The Egg & I

Last week I whined and complained for 600 words about Chef Anne Burrell’s misuse of eggs.  The original plan was to limit myself to 50-75 words of grousing, then use the rest of the time to talk the magnificence that is an egg.  But it was me hitting those keys—the girl who’s made griping an Olympic-level performance art.

So, here’s the praise portion of the ovum program.And, eggs are pretty darn wonderful.  At 17 cents per, they are cheap nutrition bombs.  First of all, unlike say, Cap’n Crunch, Eggos, or even buttered toast, the ingredients list of an egg contains only one item—egg.  No need to fret over processed chemicals, refined sugars, or artificial flavors and colors.

One large egg contains 6 grams of protein, which makes it one of the least expensive proteins available. That amount is 12% of the RDA (Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily allowance) of 50 grams.  Eggs also contain vitamin A, iron, and calcium (and even more calcium if you enjoy munching on the shell).Within a healthy diet, eggs contribute to muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, brain function, and eye health.

Eggs are the jeans of the food world.  Pants originally worn by miners because of their toughness are now worn by inmates in prison and socialites at formal functions.  The versatility of an egg is phenomenal.  They can be used to make Swiss meringue buttercream (one of my favorite egg incarnations), and on the other end of the scale can be drunk raw as my father used to do when he was running too late to have his customary bowl of Raisin Bran.But the trait that makes eggs a food above and beyond all those other things in your grocery cart is just how many different ways an egg can be cooked—not as an ingredient in a dish, but the dish itself.  You know those tall pleated hats chefs wear?  The theory is that’s how many ways an Escoffier-level chef can cook an egg.  My own culinary-school educated child can make 35 different preparations.

There can be both elegance and complexity in the simplest of egg preparations.  As an example: one of my childhood favorites: soft boiled.As a kid when I was sick and home from school, my mom used to make me soft-boiled eggs.  I honestly don’t remember eating them not on a tray, in bed.

These days people don’t really eat a whole lot of soft-boiled eggs.  The name sounds like a mistake; like you were making egg salad and messed up, or the power went out. My mother served them in a pastel-colored Tupperware bowl, salted, dressed with a dollop of margarine, and speckled with a liberal sprinkling of pepper.  It might not have been fancy, but it was delicious, and always made me feel loved and nurtured.

Soft-boiled eggs2 large eggs

2 tablespoons butter

Salt & pepper, to taste

In a heavy saucepan, boil three inches of water on high.  When it comes to a boil, lower temp, and bring to heavy simmer. Gently lower eggs into water and cook for six minutes.  Remove from water and run under cold tap water until just cool enough to handle.Remove from shell into a small bowl, dress and eat.  Or, leave in shell, leave out butter, and dip toast fingers into egg.  Serves 1. 

Next week I dive into one of the most contentious egg dishes in the culinary universe.  It’s a Duke/Carolina, Eastern/Western Barbecue, Chevy/Ford-grade dispute.

Capable of igniting Hatfield-McCoy level acrimony; it’s the recipe for and preparation of scrambled eggs.Thanks for your time.

 

 

 

Quel delizioso!

Nature loves diversity.

Or, as any self-respecting, pocket protector owning, socially awkward uber-geek knows that put another way, is the statement which forms the basis of Vulcan philosophy; infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

The diverse combination of which I speak today isn’t quite as exotic as the love child of a blue-skinned, antennaed Andorian and a species which looks like nothing so much as an evolved Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Pahkwa-thanh.It’s an egg dish which is a culinary marriage of Italy and France.

In France, there is something called a galette.  There are actually two somethings.  One galette is a free-form pie.  You roll out a large circular shape of short crust pastry.  Rustic is the name of the game here, so you don’t want a flawless geometric circle with clean, perfect edges.You then place the filling on the dough, leaving a two-inch border around the edge.  The edge is folded up and painted with an egg wash.  If it’s a sweet galette, sugar is sprinkled over the whole confection, and it’s baked to golden perfection.  A savory version is made the same way, only sprinkled with salt, pepper, and any herbs or spices desired.

But it’s the other type of galette which is used in our diversity dish.

I like pie, I really do.  My mom makes a pecan pie to break your heart.  Warm apple pie wearing a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream is a well-deserved, delicious classic.  And all Edwards frozen pies are really tasty, but their lemon merengue with vanilla wafer crust is almost a religious experience.Like I said, pie is a gift from the culinary gods, but the second type of galette has to my favorite…it’s taters.  If I had to give up either pie or spuds forever, it would be goodbye pie.

In this galette, waxy potatoes are peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thin.  Then you melt some butter in a cast iron pan and, starting at the center, lay down slices of potato in a rosette pattern.  Repeat for a total of three layers, seasoning each layer.With a traditional galette, you brown the first side, then place a plate over the skillet, flip it, return it to the pan cooked side up, and brown the bottom.

With this treatment, you flip the potatoes and turn the heat down.  Then for the Italian portion; called a frittata, beat beat up 6 eggs, season them, and stir in some bacon, caramelized onion, lightly steamed broccoli florets, and sundried tomatoes.  Pour it over the spuds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until it starts to set around the edges.frittata galetteSprinkle the top with crumbled goat cheese.  Then set the pan in the oven under a low broiler until the frittata is just set, and it’s puffed and very lightly golden.  Remove from oven, slide it onto a serving platter, let it sit for a minute or two, then slice and serve.   It will feed six.  It’s actually good cold, so leftovers make a great lunch the next day.

So, when I was telling The Kid about this recipe, I didn’t explain which kind of galette I was talking about.  And when I got to the part about flipping it, my child got very confused, with visions of an up-ended free-form cherry pie.  But when I explained it was a potato galette the dish got a vote of confidence.

So my lesson is a new twist on a brunch dish.

And The Kid’s advice is if you have a pie, don’t flip it upside down.Thanks for your time.

The Egg & I

Katey and Jim

Petey and The Kid

I am grateful to Petey for many reasons.

He appreciates my humor.  On an unrelated note, he’s pretty smart.  He’s always on my side, no matter what crazy scheme I’m percolating.  And when it comes to spouses, his standards are kinda low.

But specifically, I’m grateful that my ever-loving husband loves eggs.

I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it really, really is.

Pound for pound, eggs are just about the most nutritious protein out there.

And eggs are cheap.  A dozen can be routinely purchased for $1.  That dozen can feed four adults.  With eggs, the protein comes in at $0.25 per.  That kind of fiduciary skill is flirting with magic.In eggs, as in much of life, simpler is better.  And the simplest, tastiest, most satisfying way to cook and eat an egg is scrambled.

When I was really little, like kindergarten little, I was having breakfast with some other kids that were a little older than me.  I don’t remember who the kids were, it’s all a little fuzzy.

But one thing I do remember all too well.

My dining companions told me they ate their eggs sprinkled with sugar.  They told me that once I tried it, I’d never eat them any other way.To this day I don’t know if that’s how they really ate their eggs, or it was all an elaborate, egg-wasting hoax, but those sweetened eggs were terrible, horrible, no good, very bad food.

Decades later, I perfected extremely tasty and insanely easy scrambled eggs.  It turns conventional egg scrambling on its head and takes less than ten minutes from carton to plate.

I normally cook three eggs per person, plus one extra “for the pan”.  Butter is mandatory and so is both salt and pepper, but no salt until the eggs hit the pan.  The eggs cook very quickly, so if additions like herbs or cheese are desired, put them right on top of the eggs at the very beginning.

egg tools

As for tools, you’ll need a non-stick skillet, a silicone spatula, and a blender; either the immersion type or standard style.

They’re very good plated over sautéed spinach, or with some lightly dressed baby greens on top.

Easy Creamy Scrambled Eggsscrambled eggs7 large eggs

2 tablespoons butter

Salt & pepper

Break eggs into a high-sided bowl if using immersion blender, or into blender bowl.  Blend on high until the eggs have lightened in color and thickened up a bit (about 1 minute).

Put skillet on burner on medium-high (7 on 10 point scale).  Add the butter and let it melt.  When it foams, pour in eggs.  Season, then turn down burner to about 5.5.  Gently stir the eggs, scraping the center of the pan frequently to get the cooked eggs up, and the uncooked onto the pan bottom.

Continue slowly turning down the burner as they cook, (it should be about 4 when the eggs are done), and stirring the eggs until they’re soft and very moist (their residual heat will finish cooking the eggs on the plate).Serves 2.  

Eggs are so darn delicious. I know there are folks out in the world who would rather be eaten by crocodiles than eat an egg; heck my own child is one of them.

But they’re wrong.  And The Kid actually loves one of the best egg dishes in the history of egg dishes—a cheese omelet from Waffle House.

So even the most egg-phobic can find something to love in an ovum.Thanks for your time.

You Can Be My Lucky Charm

How do you prefer your banana pudding?

Whipped cream?

Or meringue?

When I was pregnant with The Kid, we went up to New Jersey for what turned out to be a surprise baby shower.  The festivities were a bacchanal of Jersey-Italian party food.  Meatball and sausage sandwiches, enough potato and macaroni salad to fill a box car, and cake adorned my aunt’s groaning dining room table.

That cake.

Evidently, whipped cream is a desired cake topping for some benighted folk up there.  But I am a member of team buttercream.  Frosting’s one of my favorite foods.  Unfortunately, whipped cream was ordered.

Because my pregnancy hormones had already caused me to cry once that day, I used every ounce of my gestationally-frayed self-control and refrained from sobbing in disappointment.  But I ate no cake at my own baby shower.

You know what, though?  I think I’m good on the whole whipped cream thing.  I mean, considering this possible alternative.  My whipped cream cake  was just white with plastic babies on it–not in it.

But on banana pudding, I choose whipped cream.  Because I really dislike meringue.

Until last week.

I get weekly emails from McCormick Spice Company.  The latest one had a recipe for meringue cookies.  I studied it.

On this recipe, and every other I’ve ever seen, there are dire warnings to never attempt making meringue on rainy or humid days.  It was pouring out, but I had a theory.

My theory was that modern homes are built so air-tight that they cut down humidity to negligible levels.  As a purely scientific experiment (certainly not to eat), I’d create meringues.

Starting with the recipe they supplied, I changed it up a bit, and went to work.

Classic Vanilla Meringues

meringues supplies

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 225, and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Place egg whites into bowl of stand mixer.  Beat on medium until they lighten in color and begin to increase in size.  Slowly add cream of tartar.

When they turn white, slowly add sugar a tablespoon at a time.  When added scrape down sides of bowl.

Turn mixer back on. Running on high, slowly add salt, then vanilla.  Beat until glossy, and stiff peaks form.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUse large pastry tip fitted on zip-top bag (or, if you don’t have a pastry tip, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner of bag). Fill with meringue and pipe onto parchment paper into circles of 2 inches wide.

Place both oven racks close to center and put one cookie sheet on each rack.  Bake for 30 minutes then rotate sheets.  Bake for 30minutes more.  Turn off oven and let meringues sit in oven for one hour. 

Because they’ll absorb moisture from the air and get soft, store them in airtight container.  You can re-crisp them in a 225 oven for 15-20 minutes, but they’ll never be as perfect as when fresh.

Makes 30 cookies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey take flavor easily, so play with extracts.  Mocha, for instance; add 2 tablespoons of cocoa with the sugar, use coffee instead of vanilla. 

So, my theory proved correct.  They turned out crispy, and to my huge surprise, crazy yummy.

They’re also only 26 calories apiece and both gluten and fat-free.

The best part is these addictive little treats are very much like marshmallows in Lucky Charms.  My whole life I’ve wished for a box that somehow slipped through quality control, and held no cereal, but was filled solely with marshmallows.

It does exist.  If this is true, who knows what else is real?  Maybe Pauly Shore is funny, and Kanye is talented.

Now when I get that feeling, I can, in twenty minutes, turn out a pan of homemade ones the size of hockey pucks.

It’s good to be alive.

Thanks for your time.