to top, turn only once. We used kitchen tongs to turn and remove the doughnuts from the oil.
  9. Drain doughnuts on absorbent paper.
  10. You can top these doughnuts with powdered sugar, make a glaze, cover in a chocolate sauce or spread, or enjoy them plain.

Yield: We got 22 doughnuts out of this recipe, sized by the cup we used to cut out the dough.

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Molly’s Take: Warm, fluffy, soft doughnuts with a hint of sweetness and a hearty helping of old-fashioned flavor. Matthew has been dying to make doughnuts at home, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make this homemade recipe! It does take prep and time, but the end result is a truly delicious, homemade confection well worth the wait. I covered half my first doughnut with powdered sugar, and the other half with Nutella. I don’t need to tell you how amazing this combination was. Mm!

Matthew’s Take: These doughnuts only took about an hour total to make, from gathering the ingredients in our kitchen to mixing the dough to frying and cooling. In addition to the simplicity, the recipe creates a soft, slightly sweet doughnut that I would describe as a cross between a solid cake doughnut and an “old-fashioned” doughnut. The recipe doesn’t produce a light Krispy Kreme-type confection for all you KK-only fans out there, but it’s a delicious doughnut. I’d be curious to see how slightly modifying the recipe would impact the flavor and the consistency. But, honestly, for a first batch, these turned out amazing, and as Molly said, our house smelled like a doughnut factory!

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Foodie Travels: Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, Memphis, Tenn.

North Carolina has always been my home, but my heart for barbecue has always been in Memphis, Tenn. Unfortunately, until recently that penchant for Memphis-style barbecue only lived through the enabling of national brands that emulate the tradition.

No longer.

img_1183We recently spent a couple days in Memphis, “the pork barbecue mecca of the world,” as the history reads on the website for Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, the location of my first authentic Memphis BBQ experience. And what a baptism in barbecue paradise our dinner at “The Rendezvous” was.

Just a few blocks from iconic Beale Street, The Rendezvous is tucked away, the entrance off an alley in the city’s downtown. You know you’re close to the place when you catch the whiff of the pork aroma in the breeze between the tall buildings surrounding you.

Seeing the crowd, we expected a solid wait to savor the taste that accompanies the fragrance, but that was not the case. Almost as soon as our names went on the wait list, we were called to our table for two and our rendezvous with a barbecue masterpiece.

For me, the type of barbecued meat I order stems from the location where it’s prepared. In Texas, I had to sample the brisket. In North Carolina, it’s the chopped pork. In Memphis, and at Charlie Vergos’ establishment, I had to try the ribs, known for their dry-seasoning rub and signature vinegar wash to seal in the moisture.

Our waiter (more on the wait staff in a moment) smartly urged me to purchase a full order instead of the half size. And it turns out he wasn’t just trying to make a sale. For $3 more, he wanted to make sure I fully immersed myself in the foodie experience that is The Rendezvous’ ribs.

img_1196Pull-apart tender. Cooked to perfect doneness all the way to the bone. A seasoning that delights ALL of the senses. Ten meaty pieces, each more pleasurable than the last, until the final rib that makes you wish you lived in Memphis to visit for dinner at least once a week. That’s how I would describe the ribs at this “mecca” of barbecue.

In addition to sampling one of my ribs, Molly enjoyed an incredibly flavorful barbecue chicken sandwich, with a delicious smoky taste enveloped by a hearty, soft bun. And both of our main courses were accompanied by a side of wonderful baked beans and slaw, which offered a unique mustard base in lieu of the mayonnaise base that we’re accustomed to in our home state of North Carolina.

As heavenly as the food at The Rendezvous is, the price you pay also provides a front-row seat to a unique dining experience. The place has been a Memphis mainstay, just a short distance from the Mississippi River, since the 1940s, and you get the feel of an old-time eatery in the décor of the building and the presentation of the wait staff. Many of the waiters have served at the restaurant for decades, and you can tell from the smiles on their faces that they enjoy their jobs every night.

There are so many places in Memphis, Tenn., to experience “Memphis-style” barbecue, and specifically ribs. From our experience, I don’t see how any of them could top Charlie Vergos Rendezvous.

 

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous

52 S. Second St., Memphis, Tenn.

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