Kait's Birthday Breakfast

I suppose I should start this off by allowing my online persona to wish my beautiful wife a very happy birthday!

As a chef, it’s really hard to avoid utilizing my talents and experience when it comes to special days. Since Kait’s birthday fell on a Sunday, we got to wake up late and I cooked a nice little brunch feast for us. It was a nice healthy combination that was a good way to start the day, but a little too much work for just any Sunday. Mother’s day is fast approaching and this would make a great mother’s day breakfast for that other special woman in your life. The added bonus is that each one of these components are all great options on their own and good techniques to know.

It all seems like a lot of work, but with a little prep ahead of time you could easily put this together in an hour or so. I’ll list each of the components below, and then give some pointers and recipes for the more complex components of the dish.

  • Green Onion, Black Pepper and Cornmeal Biscuits
  • Whipped Mascarpone  
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Pickled Red Onion with Fresh Cucumber
  • Spicy Cajun Home-fries
  • Poached Egg
  • Roasted Mushrooms and Tomatoes
  • Rocket (Arugula) with Balsamic Vinegar and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Green Onion, Black Pepper and Cornmeal Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fine semolina (cornmeal)
  • 1/2 cup coarse semolina
  • 5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. butter (cold)
  • 2 sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup whole milk

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200° C (fan- 180° C)/ 400° F (convection 350° F) and grease baking tray or cast iron skillet/pan with butter or non-stick spray
  2. Combine the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder and black pepper in  large bowl
  3. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or two forks to break the butter up into the dry ingredients until the butter is uniformly broken up
  4. add the green onions
  5. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the yolk and milk; use a fork to gradually mix the ingredients together
  6. The dough may be a little sticky, so sprinkle the dough and the counter-top both with flour if necessary so that you can handle it easier
  7. The trick with good biscuits is to not work them too much; knead the dough on the counter no more than twelve times, folding the dough over itself each time to help form the flaky layers of the biscuit
  8. Even the dough out with a rolling-pin, but only as thin and dense as you want the biscuits. I prefer to leave the dough about a half-inch thick for a nice sized biscuit but you can go thinner if you’d prefer.
  9. Another import tip for biscuits is to cut them in one swift stroke, without twisting the cutter (I use a water glass for round biscuits and a bench scraper or knife to cut square). Twisting the cutter causes the edges to seal and doesn’t give you the flaky layers that are a trademark of a good biscuit.
  10. Brush the tops of the biscuits with some whipped egg that has a splash of milk in it
  11. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Variations:

  • Try adding sharp cheddar and/or bacon to the mix; you can also sprinkle the cheese on top which will crisp up when baking. The bacon will go great with the salmon, but not the cheese, so maybe avoid the cheddar unless making the biscuits as a separate item.

Whisked Mascarpone and Smoked Salmon

This part’s easy if you have somewhere local to pick up some good smoked salmon and Mascarpone cheese. Here in London, excellent Scottish smoked salmon can be found all over the place and if you can’t find Mascarpone, try going with another mild, spreadable cheese. Hell, even Philadelphia cream cheese wouldn’t be bad with this.

All you have to do to prepare the Mascarpone is use a fork to whip a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil to the mix and season with salt and pepper. If you have fresh chives on hand, slice them thinly and add to the mix as well.

Pickled Red Onion and Fresh Cucumber

I would recommend having the pickled red onions made days ahead of time, otherwise you’ll have a bit of extra work on your hands. 

I always like to keep some pickled red onions in my fridge for dishes like this (follow this link for a recipe). They last a long time in the fridge and come in handy now and then like they did for me on this occasion. I used an English cucumber (not sure what it’s called in the UK, but it’s the long and skinny one) and sliced a few thin rounds. I then stacked the rounds and sliced them into little matchstick sized pieces. Toss them together in the vinegar with the pickled onions . The sweet tang of this quick pickle cuts right through the dry biscuit, creamy Mascarpone and smokey salmon for an excellent addition to this dish.

Cajun Spiced Home-Fries

Home Fries

Everyone seems to have their own way of making home-fries; I tend to change mine depending on what’s in the fridge or pantry. Generally there will always be potatoes, onions and some sort of pepper. I added some Cajun seasoning and some diced hot peppers to add some heat to this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1# small potatoes- cut in quarters
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion- diced
  • 2 ea. garlic cloves- thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp. chopped hot peppers (jarred in vinegar works exceptionally well)
  • 1 ea. sliced green onion
  • Cajun seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

Method:

  1. Start by bringing the potatoes to a rolling boil in a pot of cold, salted water; allow the potatoes to cook until the are soft all the way through, but before the break apart completely. The key is to develop starchiness on the outside of the potato. 
  2. Once the potatoes are cooked, strain them through a colander and heat a large pan on the stove with about a tablespoon of oil or butter.
  3. Once the oil is hot and cook the onions and garlic for about 3-5 minutes or until the onions start to brown.
  4. Add the potatoes, green onion and hot peppers. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan, but let the potatoes develop a nice crust by not stirring too often.
  5. Season with Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper.

Poached Egg

To save yourself from using an extra pot, rinse out the pot you boiled the potatoes in and fill with water. Add about a tablespoon of vinegar to the water and heat on the stove until the water is just below a simmer. The perfect temperature for poaching is just before a simmer, at the point when mall bubbles start to rise from the pot, but before the steady medium-sized bubbles form. Crack your egg into a small dish and when the water is right, give it a quick stir and drop the egg in one swift motion. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve the egg after about a minute and a half when the white is set but the yolk still runny.

Ideally, you want to do the poached eggs last, since they go quick and need to get to the table hot. Season with salt and black pepper before serving.

Roasted Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Find some nice ripe cherry or grape tomatoes and some crimini or chestnut mushrooms. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the stems from the mushrooms. Lay out in a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano before roasting at 200° C (fan- 180° C)/ 400° F (convection- 350° F)

If making the biscuits, this takes about the same amount of time at the same temperature, so feel free to cook them at the same time. Takes about 10-12 minutes.

Arugula/Rocket Salad

These greens were seasoned with salt and pepper, then simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar before serving.