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Eggs in pots/ouefs en cocotte

It’s kind of surreal when I consider how much I used to hate eggs given that I’ll have them any time of day nowadays, but I think that my former distaste for them is rooted in the fact that I prefer my eggs on the slightly runnier side rather than cooked to oblivion, and growing up the latter is what we usually had at breakfast on the weekends. (The fact that I would also eat them with pancake syrup–and yes, pancake syrup and not real maple syrup–probably had something to do with it too.) I’m glad that I eventually came to this realization because otherwise I would be missing out on so many fast and relatively inexpensive dishes as well as the health benefits of the egg itself.

Of all the ways I love them–softly scrambled, poached, in an omelette or tortilla, or even baked in a sauce–I think my absolute favorite is the French classic ouefs en cocotte. It’s so easy to make, can be endlessly modified to one’s own taste, and unlike omelette cookery requires very little actual cooking skill aside from safely removing the ramekin from the hot water bath (or bain marie) when it’s done. Rachel Khoo’s take on this dish was what finally got me on board with it as she employed some creme fraiche and salmon roe along with nutmeg and dill to bring it together, and then later when I was flipping through Mimi Thorrison’s cookbook I found her version that employed mushrooms and onions cooked in a red wine sauce to also pique my interest. I tried Rachel’s first during a stint when Michael was away on business, and initially I was really frustrated with it because when I would check in after twelve minutes, then fifteen, and then twenty, it didn’t seem like anything was actually happening. I think I let it stay in there for twenty-five minutes altogether and was preparing myself to spoon into a fully-cooked egg yolk, but happily it was far runnier than I expected. When Michael and I tried Mimi’s version a few months later we also let the eggs go for longer than prescribed and yet the results were similar. It was then when it dawned on Michael where the disconnect lay: given that both of these women are European, they are naturally accustomed to using eggs that aren’t refrigerated. No refrigeration means that egg-cooking times are going to be much shorter as a rule. Read More

The Hermès Madeleine

We’ve been in Baltimore for a month as of yesterday, and while there are adjustments to make like finding new food and wine stores and getting accustomed to driving around in a real city, overall the move has been a very positive one. We were mostly unpacked by the time New Year’s rolled around largely thanks to Michael going through box after box during his time off work, and even now we just have to figure out where to hang and/or place the remaining pictures we have stashed around the apartment.

(We also have to get used to living in a city with an actual football team again, and moreover living not that far from the stadium. We were spared the brunt of the excitement this year but I imagine next fall we won’t be making many plans to venture out on Sundays unless it’s to places we can walk.)

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Lorraine Pascale’s pan-seared mascarpone gnocchi | The Manhattan [food] Project

For years, my normal weekend morning ritual has been parking myself on the couch and watching cooking shows while I figured out what we were making that night for dinner. There were shows I loved, those I tolerated, and others I would either tune out or treat as open season for my snarking. As the Food Network specifically has moved further and further away from its traditional dump-and-stir shows, the ratio of shows I actually love and derive inspiration from to those I mock has tipped wildly towards the latter category so when Cooking Channel was once again made available through my cable provider I was thrilled. Not only would regular reruns of Good Eats be back on our TV, but I was excited to see what new shows have come on since we last had the channel three years ago.

Admittedly, anything I’ve seen that’s been produced by the channel hasn’t blown me away, but two hosts from the BBC have left me delighted: Lorraine Pascale (currently of Lorraine’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food and Rachel Khoo (Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London and Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo). Unlike certain cooking hosts out there, both Rachel and Lorraine primarily cook food from scratch without being overly fussy or precious about it, and the recipes they present are actually interesting. My one complaint is that not every recipe is readily available online (Lorraine’s are a little easier to track down) so if something intrigues me I’ll sit with my notebook and furiously write down the ingredients and instructions, but it’s also refreshing to be engaged with a cooking show again so I’m not really complaining.

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Spinach Salad with Prosciutto and Valdeón

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, and Valdeón

It’s been a while since I’ve recounted a week sabor de soledad, even though Michael has had several trips taking him all over the place in the last year or so. Two weeks ago he was in the fabulous city of Tokyo on a last-minute trip, and I have to say that I was pleased with the dishes I turned out while he was away. It’s funny—I’ve become more of a salad person over the last few years, but I’m never so prolific in making them until I’m on my own. I can only account the follow reasons as why I’m so Team Salad:

  • Easy to scale down to one person.
  • Cheese is often involved, especially the cheeses I love but only rarely indulge in.
  • They are relatively fast dishes to prepare.
  • Oh, I guess they are allegedly healthy too.

I feel like such a traitor to both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, but unlike fictional characters, eating vegetables on a regular basis is an unfortunate necessity.

amy-17

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Frisee Aux Lardons avec Ouefs Pochés et Gorgonzola/Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

Another day, and more eggs. Only this time they are in a salad, and they are far more pleasing to look at because I took this photo last June when we were enjoying the height of natural light. (Oh natural light, how I miss you.)

But of course, this proves the eternal truth that just because a salad is called such a thing, there is no guarantee that it’s going to be rabbit food, given that friseé is one of those greens that isn’t the most nutritionally dense (at least compared to the ubiquitous kale) and it’s basically coddling a wonderful combination of Gorgonzola, bacon bits, and poached eggs–nary a spa food in the lot save for the greens. But that’s kind of what makes it wonderful: it strikes the right balance between heavy and light that leaves you satisfied without feeling like you have a gut full of food, and it’s also a one-course meal that can come together relatively quickly if your multitasking skills are in peak condition. (Mine vary by how tired I am when I get home from work, but I can still pull this together in about 20 minutes.)

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Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes.

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes

One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Eric Ripert, like most of the chefs who end up as judges on Top Chef, intimidates the hell out of me, mainly because he and his restaurant Le Bernadin in New York embody the word “flawless” in the way that few chefs and restaurants can. Simply thinking of the season 5 episode of Top Chef in which the cheftestants visit the restaurant, have an amazing meal there, and then are tasked to recreate a dish they had enjoyed makes my stomach churn with anxiety to this day. I mean, this is the place that employs a guy whose job it is to properly break down whole fish, and he’s so good at it that when he goes on vacation, two people are required to handle the volume of fish he portions by himself and it’s still not enough to meet the demand.

Eric Ripert demands excellence and embodies it on a daily basis, and the rest of us are merely along for the ride. Read More

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