vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged eggs

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Recent Advances in: Eggs for Dinner

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Anyone can make dinner occasionally.* You plan out your meal, look up recipes, go to the grocery store to get all the ingredients, prep your ingredients early when you have energy and aren’t starving, and have a lovely meal to eat. Yes, there are skills you need to learn and resources you need to have, but making dinner once or twice or a few times isn’t a slog.

Making dinner every night is a whole different ball game. Getting home late from work, and getting the kid in the bath, and getting the dog walked, and having not gone grocery shopping recently, and realizing you’re missing key ingredients for your first three dinner ideas, and just not feeling like making an effort, and then making dinner happen anyway? That’s the grown-up shit.

That’s the shit that requires being flexible and creative and having back-up plans and just sheer grit.

I want you to remember this next time you see someone’s Instagram photo of the dinner they had with roast pork with apricots and braised greens and a side of parmesan polenta and you’re feeling bad about your scrambled eggs and a salad.

Which gets me to the frittata. My real serious scraping the bottom of the barrel dinner has always been scrambled eggs. But a frittata isn’t much harder, and is also very flexible, and feels like a real, satisfying dinner in a way that scrambled eggs kind of doesn’t.

Here’s a video of Ina Garten making a frittata that’s just delightful.

There are tons of frittata recipes that vary a fair amount. I ended up with a variation of a Mark Bittman recipe, but what I took away from the whole thing was that there are different ways to do this and they’re all basically successful.

Frittata

  • 8-ish eggs. Or a dozen. Or six. A bunch.
  • Splash of milk (or not!)

Plus fillings:

  • A bunch of quickly braised and chopped swiss chard, an onion chopped and sauteed until translucent, a handful of grated gruyere
  • or 4-oz package of smoked salmon chopped, a chopped and lightly sauteed leek, chevre, a few tablespoons of chopped dill
  • or whatever else sounds good to you

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

Cook your fillings as appropriate in an oven-safe skillet in some butter. If you want to be lazy, you can just leave them in the skillet.

Whisk together the eggs and some milk. Add the fillings (or leave them in the skillet) and stir together.

Turn the heat to medium/low. Add some butter if need be, then add the egg mixture. Cook until the edges are mostly solid but the top is still runny.

Stick the skillet in the oven to finish cooking, around 15 minutes. (This is where they say to broil the thing to get the top browned but if I had time for that shit I wouldn’t be eating eggs for dinner, so.)

* Right, so that’s a huge simplification and based on a lot of assumptions and some privilege.

Filed under dinner eggs it's winter and it gets dark at 4 pm so my photos are going to be shitty for the next 6 months

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Buying Eggs at the Grocery Store

Eggs at Whole Foods

Say you’re at the grocery store and you need to buy eggs. Say you’re a person who cares about how livestock are raised, because you think it is an ethical obligation as a person who eats meat and because you think it affects food safety. Which eggs do you buy?

Please let me know if you have solved this problem because I have not.

I tend to shop at Whole Foods, and there are a bunch of different kinds of eggs there. Some are from Maine, some are marked as organic, some are cage free, some are “natural,” among other phrases and identifiers that all seem generally positive. A few of the eggs come in a variety of shapes and colors, some of them are a bit dirty. There’s also a fair amount of variation in price. I basically punt, and buy eggs from Maine that are expensive.

I consider myself a relatively well-informed grocery shopper and the egg section of Whole Foods brings me to my knees.

Does anyone know which eggs to buy? Can I assume that eggs purchased at Rosemont are “safer”? Help.

* Our CSA has eggs available for purchase at our pickup, which I only occasionally remember to buy.

Filed under eggs grocery shopping Whole Foods

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Hard-boiled Egg-o-Rama

Back in January when I said that I needed to figure out how to feed myself lunch like a regular human being and not some crazy food-scavenging wild animal, I was imagining salads with fruits and nuts in them, sandwiches with unusual cheeses, maybe grilled. Thus far, my big lunch-related breakthrough has involved hard-boiled eggs. And not in a sandwich (although it’s an important first step for egg salad sandwiches). I mean peeled, on a plate, with some salt and pepper on the side.

It’s not elegant, but it is incredibly satisfying. And for good reason— eggs have a lot of protein. If you believe that eggs are bad for you, you’re thinking of bacon. Eggs are fine.

So in honor of the Portland blogger o-rama series and National Egg Month, I am outlining my system for hard-boiling eggs. With diagrams.

Step 1: Add your eggs to a saucepan in a single layer. Every time I try to do a double layer, a bunch of eggs end up cracked. Useful information: fresh eggs are harder to peel, so if you care about that, or plan to make deviled eggs, you should use older eggs.

Step 2: Add cold water, making sure the eggs are covered by an inch or two of water. You use cold water to allow the air in the egg to escape as the water slowly heats up. If you dump the egg in boiling water, the air in the egg will expand too quickly and crack the shell. Although, you may end up with cracked eggs anyway. I always thought that adding vinegar to the water kept cracked eggs from leaking egg white all over the place. But maybe it softens the egg shell, making the eggs easier to peel. Or maybe both? In any case, I add a splash of white vinegar.

Step 3: Bring the eggs to boil and boil for a minute. Or, you know, when you realize the eggs are boiling because you weren’t paying close enough attention.

Step 4: Remove the eggs from heat, cover them, and set them aside for 12 minutes. When the time is up, rinse them under cold water to cool them down (and keep them from continuing to cook) and be sure to label them in some way so you know which eggs are hard-boiled and which are not (writing H with a pencil on the shell works, as does having a dedicated egg carton that you mark as hard-boiled eggs).

And voila! Lunch!

Filed under eggs o-rama

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O-Rama: Breakfast on the Go

Breakfast and I are quite close these days, but it wasn’t always so. When I was very little, and very skinny (scrawny might be a more apt term), and a picky eater, my mum made me milkshakes sometimes for breakfast. When she didn’t make milkshakes as a vehicle for eggs and milk and some calories, I returned once again to not liking breakfast. It was an ordeal to get through, involving soggy cereal, or grapefruit, or other unpleasantness. I would rather sleep in.

And then somehow breakfast and I became besties. I don’t mean a granola bar on the T, or a muffin and a coffee, or microwave oatmeal at the office. I mean I sit down every morning with some kind of breakfast fruit, and a beverage, and usually a book or magazine or remnants of the Sunday paper, and Eat Breakfast. This is what I do now. Sometimes I just have a sliced apple with peanut butter. Sometimes it is the high fiber frozen waffles topped  with creme fraiche and sliced peaches. Sometimes it is steel cut oats with frozen raspberries and slivered almonds and brown sugar. But it is always something, and it is almost always eaten at the table.

When I am in Boston for work and don’t have my usual breakfast foods and have to be sure to move the car by 8 or I’ll get a ticket, I’m sort of at a loss and sometimes just pick up a banana and a muffin at a local coffee shop, but I do not like to live this way. It is uncivilized.

So this month’s O-Rama assignment of breakfast on the go is hard for me. Not just because I work from home, but because I am secretly one of those people who thinks breakfast is an important meal that should not be scarfed on public transportation.* I don’t want to make it sound like I am condoning eating breakfast on the go. If you can swing it, just try sitting down and having breakfast at your table for a week. Just to see! It’s really nice! It puts you in a good frame of mind for the day!

That said, sometimes I have to drive to Boston early in the morning and don’t have time to eat, and sometimes Dave has super early work stuff that means he’ll miss breakfast and also lunch and maybe dinner. I understand that breakfast on the go sometimes happens.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

  1. Something that can be eaten with one hand in the car.
  2. Something that will be satisfying and provide you with some nutrients.
  3. Something that will not make you feel gross or leaden.

Now, first, let’s talk about napkins. Paper napkins are useless. They are tiny, they tear, they are totally, totally worthless. You should be using cloth napkins. A good cloth napkin that’s been washed a few times so it’s absorbent will change your life.** If you can swing it AT ALL, you should pack your to-go lunch with a real napkin. You can stash spare paper napkins in your glove compartment just in case.

Second, I’m going to assume you’re driving. If you’re a passenger, or if you are going to be able to stop and eat, you have so many more options available to you. You could make yourself a yogurt parfait with yogurt, berries, and granola and some slivered almonds in a mug or a plastic to-go drink cup that you’ve saved and washed. You could have a hard-boiled egg (bring it in a ziploc baggie, keep the shell in the baggie). You could have all manner of messy bagel sandwich (bagel and lox with tomatoes and onions and capers!).

But if you’re driving you’re much more limited. You need to be able to eat something with one hand and not have it get everywhere. Bananas work pretty well but they might leave you hungry by mid-morning. What you need is a sandwich (or, it must be said, a milkshake).

You have two good options:

  1. Peanut butter and banana
  2. Egg salad

I think they’re both better if you just lightly toast the bread first (not so much that it cuts the top of your mouth).

The peanut butter and banana is pretty self-explanatory: you smear peanut butter on one side of the bread, then lay banana slices on top of that. If you want to be fancy, you can drizzle some honey and chopped walnuts on top, but I’m happy enough just with the peanut butter and banana combination.

Egg salad requires some advanced prep, in that you have to make egg salad the night before. Hard boil your eggs (put a bunch of eggs in a small sauce pan covered with cold water, bring to a boil, boil for one minute, turn off heat and cover and let cool). Peel and roughly chop the eggs. Mix with mayonnaise, a little bit of mustard, salt, pepper, and curry powder.

Do not assemble the sandwich the night before, it’ll get kind of soggy. Do the assembling in the morning. Get your bread and mound some egg salad in the middle and spread it out a bit with your fork. This is breakfast, not lunch, so I’m not going to make you put lettuce in your egg salad sandwich if you don’t want it. Just the eggs are fine.

The key here is wrapping. You must wrap up your sandwiches so they can stay wrapped while you eat them. Otherwise you and your car will be covered with egg salad.

Pull out a generous rectangle of plastic wrap or tin foil (a cloth napkin will also work). Lay your sandwich diagonally in the middle of the wrap. Fold the bottom up to the center, then fold the sides in. The top can be folded down, or left open.

This is not rocket science, but I drew you a diagram just in case. You’ll be left with something that looks like the top photo.

As a last note, you may want to consider laying a cloth napkin over your lap just in case.

Godspeed.

* I side strongly with DC on this one: I do not think you should be eating on public transportation. I was once on the subway and noticed a guy masturbating at the other end of the train. That is not an environment that you want to be eating in. And it makes the trains dirty. I know you’re not ever going to drop your milkshake, but I have seen dropped milkshakes, and chicken bones, and all manner of sauce sloshing around the car floor and it is gross.

** You should have enough cloth napkins that you don’t worry about running out, so you can take one with your breakfast, or offer them to guests with lunch, or whatever and then just toss them in the laundry. That means, if there are two of you, six napkins is not close to enough. I really believe this is important, guys, you should have a ton of cloth napkins.

Filed under o-rama breakfast eggs napkins

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Vanilla Bean Pudding
Yesterday really seemed like a pudding day, huh?  I walked a lot in the snow in heavy snow boots, I shoveled, I walked some more.  I’m generally good with this, but at one point I had melted snow pouring down my face and I couldn’t tell if my nose was running and I couldn’t see through my glasses and the wind would come and throw Cashew around and that wasn’t great.  Also, I wiped out completely and my knees are all bruised.
So I made the Smitten Kitchen vanilla bean pudding.
Now, I should have forseen this, because I generally make custard, which means that I like my pudding-type desserts born from a sea of eggs, but this is lighter than I wanted and was a tiny bit disappointing last night.  I think it would be great for a flavored pudding, because the egg flavor wouldn’t be getting in the way of the other flavors.  But I like strong egg and cream flavors with vanilla.
I also forgot to add the rum, which was heartbreaking when I realized what had happened.
On the other hand, I had some this morning (see photo) and it was much better than I expected.  Perhaps it just needed to sit overnight to get extra vanilla-y?  The fact that it’s not made with eight eggs and two cups of cream meant that I felt like I could sort of justify having some for breakfast, which I appreciate.  I knew I wanted to be able to tell you all about it, and for that I needed to do appropriate fact-finding. 
Incidentally: the thickening that happens when you cook the pudding is so much more dramatic with eggs and cornstarch than just eggs. 
Even more incidentally: I was just googling the difference between pudding and custard and came upon a recipe for chocolate bread pudding with bourbon custard sauce.  If I had cream at home right now, I would be making that for lunch.

Vanilla Bean Pudding

Yesterday really seemed like a pudding day, huh?  I walked a lot in the snow in heavy snow boots, I shoveled, I walked some more.  I’m generally good with this, but at one point I had melted snow pouring down my face and I couldn’t tell if my nose was running and I couldn’t see through my glasses and the wind would come and throw Cashew around and that wasn’t great.  Also, I wiped out completely and my knees are all bruised.

So I made the Smitten Kitchen vanilla bean pudding.

Now, I should have forseen this, because I generally make custard, which means that I like my pudding-type desserts born from a sea of eggs, but this is lighter than I wanted and was a tiny bit disappointing last night.  I think it would be great for a flavored pudding, because the egg flavor wouldn’t be getting in the way of the other flavors.  But I like strong egg and cream flavors with vanilla.

I also forgot to add the rum, which was heartbreaking when I realized what had happened.

On the other hand, I had some this morning (see photo) and it was much better than I expected.  Perhaps it just needed to sit overnight to get extra vanilla-y?  The fact that it’s not made with eight eggs and two cups of cream meant that I felt like I could sort of justify having some for breakfast, which I appreciate.  I knew I wanted to be able to tell you all about it, and for that I needed to do appropriate fact-finding. 

Incidentally: the thickening that happens when you cook the pudding is so much more dramatic with eggs and cornstarch than just eggs. 

Even more incidentally: I was just googling the difference between pudding and custard and came upon a recipe for chocolate bread pudding with bourbon custard sauce.  If I had cream at home right now, I would be making that for lunch.

Filed under pudding eggs

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What To Do with Your Leftover Egg Yolks

Make ice cream, obviously.

I had mixed feelings about this ice cream, I liked it, but maybe I like other homemade ice cream better?  I have really, really high expectations for homemade ice cream.  Dave felt that it was unequivocally good.  I will say this: it’s way, way better when it’s fresh, and then later if you let it warm up a little before eating.  A whole different animal, if you will.

This is also a pretty general template for custard-based ice cream.  You can either infuse the cream with the ingredient in step 1 and then strain it (this works well for fresh mint ice cream or coffee or earl grey ice cream, for instance), or you can add the ingredients after the custard is made but before it’s chilled (rum and currants).

Chocolate Ice Cream

From How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 egg yolks*
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine the half and half, chocolate, and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium saucepan.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until steam rises from the milk and the chocolate melts.  Remove from heat.

2. Note: Most of this entire step is about heating the eggs very gently but keeping them from getting too hot and curdling, which will happen if they boil.  Use a whisk or electric mixer to beat 1/4 cup sugar with the egg yolks until light yellow and thick.  Beat 1/2 cup of the hot half and half into this, then gradually stir this mixture into the saucepan with the remaining half and half.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring almostly constantly, until the mixture reaches 175 - 180F, or is slightly thickened.  Do not boil. 

3. Strain the custard into a glass or plastic bowl and stir in the cream.  Taste and, if more sugar is needed, stir it in while the mixture is still hot.  Chill until cold (either for a few hours or overnight in the fridge, or by setting the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and water and stirring).  Stir in the vanilla, then churn in an ice cream maker.

In other ice-cream-related-news, during drinks the other night [read: two weeks ago] I had a long discussion with friends regarding the difference between frozen custard, gelato, and ice cream.  It’s more confusing than it seems because many homemade ice cream recipes involve making a custard that you freeze.  We didn’t come to a conclusive answer at the moment, although our research did involve iphone searches.  Once I got home, I discovered that this is also a topic un-broached by Cooking for Engineers and not covered in depth by my cookbooks, which was disappointing.  So this is what the internet had to offer:

Gelato vs. Ice Cream

The differences between gelato and ice cream are relatively straightforward.  Gelato has the less butterfat than ice cream (probably), and less overrun, which is the amount of air that gets beaten into the mixture.  In other words, it’s denser.  It’s also served at a warmer temperature.  And it’s Italian.  Which appears to count for a lot.

Frozen Custard vs. Ice Cream

Frozen custard has more egg yolk than ice cream (probably), at least 1.4%.  This is a little confusing because ice cream also often contains egg.  Most of the sources I found were in agreement that frozen custard has much less overrun than ice cream (20% compared with 40 - 100%, although that varies).  So, like gelato, it’s denser than ice cream.  Some sources have said that it also has a higher butterfat content.  There’s some discussion of the unit that makes/extrudes the custard, I’m not clear on whether that’s required for it to be frozen custard or is just common to frozen custards.  Like gelato, frozen custard should be served at a warmer temperature than ice cream.

Frozen Custard vs. Gelato

The difference between frozen custard and gelato, then, is that while both are low overrun, gelato has less butterfat.

Overall

Ice cream has the most overrun of all three and a medium amount of butterfat.  It may or may not have eggs. 

Gelato is Italian, as mentioned, and probably has the least amount of butterfat.

Frozen Custard likely has the most egg yolk.

Sources

Two general sources here and here.

One of my personal favorites, the Dairy Godmother Frozen Custard Info Page here.

Wikipedia frozen custard entry here, and gelato entry here.

* The recipe called for 6, but you only have five left over in your fridge from making macaroons.

Filed under ice cream eggs macaroons

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Today is Easter, and it included everything I would hope for Easter to include:
Family, and amusing stories about family members who were not present
Wee chubby babies
The hiding and finding of dyed eggs
Deviled eggs
Tomato aspic
Alcoholic drinks at midday
Ice cream in the shape of a lamb AND a rabbit
a post-dinner constitutional walk to the beach
macaroons
Also this weekend, I made this recipe for Chicken in Riesling.  I discovered the recipe earlier in the week, bought the ingredients, then promptly forgot everything about it except that it included chicken and leeks.  After approximately 30 minutes searching all my cookbooks and epicurious, I found my old grocery list upon which I wrote “chicken in riesling.”  We ended up eating at about 9:30.  It was pretty good.
I also made macaroons, both Martha Stewart’s recipe and the Jewish Holiday Cookbook recipe.  I over-cooked the Martha Stewart ones.  And the Jewish Holiday Cookbook ones were significantly less easy than expected, but I think in the end they turned out okay.  And there were important almond-blanching-related lessons learned.
photo by Steven Walling

Today is Easter, and it included everything I would hope for Easter to include:

  • Family, and amusing stories about family members who were not present
  • Wee chubby babies
  • The hiding and finding of dyed eggs
  • Deviled eggs
  • Tomato aspic
  • Alcoholic drinks at midday
  • Ice cream in the shape of a lamb AND a rabbit
  • a post-dinner constitutional walk to the beach
  • macaroons

Also this weekend, I made this recipe for Chicken in Riesling.  I discovered the recipe earlier in the week, bought the ingredients, then promptly forgot everything about it except that it included chicken and leeks.  After approximately 30 minutes searching all my cookbooks and epicurious, I found my old grocery list upon which I wrote “chicken in riesling.”  We ended up eating at about 9:30.  It was pretty good.

I also made macaroons, both Martha Stewart’s recipe and the Jewish Holiday Cookbook recipe.  I over-cooked the Martha Stewart ones.  And the Jewish Holiday Cookbook ones were significantly less easy than expected, but I think in the end they turned out okay.  And there were important almond-blanching-related lessons learned.

photo by Steven Walling

Filed under Easter eggs macaroons

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Soufflés and Difference

This post was going to be about soufflés, and how great they are.  They are great.  I made one tonight.  But instead of telling you about that, I am going to write about cultural hegemony.  More or less.

So I was thinking about soufflés, and how the ingredients are inexpensive but it’s still fancy, and easier than expected to make, and that the ingredients should be in your kitchen already, just waiting for you to decide to make a dinner soufflé.  But then I thought about that last point some more.  And I thought about those lists that get published of all the stuff you should always in your pantry (like this and this but honestly, google it, you’ll get a gazillion hits).  And recipes that start out saying that you should always have the ingredients to make this on hand.  And I thought, well, okay, if you’re lactose intolerant, you’re not going to have milk.  Or maybe you don’t eat eggs.  Or you rarely bake, and thus might not have flour.  Or you just don’t normally buy frozen spinach.  Or parmesan cheese.

Here’s an example: sometimes those well-stocked pantry lists include couscous.  I virtually never cook couscous.  It’s not like I hate couscous, I like it just fine, I just don’t really cook it.  I don’t have it in my pantry, I don’t miss it.  But it’s easy to imagine that if I were a different person, a person that ate couscous all the time, I would have it in my pantry, and I wouldn’t be able to imagine not having it in there, because I would want couscous and I would have recipes that I thought of that involved couscous and it would be totally natural. 

The things I cook I cook for many reasons.  I cook them because my mum cooked them for me, or my grandmother, or my uncles cook them, and they remind me of my family, and they taste good to me in part because they are part of my cultural heritage.  There are things I cook because my husband loves them and it makes me happy to cook food that he loves.  Or because I like apricots.  Or anchovies.  Or because I don’t have a crock pot.  Or because it is a dish that a friend makes and I have eaten it at her house and I want to be cool like she is.  Whatever.  The idea that there is some universal well-stocked pantry is a lie.  And it’s the kind of lie that pretends that we are not each profoundly different from each other.  It is also the kind of lie that assumes that one type of being, of cooking, is better than another. 

So fuck that.  There is no such thing as a set of ingredients that everyone should have in their pantry.  What you should have in your pantry are the ingredients that allow you to cook the food that you enjoy and to make dinner.  That’s it.

The soufflé was delicious, and I would recommend trying one.  Maybe you will have the ingredients already, maybe not. 

Filed under eggs souffle hegemony

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Easter

It is almost Easter, which means three things to me:

  1. It is approaching the time when I decide that I should be making or eating macaroons ALL THE TIME!  Which I know is a passover thing (I think it’s a passover thing), and even though I’m not Jewish, who am I to reject the wisdom of the passover macaroon ?  This is the culinary tradition that brought us rugelach and hamantashen.  And besides, let’s face it, Easter cookies often mean a giant sugar cookie frosted to look like a pale pink egg.  F that.  Anyway, Martha Stewart has a crazy simple version (I would not attempt this without Silpat).  This year, though, I want to break out my Jewish Holiday Kitchen cookbook (I think it came from my husband’s mother, who is a Jewish atheist who doesn’t cook.  I might as well start making shit up at this point) and make their Almond Macaroons.  If this comes to pass, I will post the recipe.
  2. Dyed easter eggs, which is up there with carving pumpkins in terms of My Favorite Holiday Activities.  The dyed eggs travel with me to my Great Aunt Annette’s house, where they are hidden in the yard for the annual Easter Egg Hunt, then collected from the baskets, then made into delicious, delicious deviled eggs that are sometimes weirdly colored.  This year I am going to get the deviled egg recipe.  
  3. Ice cream molded into the shape of a lamb.  Also at Aunt Annette’s.  Awesome.

Photo by Saparevo

Filed under Easter Eggs macaroons I want to eat this all the time