Posts Tagged ‘eggs


Solving the problems of free range eggs

Someone hipped my grandmother to the idea that she could sell her eggs for more if she let the chickens roam the property (10 acres, but they stick pretty close to the house and coop). There’s a broody hen right next to me on the porch as I type, but not everyone is using the thoughtfully provided and convenient nests. My task this morning: find where they’re laying the eggs. Th answers were 1) under the rabbit cages; 2) in the trash can full of extra hay; 3) behind the trash can full of extra hay. 16 in all; remains to be seen how fresh.


cooking it straight

I made nid de lentilles a l’echalotte et son petits aux lardons with minimal substitutions for the first time last night. (I added a little duck fat because the pancetta I used didn’t yield much fat.) It was warm enough out that I was happy to serve the dish–poached egg included–at room temperature.


It was also my first time poaching eggs, which didn’t turn out to be that hard. Heat your oven to 150F with a shallow dish of water in it. Let that go until the water starts to get bubbles on the bottom. Heat 2-3 inches of water and a little vinegar on the stovetop until nearly simmering. Slip the eggs into the water and let them not-quite-simmer until the whites are set. (They won’t float as high as you might expect; don’t worry.) Move them into dish in the oven for 15 minutes after that. Drain with a slotted spoon and blot gently on a dish towel. You can cut off the ragged edges if you like, and you can chill them in a bowl of cold water, too, if that’s what you’re going for.


we’re going camping

So I am preparing chickpeas and hard-cooked eggs. (It’s less tragic if the eggs crack once they’re cooked.) We’re also taking pre-packaged lemon-spinach couscous (if there ever were a time for flavored convenience foods, this seems to be it), instant black bean soup, Spanish chorizo, saltines, granola, dried fruit, nuts, food bars, chocolate-covered coconut, blueberries, foil packets of nut butters, grape juice concentrate, some apples, a lemon, some salt, and ground coffee. I insisted that corn tortillas and nopales would be great additions to our stash, but saltines won out over the tortillas for some reason, and J-P inexplicably naysaid the nopales. (They’re flat, lightweight…) We’re only out for two nights, and we’ll be near Sausalito, but we’re still being very careful to cater to my tendency toward metabolic collapse.

This will be the first time we’ve camped since Labor Day weekend 2003, when we went to a star party in the Berkshires, where a bunch of astronomers had gathered to view Mars at perigee. It’s Labor Day weekend, we thought. How cold can it get? The answer was 34 degrees Farenheit. We had a tent but no sleeping bags, just blankets. By nightfall we were wearing every scrap of clothing we’d taken with us, and the Boy Scouts made a lot of money selling us hot chocolate and coffee all night long. When we finally decided to try sleeping, we kept each other half awake with our attempts to burrow under the other for warmth. At daylight, we emerged from the tent to run up and down the hill we were on in the sunshine.

We swore never to do that again until we were properly prepared for it, and now is the time. A little over a week ago, we went to REI for sleeping bags, a bigger tent, headlamps, and a camp stove (Jet Boil, a technological marvel with a French press attachment). This weekend, we explored Rainbow Grocery’s selection of dehydrated and instant foods. This afternoon, we bike to Bicentennial Campground in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.


comparative breakfast

In Helsinki, the Klaus K laid out a very satisfying breakfast for its guests. I gorged on salmon, trout salad, cheese, ham, brown bread with salty butter, mixed fruit, and coffee. Besides that, pullas and other sweet breads, fresh fruit juices, soft-boiled eggs, roast beef, muesli, yogurt, oatmeal, and tea were available. I ate what seemed like a lot, especially compared to the daily bagel that J-P and I have at home, but it wasn’t just gluttony; it was an experiment. The results? With a brick of protein sitting in my stomach, the need for second breakfast doesn’t overwhelm me at 10, and lunch by 11:30 isn’t a necessity. In fact, I didn’t have much appetite for lunch, at least not compared to normal. I was prepared to skip it the first day, although Patty caught me up in her search for a midday meal around 2:30. The second day, despite a late-morning run, I was content at nearly 1 with small helpings of stewed reindeer (psst: it tastes like venison), mashed potatoes, green salad, and stuffed cabbage leaf.

On the day we returned to England, I breakfasted on a so-called protein shake, a banana, and a pastry. The sugar crash returned with a vengeance. I found myself sweating and shaking in a byway between Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and its bus terminal, letting J-P choose a vending machine snack for me while I chugged desperately at a Coca-Cola. It was more or less empty calories all the way to dinner on the Isle of Wight, and I felt more gluttonous than I ever did in Helsinki. So I imagine the two approaches at least balance out, calorie-wise, and certainly the big-breakfast approach feels better all around.

The Isle of Wight also did well by breakfast. There was a buffet (meager by comparison) of cereals, yogurt, fruit, pastries, and juices, and guests could also order a hot meal with toast and caffeine. I particularly enjoyed the English breakfast plate with beans, a sausage, two slices of bacon, an egg, a grilled tomato half, and a grilled portobello.

Of course, eating half my weight in salmon or pork every morning is by no means sustainable, no matter how much I might enjoy it. But the smoked trout that Klaus K offered is better, at least for now, and so are sardines.

Further experimentation so far supports my hypothesis that my stomach can handle soft-cooked farm-fresh eggs with little complaint. Beans are also an option, whether English/Boston-style or Guatemalan/Mexican-style. And an inadvertent experiment at Ginny’s hands seems to show that whole-wheat pancakes, accompanied by maple syrup and a little yogurt, are worlds less disruptive to my metabolism than white-flour ones. (She fluffs them up by beating the egg whites frothy, and they’re great.) Mark Bittman also has suggestions for hearty but meat-light breakfasts, and I might have to try my hand at kedgeree, a fish-and-rice breakfast popular in Victorian England.

Speaking of Victorian England, my vacation reading (The Smell of the Continent: The British Discover Europe) informed me that differences in expected meal times and content were a point of contention between traveling Brits and their Continental hosts as modern tourism developed during the long nineteenth century. Tour organizers, travel agents, and eventually large hotels were sure to advertise “meat breakfasts,” but even late in the century, satisfying the British desire for a large early meal could be still difficult once off the beaten path. In southeastern France, one traveler complained, “A bowl of black coffee and a piece of bread is the only breakfast that one can expect in a rural auberge. To ask for butter would be looked upon as a sign of eccentric gluttony, but to demand bacon and eggs at seven in the morning would be to openly confess oneself capable of any crime.”


taking the pressure cooker plunge

I did it. I bought one. An Indian-made Manttra 8-quart pressure cooker, on Laura’s recommendation.

The catalyst: we’ve been out of day-old bagels (our usual breakfast fare) for a couple of days, and we’ve haven’t been able to get more. This morning, facing the idea of yet more delicious farm-fresh eggs for breakfast, I had a craving for beans, instead. The problem? No beans, and I have to be at work at 11.

I am a creature of impulse, it’s true. Which is one reason I think a pressure cooker will suit me. It will be here Monday, which means I still have to figure out today’s breakfast…


on cooking in California: part 6

Most of my out-of-the-house work is loaded into the afternoons and evenings. Monday night, J-P and I were at the Bike Kitchen from 6:30 til 9:30, so we ended up having a pizza delivered there. We were there late Tuesday night, too, but we didn’t want two dinners out in a row.

So, at 9:20 Tuesday morning, I found myself simultaneously mincing garlic and monitoring the progress of two hard-cooked eggs and a third seasoning of the cast iron skillet. The garlic and eggs were (ostensibly) for that night’s late dinner, the skillet just because.

For the dinner, I followed Elaine Louie’s recipe for Bihari Green Beans Masala. To up the protein, I decided to cook it Burmese style–or at least Burma Superstar style–by adding hard-cooked eggs.

I decided to form the eggs into cute shapes using Japanese egg molds. I have two: one succeeded, one failed. The failed egg got unmolded and unceremoniously chopped and stirred into the sauce. The other became garnish.

I had a little of the dish for lunch yesterday, but I wasn’t thoroughly pleased with the taste. So I added some slivers of ginger before I put it in the fridge, hoping that they would add their flavor over the course of the day and while we reheated the food.

The ginger actually ended up having more time than that to do its work, because we were weak creatures of habit last night and went to the St. Francis instead of going home to the food I’d made. (It’s all right, I was craving French fries.) By tonight, the ginger had worked some magic. I’d recommend the recipe, as long as you simmer ginger in the sauce in the first place.

All of this brings me to one more change that living in California has made to our household cuisine: more Asian flavors. A red coconut curry sauce was already part of my repertoire before we moved here. (Thai restaurants were my chile-using refuge in a Boston barren of good Mexican.) Here, we’ve experimented with Mark Bittman’s Asian-fusion sauces, which have generally disappointed us with their strong taste of Worcestershire.

His fried garlic and ginger sprinkles are genius, though, and my dal makhani turned out all right. But the real winner so far has been our Bike Kitchen friend Al’s 1-2-3 pork: pork simmered in 1 part rice wine, 2 parts vinegar, 3 parts (or less) sugar, 4 parts soy sauce, and 16 parts water. I’ve also added a crushed garlic clove and a crushed half-inch of ginger to Al’s 1-2-3 sauce, but it’s perfectly tasty as is.

I think the main reason Asian and Asian-inspired recipes are so hit or miss for us is that neither of us has enough background with any particular Asian cuisine to judge a recipe before we’ve tried it. We just haven’t built up a sense of which ingredients produce which flavors, or how they work in combination. Give us chiles, onions, tomatoes, and we’re golden. But we’ve only just added sesame oil and mirin to our pantry.


Japanese egg molds

Liza and I spent her birthday wandering around Japantown, and I bought some cute little egg molds. You know, the plastic contraptions that Japanese mothers, under intense social pressure to produce incredibly cute and perfect lunches for their school-age children, use to form hard-cooked eggs into various shapes. Like this fish:

Yesterday, I learned several important lessons about eggs, egg molds, and myself.

  1. It really is true that hard-cooked eggs peel more easily if the eggs were a little less than fresh. The ones I used could have sat in the fridge a few days longer.
  2. It is also really true that hard-cooked eggs peel more easily if they’ve had time to cool. The egg molds demand that the peeled eggs be warm.
  3. I could never hack it as a Japanese mother. I peeled those recalcitrant suckers, all right, but it wasn’t pretty. Not even cute. Both eggs ended up with pitted whites. Some flakes of shell might have made it into the molds, to be brushed off later.
  4. Don’t assume that the biggest, roundest, prettiest eggs in the carton will make the biggest, roundest, prettiest molded eggs. They won’t. They’ll ooze out the sides of the mold. That won’t be pretty, either.

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