Another new toy

I like poached eggs, but not the mess of poaching them, and while I do them pretty well, there are many opportunities to mess up.

Well, what do you know? I was looking on Epicurious.com for some recipe or something and saw an ad for a foolproof-five-fork-rated egg poacher reduced 25 percent for Epicurious readers.

Why debate? I just won many $$$ in the RectorFootball pool. A couple clicks and a few days later and that big boy was in my kitchen. There was even an empty spot in the pantry to store it.

First try…

My first beautiful poached eggs — served over leftover chili from the Sierra Canyon Great Balls of Fire Chili Cook-off — was not a disaster. Neither were the results perfect. This egg poacher has an inherent problem; it is not a poacher, it is a steamer. To poach something, one would immerse it in liquid. With this “poacher,” one places an egg in a cup, suspended over boiling or simmering water, so the egg cooks in steam. Big difference.

two eggs steaming

Thus, the whites don’t etherially wrap the yolks, but rather, wrap the yolks fairly firmly. Nevertheless, the result is a soft white with a runny yolk to seep into and flavor each bite of the chili. It’s simply a different eating experience.

On the other hand, this “poacher” does some things a simple pan of water cannot do. Here is a recipe from the instruction manual — printed in four languages — that comes with the poacher.

POACHED EGG WITH MILK OR CREAM
Fill the egg poacher pan one-third full of water.
Mix four eggs with some milk or cream. Season with pepper and salt. Pour the mixture into the cups.
Set the saucepan on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Put the cups in the tray and place the whole into the pan. Cover with the glass lid and leave to steam for about 4 minutes. The eggs might rise a bit during the steaming, but  do not worry, they will collapse as soon as you take the eggs out.
Take out the cups from the tray and turn them upside down on to a plate. Serve with toasted bread triangles.
VARIATIONS
Add chopped chives to the egg mixture.
Add small pieces of bacon or ham to the egg mixture.

I chose to chop a mushroom, saute it in butter and add those pieces to the cups. Pour the egg mixture over that and pop it into the “poacher.”

sauteed mushrooms in two poacher cups

add egg mixture to the cups

eggs plated alongside bacon strips

The eggs jiggled when I turned them out of the cups. I was surprised to find the outer layer soft like a scrambled egg and the center runny, as a poached egg would be. Now that’s a good egg. Yum.

There are other variations, which I have yet to try, so look back occasionally to see what’s up.

 

 

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ORANGE SUMMER

So many orange things are around in the summer. I’ve been eating some orange and yellow things for my breakfast and lunch. You’ll see:

Orange and Yellow Lunch
Melon
Canned pineapple chunks
A very fine cheese on crackers:

Fat Bottomed Girl, Bleeting Heart CA
Pasteurized Sheep’s Milk

Peter, at Wedge: A Cheese Shop got this cheese in for the first time recently when I was in the shop. He gave me a taste and I was hooked. Has a cool name, too.

Orange Breakfast
Hard cooked egg
Melon
Peach
I don’t know how you do your peaches, but I peel mine with a vegetable peeler, then cut it off the pit in wedge sections. Be sure and do all this peeling and cutting over your plate so you capture all the juices.

Another Orange Breakfast of melon and peach layered over thin sliced baked ham.
We get both our melons and peaches at the same farm stand at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on California Avenue near Keystone. I don’t remember the name of the stand, but I’ll look when I’m there tomorrow. Minton Family Farm, Yuba City CA

Here’s melon and a hard cooked egg accompanied by home made pimento cheese spread on crackers.

And finally, for now:
Ambrosia melon, “yellow” watermelon, and peach for breakfast…
More cut up peach soaking in rum for dessert tonight.
My peaches went beyond ripe, so I had to peel two at once. Turns out that’s not such a bad thing. Sadly, the “yellow” watermelon had almost no flavor (the rum-soaked peaches had lots of flavor).

LUNCH :: Double Header

In Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules: An Eaters Manual, “Eat until you’re 80% full,” is one rule that I must pay attention to, especially in Reno. Serving portions are most often outsized, to the point where they make a dinner, a take-home lunch and a half-lunch — the subject of the day.

Even cooking at home for two, things are not often easily divisible and savable; an ear of corn, a tomato, a potato, a quart of home made tomato sauce, a can of almost anything. The point is, we’ll probably cook more than we can — or want to — eat.

So I developed the half-lunch. I use glass storage containers and my favorites — from Crate and Barrel — are a 2-cup bowl and an almost-cup bowl. The former is probably a lunch, the latter a half-lunch.

the two-cup and almost-cup containers

Today, I dined on two half-lunches:

TOMATO SAUCE with SAUSAGE and NOODLES

Pedigree:

  1. A quart of Cherokee Purple Georgiana Brennan Roasted tomato sauce made and canned in September 2011. Used to make a dinner of spaghetti with sausage.
  2. Sort of hot Italian sausage. We skinned and mixed 3 links of hot sausage with 1 link of mild sausage. (Also the reverse for Carol’s taste.) This was used with the sauce for the spaghetti dinner.
  3. Some of each of the sauce and sausage constituted the leftover parts of the full lunch.
  4. A ball of dried Kamfen Hong Kong Style Egg Noodles. Cooked and added to the sauce and sausage.
  5. Since a ball of dried noodles is a finite thing, I added compatible portions of sauce and sausage.

Viola! I had a half-lunch left over.

the noodles

BEANS and TOMATO and KNOCKWURST and CELERY

Pedigree:

  1. One tomato. The first fresh tomato of the season from the California Ave. Farmers Market. Peeled and chunked.
  2. Some Prim Manteca beans cooked in the previous days to use in many ways. (I love beans.)
  3. Some celery sliced off an almost used up head… the lovely solid whitish part near the root end.
  4. A splash of chicken broth to keep everything wet.
  5. One Hebrew National knockwurst, cooked in the midst of that stuff.

That was my full lunch. By the time I was 80% full, I had a half-lunch left over. (I ate all the knockwurst.)

When I made my half lunch, I added some grilled green beans that accompanied grilled fish a day or so ago.

And there you have a lunch double-header. I’ll do it again sometime.

Oven Bacon

I hold a pack of bacon in my hand, but don’t feel like going through the rigor of frying it. “Carol, isn’t there a way to cook bacon in the oven?” She was at the breakfast table reading from the SF Chronicle on her iPad.

She made a few taps. “This guy on his blog says to line a pan with foil, put on the bacon and put it in a COLD oven. Bake at 400°F for 17 minutes, but WATCH. Bacon thickness, your oven behavior and so on and can vary the timing.”

I put the bacon in our Countertop Convection Oven, set it for 400, turned it on and set my timer for 8 minutes. It took 5 minutes for the oven to tell me its at 400. The bacon started to sizzle at that point. I took a peek and it was all wrinkley and sizzling. By the time my timer dinged, it looked nice and soft done, but not crispy. I turned off the oven and put the bacon on paper towels on a plate. Put those back in the warm oven, poured the bacon fat in my frying pan to cook four slices of apple and two slices of baked potato.

 

Bacon is cooked.

Apple and potato cook. (That’s a really swell OrGREENiC non-stick skillet we got at Bed Bath Beyond.)

Served.

Breakfast! Yum.

This is not news… just the first time for me.

BKFSTS: HB Eggs

egg mangled while peeling… the bluish bit to the right is irrevocably stuck to the white (the knife was not used in peeling, it is there to keep the egg from rolling over)

What a mess.

I am a lover of hard-boiled eggs. I make them 4 or 5 at a time to have on hand for breakfasts, or just to salt and pepper and eat out of hand. They are an excellent source of protein, they go with almost anything, and they taste good. What’s not to like?

What’s not to like is that this time of year, with really fresh pasture raised eggs, they’re almost impossible to peel. I get my eggs from Hadji Paul’s Chicken and Feed who come to the Farmers Market at Garden Shop Nursery on Sundays.

HB egg for breakfast with green beans, beet, roasted cauliflower, bits of potato and cheese curds

egg tool, for slicing or sectioning a HB egg.

sliced egg breakfast with castelvetrano olives, red beets, yellow beets and cheese curds

“There are two peculiarities associated with hard-boiled eggs. One is the occasional difficulty encountered when peeling the egg. It turns out that peelability is affected by the pH of the egg white, and so by the egg’s freshness. If the pH is below 8.9 — in a fresh egg it is closer to 8.0 — then the inner membrane tends to adhere to the albumen, whereas, at the figure typical after three days of refrigeration, around 9.2, the problem no longer exists. Exactly what the chemistry involved is, no one knows, though some cooks claim that salt in the cooking water helps.”

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, Chapter 2: Eggs

Joy, the egg lady says that to peel, the eggs must be 10 days old. The mangled egg above was one of three I kept for 10 days. Well there you go. But I hadn’t read Harold McGee and didn’t salt the water. Maybe that works. Continue reading

BKFSTS: grits oatmeal egg

Are grits groceries?
Then oatmeal must be groceries, too. And good for you, they say.
I’ve made grits or oatmeal for breakfast a few ways. They are almost always savory, and almost always involve a poached egg, on top. So, perhaps the subject of this piece is the poached egg.

Here are some savory grits topped by a poached egg.

I can assure you those grits were good, but I don’t remember what I put into them. For another gritty breakfast, I took the opportunity to lay out the ingredients, so there’s no doubt.

Here, I have a packet of instant grits, a bowl of leftover ham, and vegetables, to which I will add the grits and boiling water and stir. An egg to poach, and a saucepan to poach it in.

This is the result.

Thing is, I’m not fond of sweets… oatmeal is often served with sugar or syrup or something sweet like apples and cinnamon. I prefer savory with leftover (LO) bits of meat, fish or vegetables — or all of those. On the other hand, Carol made some baked apples — hollow out the core and stuff the apple with chopped nuts, butter, brown sugar and maybe cream and bake. I would chop up a LO stuffed apple — filling and all — and add to oats. That’s sweetness that I can get my mouth around.

But never mind that, here’s another breakfast with grits, not sweet. Continue reading

Anatomy of an Asian Fête

Chinese Fete

When I offered to make a birthday dinner of any dish and/or cuisine, the request was for a chinese dumpling dinner for a family gathering over Labor Day weekend. Not content to roll a bunch of dumplings, boil them up, and call it good, I used the occasion as an excuse to pull together many different asian recipes that I’ve been cooking recently, or wanting to cook, and introduce the family to my obsession with trying to grok all asian cuisines after visiting China in 2009.

The thunderbolt that hit me in China was exposure to several *different* cuisines within China — saying “Chinese cooking” is just like saying “American cooking” — it depends on who is cooking, where they are cooking, and what their cultural background is. Since then I’ve studied more about the many different Asian takes on food preparations and ingredients (from India to Japan) to try to understand the things they share, as well as what made them different.

The birthday dinner audience consisted of adults and children, many of whom had traveled and eaten around the world (including the children) but may NOT have focused their attention on Chinese or asian cuisine. Also, for family gatherings, they were accustomed to straight-forward dinner menus consisting of a big plate of meat, one or two side veggies and/or starch, and a big salad for dinner.

As I indicate in the title here with the French word “Fête” this was NOT intended to be an authentic meal by any stretch. Along with the odd mish-mash of cuisines and ignorance of proper banquet service I sought to use familiar and local ingredients where ever possible: smoked salmon, instead of ham; lobster instead of crab, etc. The intention was to create a tasty meal that exposed some of the diners to new flavors and/or textures but was not completely unfamiliar, as much as to just create a tasty meal that included dumplings. I hope that I succeeded.
Continue reading