How good are the bagel sandwiches Matteson Koche sells from his El Bagel food truck?
Put it this way: People will wait in line outside during Miami downpours just to get their hands on one before Koche runs out, which usually happens less than two hours after he opens for the day.
“There hasn’t been someone who has made a bagel of this quality because a lot of people are focused on [making] money,” said Koche, 27. “We focus on the bagel.”
He achieves this high standard of quality by eschewing certain practices that are commonplace in making mass-produced bagels. He uses wild yeast instead of the commercially manufactured kind. He hand-rolls his bagels rather than using a machine. And he allows his bagels to undergo a slow, 48-hour fermentation before baking them.
All of this effort creates bagels with a crisp exterior and an interior that elegantly walks the line between dense and airy. It’s the Goldilocks (Goldilox?) of bagels: just right.
El Bagel is all about local flavors
Although Koche’s dough is a delight on its own, it’s his bagel sandwiches that elevate the experience. He takes his childhood nostalgia of eating in classic Jewish delis and combines that with the local flair of Miami products and flavors.
“We focus on the bagel.”
“I don’t like the idea of replicating a New York deli,” he said. “We’re in Miami. Let’s make it new. I want to work with local people and local produce.”
With that in mind, you’ll find sandwiches like the King Guava, a take on the Cuban pastelito that layers local Redland guava, cream cheese, a fried egg and potato sticks. Ask nicely and he might make you the off-menu El Bagel Original: roasted jalapeño peppers, scallion cream cheese and thick-cut bacon from Proper Sausages.
Cream cheese and gravlax
While reluctant to reveal his proprietary — and very involved — bagel recipe, Koche did share two of his favorite bagel pairings: gravlax and vegetable cream cheese.
“My mom always used to make gravlax for brunch at home,” he said. “It’s a simple recipe that tastes really good. You want a sharp knife to slice it as thin as possible.”
As for the vegetable cream cheese, he likes it for its flexibility — any vegetables that you pick up at a farmers market or that you find in your refrigerator will do.
MAKES 6-8 SERVINGS
2-3 pounds Atlantic salmon (whole filet, center cut)
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup kosher salt
1-2 bunches dill
- Trim off the skin. Pat salmon dry and place on plastic wrap (do not cut plastic wrap at this point).
- Mix sugar and salt. Coat salmon on both sides, covering completely. Cover top side with dill sprigs and lemon slices.
- Wrap salmon tightly several times with plastic wrap, leaving one end open. Place salmon on a sheet pan and put in the refrigerator. Put a plate or another sheet pan on top of the salmon, weighing it down with heavy cans. Refrigerate for 36-48 hours, flipping fish and draining liquid halfway through.
- Remove plastic wrap and wash fish with cold water, then pat dry. Slice as thinly as possible across the top of the fish using a sharp knife.
VEGETABLE CREAM CHEESE
MAKES 6-8 SERVINGS
2 pounds plain cream cheese
1 large red onion
6 garlic cloves
1 bunch scallions
2-3 red bell peppers
2-3 other peppers (jalapeño, serrano, poblano, etc.)
Any other vegetables or herbs as desired
- Chop all vegetables and arrange on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and salt.
- Broil on high for 5-10 minutes, until vegetables begin to char. Remove from oven and let cool.
- In a stand mixer, combine vegetables and cream cheese on high for 1-2 minutes. Add chile powder and/or hot sauce to taste.