World Food Championships & Moving Forward with Egg Salad

Toasted Egg Salad Roll with Candied Orange Habanero Bacon and Crispy Smoked Potato Strings

Toasted Egg Salad Roll with Candied Orange Habanero Bacon and Crispy Smoked Potato Strings

Like a pat on the back for a job well done once in a while I need a reminder from William he is here with me. When I cook he comes through, so I cook. This past week I was celebrating him at the World Food Championships in Kissimmee, Florida. He and I along with my Comare* Lynn cooked up a few recipes including one bad-ass egg salad sandwich. More about that special sandwich later.

Lynn, my maid of honor and William's godmother is my sous chef. I have always referred to her in Italian as my “comare”. Here is more of a definition:

*Lynn, my maid of honor and William’s godmother is my sous chef. I have always referred to her in Italian as my “comare”. Here is more of a definition:
“Comare… women used this term… [to describe other women in their group] to honor a close bond of mutual assistance.”(Guglielmo, 2010). It was a woman who worked with other women while the men were in the fields, they relied on each other for support in Sicily in the early 1900’s.
When my son passed away, Lynn never left my side. I am so honored to have her cook with me and so our team name (as we both are suffering with hot flashes right now-lol): “Too Hot Comares”.

The World Food Championships (WFC) brought hundreds of professional chefs and home cooks from around the globe to compete in 9 categories for over $350,000.00 in prize money and bragging rights. IMG_7713Having played this game before and getting my butt whooped I never in my wildest dreams thought I could advance through the ranks in my qualifying category of “sandwiches”. Luckily, it’s never about winning or losing for me. I just like being in the mix, cooking to the best of my ability and hoping for a little extra icing on what is already a spectacular cake. Truly, this competition feels more like a family reunion than a cutthroat kitchen. To be passionate and endure in this hobby it has to be about friends first and competition second. Think about those athletes who only care about winning and how quickly they lose the love of the game. I never want that burn-out to happen to me.

good old days with my family

good old days with my family

Others strongly believe in me when it comes to food sport. My daughter Caitlin for one. She never stops believing I can win. She nudges me forward with her simple notes and texts, “You got this mom” or “I know you can do it mom”. Does she know how much her thoughtful, gentle touch means? Same with my husband. He is the perfect coach. His support and encouragement never waivers. He never acts surprised when I bring home a medal or a prize when usually I am picking myself up off the floor in disbelief. And then there is William…..

homemade focaccia filled with a candied orange walnut pesto, speck, fontina and roasted red peppers and arugula salad with cranberry balsamic

homemade focaccia filled with a candied orange walnut pesto, speck, fontina and roasted red peppers and arugula salad with cranberry balsamic…cooking from the heart always wins ❤

Like in sports the WFC is a tournament style competition. My first sandwich requiring the use of Kansas City Steaks ribeye was judged at #6. Next up is my signature sandwich inspired by my lunch dates with William at Aventura’s Italian deli in Waterbury. The judges liked it and launched me into the #4 position. What?  Hot damn! After two rounds of judging I am still in it. I made Top 10 and would be required to create an egg sandwich in the final round using American Humane Certified free range eggs from The Happy Egg Co.

Smokehouse Steak Sandwich

Smokehouse Steak Sandwich

Just one problem. I never believed I would make Top 10, so I never prepared any kind of elevated egg sandwich recipe before I left home for the event. Exhausted but exhilarated I had less than 24 hours to figure it out. Before I went to bed that night I had nothing. It was like recipe writer’s block. Lot’s of anxiety. This is going to be embarrassing.

my good luck charm

my good luck charm

…..and then there is William. Just before I turned out the light I held a good luck charm in my hand (thank you Patrice Hurd) and had a little chat with my boy. I closed my eyes and hoped for a little Will Keys intervention. He never disappoints me.

Toasted Egg Salad Roll with Candied Orange Habanero Bacon and Crispy Smoked Potato Strings

Toasted Egg Salad Roll with Candied Orange Habanero Bacon and Crispy Smoked Potato Strings

Guess who woke with a start and jumped out of bed at 3 am with a complete egg sandwich recipe in her head? Not just any egg sandwich, but one bad-ass egg sandwich that scored the second highest score of the Top 10. It shot me into a 3rd place finish, but more importantly it reminded me that William is always here helping me move forward. This is why I cook. This is why I love the competition. It’s putting my grief into a passion. What is your passion?

Too Hot Comares both placed in the Top 10

Too Hot Comares both placed in the Top 10

As always I owe a debt of gratitude to those who went above and beyond to support me at the WFC. Big thanks to Felipe Rivera and Jennifer Daskevich for rescuing me from a major bread snafu; to Amoroso’s Bakery for supplying the most delicious rolls; to Carlino’s for vacuum sealing the imported speck and to Suzy and Colette of Saucy Mama for seeing and believing in me and taking me on this whirlwind of a ride. I am so proud to be a part of your team.

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Toasted Egg Salad Roll with Candied Bacon & Crispy Potato Strings

12 large Happy Eggs

2-tablespoons Saucy Mama Orange Habanero Wing Sauce, divided

1-tablespoon water

1-tablespoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon Saucy Mama Smoky Garlic mustard

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

½-cup diced Duda Farms Dandy Celery

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle

1 tablespoon Saucy Mama Backyard Brat Mustard

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1-tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1-teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 slices Wright Apple Wood Bacon, diced

1 russet potato or other frying potato, peeled and thin julienne

Canola oil for deep-frying

1 teaspoon smoked salt

6 (8-inch) whole grain sandwich rolls

½ cup clarified butter

1 bunch fresh arugula

Place eggs in a large saucepan with enough cold water to cover the eggs. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let eggs stand in hot water for 16 to 18 minutes. Immediately remove eggs from hot water and plunge into an ice bath. When cool, peel eggs. Separate the yolks from the whites. Chop egg whites and reserve in a large bowl. Place yolks in the bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. Add wing sauce, water, vinegar and garlic mustard; pulse to blend. With Food processor running, slowly add olive oil, processing until mixture is smooth, stopping and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites. Add celery, dill, chives, pickle, whole grain mustard, zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to assemble sandwiches.

In non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally until fat is rendered and bacon is browned and crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel and discard grease from the pan. Return bacon to pan. Over low heat, add remaining 1-tablespoon orange habanero sauce to bacon, stirring to coat the bacon. Set bacon aside in a single layer until ready to assemble sandwiches.

For crispy potato strings: Fry potato strings in 350F hot oil for 1 minute or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towel; sprinkle immediately with smoked salt.

Brush cut sides of rolls with butter. Place rolls, butter side down, in skillet over medium heat. Toast 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown.

To assemble sandwiches: place a layer of arugula on bottom half of roll. Top with egg salad. Sprinkle with bacon and crispy potato strings. 

use a russet potato and pat dry with paper towels for extra crispy potato strings

use a russet potato and pat dry with paper towels for extra crispy potato strings

A Father’s Grief & Sunday Brunch

Father's Day Brunch

Father’s Day Brunch

Recently, I was asked if I thought there were gender differences in the way one grieves? Honestly, I have not delved into the subject and I am no expert on the matter. I can say, however, from experience that my husband and I certainly grieve differently. Turns out, I am a sharer–as if you didn’t know that already. My husband, on the other hand, is not. He bottles in his sadness and then when it gets to be too much cries alone. He prefers it that way and I know to give him his space.

Proud dad and son

Proud dad and son

He mourns alone, too. There are things and places that are special to a father and son. Hunting and fishing were activities that they enjoyed together. Scattering a bit of William’s ashes in the forest or at the edge of a trout stream was not an unusual thing for Bill to do on his own. Nor was I surprised to discover that he had left out a small camping flashlight, “in case William needs light to find his way back to us”. That’s Bill’s version of stepping outside himself and I love him for it. He knows he is not alone, but there are just things he needs to do alone and that is OK.

hunting

Gender differences or people differences? Not sure that it matters as long as we all are putting one foot in front of the other in any way we can. Next Sunday is Father’s Day. If you have lost a child you may feel a little upsurge in your grief. It’s normal.

 Today’s recipe is meant to offer some comfort. Dress it up with a side salad and some fresh fruit for a complete brunch menu sure to please your favorite father.

unbaked filled crepe cups

Bacon & Egg Scallion Crepe Cups

Crepes

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

2 eggs

1 tablespoons melted butter

1 scallion, chopped

Just Baked

Just Baked

Filling

12 (1-inch) squares smoked gouda or brie cheese

8 strips cooked crumbled bacon

6 eggs

1 ¼ cups milk

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 green onions, thinly sliced for garnish

Combine all crepe ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth. Let crepe batter stand for 15 minutes. On a lightly greased crepe pan or skillet, over medium heat, swirl 2 tablespoons of batter (for each crepe) forming a 6-inch circle. Cook about 1 minute or until crepe edges look dry. Flip and cook another 30 seconds. Transfer crepe to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining batter until you have 12 crepes total. Cut each crepe into an even 5-inch round using a pastry cutter or…(I used the top of a jar as a template and just cut around it with a knife). Heat oven 375F. Spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray. Press 1 crepe into each cup ruffling edges to fit. Place 1 square of cheese in the bottom of each crepe. Sprinkle with half the bacon. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well blended. Pour egg mixture evenly over filling to just below the rim of the muffin cup. Sprinkle with remaining bacon. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until eggs are just set. Cool slightly. With the edge of a knife carefully loosen crepe cups from muffin tins and lift out with a spoon. Arrange on serving platter. Sprinkle with green onions.

Good Grief & French Toast Take Time

Overnight French Toast

Overnight French Toast

It should have come as no surprise that the first new episode of Downton Abbey would be about GRIEF. By the end of last season, Tom Branson lost a wife, Mary lost a husband and Mrs. Crawley lost a much loved son in a tragic accident. (Sigh! I can still see that handsome Mathew pinned under that car. That final episode haunts me.) We even saw a bit of angry suffering in the character of Carson as we learned of his love and loss. The episode enforced many of the things I have felt and have discussed on this blog like  finding strength to celebrate life, the need for forgiveness and the need for distraction.

good times around the fire pit

good times around the fire pit

However, I beg to differ with one final notion as portrayed through the grief-stricken Mary. With the exception of her father, the other characters believe 6 months should be plenty of time for her to resolve her grief and get back into the swing of things. What is so magical about 6 months? Good grief takes time–however long it takes. I am going on 3 years and I am still in the resolution phase. If, however, after 6 months, you still are not eating, sleeping or enjoying any kind of social interaction then it is time to see your health care provider as those are signs of a deeper, more complicated grief and depression.

Good French toast, believe it or not, also takes time. Especially if you like it a little crispy on the outside and melt in your mouth soft and creamy on the inside. It takes some simple planning. First of all, your bread should be just a bit stale–1 day old is good with most artisan breads that don’t use preservatives. The bread also needs to get a good 8 hours (overnight) in a yummy milk bath to soak up all the creamy goodness. Topped with butter and real maple syrup it is worth the time.

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Simple Overnight French Toast

4 (1-inch thick) slices French baguette*

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

butter

Arrange bread in a single layer in a baking dish. In bowl, whisk remaining ingredients until well mixed; pour evenly over bread. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or as long as overnight. Melt some butter over medium heat on a non-stick griddle. Place soaked bread slices on hot griddle. Cook, turning once, until deep golden brown on both sides. Serve with your favorite toppings.

*Use the center portion of the bread and save the ends for another use. Trimming the crusts is optional.