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Recreating a restaurant dish at home

Several weeks ago I went for brunch at Pastis, a very nice place here in NYC. While all three of my companion diners ordered steak and eggs, I knew there was a dish on that menu with my name on it. It was "Eggs a la Basquaise". Essentially it was poached eggs over a bed of creamy polenta with a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, prosciutto, and whatever else. So, I loved it so much and as a lover of food and a decent home cook, I thought about it for a few weeks, It was that good. It was so simple seeming, yet so sublime. I googled "Eggs a la Basquaise" and came up with nothing. Finally a I found a recipe for a Basque sauce, I guess you can say, called a piperade. So, I made the piperade, I made the creamy polenta, and I poached (for my first time), a few eggs. As my husband ate it, he said, at least three times, oh my this is sooooo good. I felt so proud to have re-created something I enjoyed so much, with out any recipe of any sort. I would love to hear others stories of dishes they recreated with little direction or info but lots of love. :)

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  1. In the mid-90s, I had pasta with vodka sauce at a restaurant. I figured how hard could it be to recreate if I knew all the ingredients--prosciutto, cream, vodka, lemons, pasta. The first time I made it, I used wayyyyyyyyy too much vodka, so I put a flame to it and created a photo opportunity much like the picture Paulustrious uses for his avatar (except I was not topless!). WOOHOO! I felt like a young Mrs. Doubtfire. ;)

    Over the years, I've tweaked it here and there, but I love what I came up with and my version has even made its way into the recipe collections of some of my friends. I was tickled when a friend I had lost touch with more than 10 years ago remembered this dish and recently asked for my recipe! But, to this day, I have never looked at a "real" recipe for penne with vodka sauce. It's tempting and I really am curious how this dish is "properly" prepared, but I have to think, if it ain't broke, why mess with it. It has become one of my favorite non-traditional holiday meals.

    1. We not only share the same first name, but a love of those kind of dish. Going to look for a recipe for the sauce, unless you have time to share yours. I was going to have Eggs Benedict tomorrow, but now that seems wwwaaaayyy too boring!

      1. Found this one online, by Aida Mollenkamp. Looks good to me!


        1 Reply
        1. re: bayoucook

          Bayoucook - this Aida recipe is the EXACT recipe is used!!!!! I tweaked it a bit for serving size (only two of us), and as we were eating it I realized if forgot the bay leaf. I also did not have the special spice indicated, so I used a little bit of paprika and a little bit of cayenne. I also chopped and blanched some asparagus and added it in at the end with the tomatoes and cooked prosciutto. Even with my attempt to downsize, I still ended up with enough to reheat over some of the polenta, sans eggs. And I do think a key was following the recipe in terms of using FRESH tomatoes. I actually used five. It was soooo good. I highly recommend it! So funny, you identified the same recipe!

        2. the first timeI ever went to NYC my boss took me to Mr. Chow's it must have been about 25 years ago.I was very young and he ordered for the table. I will never for get the 1st course lettece wraps. Of course now they are very popular all over the place but back then I had never had anything like that. Well we didn't have the internet so I couldn't find a recipe and asian markets were non-exsistant in Dallas Texas so I came up with my own verison which I have now tweeked but I actually came pretty close on the first attempt. Ground chicken, soy, water chestnuts mushrooms hot red pepper ginger green onions gingercorm starch lots of garlic. I still love them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Analisas mom

            Me too!!!!!!
            Somewhere in Nevada, 1990 or so- we went to Jade Garden (there must be 999 Jade Gardens in America) and Mom ordered these amazing chopped chicken appetizers- I remember feeling enchanted, you used the lettuce as a wrapper! What genius! I wasn't much of a cook back then but together with one of my sisters, we came up with the recipe. Used way too much soy sauce, but it was fantastical.

          2. A Thai Shrimp Basil. There are certainly plenty of recipes out there, but I was looking for just the right one, complex flavors, I couldn't find it exact, so I just messed with many recipes until I got the mix of the curry just the way I love it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chef chicklet

              My mother thought she could recreate any restaurant dish just from the description, but she was wrong. Very wrong.

              I actually had never tasted veal scallopini until I was 19, and ate it during a trip to Italy. When I got home, I described it to my mother, sho insisted she could make it.

              Unfortunately, she thought sweetbeads were the same as scallops. The sight of those huge, rubbbery sweetbreads in the frying pan as she tried to sauté them quickly I still find a bit nauseating.

            2. I had a veal dish about 2 years ago that had a mix of wild mushrooms, a champagne cream sauce, fresh spinach roasted baby onions, over a pea puree. But not just ordinary peas you could tell it had a little hint of balsamic and peccerino I believe. Then the potatoes were a soufle with I think smoky gouda and it was piped out and then baked with a simple crumb topping along side the veal. The whole thing was garnished with ultra thin fried potato rings. Then a slight drizzle of an aged vinaigrette was drizzled across the veal and the champagne cream.

              After a few trys, it is perfect. I was close the first time, but tweaked it as well until it is just right. I use this for anniversaries or special occasions. I it decadent and perfect every time. And honestly, the potatoes is the hardest part. But it all goes so well.

              Eggs benedict ... that sounds amazing justpaula. I have about 10 different recipes, but all basically a "semi" hollandaise. But I do have one with tomatoes, onion and pancetta in a white wine sauce. But that sauce looks great. I served mine over polenta as well, but I had some grated gruyere and spinach on mine with the poached egg.

              Lots of fun to try so many different recipes. Most of mine are from trial and error.

              About 3 weeks ago I had this sandwich 3 layers on pumpernickle. Turkey, tomatoes, onions, avacado, cheese, olives, pancetta I think, cucumber, tomato but the turkey, onion, olives, tomatoes, and red peppers were cooked but not hot but warm, Then it was topped with sliced avacado and cucumber, then the whole thing was toasted but the cheese slices were melted. I think they were monterey jack. But the turkey was chunks of turkey, It was such a good sandwich. An odd combo, but what is hard is what the dressing was. It was a light, vinaigrette, but not just a normal vinaigrette. I still can't figure it out. I would like to marinate a turkey breast and make the rest separate and then grill the turkey, thin slice and top with the garnish, melt the cheese over the top and serve toasted baguettes on the side. A work in progress. The vinaigrette is what made it. Now if I can just figure it out

              2 Replies
              1. re: kchurchill5

                "but I had some grated gruyere and spinach on mine with the poached egg.".

                Mmmmmmm. Then again, you can put Gruyere on a Wasa Crisp and I would be happy!

                Now that I have conquered the unfounded, yet, familiar fear of poaching eggs, Gruyere and spinach sounds so good. See, i am not a hollandaise person, although I do love me some poached eggs! But, I swear, if you cannot make it Pastis, use the Piperade recipe over creamy polenta and poached aggs and you will not be sorry!

                1. re: Justpaula

                  Jalapeno, on King, used to have an excellent Mexican "sopa seca" ("dry soup" - really a pasta dish) on the menu. At the time the Toronto Star would publish a restaurant recipe every week, so I wrote in and, to my surprise, they published it. I tried it at hame, with excellent results. Good thing too, since it soon vanished from Jalapeno's menu, to be replaced, I think, with more enchiladas and tacos.

              2. There is a little German restaurant not too far from where I live. The owner, chef/mother has used many of her own recipes, and they are delciious. The simplest of all are the addicting delicious bread and butter pickles. Everyone in town knows about them and wants to know how to make them.

                Yesterday, I braved it and made some quick bread and butter pickles and you can imagine my surprise that when I tasted them, they were within inches of perfection! They are crunchy/fresh, and sweet and sour with a hint of spice/clove and dill. Not bad for my first try. Yea!