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Mother's Day Brunch

In honor of Mother's Day, we are cooking a delicious brunch that dads can pull off.

Chef Bob Waggoner is the executive chef at the critically acclaimed Charleston Grill, in Charleston, S.C. He is well known for his modern interpretation of low-country cooking. This weekend, he has come up with a flavorful, yet stress-free, menu to impress mom.

Waggoner's menu as our Chef on a Shoestring: an appetizer of Smoke Salmon Salad; an entrée of Quiche Lorraine; and for dessert, Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries.

A California native, Waggoner received his formal training with Michael Roberts at Trumps in Los Angeles, from 1981 to 1983. He later worked at a constellation of Michelin-rated restaurants in France.

At 23, he took his first chef position in Caracas, Venezuela, at Jean-Paul Coupal's private club. Waggoner later returned to France to become the owner and executive chef of the much-acclaimed Le Monte Cristo, in Moneteau.

Waggoner's talents have not gone unrecognized. Since his tenure at Charleston Grill, the restaurant has been included in the Nation's Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame and in the book, "The Elite 1000." In 2002, The James Beard Foundation -- the Carnegie Hall of the culinary world -- nominated Waggoner for the Best Chef in the Southeast Award. Waggoner has also been featured in Saveur Magazines' "100 Favorite Things of 1999," Artisan Books' "Top 50 Chefs in the United States" and has participated in the 2002 Winter Olympics Chefs program.

Perhaps the biggest feather in his "toque," however, was to be knighted with the "l'Odre du Merite Agricole" from the government of France. This award, usually reserved for the French, has only been handed to a handful of Americans. You can also catch Waggoner's "Off the Menu" on cable television.

Waggoner says his menu reflects a fusion of countries traveled, lessons learned and meals savored.

Terminology

Quiche Lorraine: Waggoner served quiche lorraine for our Mother's Day brunch. It is called "quiche lorraine" because quiche originated in northeastern France in the region of Alsace-Lorraine. Quiche became popular in the United States during the 1950s. Consisting of mainly vegetarian ingredients, it acquired the "real men don't eat quiche" label in the macho American society, only to blossom into widespread popularity during the later 20th century. Nowadays, there are many kinds of quiche -- from the original quiche Lorraine, to ones with all sorts of veggies including broccoli and mushrooms. Other ingredients popular in a quiche are ham and/or seafood (primarily shellfish). In the past, the original 'quiche Lorraine' was an open pie with a filling made from eggs and cream with bacon. It was only later that cheese was added to quiche recipes. If you add onions, then you have a quiche Alsacienne. The bottom crust was originally made from bread dough, but now is made with shortening-type crusts or puff pastry crusts. Quiches can be served as a lunch or dinner entrée, or as a first course or hors d'oeuvre.

Hothouse cucumber: Waggoner calls for a hothouse cucumber in his salad. Hothouse cucumbers are also referred to as "Burpless" and "European" cucumber. Hothouse cucumbers are available year round. Hothouse cucumbers are much longer, contain fewer seeds and are most often called English cucumbers. Usually measuring six to twelve inches in length, this burpless variety has been known to reach two feet in length. Marketed individually wrapped, hothouse cucumbers offer a cool refreshing taste. They are considered less bitter compared to regular cucumbers.

Recipes

Smoked Salmon Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Ingredients
1 10-ounce bag mixed salad greens (rinse again in cold water and pat dry)
4 slices smoked salmon
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup olive oil
1 hothouse cucumber, dice small (you may use a regular cucumber if you wish, but you should remove the seeds then)
1 large shallot, minced
salt and fresh cracked white pepper

In a small mixing bowl, combine your lemon juice, shallot, and season with salt and white pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste and re-season if needed.

Divide the salad greens evenly amongst four salad plates.

Add one slice of smoked salmon over each plate. Sprinkle the diced cucumber over the four salads and spoon the lemon vinaigrette over each salad.

Optional: You may garnish the plate with edible flowers if you wish.


Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients
4 whole eggs
2 cups heavy cream
6 slices slab bacon, cooked dry and drained, crumbled (see method below)
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry or 1 9-inch pie shell
salt and fresh cracked white pepper
1 9-inch pie dish

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs slightly. Then add the heavy cream, dry bacon, parmesan cheese, cracked fresh white pepper and a small pinch of salt. Line the pie dish with 1 sheet of puff pastry, pull the pastry over the edges and pinch to hold over the edges. Poke holes all over the pastry with a fork to keep it from rising.

Bake the puff pastry for 10 minutes at 375 degrees F, remove from the oven and add the egg, cream, bacon mixture to the pie dish. Return the pie dish to the oven and bake another 20 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees F until firm. Remove and let the quiche rest for two minutes. Cut and serve.

Method for bacon:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place bacon slices on baking sheet. Cook the bacon until crisp.
Remove from the oven and let rest before using.


Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Ingredients
1 4-ounce bar of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate
12 long-stemmed fresh strawberries

Rinse strawberries under cold water and dry with a paper towel, keeping their green stems intact.

Using medium-low heat, slowly heat the chocolate in a double broiler until melted (take care not to bring the chocolate to a boil). Hold the stem of the strawberries and dip them in the chocolate one by one.

Let the strawberries cool on a cookie sheet in a cool area of the kitchen. You may transfer the strawberries to the refrigerator and chill them for an hour prior to serving if you wish. Otherwise, serve them at room temperature on a tray. Let everyone help themselves.

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