Archived entries for eggs

Kick it off right: Crustless mini-quiches.

I came incredibly close to kicking off 2011 with a very large mistake: I very nearly canceled my New Year’s Eve party. Thanks to Snowmageddon 2010, Bench (the world’s best party-prep-partner-in-crime) was stuck in Chicagoland until New Year’s Day, and half my guest list was stranded in similarly snowbound points west. It just didn’t seem worth going all out for only three people, particularly since I didn’t have all that much of an axe to grind with 2010. And so, the unthinkable well and truly almost occurred.

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Fortunately for us all, Biscuit was on hand to remind me that half the fun of a party is getting ready for it. Also that I was being stupid: a party is a party is a party, whether it’s for six or sixteen! And of course, he was right.

Thus fortified we threw ourselves into the business of party, whipping up myriad delights for the masses! On the menu were some old favorites (amaretti cookies, gougeres, thyme and gruyere icebox crackers) and some new experiments. Foremost among these experiments was an amuse bouche that is going to become a permanent part of my party repertoire: the crustless mini quiche.

What makes this wee timorous beastie such a superstar is not that it is perfectly savory and bite-sized (which it is), or that it’s so versatile (which it also is), or even that it’s pretty darn easy to make (ditto) but the fact that it can be made up to a month in advance and then whacked into your freezer until you’re ready to entertain. Reconsitute with 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven, and you’re laughing.

quiches1

As any dedicated party-thrower knows, any time you can front-load while prepping for the event is time you can instead spend fixing your hair or bedazzling the walls on the day of. Or, in my case, time you can spend convincing yourself that the party is, in fact, going to be a good idea and you should probably go through with it. Which, in retrospect, it really, really was; a truly glittering and wonderful way to kick off what I hope will be an absolutely excellent year.

I like to think the thirty (!) people who miraculously appeared at the wingding would heartily agree.

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Northern Comfort: Parmesan Polenta with Mushroom Fricassee and Poached Eggs

I love comfort food. I love the idea of comfort food, the notion that food has the power to alter a black mood or a broken heart, or fortify a soul that feels too weary to go on. I love that it underlines and adds an exclamation point to the concept that food is love, or can be. I love that sometimes, it’s the only thing that can be counted on to go right in the midst of a maelstrom of wrong.

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I bring this up because it’s been, to put it simply, an absolutely TERRIBLE week. It has been the kind of week that comfort food was made for, and believe me when I tell you that when I got home last night, there was no fucking around to be had with the kind of comfort I was determined to dish up. I took a two-pronged approach: I wanted the food to be soft and gentle, and I wanted it to contain insane amounts of butter and cream. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to use a recipe that Maggie recommended–polenta, buttery and creamy and studded with a fistful of fresh grated parmesan; served with a luscious mushroom fricassee and topped with poached eggs. Soft and forgiving; gentle but very very alive.

In short, it was EXACTLY what I needed. And, okay. it wasn’t exactly fast, and it wasn’t entirely simple (polenta, my friends, is a more complicated art than you’d think), but it was comfort in its purest form, at least for me. Because, you see, the comfort comes from more than just the food–it’s the ritual of preparation; the time spent at the stove in my small, warm kitchen; the challenge of making it right; the act of sharing it with someone I care about very much. The pleasure of setting aside some time that belongs exclusively to me, with very real challenges and very tangible rewards.

It’s about giving the finger to the hard angles of 21st century life and enjoying something unabashedly slow, calm, and soft. And full of butter.

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More Zukes! Light Zucchini Frittata with Basil and Mint

One of the greatest things about summer, to me, is avoiding the grocery store. Except for a few staples—we go through Cheerios like you wouldn’t believe—everything we eat in the summer can be purchased at the farmer’s market. There’s fabulous (though sometimes pricey) meat, all the vegetables we could desire, vivid-yolked eggs, and even homemade pastas and freshly-milled grains. It’s funny that my life in New York City brings me to a farmer’s market at least four days a week—I’m not sure I could hope for that if we moved somewhere quieter.

This light vegetarian supper was pretty locally sourced, if you’ll forgive me a splash of olive oil, a few spoonfuls of yogurt, and some quite necessary pinches of salt and pepper. The zucchinis were just too cute to avoid, even though I’d eaten my fill of them last week. The eggs were from a farm upstate, and had quite sturdy yolks—all the better for separating them. I probably could have bought the yogurt at the farmer’s market too, if I’d thought of it ahead of time. But this budget meal was assembled from what was already at home—extra vegetables from a stir fry, eggs I bought awhile back. The sweet zucchini is even brighter with a little of our balcony-grown basil and mint. A few fresh peas would have been great, as well.

My standard frittata is heavier on the yolks and usually includes some cheese. Feel free to riff, of course—a spoonful of soft goat cheese would be nice, as would a pile of shredded gruyere or asiago. But I’m experimenting with lighter meals and found this quite fresh and satisfying. The Greek yogurt adds a bit more substance (and is a good source of calcium and protein), though you must be certain to salt adequately, since it doesn’t have the salinity that cheese would add.

It feels right to lighten up our meals a bit in the summer, focusing on super-fresh produce and quick preparations. (I am also suffering, I must admit, from fear of a Certain White Dress and really, really hoping I can get it to fit in a few weeks time. 32 days. Not that I’m counting.) But if that means farmer’s market shopping from here on out, that’s ok with me.

How are all of you taking advantage of the season? Does anyone have a favorite light summer recipe to recommend?

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Danger omelet: The Spanish tortilla

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Much like learning the tango, the first attempt at the eggy, starchy Spanish tortilla is not for the faint of heart. Deceptively simple, it requires strong arms, a steady hand, and a certain appreciation for danger. Simply put, it’s the kind of harebrained business that I simply cannot resist trying on a schoolnight.

My interest in eggs is a recent development, and I’ve spent the last year cultivating it; though Bench is the household’s undisputed King of the Scrambled, I must say I’ve become quite the glad hand at poaching, and I have been feeling of late that I am ready to step up my game. Omelets seemed like a sensible next step, moreso when I discovered that attempting the right kind of omelet presented the very real possibility of completely trashing my kitchen. That kind of a disclaimer is like waving a red flag in front of me; resistance is futile. The description that did me in is by Ximena at Lobstersquad:

“(T)ortillas require nerves of steel. Blood must be summoned, upper lip stiffened, oven mitts worn, and prayers said. Please understand that the Italian method of starting on the stove top and ending under the grill is strictly for little girls. Likewise the French sissified folding thing.”

I mean, really–how’s a girl like me supposed to resist a description like that?

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To my chagrin (and Bench’s delight), the tortilla was not quite as much of a production as I’d feared. Yes, it required flipping. And yes, it had a truly terrifying amount of oil in it. But, the prodigious quantity of olive oil involved kept everything well-lubricated and unstuck, which was a godsend when flipping the incredibly heavy cast-iron skillet over during the tortilla-turning process (plus a goodly amount of it drains off before you mix it in with the eggs).

Though success is, in fact, dependent upon truly posting one’s courage to the sticking place (hesitate for a second, and you’re screwed), at the end of the day it is a potato omelet: no more, no less. I assure you: if I can do this, you can do this. And once you have, it’s a tremendous trick to have up your sleeve–its versatility means you can pull it out for just about any meal; plus, it’s excellent cold, so you can make it ahead of time. Smother it with ketchup for a fantastic hangover breakfast, or pair it with a salad for a delicious light meal.

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I leave you with these pieces of advice:

  1. Invest in oven mitts.
  2. Be sure to have lots of paper towels on hand to drain the oil off the potatoes
  3. Be brave! You can totally do this.

Spanish tortilla (Tortilla de patates)

1-1.5 lbs medium-sized waxy red or white potatoes, peeled
1 medium-sized white or Spanish onion
6 eggs
2 tbsp milk or half and half
tons and tons and tons of olive oil (somewhere around 1/2-3/4 cup)

  1. Cut each potato into quarters, and then slice thinly (contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need a mandoline, though I’m sure it helps). Place in a towel-lined colander to drain a little.
  2. Meanwhile, quarter and thinly slice the onion as well.
  3. In a heavy, large skillet, heat all but two tablespoons of the oil at medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, drop the heat to medium-low, and cook (stirring occasionally) until just tender, about 7 minutes. Add a bit of salt and pepper.
  4. Add the onions, and keep cooking until everything is soft, about 10-15 more minutes.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the potato mixture on to a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels to drain. Reserve the oil that remains in the pan for later use.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together with a bit of salt. Add the potato mixture, mashing it about slightly to break up the potatoes a bit. Let this mixture sit for about ten minutes.
  7. Meanwhile! Take the 2 tbsp of oil you set aside earlier and put it in a heavy, 10″ skillet (I used my cast iron–I recommend you do the same). Keep at medium high heat until it just starts to smoke. Pour the egg/potato mixture into the pan and flatten it with a spatula until the top is more or less level. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, shaking the pan and running around the edges with a small spatula, until the top has started to set, 6-10 minutes.
  8. Take a rimless plate that is larger than the pan, place it face down on top of the pan. Using oven mitts, flip it over quickly and turn out the omelet onto the plate. Then, replace the pan on the stove and gently slide the tortilla, uncooked side down, back into the pan. Reduce the heat to VERY low and keep cooking until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 3 more minutes.

Feeding a Crowd: Make-ahead Brunch


Mission: feed ten people (including vegetarians) a brunch feast including sweet and savory on a Sunday morning without panicking, running out of burners, wishing you’d moved to the suburbs where they have real kitchens, or missing out on the fun once your friends show up and start mixing mimosas!

With mushroom sauce already made and in the fridge, grits cooking overnight, and french toast soaked in custard and ready to bake, we sat around this morning calmly drinking coffee. No last minute pancake-flipping, no slaving over a waffle iron—it’s always best to make food that multiplies easily for a crowd. We popped everything in the oven as people arrived. Kielbasa would have been cooked on the grill, if we hadn’t run out of propane at that very moment (doesn’t that always happen?) It was fine, really, since I’m sure those kielbasa went a long way toward seasoning my less-broken-in cast iron pan.

These sorts of events make me wonder: will we get as much joy-per-square-foot out of our home when it’s, say, twice as big? When we no longer work and sleep and cook and hang out in one room?


Make-Ahead Brunch Menu for Ten

Overnight Slow Cooker Grits
Mushroom-Sauce Baked Eggs
Kielbasa
Baked Cafe au Lait French Toast (recipe here)
Fruit Salad
Bialys with Lox from Russ & Daughters)
Pom-Orange Mimosas
Coffee

I would definitely repeat these eggs, though I’m not sure about the french toast. The bitterness of the coffee was pretty good when balanced with maple syrup, but it didn’t thrill any of us. My tip for overnight french toast is to soak the bread overnight in about 3/4 of the custard mixture, reserving the rest to pour over the top the next morning after the initial amount has been absorbed. These can bake in the same oven as the eggs.

Pom-Orange Mimosas
One bottle sparkling wine, cava, or prosecco
2 cups orange juice (freshly squeezed is great!)
1 or 2 cups pomegranate juice

Mix in pitcher and serve in flutes!

Slow Cooker Grits
2 cups stoneground grits
9 cups water
1 T butter
about 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Combine grits, water, and butter in electric slow cooker. This cooked on low for 10 hours. Different brands of grits and slow cookers will vary, but after 10 hours these were not quite done and had not absorbed all the liquid. We turned it up to high for about 20 minutes, then took the lid off and stirred while the water evaporated a bit for another 30 minutes or so, adding the cheese as the texture got thicker.

Earthy Vegetarian Mushroom Sauce
1 T butter
splash olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 T fresh herbs (I used sage, oregano, and rosemary), chopped
1 teaspoon or so concentrated tomato paste (I like the kind that comes in a tube)
2 pounds crimini mushrooms
3 large portobello mushroom caps
1 cup wine (I used white, but red would be great if you have it around)
sprinkle curry powder
sprinkle dried oregano
pinch sugar
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or a little less
salt and pepper to taste
Splash milk or cream
1/4 cup yogurt or creme fraiche

In a large dutch oven, saute onions and garlic in butter and olive oil over low heat a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms. I did half of them into medium sized slices for a nice texture, while the other half were diced smaller for a finer sauce. Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir until the onions are coated, this will help them caramelize a bit. Add the mushrooms as you slice them and stir to incorporate. Add wine, fresh and dried herbs and spices, sugar and balsamic, stirring and cooking on low-medium heat until mushrooms look fully cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. (At this point, I cooled the mixture overnight to reheat the next morning.) Reheat sauce if necessary, stir in milk and yogurt.

Mushroom Baked Eggs
Mushroom sauce (see above)
12 free-range eggs
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Split sauce between two ovenproof glass dishes (a pie plate works fine). Make indentations for eggs. Crack eggs into indentations, grind pepper on top and bake for 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook—they may not look as done as they are! Serve on top of grits.



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