Thursday, May 25, 2006

Barbary Coast Kitchen VI

I made Joe’s Special yesterday, and I did not serve it on a blue plate.
It is not Blue Plate Special, it is Joe’s Special, the San Francisco Treat.
San Francisco has a lot of restaurants named Joe’s (and there are plenty more in the outlying counties, including Marin Joe’s, down the road from me). I don’t know how, or whether, they are related.
But you can bet they all have Joe’s Special on their menus.
Theories abound on the origin of Joe’s Special: it was invented to feed hungry miners during the gold rush; it was a late-night concoction favored by jazz musicians after the dance halls closed for the evening in the 1920s; it was a… who knows? Who cares?
What we do know is that Joe’s Special is eggs, hamburger, onions and spinach, cooked in a skillet with seasonings and served with a glass of house red. And no fancy stemware, mind you; it has to be a juice glass or a milk glass, filled to the brim with plonk. You won’t want a refill.
You probably won’t want seconds on Joe’s Special either, because it’s a manly, hefty, meaty dish served in large portions.
Unless you eat at Cookiecrumb’s house, where it is an ethereal, sweet, locally sourced, beautiful blend.
On Tuesday I praised the recipes of Passionate Eater, and after making her fried rice dish the other day, I learned something.
Well, I attribute this lesson also to something Cranky made not long ago: A skillet melange of asparagus, mushrooms, onions and eggs. He cooked it all in one dish, the way Joe’s Special is traditionally made, and the asparagus oozed out its green liquid, which the eggs absorbed, preventing them from setting properly — and turning them a sickly shade of khaki.
Passionate Eater’s fried rice recipe calls for cooking the beaten eggs first, omelet style, and then setting it aside while you finish building the dish. At the last minute you add back the egg, breaking it up and stirring it through. Beautiful.
So for yesterday’s Joe’s Special, I scrambled my eggs first and set them aside while I fried the hamburger until it was crumbly and still a little bit pink.
The meat came out of the skillet, a bit of fat was poured off, and in went the onions and mushrooms. (Oh. Mushrooms. Yes, they are an acceptable embellishment on ordinary Joe’s, which makes the dish Special Joe’s Special.)
When they were all but done, I put the meat back in and tossed in a few handfuls of roughly hacked raw spinach. Lid on, steam until tender. Lid off, throw in the pristine eggs. Heat for a minute, stirring to get every ingredient flung about equally, and ohmygod, the world’s most beautiful nouveau Joe’s Special.
I call it Not Your Average Joe’s.

Seasoning notes: I’m still playing Eat Locally this month, so aside from a pinch of possibly local salt, I used local chile flakes and a fresh laurel leaf from my tree. The leaf adds so much: greenness, piney-ness, allspicey-ness… It’s elusive and very good. (Cook the meat with the leaf but don’t chicken out and remove it just because the meat becomes so perfumed; let it go back into the skillet with the mushrooms, etc., and then taste for flavor.)


Dagny said...

You have a laurel tree? So jealous. Also I haven't cooked anything with ground beef in years but this sounds so tasty, I might just have to rush out and pick some up tonight on my way home.

kudzu said...

I like the pre-scrambling idea -- it acoids that sort of viscous egg white problem I hate to encounter in dishes like this. Thanks forthe reminder of a local fave.

Moonbear said...

Oh Cookiecrumb, I enjoy your blog so much. And now I too am having a craving for Joe's Special. We used to make it alot in the old days last century.

cookiecrumb said...

Update on the preparation: I've given it some thought, and I miss the cohesiveness of the traditional mess, even if I never liked the color. So next time, I'm only going to cook the eggs halfway, so when I stir them in, they'll cling to the other ingredients a little. (And no viscous creepiness.)
Dagny, it's just a potted bush. And the beef is Marin Sun Farms grass-fed: lean and really tasty.

michelle said...

Plonk...I think that's what I drank in college...but mine came out of a nice box and went into a plastic cup. In fact, I think I had plonk many times, and Joe's special came late at night, after said plonk. Ah, nostalgia... only I bet yours wouldn't make me feel sick afterwards :)

Dagny said...

It may be just a bush but you actually have an outdoor area. *sigh* Also it looks like I will have to wait on giving Joe's Special a try as I am now dogsitting. (Emergency phone call from a friend.)

Kevin said...

That's defintely my kind of meal.

cookiecrumb said...

Kevin: Really?! Do you think it might be your clients' kind of meal? Probably not, and they don't know what they're missing. This was SO fresh. Even the meat.

Michelle: Nostalgia tastes good, eh?

mrs d said...

Hey CC, I hope you don't mind that I hijack your comment thread for a quick moment. Some yutz over at my hosting service did an upgrade that totally pooched my PHP. The result: anyone who's got a previous version of Belly Timber in their browser cache may end up getting an annoying "download this file" error message. So, to access my site again, people need to clear out their browser caches. Presumably, that'll work. I can't really post about this on my site for people who can't access the site at all, so I figured co-opting a thread at a site with mutual visitors is the next best thing. :-)

Okay, done now. Carry on.

PS: I think we just call it "meaty scramble" or some such around these parts. We're so boring.

cookiecrumb said...

Help yourself, my dear. I owe you the favor.
Everybody. Bear with Mrs D. Y'all can use this thread as a Belly Timber Bellyachin' forum! :D

However! Mrs D, I previously got your "pooched" message when I clicked over from my blogroll, and now I'm getting perfect BT material, the shredded pants post. So!

mrs d said...

Thanks, hon. :-)

The problem does indeed appear to have corrected itself. Glad for that, but damn, the time wasted trying to "fix" it!

Kevin said...

I have clients who'd like it, but it wouldn't freeze worth a damn.

cookiecrumb said...

Right, Kev. It gots to be fresh out of the skillet...

Passionate Eater said...

Wonderful idea for partially cooking the egg for Joe's Special! (You need to be a food stylist, because I always love admiring your photos! The cast iron skillet and red and white picnic blanket are perfect touches!)

I forgot to tell you: for the fried rice, it is also a good idea to leave the eggs partially uncooked. I like the eggs medium-rare (with more solid than liquid), not rare (more liquid than solid). When you stir the hot rice, the steam and leftover heat continue to cook the egg, and you don't want the eggs to be tough and gum-like from being overcooked. Plus, the rice absorbs some of the liquid egg, and the flavor better permeates the rice with partially cooked eggs.

Have a great Memorial Day Cookie! I am still waiting for your email of when you are coming to San Francisco!

cookiecrumb said...

PE: Well, I'm channeling you, then. That's exactly how I cooked the egg for the fried rice (though I did find it a little difficult to tear up in the wok... perhaps I should have cooked it even less).
You are a love.