Gluten-Free Travel: Safe Foods

Huevos Rancheros

Last week, I mentioned that the one thing I do when I’m recovering from an accidental glutening is a retreat into my favorite comfort foods (the risotto was fantastic!). Having an out-of-town trip mid-process makes the entire recovery process a bit challenging.

Or so I grumbled to myself as I got up early to make gluten-free sandwiches for the trip. As my husband reviewed my stash of “safe” foods for the journey, he noted we weren’t leaving the country. As I reviewed the stash, I had to agree: I’d gone overbooard. After all, we were headed to San Diego, a place gluten-free options are plentiful…as is great Mexican food!

Traditional Mexican cooking — not the stuffy you get in chain restaurants — is naturally gluten free. Of course, like so many other cuisines, gluten has wormed its way into many recipes. Still, you can eat great Mexican food, gluten free. In fact, when I’m traveling, it’s one of my default choices.

And while I’ve never been a huge breakfast person, when I travel, I wake up starving (it may be all the walking while exploring a new city). On this trip, two mornings in a row, quite unintentionally, I had very different, very delicious versions of Huevos Rancheros.

(A woman at the next table, seeing my breakfast, leaned over and said, “That looks very good.” I smiled and agreed. Then she said, “It’s even better in Mexico!” I couldn’t disagree.)

At its heart, Huevos Rancheros is a simple dish: a corn tortilla fried crisp, some beans, a fried egg, ranchero sauce, a dusting of cheese.

But, as they say, it’s all in the execution. I love avocado and fresh radish with mine. I love substituting the tortilla with a black bean cake. I love taking all the traditional ingredients and turning them into a perfect bunless burger (who needs bread with all those tasty ingredients?). I love playing with sauces, layering fillings between tortillas, trying different styles of eggs.

Though I compulsively check to ensure the dish is gluten free when I’m eating out — there are those who think flour tortillas are a good idea! — Huevos Rancheros have been one of the most reliable gluten-free breakfasts, lunches, and even dinners I’ve encountered on my travels. Always tasty, always filling, always different….

And now that I’m craving them, I’m pretty sure I know what we’re having for dinner tomorrow. What are your safe gluten-free foods traveling?

Tip of the Week

Of course I always make too much risotto — which is a problem because the cheese and starchy rice seize up, making reheating it a nightmare. Rather than trying to resurrect the dish, I make fried risotto cakes. Using an ice cream scoop to make the cakes a consistent size, I form the risotto into patties, lightly dust them with rice flour or corn starch, and fry until crispy on the outside, hot and creamy on the inside. Between you and me, I may like risotto better this way than the traditional way!

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

In restaurants, Huevos Rancheros are often on the breakfast menu, but I love them any time of day. You can customize the basic recipe to suit your ingredients and mood. If my experience in the various Mexican restaurants I’ve been to — and growing up in California means I’ve been to many! — your way is just as authentic as any other way.

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