Archive for the ‘Eggs’ Category

Quick & easy eggnog

The first time I tasted homemade eggnog, it changed me forever. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll drink the store bought stuff. And an eggnog latte?! Love it. Since learning how to make eggnog however, I almost drink it exclusively.

First, you need a good source of fresh eggs because you’ll be eating them raw. My regular egg supplier gives her hens a vacation in the winter. The shorter days and colder temperatures cause them to molt and nearly ceases their egg production. So, I buy eggs. I like to check out the Cornucopia Institute’s egg scorecard, which has led me to buy eggs from Wilcox farms. They’re available at most supermarkets, which makes them the most convenient option for me.

As much as I’d like to try Jess Thomson’s recipe, I always wimp out. The recipe I use is based on one by Alton Brown. It makes about nearly a half gallon of egg nog. His recipe calls for mixing in the Bourbon, which sounds like a fine idea to me but less so to my non-Bourbon drinker husband. Plus, if you do want to make an eggnog latte in the morning you’ll seem like less of an an alcoholic if there’s no booze in your ‘nog.  

4 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (see Cook’s Note)
4 egg whites

In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the ⅓ cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whiles in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running, gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture.

To Serve: Pour a shot of Bourbon or Rum – or even Kahlua – into a glass and add 1 cup or so of egg nog. Grate a dash of freshly grated nutmeg on top.

Cook’s Note: DO NOT buy ground nutmeg. For about 15 cents, you can buy a whole nutmeg that will last forever. You just need a Microplane zester. They are only $15 or so and also last forever and can be used to zest citrus or grate hard cheeses.

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What have I become?

My first job was at a deli counter in a small gourmet grocery called Brodeens. I made $3.35 an hour. We sold lots of stinky cheeses whose names I couldn’t pronounce and cured meats of all shapes and sizes. I started the summer after I turned 14 and quit just before Thanksgiving. I couldn’t bare the thought of handling whole, raw turkeys. Raw chickens were bad enough.

The affluent little suburb where this grocery was located (and where I grew up) was filled with desperate housewives. The owners of the store flirted with them endlessly and those of us in the deli had to fulfill all of their very specific requests. The worst was when someone ordered Prosciutto. “I’d like it sliced VERY thin,” they’d demand. I’d roll my eyes and lug the large leg of ham over to the meat slicer. I had nightmares about that fucking meat slicer. It was terrifying. Slicing the Prosciutto thinly, AND evenly, was no easy task. I never mastered that task in my brief tenure at Brodeens.

I thought my parents were pretty worldly, especially when it came to food. They were European. At least they cooked. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s meant that most of my friends had two working parents, the microwave was a relatively new invention (and therefore a novelty that must be used AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE) and many people subsisted on frozen dinners and hamburger helper. Margarine, Velveeta and bologna were other household staples.

Although my parents cooked a lot and always grew their own veggies and fruit, their diet was limited to mostly Scandinavian food. Norwegian’s have their own version of Prosciutto, but my dad left it hanging in the garage with a knife stabbed into the flesh, ready whenever he – or any visitors – wanted a snack. There was blood sausage, liver pates, potato dumplings, and salted cod. The flavors leaned far into the mild category. I won’t say bland, because there was definitely a lot of flavor. There just wasn’t much spice. Let me just admit right here that the first time I had pizza – at about age 10 – I spit it out. It burned my tongue.

It didn’t help that I was a supremely picky eater. I loved fruit, sugar, dessert, and juice. We ate a lot of fish – a Scandinavian thing, but also a Northwest thing – and with the abundance of salmon in those days we had what you’d call an embarrassment of riches. There were many nights my brother and I would whine and complain, “Salmon…AGAIN?!” My mom cooked most things from scratch, even making homemade macaroni and cheese, even though what we really wanted was the stuff with the powdered cheese.

It wasn’t until I started traveling – on my own – that I got more adventurous with food and flavors. Visiting markets in Italy, France and Turkey opened up my palate to a lot more interesting flavors. I had an interest in cooking early on, especially baking (for the sugar, of course) and by my mid-20s I really wanted to challenge myself. If I ate a good meal in a restaurant, I wanted to try and recreate it at home. Returning from 6-8 week trips in Europe, I tried to recreate the food moments I experienced there.

On the spectrum of foo-fooo. Foood…Oh, I can’t say it. On the spectrum of food enthusiasts, I am pretty novice. I only buy Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, organic milk, and try to stick to produce in season. But, I still love me some junk food. You can take the girl out of the 80s but you can’t take the 80s out of the girl. I still devour the cheese dip my mom makes with Velveeta, have bought Tang in the last five years and can’t be trusted around a can of Pringles.

So having said all of that, I have come to a point in my life, that I when I shop for food – at a Farmers’ Market, mega market or deli – I know what I want. I am undyingly loyal to my favorite brands of olive oil, dried pasta and Dijon mustard. I scrutinize wedges of cheese for freshness and pepper butchers and fish mongers with questions. But when I go to the deli counter, I always pause and think hard about what I am going to do and say.

When I step up to place my order at the deli, the young man who is generally working behind the counter recognizes me instantly, and not in a good way. I usually stop by for some sliced ham or turkey, but every few months I buy some Prosciutto and I swear he sees me coming and thinks, good Christ she’s gonna demand some thinly-sliced Prosciutto again. And you know what? He’s right.

The thing is…I now understand and appreciate the mouth-watering appeal of fresh, thinly sliced Prosciutto. The pre-sliced stuff just doesn’t compare. And, if the Prosciutto is sliced too thick or too uneven, it just isn’t the same. If you are cooking with it, you can fudge it a little bit, but for wrapping around fruit, vegetables or breadsticks…thin is the only way to go. And really, for $27 a pound I can be a little demanding can’t I?

I have had this recipe floating around my kitchen for at least a year. My friends in Copenhagen sent it to me, knowing I would love it. They were right. Eggs are obviously a staple we have in abundance. Red-ripe tomatoes (grown by my parents) have been lining my windowsill for weeks. And Prosciutto, well all I need to do is visit my favorite deli man. I’m sure he’s missed me.

Parma Bowls with Egg and Tomato
Serves 2

2 big slices Prosciutto di Parma (thinly-sliced, natch)
2 Tbsp diced tomato
2 eggs
2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 2 cups in a muffin tin. Line the cups with one slice of Prosciutto each, forming it into a tight little cup. Sprinkle Prosciutto with chopped tomato. Crack an egg into each cup.

Bake for 10 minutes. Pull out the tray and sprinkle with the cheese (optional). Bake another 3-6 minutes or until the eggs are set to your liking.

Gently remove the Parma bowls onto plates and sprinkle with basil.

I think the general concept of this dish could be adapted with other ingredients. A sliced meat with plenty of fat is key for making a nice crispy crusted bowl, but ham may work. If tomatoes are out of season, caramelized onions or roasted red peppers would work great. Thyme or tarragon sprinkled on top would work well too. And for the optional cheese, you can’t go wrong with Velveeta…

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It’s no secret that I L-O-V-E eggs. I love them soft boiled, poached, and especially in Eggs Benedict. They are so versatile. They are almost as great as the sum of their parts. The whites are miraculous in meringues and the yolks enrich a sauce like nothing else. And when you are tired, they make the simplest of suppers.

The urban chicken coop has been alive and well in the Seattle area for years. I worked with a couple of people who raised their own chickens and have seen chicken eggs at the farmers’ markets for $5 a dozen. I always tried to buy the free-range, no hormone, naturally nested type eggs, but I have to admit that I had a little chicken envy.

Those chicken people were so smug though. “Oh, the eggs are so fresh,” they’d exclaim. “The yolks are so bright,” they’d gush. “They are almost orange in color, you wouldn’t believe it!” And on, and on, and on. Oh, and Martha Stewart – that bitch – was the smuggest of them all! As she’d whisk up a Caesar dressing with raw egg yolks, she’d boast, “I don’t worry about salmonella because I get the eggs from my OWN CHICKENS.”

The thing is, for as much as I love eggs, I hate chickens. The way they wobble about, bobbing their heads and pecking the ground…is terrifying. Granted, I feel the same way about pigeons. If you walk towards them, you don’t know if they are going to fly away from your or into you. Terrifying.

Needless to say, owning chickens was out of the question. Don’t think I didn’t try. I casually mentioned it to Gavin once, probably after reading a “Build Your Own Chicken Coop This Weekend,” article in Sunset magazine. He laughed. Really LAUGHED. And teased. “Don’t you remember Kauai,” he asked.

We went to Kauai for our honeymoon (5 years ago next week) and loved it. Except for the chickens. They are everywhere on the island and have no real predators…other than motor vehicles. The story goes that Hurricane Iniki (in the early 1990s) destroyed a bunch of chicken coops and the chickens that survived are now wild and continue to breed. They weren’t at our resort, or at the lovely beach that we lounged at day in and day out…but everywhere else – chickens.

I tried to talk my parents into raising chickens a couple of times. They are great gardeners and DIYers, so it seemed natural. I tried subtlety at first, “You guys eat a lot of eggs, you know I hear raising chickens is easy.” I like to think my parents are getting forgetful enough that if I suggest something enough times, they will think they came up with the idea. Hey, it’s worked before, but that’s a story for another day. I later moved on to a direct approach. “You should raise chickens, you like to grow stuff and then you’d have fresh eggs every day.” That last attempt was met with a response just as direct from my mother, “Are you joking? Why on Earth would I want to take care of those filthy animals when I can just go to the store and buy fresh eggs?” Um. Yeah. I can see her point.

Where did that leave me? As of three months ago, that left me with eggs from the supermarket. I was buying eggs – white shells, yellow yolks, one-dimensional flavor. I had resigned myself to buying supermarket eggs until I met Lisa.

I met Lisa at our friend Maria’s 40th birthday party. I had made the birthday pies (apple) and Lisa was impressed. Our friend Michelle played matchmaker. It went something like this, “Sonja, this is Lisa and she loved your apple pie. Lisa has chickens that layfresheggseveryday. You should trade eggs for baked goods.” Ding ding ding ding ding! Done. Deal.

For the past three months, I’ve become friends with Lisa as we make our bi- or tri- weekly exchange of baked goods for eggs. I even got my parents in on the action. My dad traded some fresh halibut for his eggs.

Now that I have come to appreciate and enjoy a truly fresh egg, you know what? I have become that smug person! I had no idea how much more flavorful really fresh eggs could be! And the yolks – I can’t tell people enough about them, “So big – so plump – so flavorful! And they are SO yellow…they are almost orange.” I kid you not. I heard Gavin doing it the other day too. We have become that which we mocked!

I’ll admit it. Fresh chicken eggs – and I mean really fresh – are vastly superior to anything I’ve tasted before. The color of their shells are determined by the color of the hen’s skin and in the case of Lisa’s chickens (that are grey and copper), the shells are pale blue and brown. I got to meet the chickens once and even took their picture…but from the safety of the deck.

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Last year we took an Italian cooking class from the chef at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. The chef’s famous lasagna was part of the curriculum and we were excited to learn his secrets. We had been making our own lasagna for some time, homemade noodles and all, but knew we could do better. The class was fine, albeit it a little unorganized, and the chef was very knowledgeable and friendly.

Something he said though bugged me and has stuck with me over since that time. When he was separating eggs for the pasta dough, he said “you know the difference between men and women, is that women separate eggs like this (transferring the yolk between two cracked halves of the shell) and men separate eggs like this (placing the yolk into his hand and letting the white drip down into the garbage can). This struck me as needlessly sexist. Maybe it wasn’t meant that way, but it still bugged the shit out of me.

Since then, every time I separate eggs I think about that. Recently, it dawned on me that women separate eggs that way because THEY SAVE THE EGG WHITES! Sure, many male cooks probably do too. And I can’t imagine that a restaurant would throw away valuable product. But I think many men just throw away the egg whites, whereas most women save them.

I am a big fan of eggs. I think they are brilliant whole, but the yolks and whites are also amazing when used separately. I make a lot of custards and egg-based sauces, so I often have saved egg whites in my fridge. Leftover egg whites are great if you can find a use for them. I understand you can freeze them too, but I haven’t tried that yet. If I have three egg whites, I save them for these Swedish cookies I often make. If I have one egg white, I generally mix it in with one or two whole eggs for scrambled eggs. If I have just two egg whites though, I got nothing.

Lately I’ve been making a lot of ice cream. The custard base calls for 5 egg yolks. So, I have had five egg whites to use up after: that’s t three for the cookies and two for…two for…grrr. What can I make with two eggs whites?!

I don’t know where I saw them recently (probably the food network), but I saw meringues and thought, “BINGO!” Meringues use egg whites and I have plenty of those. I did a quick search on the new Epicurious iPhone app and found a simple recipe. The only key really is to make sure you get the egg whites stiff enough.


2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 200°F. and butter and flour a large baking sheet, knocking off excess flour. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, beating, and beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks. Drop heaping teaspoons (not measuring spoons) of meringue about 1 inch apart onto baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave meringues in oven 1 hour more. With a metal spatula transfer meringues to a rack to cool completely. Meringue kisses may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

I don’t have a decent pastry bag, so I used a ziptop plastic bag and cut a small corner off and used it as an improvised pastry bag. The meringues are tasty enough, even if they look like little white turds.

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I have a love/hate relationship with asparagus. I love it when someone else cooks it, but hate it whenever I cook it. A few weeks ago though, I heard about an asparagus preparation that just might prove successful if I tried it at home.

We had hot, summer-like weather in Seattle for the last week – a rarity for this time of year. We spent every evening out on our deck, only going inside for fresh reading material of more ice. I picked up our bi-weekly produce basket one day which included some fresh, local asparagus. It being so hot, I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy meal so a light vegetable dish sounded perfect. I had all the other ingredients on hand to try out a new recipe.

Grilled Asparagus with Tarragon Vinaigrette and Poached Egg
1 serving

4-8 spears of asparagus, peeled
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper
1 egg

Start by breaking off the woody ends of the asparagus. I also peel the stalks lightly, since they always get stringy if I don’t. What I mean by lightly is that I don’t peel absolutely everything. I peel it ‘lightly,’ I can’t really think of another way to describe that.

Make the vinaigrette: whisk together the lemon juice, tarragon, shallot and oil. Salt & pepper to taste.

Steam the asparagus spears for 2-3 minutes until they have softened. Then, put them into a soaking tub filled with the vinaigrette while you fire up the grill (at least 10 minutes; no more than one hour) and get the water boiling for the egg.

If you don’t have a grill, I think you can just saute the spears at this point. There is a little tricky timing to make sure the asparagus is still hot when the poached egg is ready. I grilled the asparagus for about 5 minutes, just enough time to poach the egg.

To poach the egg:
Fill a saucepan with 3-4 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil. Crack in egg into a small cup. Remove the pan from the heat and gently pour the egg into the water. Cover and walk away. For 4 1/2 minutes. Gently lift the egg out of the pan with a slotted spoon. I poke and prod the egg at this point to make sure the white is fully cooked. I have had pretty good success with this timing though.

To serve:
Remove the asparagus from the grill and place on a serving plate. Spoon over a tablespoon or so of the vinaigrette. Place the poached egg on top and season generously with salt and pepper.

The beauty of this dish is that when you break into the egg yolk, it mixes with the vinaigrette to make a nice sauce. This may soon become my favorite way to prepare vegetables, as I think you could substitute anything for the asparagus…or even make a salad with a similar vinaigrette. A poached egg improves everything.

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Thankfully, my love of cooking has rubbed off on Gavin quite nicely. At times, it is irritating, because I suspect his palate is better than mine plus he never, ever uses a recipe. Other times though, when I’m drained and hungry for example, I am really thankful that Gavin will whip up a meal for me.

He excels at cooking many things, but is definitely my go-to guy on two: The first is gravy. I can bake just about anything, yet have an irrational fear of gravy. Gavin loves gravy and has therefore mastered it. The second is omelets. The two are probably related, since they both require patience.

Gavin is a masterful omelet maker, I must admit. He heats to pan on medium-low and gently beats a couple of eggs with a little cream. Then, after melting some butter in the pan, he pours in the eggs, adds some salt and pepper and waits. Waits. WAITS. This is where I usually say ‘fuck it’ and make scrambled eggs.

I’m thankful for a true omelet once in awhile though, especially when it’s late and I am tired and hungry. Then….I get one of these.

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You have to love an email that says, “…We have 1000 pounds of organic, heirloom Berkshire hog bacon for sale.” An email two weeks ago from the good folks at Swinery Meats (AKA Culinary Communion) said just that. Well, I picked up my bacon last week and let me tell you…it’s divine.

I am no stranger to good bacon, but I am pretty content with thick-cut bacon from Hemplers that I usually pick-up. This fancy-pants bacon is great stuff though. The fat is almost buttery. It isn’t smoked as much as typical bacon either, so it has a nice mild sweetness to it.

The next day, I fried up some bacon before work to use for a lunchtime BLT. Yes, some managed to get eaten straight away, before I even left the house for the office. Other than using bacon for weekend breakfasts, we probably use bacon the most in Pasta Carbonara.

Describing this dish doesn’t really do it justice – it’s just pasta tossed with bacon and eggs. The trick is to slowly temper the egg mixture into the hot pasta so that rather than scrambled eggs you get a thick, velvety, custard-like sauce coating the eggs.

We made Pasta Carbonara with our friends Jason & Dana when we visited them in Chicago over Thanksgiving. They loved it and were happy to learn how quick and easy it is to make. I likened it to that old adage, “teach a man to fish, feed him for a day…,” because once you learn this dish you’ll eat well for many years to come.

You start with a few simple, quality ingredients: pasta, parmigiano, eggs, cream and bacon. The better the ingredients the better the end result, so get good bacon, good quality eggs and real parmigiano.

Pasta Carbonara
Serves 2

1/2 pound pasta (we prefer Barilla Linguine)
4 slices bacon (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
1 clove of garlic, sliced thick
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 eggs
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
Salt & fresh ground pepper

Bring 4-5 quarts of salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Add the bacon and garlic and brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Once the garlic is browned, remove it and discard. Allow the bacon to brown until nearly crisp, then add the vermouth. Simmer until the vermouth is reduced by about half. Remove the skillet from the heat.

In a small mixing bowl, gently whisk the eggs, cream and about 1/4 cup of the parmigiano until just combined. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper.

Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and stir the hot pasta into the skillet with the garlicky-bacon mixture. Toss to cool off the pasta just slightly. Add in the egg/cream mixture and toss to coat. Season to taste (go wild with the pepper, it makes the dish). Serve topped with more freshly grated parmigiano.

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