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The Fantastic Breakfast Dish Known as “Joe’s Special”

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Joe's Special

Joe's Special

The Perfect Breakfast Plate

Do you love pancakes? Imagine that you are at your favorite breakfast stop. With one hand, the waitress refills your coffee cup. With other hand, she delivers a steaming plate of fluffy, tender, honey-blonde pancakes. The sweet aroma is intoxicating: A creamy river of thick maple syrup and melting butter glissade down the sides of the stack.

A tempting stack of pancakes.

A tempting stack of pancakes.

Or perhaps your favorite breakfast treat is Belgian waffles—sweet vanilla-flavored batter baked to a golden crispness. The deep, brown craters are filled with a baptism of butter and fresh strawberries, adorned with a heavenly dusting of confectioner's sugar.

Waffles with strawberries and confectioner's sugar.

Waffles with strawberries and confectioner's sugar.

Or, if you prefer a savory breakfast, envision Eggs Benedict. The eggs are perfectly poached, begging to be pierced with your fork so that their yellow-orange yolks can ooze onto . . .

. . . the smoky, salty, tender slices of Canadian bacon, which sit atop . . .

. . . buttery English muffins. The edges are toasted to a perfect crispness; the interior is a moonscape of holes and craters waiting to be filled with the sumptuous egg yolk and . . .

. . . a spoonful (or more) of Hollandaise sauce which enrobes all three components in a tangy, golden blanket of richness.

SIGH!

Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict.

A Brief Background of the Dish

Are you getting hungry? All three of these breakfast choices are blissfully tasty, luxurious, and beautiful.

. . . And then there is “Joe’s Special”. What can we say about "Joe"? Well, two outta three ain’t bad. Joe’s Special certainly has the taste, and it is luxurious (or perhaps I should use the word decadent). But, it’s not a pretty face.

What Is "Joe's Special"?

“Joe’s Special” and I were introduced to each other (do I dare say about 40 years ago?) when I attended a Christmas brunch with the female staff members of my office—a girls’ get-away.

I’m somewhat of an adventurer when it comes to eating out. I would rather try something that I have not cooked at home. Hey, you only live once. (However, I’m not Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern crazy).

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I saw on the menu “Joe’s Special”—scrambled eggs (I love eggs!), with spinach, mushrooms, garlic, onions, and ground beef. Each of those sounds wonderful on their own. Could they taste great together? I was willing to explore—and I’m so glad that I did!

So Who Is the Genius Behind This?

There are many versions of this dish, and it seems that anyone named Joe (or Joseppi) is willing to claim this creation as his own. Some say that it was invented to feed hungry miners who came to California for the Gold Rush. Others say that the recipe was conceived of at Joe’s Restaurant in the 1930s. The Bunny Bennington band came in near closing time, and “Joe” whipped up this dish for them with the ingredients he had on hand.

Who knows?

What is certain is that this genius concoction originated in the San Francisco area.

The Original Recipe

The website californiaforvisitors.com provides the following as the authentic recipe for Joe's Special.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound ground sirloin of beef
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry (optional)
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil and add the crumbled ground sirloin, chopped onions, and minced garlic. Cook until the beef is almost browned and the onions and garlic are tender.
  2. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they are soft.
  3. Add sherry to the mixture, heat about a minute, and stir in spinach and seasonings (oregano, nutmeg, salt, pepper). Cook the mixture until just heated throughout.
  4. Add the beaten eggs and cook, stirring, until the eggs are firm but still tender.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Making the Recipe Healthier

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Now, I'm not going to pretend that a combination of eggs, ground meat, and cheese can be health-food, but I do think that a few adjustments could be made to the original recipe to reduce the calories, fat, and sodium, and maybe even give it a bit of a nutritional boost. Let's see what we can do.

The Sirloin and Oil

The original recipe calls for one pound of ground sirloin simmered in 1/4 cup (!) of olive oil. In my recipe, I do the following:

  • Change ground sirloin to lean (7 percent fat) ground turkey.
  • Reduce amount of meat from 1 pound (16 ounces) to 12 ounces.
  • Reduce amount of olive oil to 2 teaspoons.

The Vegetables

I have no argument with any of the vegetables, or amounts, in the original recipe. Some say that kale is "healthier" than spinach, but if you look at the actual nutritional values, spinach vs. kale is pretty much a tie. Use whichever one you prefer (or have in your refrigerator).

Sherry?

Sherry can provide a wonderful sweet/nutty flavor to any dish. But 90 calories seems a bit much for such a fleeting benefit. I would omit the sherry. You really won't miss it.

Eggs

Eggs have gotten a bad rap. For a long time, we were told that eggs contain cholesterol, and thus are evil. But nutritionists and medical research have now recognized that (keeping all things in moderation) dietary cholesterol has little impact on one's blood cholesterol.

And when you consider that eggs are an excellent source of protein, minerals and vitamins and are relatively inexpensive (may I say "cheep"?), you can safely include them in your diet. I limit myself to 2 eggs per week. Happy weekend!

The BBC has some great information on the health benefits of eggs.

Seasonings and Parmesan Cheese

Actually, Parmesan, in this case, is also a seasoning—not a main component. For that reason, I have reduced the amount from 8 tablespoons to 4. If you use a good-quality, flavorful Parmesan, you needn't use a ton. Just a delicate sprinkle will provide that salty/savory snap that we crave on the top of our most amazing "Joe's Eggs".

The New (and Improved) Carb Diva Joe's Special

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces ground turkey (7 percent fat)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the ground turkey, chopped onions, and minced garlic. Cook until the turkey is almost browned and the onions and garlic are tender.
  3. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they are soft. Stir in spinach and seasonings (oregano, nutmeg, salt, pepper). Cook the mixture until just heated through.
  4. Add the beaten eggs and cook, stirring, until the eggs are firm but still tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Comparing the Two Versions: What Is the Final Analysis?

Sirloin vs. ground turkey. A little or a lot of olive oil. Reducing the cheese. Omitting the sherry wine. Does it matter? Here are the results:

Nutrition Facts (4 Servings)

 Amount Per Serving 

 

Original Recipe

Carb Diva Recipe

Calories

498.7

277.1

Total Fat

32.8 g

14.8 g

--- Saturated fat

9.8 g

4.7 g

--- Poly. Fat

2.3 g

1.3 g

--- Mono. Fat

12.6 g

3.9 g

Cholesterol

255.9 mg

249.6 mg

Sodium

920.6 mg

825.5 mg

Potassium

404.4 mg

399.5 mg

Total Carbohydrate

9.9 g

9.7 g

© 2016 Linda Lum

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