February 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

French take on Huevos Rancheros lightens it up

A crisp corn tortilla sits atop the eggs, which are on a black-bean puree. (El Encanto)

Santa Barbara, Calif., has long been called the California Riviera. It’s sunny much of the year with its temperate climate and ocean view. I had been hearing great things about the city’s cuisine, so I headed up there for a short visit. There are many places to stay in Santa Barbara, but I picked El Encanto, a historic hotel, which recently has been refurbished. Luxurious cottages dot the landscape with beautiful ponds, gardens and walkways all around the property.

In addition to all of the new gardens and interiors, the food was reason enough to visit. Executive Chef Patrice Martineau has cooked in some of the most celebrated kitchens around the world. He clearly is enjoying the amazing year-round variety of produce available to him. I was impressed with the herb garden with hydroponic towers that sprouted different herbs for his daily inspiration.

One morning, as I sat on the terrace overlooking the city, ocean and offshore islands, I ordered his French-inspired Huevos Rancheros. I was happily surprised with his take on this Mexican breakfast dish. No heavy ranchero sauce here. Layers of flavor and textures made this dish light, yet filling. Black beans are pureed and act as a sauce at the bottom of the bowl. A light sprinkling of Mexican Cotija cheese enriches the beans, which are topped with two perfectly poached eggs. A crisp corn tortilla sits atop the eggs, as well as a pretty garnish of sour cream, tomato salsa and a simple guacamole. You have to try this when you want a change for breakfast or brunch. You won’t have the same view, but you can imagine it while dipping into this informally elegant egg dish. Enjoy.

Huevos Rancheros El Encanto Style

1 (26 ½) ounce cans black beans, well-drained and rinsed
¼ cup favorite salsa
½ cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper
2 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 small lime
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
8 large eggs
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 corn tortillas
¼ cup Cotija cheese
¼ cup favorite salsa
¼ cup sour cream
Cilantro sprigs or scallions, for garnish

In a large saucepan, combine the beans, salsa and stock and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Cook about 3 to 5 minutes or until heated through. With a hand blender, blend the bean mixture until soupy but thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve.

Peel and mash avocados and mix together with red onion, cumin, lime juice and salt and pepper. Season to taste and reserve.

Place 6 cups of water in a large, deep skillet and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Crack each egg into a ramekin and slide into the simmering water; poach egg for about 3 minutes, making sure the yolk is not overcooked and the white is not overcooked. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon into a bowl and reserve.

While eggs are cooking, pan fry tortillas in olive oil until crisp over medium-high heat, about 1 minute for each side, using tongs to turn the tortillas. Drain on paper towels.

Spoon the cooked black beans evenly on each of four shallow soup bowls, and then sprinkle each with Cotija cheese.

Place 2 poached eggs on top of each the beans. Place one crisp tortilla onto the eggs.

Garnish each tortilla with a tablespoon each of guacamole, salsa and sour cream to taste. If desired, garnish with cilantro or a scallion. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Per serving: 650 calories; 44 g fat (10 g saturated fat; 61 percent calories from fat); 48 g carbohydrates; 438 mg cholesterol; 897 mg sodium; 26 g protein; 15 g fiber.

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