I’m not one for magic, but the curse of Marie Laveau is no joke. After spending four days in New Orleans, and eating some of the most glorious food of my life, I woke up to find myself in front of the refrigerator in Los Angeles again, glaring at its post-travel emptiness, wondering if I’d ever be able to conjure my kitchen mojo again, pining for pralines and shrimp and grits, and just generally wishing I could reconstitute my withered soul in a tub of clarified butter. But when a cook feels desiccated that way, there’s only one thing for it: spend a day drinking juice to “detox,” or whatever it’s called, and then reconnect with the produce section of Super King for inspiration.
Super King is like the best-kept secret that isn’t a secret in LA. There’s one in Los Feliz and one in Altadena, and both are continuously mobbed because they basically pay you to take the produce off their hands. As a result, shopping at Super King is kind of like doing a Civil War reenactment, except the soldiers ride in cars instead of on horses, are armed with shopping carts instead of bayonets, fight for the right to own unblemished Bartlett pears instead of other human beings, and, instead of generals leading the charge, there are wise and/or confused old men rifling through mountains of green beans with the dexterity of teenagers fumbling for additional rounds of bullets. It’s mayhem. And you really can’t leave without doing some serious damage, though luckily it’s never to your bank account: for $45, I got about a week’s worth of food for two people (but you didn’t hear it from me, and if I see you there you won’t be spared the wrath of my trusty three-wheeled shopping cart, AKA “Lieutenant Screecher”).
Now, with my fridge full of the freshly-acquired spoils of war, I am going to beat back the curse of the Voodoo Queen with some serious California fusion, starting with breakfast. Take that, shrimp ‘n’ grits!
Eggs ‘n’ Chard with Fried Shallots
-1/2 bunch of chard (beet greens), washed and sliced into ribbons (and make sure to include the stalks, since they’re delicious)
-2 large shallots, sliced
-1 clove garlic, chopped
-2 tbs olive oil
-1 tbs butter
-1 tsp brown sugar
-salt and pepper
-also: one large pan and one smaller one
Getting the timing right on all this is the hard part, since you’ll have two pans going at once. Put both pans over medium heat, and add a tablespoon of olive oil to each. Sauté the shallots in the smaller pan, and the garlic in the larger one. When the garlic barely starts to brown, add the chard along with a healthy pinch of salt and make sure to stir from time to time so it doesn’t burn. Also make sure to stir the shallots, though you won’t want to futz with them too much since you want them to get a little crispy. After the shallots start to brown up, add the brown sugar and stir until coated (this is how you can fake that caramel flavor without dispensing with the crispiness and translucence of frying). Both the shallots and that chard should take around 15-20 minutes. I like my chard pretty crunchy, but if you prefer it softer you might want to blanch it first — just toss it in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then drain and sauté it.
Take both pans off the heat and work fast. Divide the chard on to two plates, and sprinkle half of the shallots on top (reserving the second half for the tops of the eggs). Return the now empty larger pan to the heat and melt the butter. Get those eggs in there before the chard gets cold! I like mine sunny-side-up, which can be expedited by covering the pan with a lid (or, in my case, a baking sheet that you lift up impatiently every 20 seconds to see if the eggs are done yet). When they’re done, slide the eggs on to the chard and then top with the rest of the shallots, a little salt, and a little pepper. The combination of the creamy yolk, bitter chard, and sweet shallots is more than the sum of its parts, believe me. Next time I’m going to add another egg.