Breakfast Club Sandwich

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, and that means a night of celebrating for a lot of people. And what better way to end an evening of fun than to have a nice snack to appease your appetite.

The following recipe, adapted from one in “The Big New York Sandwich Book” by Sara Reistad-Long and Jean Tang (Running Press, $23, 2011), would be welcome at my table if I stayed up late enough to ring in the new year. But it would have a better chance showing up for breakfast, since it the club contains bacon and eggs as well as a spicy mayo, avocado and  tomato.

Breakfast Club Sandwich
6 slices thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 eggs
Salt
Ground black pepper
4 slices whole-wheat, multigrain or white bread
Spicy mayo (see note)
1 or 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large Hass avocado, sliced lengthwise
Cook bacon in a heavy skillet or on a sheet pan in a preheated 350-degree oven. Drain on paper towels.
Place a nonstick griddle or a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter. When butter melts, crack eggs into the pan; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 minutes. Gently flip each egg; cook on the other side for 1 minute.
Meanwhile, toast the bread until golden brown. Spread spicy mayo to taste on 2 slices. Top each mayo-spread slice with 2 eggs, 3 slices of bacon and sliced tomato; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add avocado; season again. Close the sandwiches and serve.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 745 calories, 53 grams fat (17 grams saturated), 485 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, 11 grams fiber, 1,220 milligrams sodium, 80 milligrams calcium.
Note: To make spicy mayo, stir together ¼ cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons ketchup and 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce.

Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and Thyme

Brussels sprouts are becoming one of the most popular vegetables around these days. And there is good reason. Not only are Brussels sprouts a nutrition powerhouse — they are loaded with many vitamins, including vitamins A, C, B6 and K — they are mighty tasty when cooked properly.

there are a lot of neat recipes for Brussels sprouts floating around the Internet, some of the best I’ve come across are ones that people have told me about or I have found in a book.

Just this morning, a fellow exerciser at my fitness center told about a Brussels sprouts recipe she prepared the other night in which she halved and cooked some in olive oil, later adding a little seasoning. That was on the heels of another friend telling me how she was going to prepare some sprouts that very evening.

We’ve been eating Brussels sprouts just about every time I fix salmon. All I do is steam them until they are just cooked through (still a bit crunchy) and season them with a little salt, pepper and cider vinegar.

I have a few more recipes that look mighty tasty, including the following from chef Mario Batali’s latest book, “Molto Batali” (ecco, 2011.)

Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and Thyme
Salt
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, any tough or discolored outer leaves removed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into ¼-inch cubes as best you can
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a pasta pot. Set up an ice bath nearby.
When the water comes to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt. Drop the Brussels sprouts into the boiling water, and when the water returns to the boil, cook for 3 minutes. Then drain the Brussels sprouts and plunge them into the ice bath. Once they have cooled, drain, trim off the tough ends, and cut them in half lengthwise.
In a 14-inch saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the thyme leaves and cook until they are crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully add the Brussels sprouts to the pan (they will cause a spattering ruckus), and cook over medium heat until they are tender and starting to brown, 7 to 10 minutes.
Add the cheese cubes and cook, stirring gently, until the cheese starts to melt around the edges, about 3 minutes. Season with black pepper and serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Barbecue Pork Ribs — Chinese-Style

There’s no doubt that melt-in-your mouth barbecue ribs are hard to beat. That easily explains the popularity of places such as Famous Dave’s and Arthur Bryant’s.

Both of those establishments feature Midwest-style ribs — Famous Dave’s in the St. Louis-style and Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City tradition. I’ve eaten the ribs of both and find them most tantalizing, but there are other ways to fix pork ribs that are as equally tasty.

One such way is the following Chinese recipe that I came across recently. The ribs are coated with a glistening honey sauce and have a peppery bite. And according to the article I read, the glaze is delightfully sticky, making finger licking a necessity.

And that’s the way barbecue ribs are supposed to be.

Barbecue Pork Ribs
3 pounds pork ribs, spare ribs or baby backs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
¼ cup rice wine
½ to ¾ cup Chinese spare rib sauce, preferably Lee Kum Kee brand
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
In a large baking dish, rub the ribs with the sugar, salt, black pepper and rice wine. Pour over the spare rib sauce and rub it onto the ribs. Cover and place the ribs in the refrigerator to marinate, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the ribs in a large roasting pan, pouring over any extra liquid. Bake the ribs for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and brush the honey on the ribs. Place the pan back in the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the ribs are done. Place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes to crisp the outer layer of the ribs, if desired, before serving.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 622 calories, 33 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 32 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 128 milligrams cholesterol, 45 grams sugar, 2,995 milligrams sodium.

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

Grilling burgers isn’t rocket science. Just about anyone can do it. But a good steak sandwich is a work of art.

I’ve had my share of good steak sandwiches over the years. The first one that comes to mind was at Barb’s Cafe in Angus, Minn. It actually was a mushroom steak sandwich. It was one of the specialties of Barb Arnold, who ran the cafe along with her husband, Kelly.

I remember stopping in at Barb’s one summer during my college days, while working for the Minnesota State Highway Department (now the Department of Transportation). Our crew, which worked on the road, would have lunch there on Fridays on our way back to Crookston. And I always had the steak sandwich.

Another tasty one was Tony Oliva’s Cuban Steak Sandwich at Target Field. The past two times I’ve attended Twins games in Minneapolis, one of my first stops was the stand behind home plate where the steak sandwiches are served.

Here’s a steak sandwich recipe I came across this week that looks pretty good. It is topped with caramelized onions, which make a wonderful side dish for roasts or grilled fish, atop burgers and pizzas, and, of course, steak sandwiches.

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Melted Cheese
CARAMELIZED ONIONS:
6 tablespoons extra virgin
Olive oil
5 medium onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon super fine sugar
1 small bay leaf
STEAK SANDWICHES:
4 fillet steaks, 7 ounces each

7 ounces Camembert cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of sourdough bread
2 oregano sprigs, leaves stripped
First, caramelize the onions: heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over low heat, then add the onions, sugar, and bay leaf. Give everything a good stir, cover with a lid, and slowly cook the onions until they are a deep nut-brown in color; stir occasionally. This process will take longer than you think — about an hour. Meanwhile, bring the steaks to room temperature (this will take about 20 to 30 minutes); de-rind the cheese and divide it into four chunky slices.
Toward the end of the onions’ cooking time, heat a nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the oil and, when it’s shimmering, gently place a steak into the pan. You should fry the steaks one at a time: if you add all four at once they’ll steam rather than fry. For rare steaks about 1-inch thick, cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, and rest for 5 minutes.
Season each steak with salt and pepper, place a cheese slice on top of it, and set aside in a warm place so that the cheese begins to melt. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Spoon the caramelized onions onto the toast, place the cheese-smothered steaks on top, finish with a sprinkle of oregano leaves, and serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 756 calories, 56 percent of calories from fat, 46 grams fat (16.3 grams saturated, 24 grams monounsaturated), 167 milligrams cholesterol, 55 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 2.9 grams fiber, 655 milligrams sodium.

No-Work Cioppino

Tradition is what the holidays are all about. And nothing says tradition more than food. I was reminded of this while riding in my truck Friday, returning home from a day of pheasant hunting.

I was listening to feature on North Dakota Public Radio about Germans from Russia Christmas traditions, including food. The story talked about a traditional early-morning (3 to 4 a.m.) meal that was served after Midnight Mass and how it’s seemed to have been lost as the older generations have passed on and the younger ones have started their own.

Just about everyone has their own Christmas Eve dinner tradition. For example, a friend of mine from the gym makes two big pans of lasagna for her daughters and their families each year. Our Christmas Eve meal tradition for the past 20 years or so has been baby back pork ribs cooked in homemade sauerkraut, which is served with mashed potatoes, a vegetable or two and a salad.

One of the most interesting Christmas food traditions that I’m aware of is practiced by some people of Italian descent. They observe the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve that dates from the medieval Roman Catholic Church.

I thought about that when coming across the following recipe for cioppino, adapted from one at Ciopinot in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ciopinot’s take on this classic contains a lot of flavor in just a few simple steps.

No-Work Cioppino
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
½ pound (about 1½) leeks, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally ½-inch thick
1 small clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 dried bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
1½ cups peeled and diced tomatoes, cut into ¾-inch dice
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup dry white or red wine
½ to 1 cup clam juice
Salt
Hot sauce
4 to 6 ounces large shrimp (16 to 20 count per pound), shelled and deveined
½ pound large scallops
6 ounces firm, light-flesh fish steaks (such as swordfish), cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons cold butter, chopped
Freshly chopped basil and oregano, for garnish
In a medium, heavy-bottom pot heated over medium-high heat, add the oil, then stir in the onions, leeks, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, pepper and saffron. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the herbs are fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce and wine. Cover and simmer gently to develop the flavors, 30 to 45 minutes. Thin if desired with ½ cup to 1 cup clam juice. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste. The cioppino base can be made ahead of time to this point; remove from heat, cover and refrigerate up to one day (reheat before continuing).
To the pot, add the shrimp, scallops and fish. Cover and simmer gently just until the fish and shellfish are firm and opaque, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot and remove from heat. Stir in the chopped cold butter, stirring just until the butter melts to add a little richness to the broth. This makes about 5 cups cioppino. Ladle the cioppino into wide bowls, garnishing each serving with freshly chopped basil and oregano. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 338 calories, 23 grams protein,; 16 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 16 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 111 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams sugar, 915 milligrams sodium.

Potato Skins with Buffalo Chicken

There’s generally not a shortage of food over the holidays. And much of it can be on the rich side. That’s why it’s prudent to have a few dishes here and there that don’t have that extra fat and calories.

One way to do that is to fix dishes that fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. That’s the philosophy behind the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate initiative.

During this holiday season, the Produce for Better Health Foundation has taken that a step further. At its Fruit and Veggies More Matters website (www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org), the group is sponsoring a Makeover Challenge, where readers are shown some “featured” plates with info on how to re-create each one. Readers are provided a recipe, nutrition info, cost analysis and a shopping list for each healthy plate.

They then are encouraged to make one of these “plates” (or another healthy plate), take a picture of it and enter the MyPlate Makeover Challenge on Facebook. Once a post is entered, people will get a valuable grocery coupon and be in the running to win a $100 grocery gift card.

Here’s one of those recipes that caught my eye. This lively dish gives a nod to buffalo chicken wings but without extra fat and calories. You start with a foundation of nutritious potatoes (naturally high in potassium, vitamin C and fiber) and replace fried wings with shredded chicken breast. It’s then topped with fresh tomatoes and onions. The recipe cost for four people is $9.37, just $2.34 per serving.

Potato Skins with Buffalo Chicken
12-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup water
4 medium russet potatoes (about 6 ounces each)
3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (like Frank’s, not Tabasco)
¼ cup non-fat milk
¼ cup fat-reduced sour cream
2 tablespoons margarine
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
2 green onions
2 medium tomatoes
4 celery stalks
Center oven rack and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken in a saute pan, add water, and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes and remove from pan; let cool slightly. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred using 2 forks (one in each hand).
While chicken is simmering, prepare remaining ingredients: Wash potatoes and slit each one lengthwise about 1-inch deep. Place potatoes in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Slice each potato in half lengthwise, scoop out potato, leaving a ¼-inch shell. Mash potato together with hot pepper sauce, sour cream, margarine, and milk. Fold in blue cheese and shredded chicken. Spoon mixture into potato skins, slightly denting center (to hold fresh toppings after baking). Place filled potato skins on a 9-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake about 15 to 20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Dice tomatoes and green onions. Cut celery stalks into 4-inch sticks.
Top potatoes with onions and tomatoes. Serve celery sticks on the side for scooping potato contents.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 360 calories, 12 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 30 percent of calories from fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams dietary fiber, 550 milligrams sodium.

Mushroom-Filled Pierogies

Many holidays have special food associated with them. A lot of them have to do with the individual cultures and nationalities. This time of the year is a perfect example.

Potato pancakes (levivot or latkes) and jelly doughnuts (sufganiot) are popular during Hanukkah for Jewish people. Tamales are one of the favorites of those with roots in Mexico. And during Kwanzaa, okra, sesame seeds, black-eyed peas and peanuts can be found in a lot of dishes.

I started thinking about this after reading a story about some of the dishes that are popular during the Christmas season with people of Polish descent. One of the foods mentioned were pierogies, which some people might call a dumpling.

I remember my first encounter with pierogies. I’d only been living in Grand Forks for a couple of years at the time when a friend of a friend brought some homemade pierogies over to our house. They were very delicious.

I’ve sampled others since, but none came close to those made by Dave Knoop’s mother. I never did get the recipe, much to my dismay. But I’m sure it easily would have become a favorite in our home today had it been given to me.

While I don’t have that specific recipe, here’s another one that looks pretty good. I just might have to give it a try.

Mushroom-Filled Pierogies
FILLING:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 pound fresh mushrooms, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
DOUGH:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon butter, softened
Make the filling. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and sauté over medium-low heat until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon; cook remaining liquid until it reduces to 1 tablespoon.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet. When butter melts, add onion and saute over medium heat until tender. Let cool, then stir in bread crumbs.
Stir onion mixture into mushrooms; season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the dough. Sift together flour and ½ teaspoon salt. Mound on a bread board, and make a well in the center.
Pour egg into the well; add softened butter. Pour about 1/3 cup water into the well. Using your hands, mix the wet ingredients into the flour, starting in the well and working outward. Continue adding water until a soft dough forms, then knead until smooth. Invert a large, clean bowl over the dough and let it rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Fill a large pot with at least 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, on a floured surface, roll out the dough as thinly as possible, preferably 1/16 inch or thinner. Cut out about six 3½- to 4-inch rounds. Cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. Place a generous tablespoon of filling in the center of each round of dough and spread to within ½ inch or less of the edges, leaving enough room to seal shut. Fold the dough over the filling to form a semicircle; crimp the edge closed with your fingers or a fork, making a tight seal. Continue with the remaining dough and filling, recombining and rerolling the dough as necessary.
Drop pierogi into boiling water, cooking in batches and being careful not to crowd the pot. Stir gently to prevent pierogi from sticking to the bottom or to each other. Return water to a boil and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Pierogi will usually rise to the surface when done. Gently remove from water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. (Do not leave on paper towels or pierogi will stick or tear.) Hold warm in a large ovenproof dish until all batches are finished.
Note: If desired, cooked pierogi can be browned in butter or oil over medium heat before serving.
Yield: 30 pierogies.
Approximate nutritional analysis per pierogi: 50 calories, 1.5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 0.5 grams sugar, 0.5 grams fiber, 45 milligrams sodium, 5 milligrams calcium.

Sweet and Spicy Bacon

Holidays are the perfect setting for a brunch. No matter if it’s Mother’s Day, Easter or Christmastime, late-morning meals that combine breakfast and lunch are a great way to eliminate the need to get up early and serve guests.

We’ve been kicking around the idea of hosting a brunch for some friends of ours during Therese’s school break, so I’ve been looking for some recipes that would be attractive as well as tasty.

Here’s one that features just about everyone’s favorite, bacon. The sweet and spicy version is topped with Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Sweet and Spicy Nutella-Coated Bacon
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 thick slices bacon (½ to ¾ pound)
3 tablespoons Nutella
Fleur de sel or another coarse salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine brown sugar, chili powder and black pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange bacon slices on baking sheet, making sure they do not overlap. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on desired doneness, then remove from oven and carefully flip bacon slices.
Sprinkle each slice liberally with sugar-pepper mixture. Return to oven and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Cool bacon slices on paper towels until approximately room temperature.
When bacon has cooled, place Nutella into a small bowl and microwave on high for approximately 15 to 20 seconds, until softened. Transfer bacon slices to a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet or large plate. Using a silicon brush or icing spatula, lightly spread Nutella onto the top of each bacon slice. Place plate into refrigerator and allow Nutella to harden. Once coating is firm to the touch, sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 150 calories, 10 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated), 15 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, no fiber, 355 milligrams sodium, 15 milligrams calcium.

Forgotten Kisses

One of the simple pleasures in life is sharing recipes. Nothing is more satisfying than having someone tell you how much they liked a recipe that you passed along their way.

In my job as food editor at the Grand Forks Herald, I come across a lot of recipes, many of which that look pretty good but just don’t manage to make it past the hope-to-make-it-someday stage.

One such recipe was that for Forgotten Kisses, which came my way via the Modesto (Calif.) Bee, a McClatchy Newspapers property. The recipe was part of the weekly food package that we receive from McClatchy Tribune News Services. I used the recipe for one of my One Byte at a Time features that appears daily in the Herald, hoping to give it a try down the road.

A friend, Lillian Elsinga, who comes from a family of bakers, has made the recipe twice and has raved about it. That’s good enough for me. I’m going to give the recipe a shot within the next couple of days. If it’s half as good as Lillian says, it will be a winner.

The recipe, by the way, is from United Methodist Women of Merced, Calif., which has hosted an annual Christmas Bazaar for the past 81 years.

Forgotten Kisses
2 egg whites
Few grains of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup superfine sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Red, green or yellow food coloring
1½ cups chocolate mint chips, chocolate chips or chopped nuts Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375degrees for at least 15minutes.
Beat egg whites until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat until stiff. Add sugar slowly while continuing to beat and mixture becomes glossy. Add vanilla. Divide mixture into thirds. Tint each with one of the colors. Fold into each one a ½ cup of chocolate mint chips or any combination of chips and nuts. Drop by spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Place in oven and turn oven off immediately. Do not open oven for at least 5 hours.

Potluck Sausage Appetizers

Holiday get-togethers have one thing in common: food. And work potlucks are one such of those gatherings that revolve around food.

We’re going to have a second-floor potluck at the Herald next week, so I have to come up with something to bring. I’m not only looking forward to sampling other people’s food but making something that will be pleasurable to my co-workers.

Therese hosted a potluck for some of her co-workers at Lake Agassiz Elementary School the other night, and I was impressed with the variety of food. My favorite was a cheese spread, which one of the paraprofessionals brought, and Therese’s brownies. Therese also served venison sausage that had been boiled, cut up and cooked in a Crock-Pot with some Western salad dressing. The sausage was served with crackers.

The slow-cooker appetizer was something I put together after having had it many times at Herald potlucks, courtesy of a friend of mine, Mark Young. It might remind some people of another traditional holiday appetizer, cocktail wieners or Little Smokies in a barbecue sauce.

While on the subject of appetizers, here’s recipe that caught my eye the other day that would be welcome at a potluck or other holiday get-together.

Cocktail Sausage Appetizers
2 to 3 pounds cocktail sausages, cocktail franks or venison ring sausage, cooked and sliced
1 10-ounce jar grape jelly
1 11-ounce  jar chili sauce
Combine grape jelly and chili sauce in a slow cooker until warm and stir until smooth. Add sausages and stir until all are covered with sauce. Simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 hours or longer if desired. The longer they simmer, the more the flavor is absorbed by the sausage. Serve with crackers.