Santa Maria was out last night, catching up with old friends at Marcus Samuelsson’s new restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, and I was at home casting about in the refrigerator for a dinner of my own. I cobbled together a few leftovers and fed myself well enough, but what I came up with was nothing to write home about.
Fortunately, I happened to have the chance to talk with the country singer Raul Malo, who led the Grammy-winning country-rock band The Mavericks to chart success in the nineties, about some of the cooking he does. Malo lives in Nashville and has he has three sons, ages 15, 14, and 10. He shared a story about what happened one time when he found himself in the kitchen with very little to choose from. He came up with what he calls the “The Best Breakfast Sandwich in the World.”
Malo’s latest release, “Sinners & Saints,” carries a powerful, nostalgic punch for me. It’s largely a Tex-Mex album, and when I was growing up my father used to put on Freddy Fender’s 1975 classic, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” at dinnertime. As soon as I heard Malo’s peerless crooning on his new one, I was taken back in time.
Malo, who was raised by Cuban parents in Miami, said, "We listened to a lot of music around the dinner table when I was young. If we were having a barbecue, it was a sure bet if that a Herb Alpert record would be playing." He went on:
I do some cooking, typical guy stuff, grilling and pasta. Grilling is art form, certainly, but basically there are two ways to have your meat. Do you like it burned or raw?
My favorite time to cook is breakfast. I have the most fun doing that. I've come up with absolutely the best breakfast sandwich you’ll ever have. I can’t believe that you can’t buy this anywhere. I wish I could get it at a restaurant, but I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been all over the world.
I start with a really good bagel. Personally, I prefer an onion bagel. I toast it. Then I fry an egg in olive oil. Frying an egg in olive oil just tastes better than using regular vegetable oil.
I sauté some spinach and a little onion and garlic in a separate pan, with a little cayenne, to give it a bit of a kick. I put the egg on the toasted bagel and the spinach on top of that. Then I top it with a little Tabasco and salt.
I came up with this combination because it was all I had in the kitchen one morning. I like spinach and I thought spinach is good for you, so why not put a little in my breakfast.
It sure sounds a lot better than what I came up with last night, and I’ll have to try it one of these days. Malo, by the way, will be at City Winery in Manhattan for three nights later this month, February 24-26. In the meantime, here’s the video from the title song of his latest album. Enjoy.