The challenge: brunch without eggs. The challenged: Chef Andy Gonzales of Steinbeck’s Ale House in Oakhurst.
I really like eggs. And as it turns out, so does Gonzales. In fact, one of the things he’s best known and loved for at Steinbeck’s is a dish called Chinese Breakfast. It’s a beautiful bowl, layered with jasmine rice, wilted leeks, roasted pork belly and, you guessed it, a perfect sunny-side-up egg.
“It was a huge challenge — even French toast was off the board,” Gonzales complained on the day we met to test out his final no-egg recipes, after a round of back and forth emails and phone calls that eliminated several dishes.
“Not only is it tough, because we’re so egg-centric at brunch, but I’m also egg-centric,” he said. “People give me a hard time, saying, ‘It’s not really one of your dishes unless it has an egg on top.’ But I just love eggs.”
Loving eggs, but living without them, Gonzales came up with three dishes that reflect different aspects of his cooking, including his Texas and Mexican roots, his obsession with Asian food, and his more recent appreciation of Southern staples such as grits.
Jasmine Rice Congee with the signature roasted pork belly that makes his Chinese Breakfast so crave-worthy is the most difficult and time-consuming. But Gonzales shares some chef secrets that are worth the price of admission. “The pork belly is a lot of tech,” Gonzales concedes.“But everything else is pretty easy.”
A bit less complicated, and delicious in another way, a version of what the Steinbeck’s brunch menu calls the “Brefas Bowl” combines parmesan cheese grits and seasonal vegetables. And there’s a really easy recipe for breakfast tacos made with earthy Mexican greens and chorizo sausage.
These no-egg brunch recipes from Gonzales range from difficult to easy. But Gonzales’ notes for the dishes offer plenty of cooking tips and techniques, as well as recommendations on where to find ingredients.
Jasmine Rice Congee With Signature Pork Belly
The epitome of Asian comfort food, congee (called juk in China or Korea) is a warming and comforting rice porridge dish. It makes a hearty breakfast that’s savory and filling, yet easily digested and not too terribly difficult to make from almost any kind of rice, but my preference is cooked jasmine rice. Notes: This recipe takes up to 24 hours, including brining, roasting and braising the pork belly, and making a rich chicken stock, which is essential for the flavor and texture of the congee. The pork belly portion is easily the biggest time eater. I recommend brining overnight, then braising the next day. The chilling process doesn’t take long but once the belly is fully chilled, it’s damn near bulletproof. So, you could even make the belly a few days ahead with identical results. I will mention that the chilling phase is NOT to be skipped. If you try to slice that beautiful belly fresh out of the oven, it will be squashed and crumble under even the sharpest of blades.
All Asian ingredients can be found at Super H Mart, Buford Highway Farmers Market, or Decatur First Oriental Market
For the Pork Belly Brine:
2 lbs of Berkshire Pork Belly, skin off, skin side lightly scored
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ kosher salt
2 tablespoons molasses
3 cups boiling water
2 cups ice
Preheat oven to 450.
In a medium bowl, mix sugar, salt, molasses and boiling water. Whisk until all particulate is dissolved. Add the ice and stir until the brine is chilled. Place belly and brine in doubled-up gallon Ziploc bags in the fridge. Brine for at least 6 hours, remove belly, pat dry and place it on a lipped baking sheet. Place pan into the oven, basting occasionally as fat renders. Roast belly until light golden brown, about 30-45 minutes.
For the Pork Braise:
½ cup soy sauce
2 cups chicken stock (store-bought is fine)
5 green cardamom pods
2 whole japones chilies
Once the pork has good color, transfer to a baking dish, combine all braising ingredients over the top of the belly and cover with 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Reduce oven heat to 350 and place baking dish in the oven for approximately 2 hours. Test the belly by running it through with a wooden skewer. When the skewer passes through the belly with almost no resistance, it is done. Remove it from the braising liquid with a couple of spatulas for ultimate support, gently place it on a plate and place in the refrigerator to rest and firm up for slicing. Once the steam has stopped, wrap with plastic wrap and reserve.
For the Chicken Stock (yields approximately 2 quarts):
5 pounds chicken wings
3-ounce piece of ginger, split in half lengthwise, 1 half peeled
1 yellow onion, peeled and rough chopped
6 green onions, greens only, rough chopped
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, rough chopped in a food processor
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 whole pieces star anise
5 cloves garlic, smashed
Water to cover by 2 inches
In a medium stock pot, cover chicken wings in water and turn heat to high. While that’s working, take the unpeeled half of the ginger and place it directly over a gas burner, cut side toward the flame. When the cut side is blackened, set it aside. Once pot has started to lightly boil, drain pot of all water, keeping the wings in the pot, add all other stock ingredients (including the now charred ginger) and re-cover with cold water. Turn stock pot up to high until a boil starts and then reduce heat to a light simmer. Simmer for 6 hours, skimming occasionally. Once time is up, drain the stock through a fine sieve, pressing wings with the back of a ladle to extract as much broth as possible. Reserve stock.
For the Congee:
3 cups cooked white rice (preferably jasmine)
8 cups chicken stock
¼ cup Shaoxing wine
6 full dashes Three Crabs fish sauce
¼ cup soy sauce, plus more to taste (preferably shoyu, but not absolutely necessary)
Kosher Salt to taste
1 bunch scallions, finely sliced to garnish
Toppings to taste, such as radish kimchee, fried garlic, fried shallot, chili oil
Place the rice and 6 cups of stock into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and place on medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a full simmer, stirring regularly. The more you stir, the smaller the rice granules will be and the silkier the congee. So, this is a labor of love. You may need a little more stock to get the congee to your preferred consistency, so keep a little stock simmering alongside the congee pot. I like an almost silky oatmeal consistency.
Once the congee is nearing being done (45 minute mark), pull out the pork belly and slice it into ½ inch pieces. Place a skillet on medium-high heat and sear both sides of the belly pieces to a deep golden brown. (Don’t forget to keep stirring your congee.) Set the belly aside and season the now cooked congee with the Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, soy, and kosher salt. Place the finished congee in bowls, top with pork belly and sliced fresh scallions. I like toppings, so pick up some of these at the Super H: radish kimchee, fried garlic, fried shallot, chili oil.
Per serving: 660 calories (percent of calories from fat, 50), 39 grams protein, 52 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 37 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 2,229 milligrams sodium.
Parmesan Grits Breakfast Bowl With Roasted Hakeuri Turnips, Beets and Pink Eyed Peas
As a Southern transplant, I arrived from Texas not knowing grits from granola, but my time here has given me a deep appreciation for the Southern staple that is grits. The first rule of grits: NO INSTANT GRITS. Period. None. Get yourself some Logan Turnpike, Anson Mills “Quick Grits” or even the Bob’s Brand at Whole Foods will do. The fresher the raw grits, the better the finished product. As for the produce, local is great, but fresh is most important. You can do this dish at any time of year by rotating through what’s in season. Summer: tomatoes, field peas, eggplant. Fall: mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, cauliflower. Winter: brussels, parsnips, carrots. You get the idea.
For the Grits
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ cups water
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 tiny pinch crushed red pepper
½ cup white stone ground grits
¼ stick unsalted butter, cut into pats
½ cup shredded parmesan
Salt to taste
In a medium sauce pan, bring the milk, water, garlic, red pepper and a couple pinches of salt to a boil. Have your grits measured and ready; the liquid will boil over very quickly before you know it. Seriously, don’t leave it. Trust me. Whisk the grits in and bring the mixture back to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down to low and cover with the sauce pan lid slightly ajar. Stir every few minutes until grits are plump, tender and creamy, about 40 minutes. Don’t rush these and they will reward you. When they’re done, whisk in butter, pat by pat, stir in parmesan and THEN adjust salt. Reserve and keep warm .
For the Vegetables:
3 medium red beets
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 cup pink eyed peas
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1-2 pounds Hakeuri turnips
2 teaspoons honey
A generous pinch of granulated sugar
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375.
In a medium mixing bowl, toss beets with a drizzle of olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Wrap individually in aluminum foil and before closing pouches, drizzle each with sherry vinegar. Place in a small skillet and place in oven. Roast until tender, approximately 45 minutes. When tender, take beets out of the aluminum, rub off the skin with paper towel and dice large, discarding the stem.
In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil to shimmer the bottom of the pan and quickly sauté shallot and garlic until fragrant. Add pink eyes, bay leaf and then stock. Bring beans to boil and then take the heat down to a lively simmer. Simmer the beans until tender and creamy. Season, discard bay leaf and reserve peas in their liquid for service.
Preheat oven to 400. Wash turnips thoroughly in cold water to remove dirt. Leave small stems on and split them lengthwise into equal quarters and leave to dry. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil to shimmer the pan and once hot, add turnips in batches. Don’t stir the turnips too much or crowd the pan with them, it’ll prevent them from getting any color. Once the turnips have a nice golden color on one or two sides, place them in a small mixing bowl. Season them with salt and pepper and then drizzle them with honey and the final tablespoon of sherry vinegar. Toss to coat, place on a parchment-lined sheet tray and place into the oven. Roast until tender and reserve for service. To serve: Revive grits with a bit of warm water to get them back to creamy and ladle into bowls. Pile veggies onto grits (a little of the delicious butter bean liquid can’t hurt). Garnish with some shredded scallions and a bit more parmesan. Ta-da.
Per serving: 672 calories (percent of calories from fat, 51), 26 grams protein, 62 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams fiber, 40 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 313 milligrams sodium.
Quelites Street Tacos With Pine Street Chorizo, Crema and Queso Fresco
Quelites are an indigenous Mexican green with a marvelous earthy flavor. You can find them as a breakfast taco with queso fresco and crema in Mexican markets and from street vendors. I love the idea of a vegetarian taco that’s not filled with refritos, but why not add some local chorizo to make it nice? I really like the Mexican chorizo from Pine Street Market in Avondale. They get the flavor profile right and the sausage is made from great pork. Quelites can be hard to find in the U.S., but you’re most likely to locate them at Buford Highway Farmers Market, Supermercado Talpa (where, incidentally, you should buy freshly-made warm corn tortillas to make these tacos) or Mercado Fresco — all on Buford Highway.
½ pound Chorizo (preferably Pine Street Market)
½ white onion, thinly julienned
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 bunches quelites , leaves only, picked, washed and dried
Kosher salt to taste
2 dozen warm corn tortillas
1 small container Mexican Crema (sour cream is fine, but not as good)
½ small wheel Queso Fresco, crumbled
Chopped jalapeno, to garnish
Washed, dried, and chopped cilantro to garnish
In a large cast-iron skillet on medium high heat, sauté the chorizo until rendered and browned. Remove the chorizo from the pan, leaving fat behind and reserve. In the same hot pan, sauté the onion in the rendered fat until soft, add garlic, stirring once to incorporate and then add the quelites to wilt/sauté. When the quelites are wilted, return the sausage to the pan. Season the mixture with kosher salt and turn off the heat. Place the mixture into a doubled up tortilla and dress with crema, queso fresco, jalapeno and cilantro.
Per serving: 820 calories (percent of calories from fat, 48), 33 grams protein, 76 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 44 grams fat (21 grams saturated), 99 milligrams cholesterol, 1,056 milligrams sodium.
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