Pennsylvania Omelettes with Fingerling Potatoes

I was going to call this a California omelette, since it’s all about the flavors of avocado and tomato, but then Joe pointed out that the tomatoes, cheese, eggs, potatoes and onions were all locally raised in Pennsylvania.  (The avocadoes are from Mexico, by way of Trader Joe’s, and they were mostly overripe.)  So Pennsylvania omelettes it is.

This is a great dish for a lazy Saturday brunch.  Really, this is how Saturdays should be spent.  The way I see, it, our foremothers and fathers in the union movement of the 1930s fought and sometimes died to win us the weekend, and we ought to enjoy it fully.  (Ditto for lunch breaks.)

By the way, don’t skimp on the tomatoes here, because the whole dish depends on their quality.  If you use fresh, ripe, organic tomatoes that are in season, you will not regret it.  Good cheese is also crucial here.  We used some amazingly sharp, funky Colby from the Headhouse Market.

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Poached Chilean Sea Bass Over Couscous with Mango Avocado Salsa; Steamed French Beans with Parmesan and Prosciutto; Chocolate Souffles

Sarah and I had guests Friday night, so I picked up some really beautiful Chilean sea bass steaks. First, I seared the bass in some olive oil for about a minute and a half on each side and removed it to a plate. I poured out the oil and put the pan back on the heat. I deglazed the pan with some chicken stock and stirred in a teaspoon of saffron. I added some sliced onion, rosemary and sage stalks and salt and pepper. I put the bass back in the pan, covered it and put it into a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes.

I made some couscous with almonds and piled it in the center of the plate. I put a piece of bass on top of the couscous and topped it with the following salsa:

Two mangoes, chopped

Two shallots, sliced

One avocado, chopped

Fifteen red and yellow grape tomatoes, quartered

Juice of one lemon

Olive oil

Walnut oil

Balsamic vinegar

Handful of baby spinach in a chiffonade

Handful of cilantro, chopped finely

Four stalks of tarragon, coarsely chopped

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate an hour or so.

For presentation, I made some roasted cornmeal corn cakes, broke them in half and propped them into the salsa to give the dish height. I served a few corn cakes on the side as well.

I also steamed some French beans for ten minutes or so. I still wanted them crispy. I tossed them with salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, pieces of parmegiano-reggiano and prosciutto. These were served on the side as well.

This recipe serves four, by the way.

For dessert, I made some Grand Marnier Chocolate Souffles. I can’t take credit for this recipe. This is from Emeril Lagasse of Food Network fame. The only variation that I made was that I topped it with some fresh whipped cream with Grand Marnier mixed in. A lot of people find Emeril to be a bit cheesy. I do as well, but when you cut through all of the fluff, he is a really great chef. I use his recipes a lot and and I am always very satisfied.

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Roasted Corn Meal Crusted Chicken Breasts with Tomato and Avocado Roulade; Manchego and Prosciutto Gnocchi; Red Hawaiian Salted Fried Potatoes

Posting by Sarah’s husband, Joe:

Sarah had a very odd day yesterday. A bad start of the day followed by a promotion at work. In any event, she needed a nice hot meal when she walked through the door. So I went to work at producing a nice, satisfying yet healthy meal.

Roasted Cornmeal Chicken

It is very hot in Philly right now, so I wanted to keep the food fresh and light but enough to satisfy Sarah’s crazy-day-induced voracious appetite. So first the chicken:

Two organic chicken breasts dipped in an egg wash and coated with roasted cornmeal. (I put some smoked salt in both the egg wash and the cornmeal to bring out the cornmeal’s toasted flavor.)

The roulade:

Four small tomatoes on the vine (you can substitute two normal tomatoes) cut alternately into 1/4 inch slices and wedges

One avocado, diced

A handful of baby spinach

One clove of garlic, chopped

One half of a medium-sized onion

Juice of one lemon and a bit of the zest

Extra virgin olive oil

Good balsamic vinegar

Walnut oil (or any nut oil to accent the nutty flavor of the cornmeal)

First, I sauteed the chicken breasts in a cast iron pan just to brown the cornmeal and create a bit of a crust. I then moved them to a small metal casserole pan that had been heating in a preheated 375-degree oven. I poured in a bit of chardonnay, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. I covered the pan with foil and put it into the oven for the chicken to cook through and to absorb the wine’s flavor, appoximately twenty minutes.

Shortly before the chicken was done I put the dices avocado in a medium bowl. I added salt, pepper, lemon juice, zest, olive oil, walnut oil and balsamic vinegar. Saute the garlic in some oil until it just starts to turn brown. Add the tomatoes and the onions. You just want them to heat though not cook down. Salt and pepper to taste and add to the avocado mixture. Chiffonade the baby spinach into 1/2-inch strips.  (A chiffonade is when you take any green leaf vegetable or herb and put a few leaves together and roll them like a cigar. Then, while rolled, you take your knife and slice strips of the leaves.) Add to the bowl and mix well. Spoon this over the chicken breasts when you serve.

The Gnocchi:

Boil some gnocchi until they start to float. I used Trader Joe’s parmesan gnocchi. Remove from the water to a strainer. In a bowl, add sliced prosciutto and small slices of manchego cheese or any similar cheese. When the gnocchi have cooled a bit, add them to the bowl. Add salt pepper and a bit of olive oil- just enough to coat. Serve on the side.  (This is the only non-gluten free of the three dishes.)

The potatoes were simple, and if you are a regular reader of this blog you’ve seen them before. Slice some fingerling potatoes on the bias. Slicing on the bias allows more of the surface area to brown. Boil until fork tender, then fry in vegetable oil until brown. Remove and drain. I salted them with some nice red Hawaiian sea salt to add to the presentation.

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I made guacamole this afternoon for a picnic our friends Wayne and Jen threw in New Jersey. It’s always a hit at parties, and it’s actually really easy. You just get the best, ripest avocadoes you can find, mash them up with a potato masher, and mix in chopped garlic (a few cloves, depending on your taste), onions or shallots (optional– I usually don’t bother) and cilantro (as much as you like– also optional). Then add a generous amount of salt and lime juice—just keep tasting it till it seems right to you. Don’t be shy about the salt, the avocadoes really suck it in. It’s really all about good quality ingredients. Also, if you can, make it a bit ahead of time and let it sit (covered, with the plastic touching it) so the flavors can blend together.

By the way, do you know the best way to pit and slice an avocado? I learned this from Alton Brown. First, get yourself a ripe avocado. If you make a fist and feel the flesh underneath your thumb, that’s about how the avocado should feel when you squeeze it (gently). Use a large chef’s knife. Slice down the middle of the top of the avocado until you reach the pit. Then bring your knife around in a circle until you’ve cut the whole thing in half around the pit. Grab each side in one hand and twist, and it’ll come right apart (if it’s ripe). To remove the pit, take your knife and hack it with a bit of force into the middle of the pit. Twist the knife and the pit will come off, then pinch the knife and push down on the pit to remove it from the knife blade. To remove the flesh from the skin, score the flesh into cubes– just carve a grid into the avocado flesh with your knife. Remove any brown spots with your knife. Then use a spoon to scoop the cubes right into your bowl.

Serve with tortilla chips.