Headcheese: What it is (and isn’t!)

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(Copied from my other blog: www.deependothepool.com)

Ever wonder why they call headcheese “cheese”, when there are no dairy products involved in the process?

Okay, first things first, while one of my favorite foods, I will be the first to admit that head-cheese is a victim of terrible branding, perhaps the worst in the food world, right up there with “bird’s nest soup” and “lung pie.”

What it isn’t:

  • Headcheese is not “cheese” in any form.
  • Headcheese is not brains, eyeballs, or any of the “yucky stuff.” 😉
  • Head cheese is not Spam (and vice-versa.)

https://i0.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/1442938/thumbs/o-HEAD-CHEESE-570.jpgHeadcheese is traditionally make from the meat pulled from a whole pig’s head, simmered in a savory, seasoned stock, with a foot or two (for the collagen in the tendons) until falling off the bone.

Cheek meat, tongue, and various other tasty bits from the nooks and crannies of the skull (but never the brain) are used to make up the tureen of meat, then suspended in the collagen-heavy cooking stock, which turns into a solid gelatin when the whole thing is chilled.

This gelatin is called “aspic”.

Okay, so back to the point…why the heck is it called head “cheese?”

This requires a bit of a history lesson. In the 1700’s when this process (tureens in aspic) became popular, the word “cheese” wasn’t used just in reference to diary items, but instead referred to a process of forming ingredients into a loaf, pressing it under weight, and chilling until solid.

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This was known as “cheesing.”

Two of the most popular cheesed foods were were “cheesed curds” (what we call now cheese) and tureens of meat in aspic, especially those with the tender and delicious meat from the faces and cheeks of pigs and calves. This was referred to as “cheesed head”, as it was made by boiling the picking off the meat of the cheeks and neck, pressing them in the pan with aspic, and chilling until solid (aka “cheesing.”)

Which eventually morphed into the term we use today… headcheese.

Typically it’s sliced for cold sandwiches, and served on rye bread with mustard and thinly sliced sweet onions…as least at my house! 😉

Chef’s Note: If for some reason that grosses you out (and it shouldn’t, it’s basically the same thing they do with hotdogs, only using higher quality parts) you can some comfort in the fact that the stuff you see labeled “Headcheese” in the supermarket deli counter, is actually just chopped pork shoulder in aspic, NOT meat from the head, as the process for making the real thing is considered too expensive and labor-intensive to be worth it. (Welcome to the tagline of American food…)

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Your best bet for authentic headcheese is to visit our local Russian market, which is also a great place to pick up some artisanal rye bread.

Hopefully I’ve eased some suspicions and some contempt prior to investigation, and (even more) hopefully, I’ve encouraged a few folks to get out of their comfort zone and try something new.

Who knows, a “cheesed-head” sandwich might be your new favorite thing!

Chef Perry
deependothepool.com

Instant dinners, hot and healthy!

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Quick Dinner Tip:

Not enough time to make a hot, healthy, and delicious dinner after work?

To rushed to make it ahead, in the morning?

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Using a slow-cooker with a removable insert, mix up your ingredients the night before, separate the meat and veggies in two zip-bags, place in the insert and top with the lid,  and put it in the fridge. In the morning, just pop the insert back into the slow cooker, cover with lid, and set it for an 8-hour cook! Chilling the insert gives you a little lee-way in the cooking time. As most folks work an 8-hour shift, this allows for a bit of commute time without over-cooking the meal.

  • Tip #1: Take the insert out of the fridge, as soon as you get up, and let it rest on the counter-top until right before you leave.
  • Tip #2: If you’re recipe calls for a six-hour cook time, leave the insert in the fridge until right before you leave, and cut any vegetables slightly larger than the recipe calls for.

Most recipes that call for a 4-hr cook time on HIGH, turn out just as tasty at 8-hrs on LOW.

If you don’t own a slow-cooker, you can do the same thing with a heavy, lidded casserole dish or dutch oven, following the same steps and cooking at 200F in the oven. See more in my last post, “Converting Crock-pot Recipes for the Oven.

A hot dinner for the family, and the house will smell wonderful when you walk in the door…you might even be able to put your feet up for a few minutes!

Here are some of my favorite slow cooker dinner recipes…

Crock Pot “Baked” Potatoes
Roast Beef Po’ Boy
Slow Cooker Brunswick Stew
Perfect Pot Roast

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

 Home Chef Cookbooks

No Crock-Pot? No Problem…Use the oven!

Ratatouille Recipe
Chef Perry’s Redneck Ratatouille

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Just got a very nice email from Ashley L., who is a little concerned with the slow-cooker beef recipe this week. To quote, “HELP! I don’t have a crock-pot, and I can’t afford to go out and buy one…am I going to ruin this roast is I cook it in the over? Can I use a cast-iron dutch cooker, instead?”

Great news…you can, absolutely, cook your crock-pot recipes in the oven, using a dutch oven, cassoulet pan, or even a cast-iron skillet and some heavy foil*.

Here’s one of our favorites, Braised Lamb Shank Tacos…

Braised Lamb Shank Taco Recipe

Another of our most popular dishes is typically cooked in a smoker, or in the crock-pot, but can be done deliciously by slow-roasting in the oven.

Check out The Best Dang Pulled Pork Sliders for several fantastic methods…

Oven Roasted Pulled Pork

By the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to my newsletter!

You’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

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Lastly, here’s another favorite, “Low & Slow Southern Baked Beans.”

Now, lot’s of folks make stews and bean dishes in the crock-pot, and they taste pretty good.

What makes oven-roasting better? One word: REDUCTION.

There’s very little reduction in a crock-pot, as the whole idea is to seal moisture IN. Slow roasting allows the liquids to slowly evaporate, thickening and intensifying the flavors.

Crockpot time – Oven time

  • 12 hours/Low – 3 hours/325° F
  • 10 hours/Low – 2 1/2 hours/325° F
  • 8 hours/Low – 2 hours/325° F
  • 6 hours/Low – 1 1/2 hours/325° F
  • 5 hours/Low – 1 hour, 15 min./325° F
  • 4 hours/Low – 1 hour/325° F
  • 4 hours/High – 2 hours/325° F
  • 3 hours/Low – 45 min./325° F
  • 3 hours/High – 1 1/2 hours/325° F

*To use a cast iron skillet, follow the same instructions, but (once the food is in it) wrap the entire skillet in 2-3 layers of heavy foil, before putting it in the oven.

Good luck, let us know if you have any questions!

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– Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

Home Chef Cookbooks

Beach Camp Chili with Beans

 

Two meat Chili with Beans Recipe

I don’t typically use very many canned foods, in fact I can be kind of an ass on the subject, but there are exceptions to every rule.beef and pork chili recipe

One of those exception is my families annual week-long vacation on the Oregon Coast.

Crabbing, clamming, fishing, beach-combing, sand-castles…there’s WAY too much on the agenda to spend all day in the kitchen! So…we make exceptions, and sometimes we get some very happy surprises.

This is one of them!

Beach Camp Chili

  • 1lb boneless pork steak (or any cheap, meaty cut of pork)
  • 4 strips thick bacon, chopped
  • 2 Tbs chili powder, divided
  • 2 Tbs cumin powder, divided
  • 1 Tbs sea salt
  • 1 Tbs coarse black pepper.
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs bacon fat
  • 1lb ground beef (80/20)
  • 28oz Centro fine diced tomatoes
  • 28oz Bush’s baked beans
  • 28oz red kidney beans, drained

Toppings

  • Shredded Mexi-cheese
  • 1/2 white onion, fine dice
  • Crema (Mexican sour cream)
  • Hot Cornbread

Mix salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder.

Bring pork steak to room temp, pat dry, and rub generously on both sides with spice mix. Set aside.

Mirepoix: In a heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven, over medium heat:

Sauté the bacon, celery, onions, and carrots in 1 Tbs (each of oil and butter), cook until softened and beginning to caramelize. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

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Increase heat and sear the pork steak until well browned on both sides. Remove from pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, add mire poix, and pork. Top with tomatoes (with juice), cover and cook, covered, at a very low simmer for 4-6 hours.

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Remove pork, chop coarse, and add back to the pot.

Fry the ground beef with garlic and the remaining spice blend, until cooked through. Do not drain. Add ground beef to pot, along with baked beans, and drained kidney beans. Increase heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced, and the chili starts to thicken.

beef and pork chili with beans

Remove from heat and let rest 1 hour, uncovered.

Stir and serve with toppings and cornbread!

~Chef Perry


PS – Be sure to subscribe to this blog, and get many more healthy, delicious, budget-friendly tips, techniques, and recipes!


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Healthy School Lunches your Kids will Eat!

healthy homemade school lunches

A healthy breakfast & lunch are vital for attention and learning, and help keep kids focused and alert all day. I’ve taught hundreds of kids to plan and cook for themselves, and the vast majority of them, given the opportunity, will choose healthy, nutritious foods if they taste good, are offered in variety, and if they feel like they are allowed to choose for themselves.

Healthy school lunch ideas
Click the image to watch this morning’s segment on the AM Northwest webpage!

Ham and cheese wraps in lunch boxVariety

Kids get bored with the same old, same old…and a variety of foods helps ensure more balanced nutrition.

  • Wraps are sturdier and less messy to eat. Who wants to eat a smooshed sandwich?
  • Quesadillas are quick and easy to make. Ham & Cheese, Pizza, Turkey and cheddar
  • Vary hot and cold lunches. A thermos of their favorite soup or stew is a nice break from cold lunch, especially in winter.
  • A hot sandwich, wrapped in foil, will stay warm in a thermos, all day!
  • Pita Pockets are easy to eat, less messy, and because pita it denser than sandwich bread, you can assemble them the night before, and they won’t get soggy.

Tip: Small rewards for bringing home rinsed dishes and thermos’ are totally worth it!

yumbox-lunchboxLeftovers of favorite dinners make GREAT lunches

  • Slightly under-cook veggies, so they don’t turn to mush when re-heated.
  • If you struggle to get them to eat it at home, don’t bother packing it for lunch.
  • Let you kid’s help make the meal. Kid’s LOVE to bring and brag, and are twice as likely to eat something they helped make.
  • No kid worth their My Little Pony back-pack doesn’t like cold pizza!

Lunchable

Homemade “Lunchables”

Kids love stuff they can assemble!

  • Deli meat: slice it into cracker-size squares, and put it right back in the bag!
  • Cheese slices: Ditto
  • Crackers, whole wheat pita pockets, small flour tortillas
  • Raw veggies (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Pickles
  • Trail mix
  • Treat (cookie, pudding, yogurt, etc.)
  • A 011316.f.ff.LostItalianwhole rotisserie chicken can make a week’s worth of protein for one hungry teen-ager or a couple of littles! Chicken legs, chicken with rice (use your rice-cooker), chicken salad wraps, sliced chicken-breast pitas…the list is endless!
  • Check out the bulk food section, it’s not just rice and beans anymore. Buying staple lunch items in bulk can save a ton of money over the same items in pretty bags.
  • Want to add a little more variety, without buying the whole produce section? Check out my post, “Shopping the Salad Bar!” over on our outreach page!

Make a master list of healthy lunch ingredients, and let your kids take turns choosing items from each food group the next time you go shopping. It works, it really does.

Save yourself some time!

Does it really need to be sliced on a perfect bias? Does every sandwich need to be cut into cute shapes and adorned with smiley faces? We’re not Martha Stewart, people, and nobody’s giving out Michelin Stars for the contents of our kid’s lunch bags. 😉

CARROTSTICKSFresh fruits and veggies begin to lose their flavor and texture as soon as they’re cut. My daughter is just as happy gnawing on a 4 inch hunk of cucumber, or popping whole grape tomatoes. Slice you veggies into manageable pieces in advance, and store in a large, sealed container of cold water for the week.

Spend those precious minutes assembling fresh, quality foods that your kids will eat. Flavor will trump fancy every time!

Chef or Cob salads are quick and easy to assemble. Send with a small reuseable container of their favorite dressing, and a baggie of croutons.

What to Skip

Bananas do NOT travel well, and nobody want to eat a brown, mushy banana. Save the bananas for breakfast! Always wrap the stems in foil.

Prepackaged “lunchables”. Sure they’re convenient, but you’re paying double, sometimes triple, for something you can easily assemble (with fresh fruit and veggies!) yourself.

16236AProbably the biggest rip-off in home-packed lunches are juice boxes.

Non-recyclable containers filled with a few swallow of sugar-laden “fruit” juice, and a grossly inflated price…ugh! Invest in a few reusable drink bottles, and fill them with pure, no-sugar-added juices at a fraction of the cost.

This goes for just about any “individual serving size” items (chips, cookies, fruits & veggies, trail-mix, etc.,)

All of these can be purchased in family-size portions, and added to a sandwich baggie for pennies on the dollar.

Assemble

Make it a team effort!

Make a (supervised) lunch “assembly line” in the morning. Kids can pick and choose what they want from a selection of meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies. All YOU need to do is pop a treat in the bag at the end of the line!

Stop over-paying for greasy burgers, spongy pizza, and chemical-laden processed “convenience” foods, and give your kids a leg up on learning with fresh, healthy, money-saving lunches.

They deserve it (and so do you!)

~Chef Perry

PS – Be sure to subscribe to my blog, and get many more healthy, delicious, budget-friendly tips, techniques, and recipes!


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Garlic-Mushroom Burger Baste

basting-burgers

This is my secret tip when I’m grilling burgers…

Note: Grilling vs. frying burgers is an existential dilemma for me. I love the smokey flavor from the grill, but I also know that a pan-seared burger is going to be juicier, and have more beef flavor.

That’s a decision that each of us must make for ourselves. 😉

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Garlic-Mushroom Burger Baste

  • 1 lb white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. porcini mushroom powder (opt)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Chop mushrooms, garlic, and shallots.

Saute in 1/4 cup of butter in a large pan over medium heat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until onions are soft and garlic had just begun to color.

pierogi-with-mushroom-filling2

Add remaining butter, and reduce heat to medium low. Keep on a low simmer for 1 hour.

For normal people:

Grill or fry burgers on one side, flip and brush cooked side with baste.

pork-belly-confit-3For the rest of us:

I like to brush one side, as shown above, and then, just before the burger is done on both sides, use a pair of tongs to dip it, completely submersing, in baste.

(Hey, I’m a cook, not a your cardiologist! Your health is not my primary concern.) 😉 

Then, return it to the grill for just a few seconds on both sides.

Lastly, if you want to really take these burgers to the next level, chill the compound butter to near freezing, stirring several time to get the mushrooms and onions off the bottom.

Butter-Burgers_4_Photo-Oct-19-11-21-52-AM_600x400Shave the frozen butter with a cheese grater, and mix (quickly) into the ground beef (1oz of butter for a 1/3rdlb burger).

You can add a little shredded asiago cheese, or crumbled bleu cheese at this point as well, if you like.

Form your patties and freeze before grilling.

Enjoy!

~Chef Perry

Best Butter Burger Recipes
A little double-smoked bacon and Gruyère cheese can’t hurt, either!

For more tips on grilling the ultimate burger, from grinding your own beef blend, to seasonings, sauces, and styles, check out my new Home Chef guidebook: Grilling!

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How to Take the Heat Out of Jalapenos (or Any Chile Pepper)

Jalepeno Pepper Bombs

I absolutely LOVE stuffed and grilled jalapenos, but due to the cruelties of time, my old gut has started rebelling at overy spicy foods. However, as I’m not willing to give up one of my favorite flavors, just because my stomach has turned traitor on me!

Naga Jolokia chili pepper
The Naga Jolokia

Jalepeno Peppers averages 2,500 – 8,000 Scoville Heat Units* (SHU), putting them somewhere between Anaheim peppers (500 ~ 2,500 SHU) and Hidalgos (6,000 ~ 17,000 SHU).

To get an idea of the scale, the average sweet bell pepper comes in at 0, and at the top of the Scoville scale: the fearsome Naga Jolokia peppers are 800,000 to over One Million  SHU’s!

Yes, that was the sound of your esophageal sphincter melting.

What Makes Chili Peppers Hot

The heat-inducing chemical in peppers is called “hydrophopic capsasium“, or what my friend Melanie would call C18H27NO3. Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as secondary metabolites by chili peppers, and other vegetables as deterrents against certain mammals and fungi.

AAvH7Kn.imgHigh levels of capsasium can produce a pain-stimulated release of endorphins, causing pleasurable and even euphoric effects (You freakin’ junkies!) 😉

For spice-lovers and pepper-heads, jalapeno’s are the “hot food” equivalent of eating gummy bears, but for NORMAL people, they pack some heat.

Grilling or roasting peppers make them even hotter as you’re cooking moisture out of them, which concentrates the percentage of capsasium.

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Here are some tips we used in restaurants to make jalapenos dishes a bit more “customer friendly.”

Tips for Tongue-Friendly Jalapenos

1. Remove the seeds and membranes from the interior of the pepper. They contain the majority of the capsasium (the hot stuff). An old fashioned potato peeler, the point-end kind, works great for this.

Cleaning Jalepenos

2. Soak the cleaned peppers in an ice-water bath for 1/2 hour. This soaking method will reduce the finished heat by about 50%. To take ALL the fire out, use lemon-lime soda (not diet) instead of water, for 30-45 minutes. Really! Drain, rinse in fresh water, and pat dry.

(Chef’s note: Pour the soda you soaked the peppers in over a tall glass of ice and add a healthy shot of your favorite tequila. You’re welcome!)

Soaking Jalepenos

3. If that doesn’t tame the beast enough for you, blanch the rinsed peppers in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then place them in a (fresh) ice bath to chill, and stop the cooking process. Rinse and pat dry.

Remember, ALWAYS wear disposable gloves when working with hot peppers, and try to avoid touching your face or eyes.

Oh, and…guys? Try to remember to use the bathroom BEFORE you start your prep! 😉

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

*The Scoville unit was named for Wilbur Scoville in 1912. At the time, he worked for the pharmaceutical company, Parke-Davis, where he developed a test called the “Scoville Organoleptic Test” which is still used to measure a chili pepper’s heat.



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Cooking Perfect Shrimp (the easy way)

Cooking perfect shrimp the easy way

Unless I can get live shrimp, I typically use frozen. Most of the “fresh” shrimp you’ll find at a grocery store has been previously frozen anyway, so flash-frozen will typically be fresher and of better quality anyway.

If you do buy it from the seafood counter, buy it early in the day. It’s usually put in the case frozen, first thing in the morning, and allowed to slowly thaw during the day. I never buy seafood counter shrimp after 2pm.

I like to get the “easy peel” stuff, so I can cook with the shells on, which not only helps keep the shrimp from over-cooking, and getting rubbery, but also adds a lot more flavor.

Tip: look for the words “flash frozen on boat” on the packaging.

Here’s the best way I’ve found to get perfecty cooked, juicy, tender shrimp from frozen.

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a full boil.

Remove from heat, add 1 cup of frozen shrimp, and cover.

Let rest 8-10 minutes, off heat.

Remove the shrimp from water and serve immediately (for warm dishes), or transfer to a bowl of ice water to quick chill and stop cooking, for cold salads, coctails, etc.

You can heat your salted water in the microwave, as well.

You’re welcome! 😉

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

PS – If your dish calls for sauteing, or grilling, skip this method and thaw your frozen shrimp in cold, salted water overnight in the fridge.


Order The Home Chef Book

We are entering the age of the “Home Chef”, a title that’s available to nearly everyone, regardless of age, or financial standing.

 

That’s what this book is about…because something amazing has begun to happen in the last two decades, something that has never before happened in the history of cooking…instead of growing wider, the gap between the home cook and the professional chef has actually begun to narrow, and continues to narrow exponentially with each passing year.

The time when these specialized skills were limited to those who could afford the cost and time required for culinary school are quickly passing into history.

The time when the sole requirement to elevate your cooking skills to this level…passion…is emerging.

It’s an amazing time to become a Home Chef…and if you have that passion, I’ll show you how.

Welcome!

~Chef Perry

 

Sausage & Veggie Breakfast Casserole (GF)

Top with roasted mushrooms, then remaining cheese.

Cooked up a couple of breakfast casseroles for a friend this week. They turned out great! My Green Chili Egg puff requires flour, and they needed another one that was gluten-free. So I came up with this one.

It takes some steps the night before, but makes for a quick and easy breakfast the next morning.

Sausage & Veggie Breakfast Casserole

  • 1 lb bratwurst sausage (beer, or sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1 ½  cups diced sweet onion
  • 8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms, roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups frozen shredded O’Brien hash browns, cooked crisp
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup diced red/yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2lb grape tomatoes, halved.
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions (from about 6 onions)
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

For Mikey: You can swap out the bell peppers for 2 small cans of diced green chilies, well drained. 😉

Prep:

Lightly coat a foil-lined cookie sheet with cooking spray. Spread hash-browns in a single layer, sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and bake until crisp.

Cut all veggies.

Remove sausage from casings.

Toss sliced mushrooms with 1 Tbs. of oil, a little salt and pepper, and spread on another lined cookie-sheet. Roast in oven at 350F, until the mushroom are well browned.

Assemble:

In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, onions, and garlic until sausage is no longer pink and mushrooms have given off some of their liquid, about 10 minutes.

Throughout cooking, chop to crumble sausage.  Drain the liquid.

Garden Breakfast Casserole Gluten Free

In a 9×13 pan coated with cooking spray, layer potatoes (no need to thaw), sausage mixture, then 1 cup cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, and green onions.

Garden Breakfast Casserole Gluten Free

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, parsley, salt, basil, and pepper.

Whisk thoroughly to combine, then add half of the remaining cheese and whisk again.

Garden Breakfast Casserole Gluten Free

Pour egg mixture evenly over other ingredients in baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Alternately, you can bake this casserole immediately.)

Cook:

In the morning, top with roasted mushrooms, then remaining cheese. preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bake casserole, uncovered, for about 60-70 minutes, or until egg in middle is just set (no jiggle) and edges are lightly golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Great with a dollop of Mexican Crema, and some chopped cilantro or Italian Parsley.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

(Hey, if you haven’t subscribed to this blog, please do so! Don’t miss a single new recipe, Chef’s tip, or technique! The link is at the top of the right-hand column.)


Order The Home Chef Book
       Click on the Cover!

We are entering the age of the “Home Chef”, a title that’s available to nearly everyone, regardless of age, or financial standing.

That’s what this book is about…because something amazing has begun to happen in the last two decades, something that has never before happened in the history of cooking…instead of growing wider, the gap between the home cook and the professional chef has actually begun to narrow, and continues to narrow exponentially with each passing year.

The time when these specialized skills were limited to those who could afford the cost and time required for culinary school are quickly passing into history.

The time when the sole requirement to elevate your cooking skills to this level…passion…is emerging.

It’s an amazing time to become a Home Chef…and if you have that passion, I’ll show you how.

Welcome!

Chef Perry P. Perkins