Chef David Gilbert had never tasted pork until he was 19 years old. Then, while away from home to study at Johnson & Wales culinary school in Charleston, S.C., he found himself biting into a pork chop at a soul food kitchen near the school.
It was a life-changing experience. “It took a moment to determine if I had committed an enormous sin or had just been transported to heaven,” he remembers. “I decided, after 19 years without pork, that I now knew what ecstasy felt like.”
That story is but one of the culinary odysseys that Gilbert, now head chef at Sustenio in the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa, recounts in his new book, “Kitchen Vagabond: A Journey Cooking and Eating Beyond the Kitchen” (Infinity, $27.95 hardback, $17.95 paperback).
And it led up to a recipe that Gilbert shared in a cooking demonstration he offered at the Pearl Farmers Market, an unusual but welcome take on scrambled eggs.
Like many recipes, the chef’s version has evolved over time.
It began with his father, who would, whenever Gilbert’s mother wasn’t watching, use butter in the pan and whole milk in the egg mix, thereby creating a richness that the future chef appreciated.
He watched his father closely and learned to whisk the eggs gently with a fork, not a whisk. He also saw that it was important not to rush the eggs as they cooked. “That is my little secret,” he says. “I believe in slow cooking because it gives the eggs the opportunity to coagulate and the natural proteins to slowly set. There is nothing worse than dry scrambled eggs.”
But Gilbert’s recipe took a turn in an entirely new direction after he headed to South Carolina for school. One morning, after a forgotten night of drinking, he found himself staggering to the kitchen, trying to step carefully around a handful of co-eds sprawled all over the floor. Once he made it to the kitchen, he tossed a chunk of sliced bacon into the pan and let the fat render slowly. Once the meat had crisped up, he removed the strips and then started to cook the eggs in the leftover fat.
The end result was a hangover cure as effect as San Antonio’s menudo. Though science may disagree, both are so good that you forget the hangover and concentrate on the restorative powers that the flavors of both dishes provide.
The crowd that had gathered at the Pearl open kitchen area hung on Gilbert’s every word and even applauded as he added more milk to his egg mixture and more pork fat to the eggs as they cooked. The end results were delicious, thanks in part to the fact that the pork he used was from South Texas Heritage Pork, which sells its meat at the market.
During the demonstration, Gilbert crumbled up the bacon, not too finely, and returned the pieces to the eggs before serving. He also topped the dish with chopped parsley to add both color and flavor.
Southern Hangover Cure (or Bacon and Scrambled Eggs)
1 pound sliced bacon
12 whole eggs
2 ounces whole milk
1 pinch of black pepper
Room full of co-eds, optional
Heat a large cast-iron skillet on medium-low heat; add the sliced bacon. Break apart the bacon with a whisk (in my case) or, properly, with a pair of stainless steel tongs. Remove bacon to drain excess fat (on a paper towel), once crispy.
Crack one dozen eggs into a bowl, add a splash of milk, whisk gently. Add to bacon fat; slowly stir with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle with black pepper. Watch football the rest of the day and try to figure out what occurred the night before.
Makes 6 servings.
From “Kitchen Vagabond: A Journey Cooking and Eating Beyond the Kitchen” by David Gilbert