Eggs Chartres

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This is a spicy, creamy, cheesy onion and egg recipe that I haven’t made for years, until now. It’s called eggs Chartres. The name of it really intrigued me, so I googled.

And, I got nothing. Besides all kinds of info regarding the cathedral in Chartres, there was no insight into why this dish is called eggs Chartres. It does seem to be unanimously Creole in nature, which is exactly where this recipe lives, in the American Cooking: Cajun and Creole recipe booklet, part of the extensive Time Life Series Foods of the World.

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It’s a very easy recipe – the hardest part is peeling the hard-boiled eggs!

So, without any further ado, I give you this fabulous and unique egg dish. It would be great for breakfast, but also fabulous for lunch or brunch.

Creamed Egg Chartres
Serves 8

1 tablespoon butter, softened, plus 8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch bits
5 medium-sized onions, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
3/4 cup flour
3 egg yolks, plus 12 hard-cooked eggs, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (cayenne)
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. With a pastry brush, spread the tablespoon of softened butter evenly over the bottom and sides of a 14-by-9-by-2-inch baking-serving dish. Set the dish aside. I used an oval gratin pan.

In a heavy 12-inch skillet, melt the 8 tablespoons of butter bits over moderate heat. When the foam begins to subside, add the onions and, stirring frequently, cook for about 8 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Add the flour and mix well, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour.

Meanwhile, in a deep bowl, beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk or a rotary or electric beater until they are smooth. Beat in the milk, salt, and red pepper, and set aside.

Stirring the onion mixture constantly with a wire whisk, pour in the egg yolks and milk in a slow, thin stream and cook over high heat until the sauce comes to a boil, thickens heavily and is smooth.

Taste the sauce for seasoning, remove the skillet from the heat and gently stir in 9 of the hard-cooked eggs.

Pour the eggs and sauce into the buttered dish and scatter the Parmesan over the top, followed by the paprika.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce begins to bubble.

Garnish the top with the remaining hard-cooked egg slices and serve at once, directly from the baking dish. Oops, I forgot to save some of the sliced eggs.

I couldn’t wait till the dish cooled off, so it’s not very pretty. But, it is basically a casserole.

I used some chopped parsley for a little color, and added some more paprika.

I’d seriously forgotten just HOW good this dish is. It really would be stunning for a brunch buffet.

White Sauce

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A white sauce is just that – a sauce that’s white. It’s white because it’s made with milk, 1/2 & 1/2, or cream.

It was years before I dared make a white sauce; I assumed it was difficult for some reason. I remember calling up my mother and asking her how to make one, but she didn’t have an immediate answer, because cooking came so naturally to her. She simply added a little of this, and a little of that while cooking, and only followed recipes when making something completely new.

But she made a white sauce, just for me, and sent me the recipe. Trust me, after making a white sauce one time, you’ll never need a recipe again.

White Sauce, or Bechamel

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2, or cream
(this recipe can be doubled)

Have all of your ingredients ready; the sauce will not take long. All you need is a pot and whisk.

I like to use Wondra instead of regular white flour for sauces and gravies.

Place the butter in the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the flour and immediately whisk it into the butter until smooth. This is called a roux. Some people make a roux that is almost like a paste, but I prefer mine slightly thinner.

Let the mixture bubble and cook for about 30 seconds, whisking often. The cooking supposedly keeps the sauce from having a “floury” taste, but I’ve never tested this theory.

With the whisk in one hand, pour in the milk with the other and begin gently whisking. Don’t add the milk gradually; pour it all in.

If the milk/cream is warm, the sauce will form sooner, but cold milk/cream works just as well.

Hold the pot now with one hand and gently whisk; you will notice the mixture thickening. You can even remove the pot from the stove if you think the sauce is cooking too fast.

A few bubbles might form, but don’t let the sauce boil. It’s better to take a little more time to whisk the sauce than allow it to burn and stick to the pot.

Once the sauce has thickened, remove the pot from the stove. You have just made a white sauce.

Now for the fun part. Think of what you can add to your white sauce to make it, well, different! What about adding fresh herbs, or pesto, or tomato paste, or paprika cream, or curry powder!

Today I’m being indulgent and treating myself to a breakfast of goddesses – poached eggs with a white sauce.


A white sauce will work with any milk substitute as well, from soymilk to coconut milk, to hemp milk, to goat milk. However, the color of the sauce will change with the milk color.

It will turn into a cheesy white sauce if you add cheddar, fontina, or Parmesan to it. Any cheese works.

Besides salt and pepper, you can also add white pepper, dried herbs, nutmeg, cayenne, or just about anything you like.

Lastly, a browned butter white sauce is really flavorful, but keep in mind that the white sauce color will be brownish.

For a more scientific approach to making a white sauce, here is a link to Stefan’s white sauce on his blog, Stefan Gourmet.

Pastitsio

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My introduction to Greek cuisine began with the set of cookbooks that introduced me to many International cuisines – the Time-Life series of cookbooks called “Foods of the World.” Included in the set are beautifully photographed hardback books describing the cuisines and cultures, as well as smaller, spiral-bound recipe books.

The set was gifted to me by mother, because she owned and loved hers. They were also my first cookbooks, so as I learned how to cook, I also learned about various cuisines. Had I known better, I might have been intimidated, but I just jumped in and started cooking.

One week I’d make meals from the Ethiopian cookbook, the next week Japan, the next Italy, and so forth. One of the cookbooks was “Middle Eastern Cooking,” which included foods from Greece as well as Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and other countries from that part of the world.

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Over the years I made moussaka, chicken baked in red sauce with cinnamon, grilled pork kabobs smothered in oregano, and many more lovely recipes. But one that I really loved was Pastitsio. To me it was way more fun than moussaka.

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When I first made it, my husband loved it. But over the 30-plus years that I’ve been cooking, he’s somehow decided that he hates lamb. It’s just not the same with beef, so I’m using a 50-50 mixture. Who knows, in a future post, I might be writing from my own apartment…

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Pastitsio

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
1 pound ziti
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 1/2 pound lean ground lamb
2 cups chopped, drained, canned tomatoes
1 cup canned tomato purée
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon oregano crumbled
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Black pepper
1/2 cup soft, fresh bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated Kefalotiri or Parmesan

In a large pot bring 6-8 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil over high heat and drop in the ziti. Stirring occasionally, cook the pasta for 10-15 minutes, or until soft but still somewhat resistant to the bite. Immediately drain the pasta and set aside.

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Meanwhile, prepare the lamb and the cream sauce. In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the onions and, stirring frequently, cook for 5 minutes, or until they are soft and transparent but not brown.

Add the lamb and, mashing it frequently with the back of spoon or fork to break up any lumps, cook until all traces of pink disappear.

Stir in the tomatoes, purée, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, the beaten egg, and set aside.

Sauce:
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
6 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

To make the cream sauce, combine 3 cups of milk and the butter in a small pan until bubbles appear around the rim of the pan. Remove from the heat. In a heavy 2- to 3- quart saucepan, beat the eggs with a whisk until they are frothy.

Add the remaining 1 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of salt and, beating constantly, add the flour, a tablespoon at a time.

Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the heated milk and butter mixture in a thin stream and, still stirring, bring to a boil over moderate heat. Continue to boil until the sauce is thick and smooth; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. With a pastry brush coat the bottom and sides of a 9 x 15 x 2 1/2″ baking dish with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the bottom with the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and spread half of the reserved pasta on top.

Cover with the meat, smoothing it into the corners with a spatula.

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Then pour 2 cups of the cream sauce evenly on top. Sprinkle with half the grated cheese.

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Make another layer with the remaining ziti, pour over it the rest of the cream sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is a delicate golden brown.

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If you love moussaka, you’ll definitely love pastitsio. It’s the love red meat sauce, slightly sweetened with cinnamon, layered on noodles, and topped with a rich, cheesy cream sauce that makes it the ultimate in comfort food, Greek style!

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Cabbage Bundles

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This recipe for a lovely and tasty side dish is less about the cabbage, and way more about the filling. Over the years, I’ve made the bundles so many different ways, but today I’m using a creamy mixture of bacon, onions and mushrooms. I’ve also included leeks and peas before.

So try this out as an easy and pretty side dish, varying the filling ingredients to your liking. You can even make these a day ahead and reheat. That’s a handy thing to do when it’s holiday season.

Cabbage Bundles
Inspired by this recipe on Epicurious here

1 large green cabbage
6 thick slices of bacon, diced
2 onions, thinly sliced
12 ounces sliced mushrooms
Garlic pepper
Dried thyme
Salt
White sauce, approximately 1 1/2 cups

Core the cabbage, then place the whole cabbage in a large pot.

Add enough water to cover. Add a little salt, then bring the water to a boil. Cook the cabbage in the water for at least 7 minutes. Remove the cabbage to a colander and let it drain upside down.

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If you feel you’ve overcooked the cabbage, place it in ice water immediately for a minute, then let it drain.

When the cabbage has cooled off, peel off the outer leaves and let them dry; set aside.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until fully cooked, but not crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

Pour off some of the bacon grease if there’s too much in the skillet. But save it, of course.

Reduce the heat slightly, then add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. You want them soft and only slightly caramelized.

Remove the onions to a bowl, then add a little more bacon grease or olive oil as needed, and sauté the mushrooms. Towards the end when they’re almost fully sautéed, add salt and seasoning like garlic pepper.

Just for fun, I added a little cognac to the mushrooms and flamed them for a minute. This step adds a little flavor, but it not necessary.

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Drain the mushrooms to get that wonderful mushroom jus, then combine the mushrooms and onions in a large bowl. Add the thyme. Save the jus for when you make the white sauce, if you like.

Add the white sauce and bacon to the cooled-off onions and mushrooms, then stir to combine gently. There’s your filling. It can be refrigerated overnight, if necessary.

To make the bundles, begin by lightly greasing a baking dish. Lay one cabbage leaf flat on your work surface, and top with filling. Don’t go overboard with the filling, or else it will all ooze out. Just a nice amount, that still allows you to comfortably roll and tuck the cabbage leaf around the filling. Also first trim off any really tough leaf ends before rolling.

Place the bundles smooth side up in the baking dish. Repeat.

Just before you want to serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a little olive oil over the top of the bundles, and bake just until there’s a little color on the cabbage, or about 20 minutes. If you want more color, you can always slide the baking dish under the broiler for a minute.

Serve immediately.

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Alternatively, these can be baked one day, refrigerated, and then reheated on another day. They stay intact pretty well if you haven’t overfilled them!

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If you want a pretty decadent side dish, toss a little grated Parmesan on the bundles before the browning and heating step.

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These were delicious with pork loin, but would be equally wonderful with grilled white fish or roasted chicken.

Crêpes Fourées

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Crêpes Fourées are savory crêpes filled with sautéed mushrooms in a white sauce. And to make things even more luscious, gruyère is included. They can be served as is, paired simply with a salad of greens, or served as a fabulous side dish to your favorite protein.

I’m not going to write out an exact recipe for these crêpes. There simply are a few components – the crêpe recipe is here, and the white sauce, or bechamel, is here, and below I’ll focus more on the mushrooms.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dried mushrooms
Butter
Fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt
White pepper
Dried thyme
Butter and Oil
Shallots, diced
Cream, milk, and/or the mushroom liquor
Flour
Crêpes
White Sauce
Gruyere

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl, and cover them with hot water.Place a heavy bowl on top to keep the mushrooms submerged.

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Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. It’s okay to brown the butter if you prefer. Add the mushrooms and sauté them for 5-6 minutes. Season them with salt, a little white pepper to taste, and some thyme.

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Place the mushrooms in a colander over a large bowl in order to collect the mushroom liquor. I wrote about this technique here. The “liquor” is a lovely addition to a white sauce, or to flavor a broth.

Remove the soaked dried mushrooms and place them on some paper towels. Don’t discard the soaking liquid.

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Pat them dry, and then slice or chop them up, removing the tougher stems first.

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Then add them to the sautéed mushrooms.

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Strain the liquid remaining after soaking the dry mushrooms and strain it to remove any debris.

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Place this liquid and the mushroom liquor together in a small pot and reduce the volume by about half. This will provide a deeper flavor when using it in the white sauce, if you choose to use it. Keep in mind, however, that if you use this liquid, your white sauce will not be as “white” as compared to only using cream or milk as your liquid when making it.

The original recipe I have for Crêpes Fourées can be seen here in my adolescent hand.

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In this recipe, the mushrooms were finely chopped. I wasn’t going to bother with doing that, but at the last minute before putting the dish together, I did decide to chop the mushrooms instead of leaving them in the larger pieces. I just felt the crêpes would roll better that way.

I did, however, omit the parsley and chives in this recipe. I did that just because of what my menu was for a dinner I served to friends. Already plenty of green!

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Then I placed the chopped mushrooms in a large bowl. I had the crêpes I’d made that morning on stand-by,

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as well as some Gruyere, which I grated. At least, I think this is Gruyere…

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To make the white sauce, place a combination of olive oil and butter in a pot and heat it over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Add flour to make a roux, then stir in your liquid of choice. After a bit, while whisking the whole time, you end up with a thickened white sauce like this.

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Pour the white sauce into the bowl with the mushrooms. You don’t want the mushrooms too saucey, just enough sauce to bind them.

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Stir the mushrooms and sauce together. The filling should look like this.

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If you’re going to cook the crêpes right away, turn on the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking pan.

Have your crêpes, filling, grated Gruyere and the pan handy.

Begin by placing some filling on a crêpes, and top it with a little Gruyere.

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The little bit of cheese will help hold everything together. Then roll up the crêpes and place them in the pan as you make them. Top them all with some more Gruyere.

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I didn’t use too much cheese because I really want the mushroom filling to shine, but it’s up to you. But if you want these super cheesey, I’d use a milder cheese.

If you’re not baking these on the same day, cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bring the crêpes to room temperature, or close to it, and bake until the tops of the crêpes are bubbly and golden, at 375 degrees. Serve hot or warm. Who am I kidding. They’re fabulous at room temperature as well.

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Trust me, if you love mushrooms, you will love these crêpes.

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They are the best kind of comfort food.

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They are full of flavor.

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They are culinary perfection.

Boxty

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Of all things, my first boxty was not eaten in Ireland. It was, in fact, enjoyed in an Irish pub in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s called Kilkenny’s, and it’s been an established and popular Irish pub since 2002.

I really enjoyed the boxty, which I’d never heard of before. I only ordered it because I wanted something traditionally Irish since I was in an Irish pub. And of course it was good – it was a giant potato-based crepe filled with creamy goodness. I can’t really remember all of the details now, but because of that experience, I was determined to have one in Ireland… which I did just a few weeks ago.

We had lunch in Dublin at Gallagher’s Boxty House one Sunday. We went there knowing that it was a touristy sort of place, but I had to have my boxty. Gallagher’s Boxty House is an unassuming little joint of a restaurant in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

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It actually seemed like only locals were eating lunch there – especially families with children. The young man who waited on us was 17, and the son of the restaurant’s owner. It was nice finding out it’s a family business.

But touristy or not, we all have a fabulous lunch. I chose the seafood boxty and it was delicious.

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That day in Dublin was Latvia Day, as we surmised after passing loads of people dressed up in their traditional Latvian garb. (Of course, we had to ask what the hoopla was all about…)

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Aren’t these women beautiful?!!!

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I only mention Latvia day because the presence of the singing and dancing Latvians added to the frivolity of walking around Dublin on a beautiful Sunday when everyone seemed to be outside enjoying themselves. And the parade that ensued went right by the Boxty house while we were enjoying our lunch!

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Okay, little things like that get me excited.

But back to the boxty.

After returning from Ireland last week, I wanted to make boxty. I own a book on Irish cooking*, and it revealed that the boxty originated in the north of Ireland, actually. The word boxty came about from the fact that people cut holes in boxes in order to grate the potatoes to make this dish! I now appreciate my metal grater even more than ever.

There are also, not surprisingly, a few different versions of boxty. One is exactly like what I had in Tulsa and in Dublin – an oversized pancake with filling. Another version is a pancake on a smaller scale served simply with butter.

The third version, which I didn’t make today, is from a thicker pancake batter – essentially a dough. Round shapes are cut out of it much like our biscuits, and baked. I think I actually saw these on breakfast menus in Ireland, because they were described as hash brown potato cakes. I’m sure they were delightful but unfortunately I never had one.

Here’s my version of the giant boxty pancake with a creamed ham and cheese filling, and boxty pancakes with butter.

Boxty with Creamy Ham and Cheese Filling

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk, I used whole
Butter

Chop up two of the peeled potatoes and boil them until done. If you’re not sure, stick a fork in the pieces to see if they are tender. When they are cooked, drain the potatoes; set aside.
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Grate the remaining two potatoes and place them on paper towels for a few minutes to drain.

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Then place the grated potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the flour and baking powder. Mash the two cooked potatoes and add to the grated potatoes in the bowl.

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Give everything a stir, then slowly stir in the milk. The batter should have some consistency, yet be somewhat thin as well.

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Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Use a generous amount of butter for each pancake. When the skillet is hot, almost completely fill the bottom of the skillet with the batter. Don’t make it too thick, but also fill in any thin spots or holes. Turn down the heat to medium, and cover the skillet with a lid.

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After a few minutes, turn the heat down to low to finish cooking the pancake. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to flip over these “pancakes,” so I just let them cook on the bottom side slowly.

After a few more minutes, slide the pancake onto a large plate, turn up the heat again, and make a second pancake. When the second one is done, slide it onto a separate plate.

Complete as many pancakes as you wish, then proceed with the filling:

Filling:

1 recipe for white sauce
About 2 cups of chopped ham
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese

Make a white sauce according to the directions using butter, flour, and milk or cream, whichever you prefer.

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Stir in the ham and the cheese. I also sprinkled in some white pepper, but that is certainly optional.

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Add a generous amount of the filling to each boxty, and fold the other side over. Repeat with the remaining boxties that you made. The filing will generously fill four boxties, approximately 8″ in diameter.

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Serve immediately, or reheat later right before serving.

Boxty Pancakes

Make the same batter for the boxty using the grated and mashed potatoes, the flour, baking powder, and milk.

Add a generous amount of butter before adding the batter to the hot skillet. Make these the size as breakfast pancakes, turning down the heat to cook them through and prevent burning. It should take about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip them over and cook for about another minute.

To serve, add a tab of butter to the hot pancakes. These can be served as a side dish, or eaten as is. Personally I would have to have them with a side salad, or a few wedges of tomatoes.

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* It’s called The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook, by Kay Shaw Nelson.

A Salt Cod Breakfast

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Years ago I was lamenting to my daughter that I miss salt cod. At the time she lived in London, and assured me she could grab some for me at a local Portuguese market. And indeed, before a summer visit, she purchased some and put it in her suitcase.

Did you catch the word “summer?” I picked her up at the airport in Oklahoma City, then we went to lunch and did some shopping…. all the while forgetting about the salt cod in the trunk of my car. Well, that was a lesson learned. Do not ever leave salt cod in a hot car!

But I finally have my hands on some salt cod after years of searching, thanks to Whole Foods. This recipe is an attempt to duplicate a dish my mother made years ago. I’m not sure about the specifics, but I think I remember all of the major components. It involves salt cod, potatoes, onions, a white sauce and a poached egg. Capers optional, but highly recommended!

If you need information on how to prepare salt cod, please refer to Salt Cod.

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I made this breakfast dish recently in order to take better photos than I had in 2013, and I used small Yukon gold potatoes instead of red ones. In case you notice!

Salt Cod and Poached Egg with White Sauce and Capers
Serves 4

1/2 stick butter
1 large onion, sliced
4 small red potatoes, cut into 3/4″ cubes
12 ounces prepared salt cod, cut into pieces
1/4 cup whole milk
4 poached eggs, prepared at the last minute

White sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups half and half

Capers, for serving

Heat the butter in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté them for about 10 minutes. They should be nicely caramelized. Then stir in the chopped potatoes.

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Push the pieces of cod under the potatoes and onions, then pour the milk over the top. Make sure the mixture boils, then cover the skillet and turn down the heat to the lowest position. Cook for 20 minutes without disturbing it.

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After cooking, the mixture will look like this:

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To make the white sauce, melt 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. When it has completely melted, add the flour and whisk together well. Then pour in the half and half, whisking all the while, and continue mixing until it thickens. See white sauce if you’ve never made one. If you like, season the sauce with black or white pepper.

To prepare the individual servings, divide the salt cod, potato and onion mixture between four bowls. Partially cover with the white sauce, and gently add the poached eggs.

I also like adding cayenne pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce to this dish. Just for some zing.