You might be suspicious of a cookbook spawned from the sketch comedy series "Portlandia," which lampoons the more eccentric elements of life in Portland, Oregon, but series stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen assure us the Portland food scene is nothing to joke about. "It really has its own signature on cuisine, I can't believe it. It also doesn't toot its own horn about their own food," Armisen says. And according to Brownstein, that culture extends to the book itself. "We're not trying to take it too seriously, but if you want to use it as a legitimate cookbook, it completely functions as that," Brownstein says. "There are genuine recipes in there that are legitimately tasty. I think for new cooks or cooks who are just starting out, it's a good way because a lot of it is comfort food."
The only thing seemingly missing from the "Portlandia Cookbook"? Totchos — or nachos made with tater-tots — a staple at bars around the city. "Oh yeah, totchos! I have had totchos at the Florida Room. It's the best late-night bar food," Brownstein says. Maybe for the next book.
For a sample of what the book does have to offer, Brownstein and Armisen suggest the Bird in a Grilled Cheese Nest, so we've provided the recipe. "I love eggs on anything, and Portland is very egg-y now," Armisen says. Brownstein likes the dish for its simplicity. "This is something that just requires bread and cheese and egg. It's all the ingredients I like, and it's kind of like a fancy grilled cheese," she says. "I'm sorry, yes, it's carb-heavy. You can follow that up with a big steak!"
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Total: 25 minutes * Makes 2 sandwiches
4 slices best-quality packaged white sandwich bread
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (not reduced fat)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 ounces (about 1 cup) coarsely shredded cheese, such as fontina, unaged Asiago, or unaged Gouda
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 large eggs
Truffle salt (optional)
1. Preheat the broiler, setting the rack 6 inches from the heat.
2. Arrange the bread on a work surface and spread 1 side only with the mayonnaise, evenly and to the edges. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the mayonnaise and press lightly to make it adhere. Flip the bread and add the coarsely shredded cheese and the scallions to 2 of the slices. Close the sandwiches, with the Parmesan-encrusted sides out.
3. Heat an ovenproof griddle or skillet over medium heat and lightly grease with butter. Add the sandwiches and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned on the bottom, 1 to 1½ minutes.
4. Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board. Using a biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass, cut out a 2-inch hole in the center of each sandwich. Return the sandwiches and cutouts to the griddle, browned side up, and melt a sliver of butter in the holes. Crack an egg into each hole and cook over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Transfer the griddle to the broiler and cook until the top is browned and the egg whites are just set but the yolk is still runny, about 2 minutes. The tops and bottoms should be perfectly golden, but be careful not to overtoast the bread.
5. Sprinkle the eggs with truffle salt, if using, and serve immediately, with the cutouts of bread on the side.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick