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Charleston SC and harissa poached egg on cous cous

March 11, 2010

I just got back from Charleston South Carolina. I had the honor of being the MC for the chef’s competition tent at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. It was the 5th anniversary of the event. Tyler Florence kicked it off with a highly entertaining demo of sautéed lamb loin and sheep’s’ milk cheese gnocchi which he referred to as a “mother/child” reunion. I had a chance to chat with Tyler again and he was just as nice as the first time I met him. Great guy.Just as exciting was discovering what a cool city Charleston is. The Colonial architecture is stunning. You see the slow spinning ceiling fans on the porch and you instantly feel relaxed. I was tempted to jump the railing and kick back with a cocktail on one of the porches! The people ooze that classic Southern hospitality and the food is fantastic. I had everything from the best Thai at Basil to “steak and eggs” (fried egg on top of pork belly with crispy fried garbanzo beans) at High Cotton, Quail stuffed with cornbread/tasso (spicy ham) filling at SNOB, a perfect crab cake (large, tender chunks of sweet crab barely held together to form a slightly crispy cake) at Charleston Grill, and I can’t forget the divine made-to-order oyster bisque at Vickery. Charleston knows hot to eat oysters!

I had the pleasure of meeting a girl named Alexis at the festival. She told me she loved harissa (N. African condiment that comes in a tube) and the fact that I had been cooking with it. She told me about a classic Israeli dish of egg poached in harissa. I was dreaming about that combination the whole weekend. I made my version of what I thought it might be for my wife and I for lunch yesterday. I squeezed a couple tablespoons of harissa into about a cup of chicken stock. I brought that to just under a boil and added a chopped tomato. I then cracked my eggs into the bright red broth and allowed them to poach. I wanted to serve them on cous cous so I decided to make some Israeli cous cous. It is brilliant because it is a larger grain so you get these beautiful, creamy pearls of tender pasta in your mouth instead of the more grainy quality of regular cous cous. It is really easy to cook. Two parts boiling chicken stock, add one part Israeli cous cous, simmer for about 8 minutes until tender and liquid is absorbed. Cous cous goes on the plate, poached egg on top with a spoonful of the harissa/tomato broth. I topped the egg with some crumbled feta cheese and some chopped mint.

I never get tired of harissa and the egg is always the perfect liaison to taste the world. We eat with our eyes first-the color is a stunning bright red. We eat with our nose second-your face is surrounded by the earthy perfume of roasted caraway seed (the rye bread spice), bright toasted citrus scented coriander seed, and the slightly bitter, pungent, earthy aroma of cumin seed. Those spices are tamed by the sun-dried tomato and chiles, which give harissa a brightness and a nice level of heat. You get all that before the first bite!  The mint acts as a breath mint between each bite. The feta cheese adds just the right level of salt and combines with the egg yolk to make the perfect sauce to coat each pearl of cous cous. Thank you for the idea Alexis! A great food festival and a warm, tasty lunch with my wife on a quiet weekday. Life is good. Enjoy!

Eat Well, Enjoy life, Be happy

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. LizAndrsn permalink
    March 11, 2010 4:18 pm

    Fabulous — especially for a meatless Friday dinner with a salad on the side.

    I found harissa powder locally. Have you experimented with this as well as harissa in a tube?

  2. PSun permalink
    March 20, 2010 10:20 am

    Thanks so much, Jeffrey, your passion for food has spread to our kitchen. We love following your recipes. We made your harrisa (from a tube) poached eggs, on top of lightly toasted olive ciabatta, with crispy prosciutto, soft Sauvagine cheese, crispy lettuce greens (we would have preferred arugula, but didn’t have any, shame on us) with a bit of harissa-flavoured mayo. It was sooooo good, with just the right mix of creamy, crispy, salty, warm, and cool. And it only took 20 mins to make! Looking forward to trying more of your great recipes! 🙂

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      March 22, 2010 4:31 pm

      Thank you so much PSun! You are the reason I love to do this! Thank you. Jeffrey

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      March 24, 2010 12:51 pm

      well said Psun. Thank you so much. You are the reason I do what I do! Best, Jeffrey 🙂

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