Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 12

So, I took my deviled eggs (see Part 11) to a tapas party and they were warmly received, but the finger food that made me happiest was sardine-topped crostini. And, guess what? It had diced egg on top.

Now, I feel like most people miss the boat when it comes to sardines. The haters will say they're too fishy. But they're really pretty mild. Especially in this lovely preparation: Smear a bit of harissa paste onto a toasted piece of bread. Top with shaved shallots, sardines that have been seasoned with a little white wine vinegar and chopped eggs.

That's a whole lot of flavor, but the richness of the fish is balance by the spiciness of the chili paste. The eggs added a mellow note. They weren't the star, but an important supporting player. I am going to make that preparation myself and soon. Maybe even tonight.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 11

I'm going to a tapas potluck tonight. Scallops from Taylor Shellfish are the star of the show and fritters from a Red Cat (the famous pub in Brooklyn) recipe. Can't wait!

So, what am I bringing?

My kick-ass deviled eggs. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: I'm a fairly recent convert to the charms of these heavenly bites. It wasn't until I lived in the South that I got to taste deviled eggs as they were meant to be, the yolks turned velvety instead of gritty because somebody had the good sense to add a little butter. Be still my sluggishly beating heart.

Since my deviled egg epiphany, I've been playing around with making my own. It's harder than you think. The biggest challenge for me is peeling the eggs. It seems like those shells would slide right off, but no... They crumble and shatter into a million sharp little pieces that you have pick off the egg one by one by one until you're ready to SCREAM!

Please, somebody show me the way! How's it done? If you share, I promise to print my secret recipe for deviled eggs that have the power to make saints into sinners.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 10

I picked up a loaf of Challah bread on Friday and then forgot about it. (Don't know how that happened. Bread is usually inhaled in our home.)

Nothing like stale bread to inspire a batch of French toast. After eating at Mother's Bistro in Portland last fall, I've changed up the way I make my French toast, giving the egg-and-milk-dunked bread a coating of corn flakes before frying. It might sound goofy, but I love the contrast of the rich, soft bread and the crispy cereal. (I use Trader Joe's Organic Corn Flakes.)

I spiked my French toast batter with whatever juice I have in the fridge for a little extra character. The other day that was apricot nectar. I also had some apricot syrup from the Farmers Market. Oh my goodness.

Hey, I just got another egg-y inspiration! Next time I make a breakfast bread pudding, I'm going to try topping it with corn flakes. Mmmmm!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 9

My life is filled with good eggs. Kind, thoughtful family and friends. I have no use for bad eggs.

I did a little noodling around, trying to sniff out the origins of the term, good egg. It was used by Brit wiseacre P.G. Wodehouse in the 1920s. Maybe a prep school twist on the bad seed? Nothing definitive.

Yesterday, I went to the U-District Farmers Market and talked to the goat farmer who sold me the eggs with the fragile yolks. I told her a few of the dozen shattered when they hit the pan and asked if she had any idea why this happened. She wasn't sure, but she was sorry to hear about the bad yolks.

But she insisted I take another dozen, no charge. Well, thank you. She sure was a good egg.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 8

I love Mario Batali's recipes. They turn out. They make home cooks look like heroes.

Yesterday, I made Barolo Short Ribs and a ricotta tart from Molto Italiano. The tart -- which I'm guessing was perfected by pastry chef extraordinaire Gina DePalma -- calls for a half a dozen eggs. Eggs in the crust. Eggs in the filling. An egg wash on top. A whole lotta eggs.

The egg wash is particularly interesting to me. The power to lacquer food is an amazing thing. I wish I understood how it worked. I think I need Harold McGee to tell me. But it does, as you can see from the photo above.

I liked how this tart wasn't too sweet. I love lemon-y desserts and this was a fine example of rich ingredients that don't feel heavy after you've eaten them. The citrus lift.

There really aren't many desserts worth eating that don't break a few eggs to achieve body and velvety texture. Oh, the custards and flan and cakes and cookies. My grandmother's rhubarb pie recipe would be a runny mess without eggs.

What's your favorite eggs-centric treat?

Read how this project was hatched.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 7

Breaking news: This just in from Pike Place Creamery's Nancy Nipples... after more queries on that burning question about breaking yolks, the milky detective came up with a few more possibilities:

Maybe pan was too hot.

The membrane around the yolk is delicate and a lot of jostling on the way home could’ve broken it.

When a hen starts laying again after winter and/ or when a young hen just starts laying their yolks are very fragile.

Could have to do with what is in their feed.

Finally, she dismissed the egg is old theory, saying "I am having a hard time believing that eggs you purchased at a Farmer’s Market would be old."

But then, yesterday, I stopped by the Creamery to ... pick up a dozen eggs, which the cashier decorated with a clever illustration... pictured above. And I told her those two were the only yolks that broke: "Well, then, they could be old. When I raised chickens, they used to hide their eggs. They were very sneaky."

The bit about the changing of the season makes the most sense to me. Oh, and, when I buy eggs from the Creamery, I like to get the small ones. It's one of the few places that sells them. I don't know about taste. I just like the way they look in the pan. I'm frying up a couple for breakfast.

Does size matter? Do you always go for the extra large?

Read how this project was hatched.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 6

I would like to award the cook who first thought of breaking an egg on a disc of dough with the Nobel Pizza Prize. What genius! Especially if that egg is nested next to a pile of pancetta or prosciutto.

I first spotted this brilliant combo at Serious Pie, where it's pretty hard to draw attention from the flat-out amazing crust. It's made the day before so the flavors are really rich. The texture is chewy, but never tough. It's a crust of substance. I love that dang crust. Big kudos to Wendy and her crew in the bakery for making that crust so special!!

The lineup of toppings at Serious Pie are interesting, too. A few weeks ago, I had a pie topped with creamy stinging nettles. It was a close-your-eyes-and-moan kind of experience. What? What are you people staring at? Haven't you ever seen "When Harry Met Sally"?

On the current menu, a soft egg shares the billing with guincale (cured jowl meat) and arugula. There's a symphony's worth of flavors and textures in just a few ingredients. Wow! I tried making my own version at home and it turned out pretty darned good. That's it in the pic.

What do you think? Can you picture an egg on your pie?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 5

Hey Bartender: Gimme a shot and a beer and an egg chaser!

I almost always think of eggs as a morning meal, the sunny yolk making waking up a little easier. But, of course, eggs show up at all hours of the day. Egg salad sammies for lunch, frittata for din-din. Hard-boiled and peeled in the dark for a late-night snack.

A very pretty egg was one of the highlights of a recent happy hour at Matt's in the Market, perched on top of a Sloppy Joe. I wonder who was the first Joe to throw an egg on top of a pile of meat? A great moment in history. Do you think it was Ben Franklin? He is, by far, my favorite egghead of all time.

When you think about it, eggs are a pretty perfect bar food. A blast of protein that fortifies the cocktail-er. Sustenance that's straightforward and easy to eat. Maybe that's why huge jars of pickled eggs were fixtures at many a dive bar. Are they still? Been a while since I've seen pickled eggs. Or pickled pig's feet, another retro bar snack.

All this talk of foods with pucker power puts me in the mood to try making my own pickled eggs. Coming right up!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 4

I got baked this morning.

Actually, this egg was technically shirred. Or broiled. On top of a piece of ham, fresh herbs sprinkled on top. A dusting of Parm and four minutes under the flame. Simple, tasty. Why have I never shirred?

I was thumbing through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in bed last night. Yes, I keep it on my nightstand. Which can lead to some pretty saucy dreams.

Ms. Child does all sorts of interesting things to eggs, including mummifying them in aspic. Doesn't really sound appealing, but I bet it would be good. I came around on aspic while living in Memphis, tomato aspic in particular. Especially with some homemade mayo on top. That's the staple of the Lenten lunches at the Calvary Waffle Shop, a seasonal slice of heaven.

But let's get back to baking eggs. What excited me most about this morning's preparation was the casserole dish I got to use. I bought it in the French Alps years ago. It's designed especially for a potato casserole called La Tartiflette. Which, come to think of it, would be even better with an egg on top.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 3

Read how this experiment was hatched, Part 1.

Why do yolks break?

This runny state of affairs has vexed me so often, I gave up frying eggs. Easier to just scramble 'em in the first place.

But I love plopping a perfectly fried egg on top of a piece of toast and then cutting into the yolk, letting the river of yellow flow over the crusty bread. So, I occasional try, try again to fry.

I picked up a dozen eggs at the farmers market on Saturday and thought they would make the perfect candidate to crack into a hot skillet. The plan was to compare an egg from the supermarket and those truly farm fresh eggs. I imagined the eggs from the plucky hens to soar above those inferior supermarket eggs. Guess what? It didn't go that way. Both yolks from the $6 dozen -- yes, SIX BUCKS -- burst as soon as they hit the pan. They looked like a stove top Picasso.

The taste was no great shakes, either. Huge bummer.

I might use the rest to make deviled eggs. I've heard older eggs are the best to devil and I suspect these might not have been moving quickly at $6 a dozen.

So, I called Nancy Nipples, the owner of Pike Place Creamery, and asked: Why do yolks break?

"Honestly, I'm not sure," she said. "But let me ask around."

She called me back and still wasn't certain, though she had lots of interesting conversations about this breaking issue. "Sometimes, farmers market eggs are laid by chickens that don't get fed oyster shells, so their shells are harder. You have to whack 'em a little harder and the shell could puncture the yolk."

Guess what I found out? Ms. Nancy's adorable store is stocking goose eggs right now! They're $2.50 apiece and she says she likes to eat them poached and served on a piece of sourdough. Got to try that!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 2

So, I'm reading the Sunday New York Times and Sam Sifton's writing about hash browns, but also includes a recipe for scrambled eggs with trout caviar. Which might make some people cringe. Egg on egg? I was a skeptic, too, until I had the most sublime dish at the French Laundry.

I was tagging along with a whole lot of wonderful people from Viking and we were getting VIP'd, I knew it from the very start. Our amuse was a hollowed-out shell that had been filled with the most delicate custard and a dollop of caviar. It was pure bliss on mother of pearl spoon. Nobody spoke during those first few bites, just low moans of pleasure. Then we all agreed we had never tasted anything so incredible. At least until the next course. Which I do not recall... but I remember the egg.

Today, I'm making Mother's Bistro French toast for brunch. Without eggs, pain perdure would be milk toast. Which has got to be one of the most vile things ever fed to a person in the name of trying to make them feel better. My grandmother would occasionally use it to try and figure out if we were really sick. "Maybe what you need is some milk toast," Nana said, hands on hips. That would roust us quicker than the threat of a spoonful of castor oil. Another weapon in her get well toolbox.

Back then, she could have also given us the willys by offering to serve us... yup... fish eggs. When we were kids, those were the bright pink salmon eggs my grandfather used to catch trout. They stank. It was that sense memory that stuck in my head, putting me off caviar of any kind until I got hooked on the flying fish roe used on sushi. Thank goodness I turned the corner. So I could fully appreciate the caviar on that lovely November evening in Yountville in the company of Carol and Martha and LeAnne and John T.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Get Crackin'... The Egg A Day Experiment

My grandfather, Guy McMurtry Kelly, ate an egg every day of his life. And he lived to be 97.

I'm not saying there's a connection, but maybe... I was contemplating the power of the egg while reading Michael Ruhlman's Elements of Food, one of the breeziest reference books I've ever picked up. He goes on and on about how much he loves eggs. Their power to enrich and strength, to emulsify and turn oil into mayo or even better, rouille. His words stirred something in me. A new appreciation for the humble orb.

So, what better day to start something new and egg-centric than the dawning of Spring? I know it's been done to death, but I thought I'd do a daily tribute to the egg... until it gets stale. So, LET'S GET CRACKIN'!

When I cook eggs for breakfast, it's almost always scrambled. Because it's so quick and easy. You don't have to fret about breaking the yolk. You can even -- horrors! -- nuke/scramble in the microwave if you're desperate.

But Ruhlman's prose nudged me into poaching territory. He borrows a technique from Harold McGee to poach the perfect egg, cracking it into a ramekin before sliding onto a slotted spoon where the runny stuff drips out. No more ragged edges. This worked pretty well when I made Momofuku's fan-flipping-tastic Shrimp and Grits, but I don't think I'm going to fuss with it at breakfast for myself. Especially if I'm going to gently spoon that egg onto a bowl of grits.

In the photo above, those are Alber's Quick Grits I made according to the directions on the package, adding a little extra water and then finishing them by folding in shredded Drunken Goat cheese and some shaved Parm. And lots of salt and pepper. And, finally, a few dashes of Tabasco's Habenero sauce on top.

I wonder what Papa -- who liked his one fried egg on a piece of dry toast -- would have thought about that presentation.

Would love to hear any other poaching pointers!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Something new to chew on....

This space definitely needs some serious spring cleaning!

It's sad and forlorn and empty of content and character. Because I'm working my tail off trying to make some dough that's why. Since the demise of the print P-I a year ago, my plate is heaped higher than your average all-you-can-eat Spokane buffet.

Naturally, I feel guilty about neglecting W&D and miss the great conversations I've had here over the years. So, I've hatched a plan. I'm not going to say what it is until Saturday, the first day of my favorite season. From that day forward, I pledge to post here once a day for a year. Promise!