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Cuisine

Hearty Hangtown Fry similar to frittata

4/3/14 | By Paul Suplee, CEC PCIII

Hearty food.  Nothing is better than hearty food on a day like today.  The winter breeze, the door frozen to the of the car and the thought that spring will someday be upon us.

But I write this over a week after Spring has sprung.  I think of warmer days, and my thoughts turn to reality as I look at the young blossoms on some of the trees and the flowers that have already shot up through the dirt to make their presence known.

We only have a few more days, if not a week, during which we can brag about making the hearty home-cooked meals that sustain us in the chillier months.  So I will get one last hearty meal in and try to stay true to form in moving into lighter, healthier meals as the season progresses.

When I wake up in the morning, I would rather eat a plate of steak and eggs or dinner leftovers than what most people consider ‘breakfast’ processed cereals, oatmeal et al.

I often think of the Vietnamese street vendors (no, I’ve never been there) who offer pho, a type of soup, and other highly seasoned foods for breakfast.  Granted, pho is lighter in nature, but there are a plethora of seasonings, noodles, meat, citrus and of course cilantro so it is significantly heartier than a bowl of Kix.

I opened the refrigerator to see the andouille and chorizo that I had cooked recently and immediately turned my attention to the California Hangtown Fry, which I have the students cook when we cover California Cuisine.  It is the antithesis of what we think of when discussing California food.  It is not light, it is not healthy and it certainly pays homage to “a moment on the lips; forever on the hips” but it also pays homage to the brutal town after which it was named.

The most widely accepted story of its inception is that a gold miner during the Rush struck it rich and went to the most expensive saloon in town and told the chef to give him the most expensive meal they could cook.  It included oysters (which had to be imported from San Francisco on ice, a great luxury back then, bacon and eggs.

The dish has been served in California in various renditions for well over 150 years, and I did learn that Tadich Grill in San Francisco has had a Hangtown Fry on is menu for that entire duration.

But why Hangtown?  The town was and is Placerville, but apparently during the Rush, the town folk became hanging-happy, setting examples of pilferers, murderers and anyone else they saw fit to string up for public spectacle and justice. So, removed from that day and age, we can at least embrace the magical dish that comes forth to aid us on our quest to satiate our hearty hunger.

Made with eggs, oysters, bacon, sausage, cheese and more it resembles a frittata and for all intents and purposes it is a frittata, but don’t tell the good people of Placerville that.

Similar to many dishes, there are as many variations of this dish as there are cooks.  Some stack the ingredients neatly with a fried egg on top while some turn it into a sandwich.  I keep mine like a frittata, and let me tell you, it hits the spot every time.  

With a dash of goat cheese (and you could even sprinkle some grated cheddar on top) this evokes many different flavor emotions (especially if you hate oysters and goat cheese, but I digress).

Nevertheless, It sates the hunger.  It fills the belly. It warms the soul on the chilly days of Spring.

Hangtown Fry

serves 6

6 eggs, scrambled

1/2 c. heavy cream

3 oz. goat cheese, two strips bacon, cut into lardon

1/2 medium red onion, julienne

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

4 links spicy sausage such as chorizo, sliced

10 ea. salt oysters, shucked with liquor

Italian parsley, as needed

salt and pepper to taste

Combine eggs, cream and goat cheese in a bowl.

It is best served in a cast iron skillet, so choose one that will fit all ingredients.  Heat skillet to medium heat.

Place bacon lardons in the pan and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy.

Add the onion and cook until most of the water has evaporated from them and they start to wilt.

Add the garlic and shallot and cook for three minutes.

Add the sausage and oysters and mix.

Immediately pour your egg mixture on top and add the Italian parsley.

Season and cook on the stove top for 4 or 5 minutes, making sure to moderate the heat so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom

Transfer pan to a 375-degree oven and cook until the eggs have puffed up and are cooked throughout.  Do not overcook as the oysters will be little pencil erasers.

Pull from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes before you cut into this amazing and hearty reminder of the gruesome mining town after which it is named.

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