Recreating Duke’s: Avocado Toast with Poached Egg

There is this restaurant called Duke’s Grocery a few blocks down from us that both Husband and I love.  We love it so much, in fact, that we once waited almost 2 hours (!!!) for a table for four at brunch.  (I will note this was only acceptable because they also serve bottomless Bloody Mary’s and mimosas for $15.  One Bloody Mary is $8.  Obviously, there is significant positive marginal utility to me, the consumer & lover of all things spicy, horseradish-y, and salty, in this construct).

According to the Husband, there is really only one problem with this restaurant (other than the sometimes interminable wait): they do not serve french fries with their completely epic burger.  We are talking TWO (thin, because what are you, a glutton??) patties of perfectly cooked Angus beef, smoky Gouda cheese, caramelized red onions, a sweet chili sauce, garlicky mayo…I could go on.  Last time we were here, the Husband rectified the lack-of-starch-issue by ordering a second burger.  (Again, bottomless drinks cost $15 and we had waited almost two hours.)

Saturday morning, though, we waltzed right in, and ordered the usual.  Burger for him, avocado toast with poached egg for me.  And then Sunday morning, it hit me.  I had the celery, the horseradish, the tomato juice, the vodka, the sriracha.  That’s bottomless for $0.  I also had a perfectly ripe avocado, eggs, and some spinach to use up.  One epic brunch, coming my way.


Avocado Toast with Poached Egg (inspired by Duke’s)

  • multigrain toast or English muffin
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 2 eggs
    • to poach: water, vinegar
  • about a tablespoon or two of cream cheese (once you go jalapeno, you never go back)
  • arugula or spinach
  • s&p
  1. Bring a small but deep pot to boil.  Add about a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of vinegar to the pot, reduce the heat until the water only bubbles slightly.  Carefully crack one egg and slide it into the water; repeat with second egg.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the egg white firms up around the yolk.  Remove (gently!) with a slotted spoon.
  2. As your eggs cook, toast your bread.  Spread with a bit of cream cheese, top with a few slices of avocado and a bit of arugula or spinach.
  3. Top with the poached eggs and sprinkle some cracked salt and pepper over the top.  Serve with a Bloody Mary and wish every day were the weekend.


The Verdict:

I think poached eggs are a bit of a skill – I get them right about 65% of the time (honestly, who wants an overcooked egg yolk, YUCK)…but I swear to goodness, this was 98% as good as my Duke’s breakfast the day previously.  The chief difference, of course, being that at home, I have to wash my own dishes (my chief dishwasher, aka Husband, wasn’t awake yet).


Throw Back: Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Mashed potatoes – likely not the kind of post to make the interwebs go pitter-patter.

And yet, they have a sort of special place in the relationship between Husband and me. Ergo, I’m posting them anyway.

Way back when, when we first graduated from college, we moved into the same apartment building.  This was a ridiculously fun year  – a college redux, except for now we had a little bit of money in our pockets (and earlier alarms).  On Sunday evenings, to delay the inevitability of Monday mornings, Husband, his roommate, my roommate, and I would all get together for Sunday suppers.  We traded off cooking and hosting duty each week, and we almost never missed a week.  (We were much less consistent about our jobs – we had all quit those within nine months of starting them.)  In the midst of this, Husband and I started (not-as-secretly-as-we-thought) dating, which our friends were kind enough to pretend to ignore until we decided we actually really liked each other.

Husband and I now joke that we knew he was in it for the long haul when one week I made – and burned the bejesus out of – pumpkin soup…and he ate the whole thing. (Our roommates were less kind about this particular meal.)  But really, I think he knew he’d want to stick around when I made mashed potatoes for our first “Friendsgiving” (and also, that garlic would be a taste he’d have to grow to love).


Garlic Mashed Potatoes (for two)

  • 3 Yukon potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • cold water
  • salt, pepper
  • big splash of heavy cream
  • big splash of buttermilk
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream cheese (we used some with a hint of jalapeno…so delish)
  1. Throw the roughly chopped potatoes into a big pot, along with the garlic & a pinch of salt, and add cold water until the potatoes are just covered.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 13-15 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes & garlic, return to the pot, and add butter.  Add a splash of heavy cream, buttermilk, and a dollop of cream cheese, another pinch of salt and pepper, and gently mash with a masher – I like my potatoes a big lumpy, and the garlic will fall right apart.
  3. Adjust seasoning and butter/cream/buttermilk to taste.  Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

There are about 4 million ways to make potatoes, and probably about a quarter of those are variations on mashed potatoes (I’m just spitballing here). However you choose to make them, I hope they taste like these – reminiscent of love and the start of something new. These went perfectly with the ribs Husband made me this past Easter, another Sunday evening.

Roasted Root Vegetable Tart

I am loving this week of the root vegetable.  Dinner is done in 20 minutes, everything is (fairly) healthy, and the earthiness of the veggies can sometimes stop me from wishing it were spring.


And then here comes morning, and I actually have to blow dry my hair, so it doesn’t freeze (literally) on my walk to work, and I put on my fleece jacket underneath my long down coat, and then my hat and mittens and boots, and even root vegetables can’t save me.  Oh, spring.  You’re going to be glorious.


Roasted Root Vegetable Tart

  • one or two cups roasted root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, fennel, onions, yum)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (don’t let it get too sticky!)
  • pinch flour, for rolling out the dough
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2-3 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • salt + pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry dough so you have a larger surface area.  Put on a large baking sheet, score all the way around (about an inch from the edge), and lightly prick the dough with a fork (to let air escape while it bakes).  Place in the oven and bake about 7-8 minutes, until lightly golden.
  2. While the puff pastry bakes, gently combine the three cheeses in a small bowl.  No need to over work it.
  3. Pull the puff pastry out and lightly spread the cheese all over.  Top with vegetables – root veggies, mushrooms and a little bit of spinach.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 10 minutes.
  4. You’re dominating winter.


The Verdict:

So easy, so quick & it even looks pretty!  Fact: puff pastry is a gift to dinner.

What I’ve Got in the Pantry Enchiladas.

You may ask: is this meal healthy, even in a relative sense?

You might ask: is this actual cooking, or did you just throw everything in your pantry together and call it a meal?

In fact, you could ask lots of things.

(The answers, by the way, in respective order: no, sort of, and yes, absolutely.  I don’t feel badly about that.)

Inspired by my very first cookbook…wait for it…the Complete Idiot’s Guide to 20 Minute Meals.  That bad boy has been around so long it’s missing pages and a spine.  But it was a backbone to my college experience, and I’m never getting rid of it.


(Things That Are in My Pantry) Enchiladas

  • 1 15 oz can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • about 4 oz cream cheese
  • about 6 oz shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
  • dash of the following spices: cumin, chili powder, taco or adobo seasoning, crushed reds
  • 1 jar salsa, any kind you like – or your own homemade, if you’ve got the ingredients + time
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced thinly
  • salt & pepper
  • 4-6 large flour tortillas
  • optional/topping: limes, cilantro, green onion, sour cream, hot sauce, more cheese, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In an oven safe pan, thoroughly mix together the corn, black beans, cream cheese and shredded cheese, spices, and about 2/3 of the jar of salsa.  Bake for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a saute pan, heat some olive oil.  Cook the onion and peppers down, about 5-7 minutes, and season with a little bit of salt and pepper.
  3. Pull the corn mixture from the oven and spread a bit down the middle of a tortilla.  Top with a bit of onions/peppers, then roll it up and put in another oven safe pan.  Repeat, placing the enchiladas in neat, tight little rolls, until the filling is all used up.  Or, use the rest of it to make nachos!  Top with a little bit of cheese and salsa and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with your choice of accoutrement – a squeeze of lime juice as they come out of the oven, a little bit of sour cream, anything your decadent little heart desires.


The Verdict:

No one is winning any Michelin stars for this meal.  BUT this requires very little effort on your part, makes tons of leftovers, and can be tweaked in about 1001 ways to suit what you have in your pantry, so you, too, can eat un-healthfully and without guilt.  It’s pretttttttty tasty, to boot.

Breakfast Chez Nous: Bagel, Tomato and Cream Cheese Casserole

The Husband and I hosted the beaux-parents (that’s the in-laws, but in French it sounds less contractual and more like a relationship that was entered into lovingly) this weekend for a few days of eating, drinking, and Hoyas hoops watching.

We also exchanged Christmas gifts, and Hubs and I received Jawbone bracelets to track our movement – but that’s another story, since it doesn’t go too well with the theme of eating and drinking.  (There’s a larger metaphor to ponder.)

To get us (back) into the Christmas spirit, I had planned on making what the Husband’s family normally enjoys on Christmas morning – a bread/egg casserole.  And then I thought about trying to recreate a decades-plus tradition, and thought again.  Instead, I took a look at the long-suffering bagels in our freezer, my new Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and got to work recreating Deb Perelman’s New York Breakfast Casserole (with a few minor tweaks, obvi).

assembly: the most tedious part
assembly: the most tedious part

Bagel, Tomato, and Cream Cheese Breakfast Casserole

  • 3 large bagels, cut into cubes (bonus if they’re sesame, everything, or onion)
  • 1 bar chilled cream cheese, cut into small bits
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 and 1/3 cups milk or half & half
  • a good handful each of salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • optional: bacon, cooked and cut into small, crispy bits, capers for serving
puffed & golden brown
puffed & golden brown
  1. Prepare the casserole the night before you want to eat this.  Spread about a third of the bagel cubs in a 9×13 baking dish and place a small bit of cream cheese on the bagel cubes.  Mix in about a third of the onion and tomatoes.  Repeat again, adding more bagels, cream cheese, onion and tomatoes.  If adding bacon, do so now.
  2. Whisk eggs with the milk, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bagels/onions/tomatoes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The next morning: preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the casserole, uncovered, for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, until it has puffed, turned golden brown and cooked all the way through.  Let it rest a few minutes before serving.
  4. Serve with a grind of salt and black pepper, maybe some sriracha, and a side of fruit salad, to even it all out and make your Jawbone happy.  Note: this feeds 6-8 people comfortably.  If you have leftovers, it reheats beautifully over low heat in your oven or toaster.
fruit + cream cheese and bagels = net good-for-you, right?
fruit + cream cheese and bagels = net good-for-you, right?

The Verdict:

There was universal agreement around the breakfast table that this was really good – but would have benefited from the addition of bacon.  I loved the creamy puffiness of the cheese bits, combined with the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes.  The bagels, nice and crisp, also add a good crunch to the dish – not something you’d normally expect from a casserole.  A definite winner – with bacon!