March 23, 2017

Dear friends,

Once when I asked chefs to reveal their favorite breakfasts, the answers ranged from burnt over-hard eggs with ketchup to cigarettes and coffee. One answer kept popping up, though: huevos rancheros. Yessss! That just happened to be my favorite, too.

Is it a coincidence so many food professionals crave this breakfast? Or is it indeed the apex of morning meals, and you should rush right out and eat some, too? If the latter is the answer you’ve probably indulged by now, but who knows what your huevos experience was like?

Back when I wrote the breakfast story huevos rancheros wasn’t lurking on every hip-casual menu. Unless you lived west of the Mississippi, you had to make your own. In light of the many not-so-splendored ways huevos rancheros are mutilated in Midwest restaurants, you’re probably wise to make your own now, too.

The exact ingredients of the dish are in dispute, so I just go with my palate. I usually warm up a couple of corn tortillas, grate some Jack cheese, heat some refried beans, get out the salsa and fry a couple of eggs over easy. Yes, it’s a bit more trouble than opening a container of yogurt. Recently, though, I figured out a way to not only streamline the prep but to make huevos easily for a crowd. If you ever entertain at brunch, print and save this recipe.

Little corn tortillas are fitted into muffin cups, filled with refried beans, salsa, cheese and an egg and baked. No muss, no fuss. More salsa and chopped avocado are strewn over the darling little huevos cups on the plate. The tortillas crisp up while the cheese melts and the egg whites set. When you cut into one, the yolk runs onto the plate, mingling with the salsa and cheese.

If you’re the only one in the house who like huevos rancheros, no problem. Breakfast for one can be made as easily as brunch for a dozen. Buy the corn tortillas at a Mexican grocery that sells fresh tortillas or high-quality refrigerated tortillas, if possible. The quality difference from mass-produced tortillas will be noticeable.



16 small corn tortillas
16 tbsp. refried beans
1 1/4 cups jarred salsa (mild, medium or hot)
16 eggs
Salt, pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced

Microwave tortillas two at a time directly on the turntable for about 20 seconds on high power, until very soft. Quickly fit them into full-sized muffin cups that have been coated with non-stick spray. Continue with remaining tortillas.

Spread one tablespoon refried beans in the bottom of each tortilla cup. Top each with one teaspoon salsa. Crack an egg into each tortilla cup. Sprinkle each with salt, pepper and one tablespoon cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until whites have set but yolks are still soft. Remove from pan and place two on each of eight plates. Top each with a ribbon of salsa and some diced avocado. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings of 2 cups each.


A fruity and suave sauce from a high-end Ohio jam and sauce producer is a bargain buy right now at Sam’s Clubs. I found a 40-oz. jug of Robert Rothschild Roasted Pineapple Glaze & Finishing Sauce for just $7.68. That’s less than a small jar (12.7 ounces) costs on the Rothschild website. The sauce is sweet and chunky, with a mild sting from the hot peppers. It tasted great on pork and would be spectacular on baked brie or even ice cream.

The Rothschild farm near Urbana is one of the food treasures of Ohio. Since 1984 owners Bob and Sara have been making high-quality, small-batch preserves, vinegars, dips and other fruit-based condiments, most with the raspberries they grow themselves. I hope their Sam’s Club sales help them make it through another three decades.


From Holli Mallak, Shanghai, China:
I just returned to Shanghai from a 10-day trip to Vietnam. I realize this recipe may wreak havoc on your preferred diet, but you must try it:

I hadn’t heard of the European egg coffee until I looked up this article. Maybe a coffee-off is in order?

Give Akron my love.

Dear Holli: Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee would have to figure in any coffee-off, although I think Vietnamese egg coffee would win in terms of richness. All are made with sweetened, condensed milk, but the Vietnamese coffee is further enriched by beating the milk with an egg yolk until thick and fluffy. According to the article you shared, the mixture is poured over strong, bitter Vietnamese coffee, about half and half.

I used to love the Thai iced tea at the old Bangkok Gourmet restaurant in Akron back when I was young and active enough to burn off the calories. Your Vietnamese egg coffee would be a challenge for even my younger self, but it sounds heavenly. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience and the recipe.

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