Wednesday, January 27, 2010

FoodTrek/UnRecipe: Going Out and Staying In

It can be tricky to balance the Going Out vs Staying In argument when it comes to dining. We all want to be mindful of our pocketbook, but not only is it nice to not have to cook or clean up after a meal, it's important to be supportive of the restaurant industry that continues to inspire us in our own home kitchens. Often times, visiting a restaurant during their non-peak hours is the best way to experience their menu at a lower cost, as well as a lesser hassle of getting a table. Recently we revisited one of our favorite spots in the rare light of day, Bellevue's Barrio, to give their new brunch menu a try. I enjoyed one of their dishes so much that I made a simpler at-home version, so that even when I'm having a meal in, it can still feel like going out.

Morning powered by COFFEE - photo by Wasabi Prime

I have several friends who believe breakfast is truly the perfect meal, and I'm inclined to go with that sentiment. It's the one meal where you have the option to go sweet or savory, and the ingredients are fairly consistent, so it's never a surprise over what you'll get. Plus when it comes to brunch, who doesn't love an excuse to tie one on before noon with a mimosa or a bloody mary? Barrio's take on brunch is a nice change from the typical eggs, toast, and hash, offering Mexican influenced dishes that still work with what El Norte Americano expectations for breakfast would be. Their brunch menu isn't too different from their regular menu, offering things like enchiladas and an egg-topped version of their chilaquiles, but they also offer a Mexican style French toast, and a chorizo bacon and egg torta, a hearty panini-like sandwich. Even their more standard breakfast fare like steak and eggs or biscuits and gravy still have a South of the Border twist, adding chiles and spices.

Brunch at Barrio - the right way to start the day. Photos by Wasabi Prime

The Barrio brunch experience was om-nom-nom-approved, combining savory, slow-cooked, rich flavors, anointed with the crown of fried eggy goodness. I was so pleased with the pork and chiliquiles experience of Barrio, that I knew I needed to capture this edible lightning in a bottle. ZAP!

I took a cue from a night when we made tacos -- let's face it, you always wind up with more tortillas than you need. Chilaquiles is the ideal dish for this situation. Traditionally they are cut into wedges, fried, and then tossed with a red enchilada sauce. They're served with some queso fresco and chopped meat, a great dish to incorporate the odd leftover bits hanging about. The tacos we had were pretty simple -- pork seasoned with adobo powder, seared and sliced thin, layered on a small corn tortilla with some sliced radish, fresh cilantro, and a dash of lime. The remaining ingredients from this meal worked perfectly for the at-home version of Barrio's chilaquiles inspiration dish.

Tacos are the first step towards chilaquiles - Photo by Wasabi Prime

This had UnRecipe written all over it -- extra stuff loitering in the fridge, no clear recipe to start from, and memories of a tasty brunch still lingering in my head. Well, it was either UnRecipe or Big Hot Mess, but I remained optimistic and just threw things together, hoping for the best. I'm not a fan of frying, what with the ozone layer of grease that inevitably gets left in the kitchen, so I chopped a dozen or so small corn tortillas up into little triangles, drizzled with canola oil, and baked them in the oven. Once they were browned and crispy, they were tossed and coated with a store-bought can of enchilada sauce. Certainly nowhere near the roasted richness of Barrio's sauce, I was just stricken with a wicked case of Instant Gratification.

Chopped bits of the adobo pork were mixed in, a sprinkling of sliced fresh radish and crumbled cheese were added, and a hefty showering of fresh cilantro. I made up a parody version of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and kept mumbling, "If you liked it, then you shoulda put an egg on it," while I fried an egg and placed it atop the towering mountain of saucy tortillas. Is that too much crazy information about how my mind wanders when I cook? Maybe, but I thought it was a pretty funny song. I promise I wasn't dancing around the kitchen with any hot skillets.

Chilaquiles speak the universal language of leftovers - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Chilaquiles the Wasabi Way was a delicious, too-impatient-to-go-out dish that would easily work as a dinner option. The baked tortillas soaked up the sauce nicely, and the mix of fresh raw vegetables and herbs mixed with the cooked ingredients made for a satisfying mix of textures and flavors. This was a pleasant way of finding a balance between going out to eat and staying in, plus another resourceful way of using up everything in the refrigerator, since I'm such a weird freak about not letting anything go to waste.

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  1. Are you sure you weren't dancing in the kitchen with the frying pans, cuz certain puppies seem to remember otherwise...

  2. I actually go to Bellevue a few times a year so I need to check this place out. And I love chilaquiles!

  3. sssh.... Indy, don't blow Mama Wasabi's cover as a secret frying pan kitchen dancer!! hahahahaha!

  4. oh my goodness, everything in this post looks so delicious!

  5. I think I just drooled. Never been to Barrio for brunch. I will have to check it out. If you want a good Huevos Rancheros, check out Desert Fire in Redmond. The best I have ever had AND $1 mimosas...maybe that is why they were so good!

  6. Both versions sound divine, but think yours looks better and more to my liking (at least for the home cook). Ohh, $1 mimosas at RTC. I am so there. r & r

  7. Wow, crazy. We made chilaquiles last week and are going to write them up too! Your photos are amazing as usual. Good stuff.

  8. A while I had the song "I Feel Like Chicken tonight" in my head for about a week after reading your post. Just when I got "Pants on the Ground" out of my head, Beyonce is there to take over.
    Happy weekend!

  9. Awesome. Your photos are incredible, have I told you that recently? You have me dying for a fried egg and I don't like eggs. At all. Nice job.

  10. What a meal! That Mexican-style French toast sounds amazing.

  11. What an inspirational post! I love this idea. Creating an entirely new meal with leftovers. I always just lazily eat mine straight out of the fridge (sometimes standing in front of the fridge). You really created a masterpiece from your leftovers. And great photos!

    I am going to check into whether Cap Hill's Barrio has brunch right after I get done writing this. I LOOVE their happy hour. Would love to try the brunch menu.

  12. I always use leftover tortilla chips to make migas... but now realize that they suffer the characteristic of using scrambled eggs over classic fried. Looks like I'll have to do more work on my country scramble to bridge that gap!

  13. wow! this makes me wish I lived in Washington!


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