Nov 3, 2014

Hawaii 'English' Muffin Sandwiches

Toasted bread gets boring on sandwiches, so I have revisited English muffins. I love English Muffins, the way butter melts into the nooks and crannies in a toasted muffin, with the soft interior and the crispy toasted top. In some ways, English muffins are better than bread. Sure, you can toast bread, but it's not the same. Not at all.

So why are they called 'ENGLISH' muffins? Good question, because the closest thing to an English muffin in England are crumpets, teacakes or scones, however 'American' English muffins are available in some British supermarkets, where they are usually sold simply as muffins. The English deny that they ever heard or saw anything like it until they were imported from America. 

Samuel Bath Thomas
The story is that a 26 year old English baker, Samuel Bath Thomas, started making English muffins in 1880 in his bakery in New York City, using his mother's tea cake recipe. In 1919 Thomas died leaving his business to his four daughters and nephews. It wasn't until 1970 that Samuel Thomas' English Muffin company was bought by CPC, a food conglomerate that eventually renamed itself as Best Foods. Today the Thomas' English Muffins brand is owned by Mexican food conglomerate Grupo Bimbo SAB. Thomas' English Muffins are the original and still the #1 selling English muffin brand racking up $500 million dollars in muffin sales annually. Obviously someone out there likes English muffins.

Besides the United Kingdom, English muffins are available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and of course the United States. Here in Hawaii, even on the small rural island of Moloka'i where I live, several brands, including Thomas', are easily found in our small grocery stores.

In case you can't get English muffins where you live, they are about 3 inches round and 1 inch high, yeast raised (basically a bread dough) and baked on a griddle (see recipe below). To get the proper texture when split in two they should not be cut with a knife, but should be split with a fork. The resulting rough texture gives them a certain crunchiness when toasted, which help them hold gobs of butter and preserves.

English muffins are famous in America for the classic eggs benedict and more recently, the Eggs McMuffin, tuna melts, and mini pizzas. What else can you do with them? Here are my English Muffin sandwich recipes with a taste of Hawaii:

English Muffin Portuguese Sausage 
Breakfast Sandwich
Click on photo to view larger
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 Portuguese sausage, about 10 thin slices
1 small red bell pepper (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
salt (dash)
soy sauce (dash)
butter (softened)
2 English muffins, split and toasted
2 fried eggs
cracked black pepper

In a skillet, add oil, Portuguese sausage slices, bell pepper, garlic, salt and soy sauce, cook until the bell pepper is slightly wilted on medium high heat. Spread butter on toasted English muffin slices and add the above cooked ingredients. Top each with one fried egg, a little cracked black pepper, and a toasted English muffin top. Serve with fresh fruit. Makes 2 servings.

Topless Smoked Salmon English Muffin 
Breakfast Sandwich
half of an avocado
juice from 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2 pound smoked salmon
4 thin slices of Jarlsberg Swiss cheese
1 English muffin, split and toasted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Remove avocado from its skin and mash it in a small bowl. Add a small squeeze of lemon.

Toast the english muffin and top it with cheese, avocado, and smoked salmon.

Boil 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon vinegar. Fill a ramekin or any microwave safe bowl 3/4 of the way with boiling vinegar/water solution. Crack an egg and gently slip it into the water, making sure it's completely submerged. Cover with plastic wrap or a plate and microwave on high for 1 minute, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Drain the water using a slotted spoon and place each egg on top of your english muffin halves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 2 servings.

Topless English Muffin Honey-Banana 
Breakfast Sandwich
Elvis would have been proud!

2 English Muffins, split and toasted
1 large ripe banana, mashed
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons Hawaiian honey
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together and spread on toast. Makes 2 servings.

Ahi Tuna English Muffin Sandwiches 
with Mandarin Sauce
1 1/4 pounds fresh ahi tuna
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lite soy sauce
3 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 English Muffins, split and toasted
1 recipe Mandarin sauce (optional; see recipe below)

Remove any skin from the tuna and coarsely chop in a blender or food processor (or with a knife) until it is the consistency and texture of ground beef. Transfer the tuna to a bowl and combine with the garlic, mustard, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, and salt and pepper. Shape the tuna into 4 patties and refrigerate 30 minutes before cooking.

Heat the sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the tuna patties for 2-4 minutes on each side until done. Serve on toasted English Muffins topped with Mandarin sauce (recipe below). Makes 4 servings.

Mandarin Sauce
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
1 (8 ounce) can mandarin oranges, chopped (saving the juice from the can)
1/3 cup mandarin juice, reserved from can

In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Shrimp English Muffin Sandwiches
with Chipotle Cream and Avocado
1 pound raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chipotle from a (7-ounce) can of chipotles in adobo sauce, more if you like it spicy
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 lime, juiced
1 pinch of salt
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro for garnish
4 English Muffins, split and toasted

Add shrimp to a food processor and pulse until chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add egg, panko, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, onion, and basil. Mix until combined, then form mixture into 4 patties (form tightly with your hands, trying to prevent cracking). Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then cook shrimp patties until golden on each side, about 3-4 minutes. In a blender, blend together sour cream, mayonnaise, chopped chipotle, lime juice and a pinch of salt. Spread on top of toasted English Muffins, then layer with avocado and garnish with fresh cilantro, topped with a fried shrimp patty. Serve with slices of fresh mango on the side.Makes 4 shrimp MyMuffin sandwiches.

Baked Salmon English Muffin Sandwich 
with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Ingredients for salmon patties:
3/4 pound salmon fillet, cubed
3 tablespoons Thai fish Sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
3/8 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
splash sesame oil
kosher salt and white pepper to taste

Ingredients for the pickles and brine:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 cup daikon, cut into matchsticks

Ingredients for the Sriracha mayonnaise:
1/4 cup Sriracha chili sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
3 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger

Ingredients for the sandwich:
4 English Muffins
soy sauce
cilantro sprigs
1 cup cucumber, cut into matchsticks

Combine first 4 ingredients for pickle brine. Add carrots and daikon, cover and let pickle for 30 to 60 minutes.

Chop all ingredients for salmon patties in the bowl of a food processor until finely minced and well combined. Make 4, 3-inch salmon patties. Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Place salmon patties on a baking sheet, lined with foil, and bake in the oven approximately 25 minutes.

Mix Sriracha mayonnaise ingredients together, tasting as you go so that the sauce is spicy enough to your taste. Toast split muffins in the oven until just beginning to brown, approximately 10 minutes. Brush the muffins with Sriracha mayonnaise and add salmon patties. Add cilantro sprigs on top. Drizzle with soy sauce and add pickles and cucumber matchsticks. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Spicy Grilled English Muffin 'Spam' Sandwich
Ingredients for Spam burger:
24 ounces freshly ground beef chuck
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1/4-inch slices of Spam
4 slices fresh pineapple, about the same size as a Spam slice
8 slices Swiss cheese
4 English muffins, split

Ingredients for the Sriracha mayonnaise:
1/4 cup Sriracha chili sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
3 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger

Divide meat into four even piles and shape into burger patties about 1/2-inch wider than English muffins. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.

Mix Sriracha mayonnaise ingredients together, tasting as you go so that the sauce is spicy enough to your taste. Set aside.
Place burger patties directly over hot side of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well charred, about 6 minutes total. Top each grilled burger with 1 slice of cheese, then transfer to a large plate and tent with aluminum foil so the cheese will melt.

Place spam and pineapple slices on grill and cook, turning occasionally, until heated through and well charred. Place 1 slice cheese on top of each Spam patty. Transfer Spam and pineapple to cool side of grill.

Toast English muffins on grill. Place bottom buns on a cutting board. Top with a slice of grilled pineapple. Add burger/cheese patty, then top with cheese/SPAM. Top with Sriracha mayo, then close burger with top of toasted muffin. Serve immediately with Asian Coleslaw (see recipe). Makes 4 Spam burgers.

Homemade English Muffins
I know, it's a lot easier to buy them than make them, but the end result is much better homemade.

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
a pinch of sugar
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening (or butter at room temperature)
3/4 cup milk

Combine the yeast with the warm water and sugar.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the shortening. Now pour in the yeast water and milk. Stir until a dough ball forms. If you are using a stand mixer and dough hook to knead the dough, this will take about 6 minutes until the dough becomes elastic like. If you knead by hand it will probably take 8-10 minutes plus a lot of muscle. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 60-90 minutes).

Put the dough out on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Roll each muffin into a ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and a little bit of cornmeal (or flour). Cover, and allow to rise for an additional hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet (or other oven safe pan) over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil. You don't want too much as our goal isn't to fry the dough, plus we don't want it to stick to the pan either. Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side. You want each side to get very brown, but not burnt.

Once you've cooked each side put the skillet in the oven at 400°F for 10-12 minutes until the english muffins are cooked through.

If you do not have an oven safe pan, or you don't have one large enough for all the muffins, you can remove the muffins after cooking on each side to the baking sheet (still lined with parchment paper and cornmeal) and bake on there. Either way.

These are wonderful just out of the oven the day they are made. If you have leftovers, just place the cooled muffins in a Ziplock bag and seal it up. These will easily last a few days on the counter, or up to a week in the refrigerator or frozen in an airtight container for 6 months. Makes 8 English muffins.

Note: Use caution if heating in a microwave as the muffins will toughen.

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