Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 35

Curried eggs!

Never would have dreamed of trying this knock-out recipe from the absolutely awesome 660 Curries unless I was embroiled in this egg exploration. Mighty glad I stretched my wings on this one, though. It was so delicious. The chalkiness of the cooked yolks turned velvety when simmered in the intense curry sauce.

The finished eggs were nested in brown rice, alongside stir-fried pea vines and red cabbage, onions and shallots I finished in a shower of balsamic vinegar in the wok. Kind of turned out like a warm slaw. Darned tasty, fairly healthy dinner, which was what I was craving after a weekend of really rich food in Portland. (See below.)

This success has inspired me to go on the hunt for more world-food egg recipes. Can you help?

Read how this experiment was hatched in Part 1.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Parts 31, 32, 33, 34

The challenge with this experiment is the natural tendency to gravitate toward the familiar. I went into the weekend determined to shake things up; to seek out some wild eggs.

I found some gems in Portland, Oregon, one of my favorite eating cities. I went there to check out the cool deals offered through the Portland Perks package, including lots of breaks at area restaurants. I love the diversity of the dining scene there. The city is home to stylish venues as well as hundreds of food carts that stretch the limits of culinary creativity. I stopped at Swamp Shack and Violetta, a new truck that features local meat and produce. I was nuts about the nacho fries at Big Ass Sandwich. Now, if only they could have put an egg on top. Nuts! I guess I should have asked.

First fantastic egg of the trip was served at the lovely dining room of the Heathman Hotel, which I would make my second home if/when I win the Mega Millions. It was a poached duck egg served with trotters. Holy cow! That dish was rich, rich, rich. The duck yolk, extra golden.

Next two eye-openers were served at exotic Ping. Throughout dinner, Johnny and I kept wondering aloud: Why isn't there a place like this in Seattle? It's so fresh, so original. Asian street food done with tons of style and a great value, too. I can't say enough about the raging hot egg salad, a vinegary mix of greens and chili with sliced eggs on top. YUM!

Then, the tea-marinated egg. WOW! This hard-boiled egg took on a smoky/salty flavor. I've got to try making this at home. Is this what some cookbooks call the "100-year egg"? More research is needed!

Before hitting I-5 North, we ate a swell Sunday brunch at Nel Centro. Johnny ordered a fluffy omelette, fattened up by goat cheese and sweet spring asparagus. I got the corned beef hash topped by a pair of poached eggs. This was probably the most traditional egg dish I ordered all weekend, but it came with a twist. Not truly a "hash", this meat-and-potato saute was a refined variation of the diner specialty. A fine pedestal for those eggs.

Nothing like a couple of days out of town to stir the pot, providing fresh inspiration. Next up on my egg agenda: curried eggs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Egg A Day Experiment, Part 30

Years ago, I interviewed a Memphis Grizzlies player named Bo Outlaw. I heard he was a chowhound, so I said, let's break bread together.

It was challenging. He was a one-word answer kinda guy. And when I asked why some folks didn't consider his native Texas part of the South, I thought he was going to thump me. He drew me a map on the placemat of the Barksdale, a diner in Midtown, where we met.

But finally, he cheered up when the food was set in front of him. He slid his fried eggs into a bowl of grits and stirred furiously. Hmmm. I was new to the South and had never seen that done. Well, that was the first and last time I saw a wild scramble of eggs into grits.

Now, a beautifully poached egg nestled onto a heap of rustic polenta-like grits is a whole 'nother ball game. I am madly in love with David Chang's version of shrimp and grits, which calls for an egg and bits of bacon on top. The egg serves as the sauce for this dish, the golden yolk spilling out and adding richness.

I wonder what Bo Outlaw would think of Momofuku's shrimp and grits.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 29

Smoked salmon deviled eggs. Genius! Why didn't I think of that?

Darlene, cook extraordinaire, made them for our book group yesterday. Along with a wonderful chicken and bacon strata -- a savory bread pudding, so more eggs -- and yogurt with homemade granola. So good.

In answer to that age-old question, the deviled eggs came before the chicken strata. But seriously, which came first? My daughter Claire and I talk this one over occasionally. The egg? OK, but the chicken would have to lay the egg. But the chicken comes from an egg.

You rarely find a dish that combines chicken and eggs, right? Ah, that strata. Chicken salad with hard-cooked eggs? Maybe. Wonder what chicken salad stuffed into deviled eggs would be like?

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 27 and 28

Today was a double egg day. Eggs in the morning, eggs at night.

Huevos Rancheros, the much-abused dish. Rarely done right. It's all about the beans, right? Because without the beans, do you have anything? Yes. Huevos (eggs) on Rancheros (red sauce) is so simple, so straightforward. But it constantly gets screwed up. Embellished with crema, mucked up by cheese.

Guess what? A food writer named Clementine was credited with introducing this dish to America in the 1950s.

I have eaten so many crappy Huevos Rancheros, I stopped ordering it. But this morning, I tried again. At Citizen. The crepe place in my neighborhood, which I like so much except. Darn it. The food is pretty average. The people are so nice, but the food is just ho-hum and served lukewarm. The eggs were overcooked. They should be runny. You know what? I took a picture, but it's just not pretty. Especially the banged up avocado. Oh, all right. I will include the pic.

The egg wasn't runny like the poached egg I perched on some asparagus. It was perfect. I love that combination of textures, the squishy egg, the tender-crisp veg. A rich layer of olive oil, shredded Parm kind of melting into the background. And so pretty!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 25 and 26

I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I do not like them Sam I Am.

I just read that book to my three-year-old neighbor, Lila, the other day. Of course, he ends up liking Green Eggs and Ham once he tried them. I always love the sing-songy rhythm of Dr. Seuss and I am crazy about the Green Eggs and Ham at The Crumpet Shop.

It's pesto mixed into eggs and nuked, yes, microwaved eggs. It's the only time I like eggs cooked that way, served on those thick crumpets. There are loads of things I like on that tidy menu, but the Green Eggs and Ham are at the top of the list.

Part 26

My husband, Johnny, (Mr. Nelson to the kiddos he just student-taught at Bear Creek Elementary), is a breakfast burrito master. He can go on and on about how much he loves stuffing things in tortillas, but scrambled eggs are his fave. Nothing special, he makes 'em a little toasty in the George Foreman.

We ate them standing in the kitchen this morning, as the cable guy hooked up a new HD box. We now can watch the Seattle Mariners in high definition, but the install was frustrating. Extra expenses for this and that and extra cable. Not exactly the scenario for a relaxing meal. But that's the beauty of a burrito, right? You can eat it on the go.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 22, 23 and 24

What do you fry your egg in? I'm talking about butter, bacon grease, olive oil...

As much as I love butter, I like a more neutral flavor for cooking a fried egg. I want don't want anything to overpower the egg-y goodness. So I use short blast of olive oil spray. I fry it hot because I like the edges of the white to get a little brown and crispy. And it works.

My grandfather was a big believer in keeping a can of bacon grease around to fry his daily egg and I think if I had to go with a fat, I would choose that over butter. Oh. Just remembered I have some duck fat in the fridge. Wonder how that would be? Guess I'll have to try it.

Part 23 and 24:

Saturday was a big day for eggs in my kitchen. I made a rhubarb upside down cake, the batter a golden yellow hue thanks to a couple of eggs. It was a smash hit. Next time, I think I might add another egg.

Also made meatballs, the egg as the binder holding the mix of ground beef, pork, chopped oregano, onions, garlic, bread crumbs. I did something a little differently this time, soaking the bread in milk. It made for a softer, almost delicate texture.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 21

Went to a wonderful three-hour lunch in Bellevue yesterday, a media/blogger preview of Artisanal's new spring menu. The six-course meal was impressive, but there was one dish that stood out as a "what does not belong in this picture?"

It was a pork belly bowl with soba noodles. Not exactly something you'd expect to find on the menu at a French brasserie, huh? Well, guess what nudged it back toward France? The most beautiful poached egg. I wish I would have asked the chef, Terrence Brennan, how the kitchen acheived such a feat.

As it does, the egg added richness to the deeply flavored broth. It's somehow exotic, yet simple. The bowl was a hit. I'm still a little puzzled about its place on the mostly French menu. C'est la vie!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 19 and 20

My better half makes a mean frittata, the open-faced omelet, pictured up top with ham, spinach and sharp cheddar. He sautes the various components before sliding the eggs into the pan and adding those cooked ingredients back on top and finishing it under the broiler.

But yesterday at breaky, we talked about how cool it would be if you could make an omelet like Julia Child did. Beaten eggs in the pan, shake it violently and, voila, a perfect omelet is served. She made it look so easy. Click here to watch her!

Omelet failure is what drove Johnny to fix the frittata instead. He was frustrated when the center wouldn't set. He tried cooking it fast and slow and everything in between, but it was either dry or slimy. Not cool.

Maybe what we both need is to buy a couple dozen eggs and just practice. Oui?

Part 20... I went to lovely Tilikum Place Cafe for lunch yesterday and saw a plate pass by that turned my head and stirred my rumbling tummy. It was a fried egg sitting on top of baked beans and toast. A regular English breakfast, that.

I ended up ordering something else (the special, which was kielbasa, braised red cabbage and perogi, pictured above), but it got me thinking: Why did the English breakfast never take off in this country? With the beans and the fried tomato? I lived in England when I was a college student and flopped at many cheap-o B and Bs. But no matter how tatty the accommodations, I could always look forward to a cooked breakfast. It fueled me until I could ramble into a pub and get a ploughman's lunch. (Pause for nostalgic sigh.)

OK, I'm taking a pledge right now: More beans and eggs in the morning!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 18

So, I think I might be onto something with this egg business.

How do I gauge that? One of my most devoted blog buddies just sent me a link to a great piece that appeared earlier this week, dissecting various ways to deal with post-Easter egg overload. Thank you No Sluggo Dave for this link. If he's my thermometer, I think this egg experiment might be pretty hot. If not, heck, I gave it a shot.

Yesterday, I made meatloaf and struggled with the number of eggs to crack. Should it be one or two or even three? I went with one, but will do two next time. I know egg plus ground meat plus bread crumbs is the basic formula for meatballs and meatloaf. Because I rarely use recipes, I sometimes forget what I've done in the past. So what? I like a moving target. I think the end result is almost always better as it evolves over time.

This version including a fistful of fresh herbs from my dinky plot: two kinds of oregano, thyme, a little rosemary. Wish I had Italian parsley growing out there. I'll plant some this season. I add a small can of tomato sauce, juice it with some habanero pepper sauce. Homemade bread crumbs. Salt and pepper and ketchup on top. Organic ketchup, if that makes it seem slightly less kitschy.

I like the idea of baking hard-cooked eggs into a meatloaf. I think it would look really cool. Next time, maybe.

Just thinking about the unlikely pairing of hamburger and eggs suddenly gives me a craving for loco moco, the egg-topped burger from Hawaii. Or the special request I make at Shultzy's for an egg on top of my sausage sandwich. Wouldn't it be sad if you didn't like eggs? Because you would never know how good those dishes taste.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 17

When I was a food writer for daily newspapers, there were certain seasonal stories I dreaded doing: Thanksgiving leftovers, lean cuisine for post-holiday dieters, Mother's Day Brunch menus (can't you take Mom out to dinner, for heaven's sake? Why's it always about brunch?)

But I don't believe I ever wrote about the morning after Easter, when you've got cartons of hard-boiled eggs and you're wondering what the heck to do with 'em.

As I've mentioned before, hard-boiled eggs were never my thang. I wasn't crazy about the rubbery whites and the gritty yolks. Frankly, I thought egg salad stank. But that was before I tried the egg salad at Roses Bakery Cafe in Eastsound, Washington. It was a thing of beauty, served open-face, intensely seasoned. It was a treat. (My sister ordered it and let me have a few bites.)

Since then, I've been looking for a recipe that goes beyond the mix of mayo and mustard and I've yet to find anything. Though I'm tempted to try my anchovy mayo as a foundation for this sandwich spread. Anybody care to share their favorite egg salad recipe?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 15 and 16

While Claire and I were out on a walk, I saw a pink Easter Bunny patting kiddos on the heads while they hunted for Easter eggs. Cute, huh?

Well, here was the problem: The lawn at the church where the Bunny had done a pretty lousy job of "hiding" eggs was covered in plastic. Who invented these foul things anyway? Probably somebody who was a victim of a wayward Easter egg that went all stinky.

It's been years since I colored eggs. Claire's hunting days are long passed. (The photo above was taken when she was 3.) And, back then, I didn't really know what to do with a bunch of hard-boiled eggs. I wasn't into deviled eggs or egg salad. The first time I remember the hard-boiled egg light going on was at a restaurant in Spokane I loved dearly. Paprika's genius chef, Karla Graves, made an enchilada with chopped hard-boiled eggs, topped with a pumpkin seed sauce. I recently found that recipe and I'm going to try to recreate that dish that was so damn exotic, yet familiar somehow.

Anyway, no Easter eggs at our house this year. Not even chocolate ones.

Part 15: Last night, I made carbonara. Sauteed pancetta, beat eggs and poured them into hot pasta. Shaved Parm, salt and pepper, some local spring asparagus on the side. So satisfying. And simple, too. I don't add cream to carbonara, relying on the eggs for the richness. It probably isn't, but it seems lighter than a heavy cream version.

You know another noodle dish that uses egg for depth and character? Pad Thai.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 14

I used to be afraid of making mayo. Why? It's so easy. It's crazy easy. Really!

When I was prep cooking at Alpha Sigma Phi, I got lots of practice... because the fantastic head chef Darlene Barnes (whose excellent deviled egg is pictured above) made lots of Caesar salads for the guys and the dressing was from based on an anchovy mayo. I love that anchovy mayo. It's so rich and exotic, but you cannot taste the fishy fish. It's the oboe in the symphony.

So, here's how I conquered my mayo-phobia: Drop one clove garlic and one anchovy into the whirling blade. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and one egg. I know using a raw egg can be risky, but I use farmers market eggs, so what? Then, while the blade is spinning, I drizzle in olive oil... until I hear it thicken. You'll know. Stop. Check it. Yeah, go ahead and stick your finger in that! So freaking delish, right?

If I were to finish that recipe for a Caesar, I would add some lemon juice... to taste... a dash or two or three of Worchestshire and Tabasco and some shredded Parm. Give it a whirl. Taste. Add to shredded romaine. Top with more Parm and fresh cracked pepper. OMG!

So, backing up... I use the anchovy mayo to the egg yolks for my deviled eggs, version 1. My favorite version. The dish I top with a caper and can't stop eating. They're heavenly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Egg A Day Experiment, Part 13

Today's experiment: What happens when you deep-fry an egg?

It's dramatic: Splatter, sputter, crackle. It's done in less than 10 seconds. It was not pretty.

Why the hell did I even try? Well, because sometimes you've got to break a few eggs when you're experimenting. I already had a pot of oil going.... for my chocolate fried pies. Yes, they're as good as they sound. I've made them twice now and dang, it makes me nostalgic for the South. Where, by gum, they know how to deep-fry.

It drives me crazy to hear the fat police bashing deep-frying when bacon-wrapped-bacon is on menus or pork belly or mac-and-cheese. When done correctly, deep-frying isn't as bad as its made out to be. Besides, I walked five miles today, mostly in my kitchen. From the fridge to the counter to the sink and to the stove and back again.

Anyway, I wouldn't recommend deep-frying a plain old egg. But put some meat and breading around it and you've got Scotch eggs. The perfect pub grub?