Archives for category: Eggs

I had a craving this week brought on by subliminal messaging. Wednesday morning I was reading the Times‘s Dining section and recall seeing more than one recipe involving cornmeal. I suppose it’s that time of year—for cornbread stuffing, creamy polenta, cornmeal cookies. By 4 pm I was at the greenmarket in Union Square with a serious hankering. I swung by the Cayuga Pure Organics stand and bought a bag of fine cornmeal (not its coarser cousin, polenta—no offense polenta).

My plan was to make jalapeño spoonbread using Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe from her Recipes for Health column. Spoonbread is an airy, soufflé-like cornbread that turns golden brown and rises during baking. I find it’s moister than cornbread, and the leftovers make for one mean breakfast the next morning.

In the end I couldn’t find a jalapeño or an ear of corn (or frozen corn for that matter) so I made some adjustments. I substituted cayenne for the jalapeño, and did away with the corn kernels all together.

By the time I got baking it was nearing 10 pm, and since I decided to beat the egg whites by hand, it was close to midnight when I finally pulled the puffy, fragrant cornmeal soufflé from the oven. No matter, still airy and warm I cut into the spoonbread and helped myself to a midnight snack.

The next morning, I reheated a slice in a skillet with a little butter and served it drizzled with maple syrup for a scrumptious breakfast.

The story doesn’t end there. I tried the recipe again yesterday with my friend Amy while on a lunch break (the perks of being a freelancer and working from home). But the two spoonbreads couldn’t have been more different. Whereas the first night the cornbread browned and puffed up just like it was supposed to, yesterday is remained yellow without browning and never quite reached soufflé heights, and I know why.

You know how when beating egg whites you’re supposed to make sure there’s nothing else in the bowl? No trace of anything that could prevent the whites from reaching their stiff peaks? I goofed and left about 1 tsp of milk in the bowl ergo the egg whites never full aerated. Nonetheless, yesterday’s batch was spoonable and yummy, just with less of the french-toast-like consistency of the first batch. More like regular cornbread, less dense though.

You can probably tell which photo of the finished product is from which experiment.

Jalapeño Spoonbread
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times

1 c water
2 c milk (whole or 2%)
3/4 tsp salt
1 c (130 g) cornmeal
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 eggs, whites and yolks separated
Kernels from 1 ear of corn of 3/4 c frozen corn (optional)
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1/2 c (2 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and butter a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet or baking dish.

2. Combine the water, milk, and salt in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Slowly add the cornmeal in a stream while whisking constantly. Turn the heat to low and continue to whisk for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is thick. Remove from heat and stir in the butter.

3. One at a time, stir in the egg yolks, then add the cheese and corn kernels, if using, and the jalapeños.

4. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir in 1/4 of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture, then gently fold in the remaining 3/4. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for thirty minutes until the spoonbread puffs and begins to brown. Serve at once.

Should you achieve soufflé greatness it is a satisfying but fleeting accomplishment. Dig into the spoonbread while still warm and puffy, because it will deflate before you can reach for seconds. Chill leftovers and serve the next day reheated in a skillet with a bit of butter (and maple syrup if you’re so inclined).

I recently came upon a treasure. For the past couple of months my grandmother has been telling me of an old blue cookbook she’s had for ages that she wanted to give me. She said it contained recipes for things like Campbell’s tomato soup cake and various gelatinous desserts that might be fun to create. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book and start cooking, retro style.

To my chagrin we couldn’t find the book anywhere in her house; I turned closets upside down, called my mother asking if she had thrown it away, to no avail. Then recently, on my last visit, she told me to go to the upstairs kitchen and look above the sink. I dashed up the stairs, like it was Christmas morning, and there it was: a little musty, mildewy, and indeed, blue.

The American Woman’s Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, the director of the Culinary Arts Institute, was published in Chicago in 1945. Back then, my grandmother was a secretary in Manhattan at an insurance company. She traveled into the city from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn where she lived with her mother and sister. The way she remembers it, one day, someone came into the office and all the “girls” had to each buy a copy of the newly published cookbook. I should say the book was first published in 1938 and later revised by Berolzheimer in 1945.

Well there isn’t in fact a recipe for tomato soup cake, or even too many wiggly desserts. It’s a treasure of classics with recipes including: creamed salmon, bacon corn bread, popovers, welsh rarebit, réchauffé of lamb, roast beef, and coconut cream pie. Oh the good old days! When folks drank buttermilk with dinner and dissolved baking soda in water when sick. When milk was dropped off in glass jars on your doorstep and people made their own preserves and jellies.

The Table of Contents reveals a chapter for “The Lunch Box” and another for “Food for Invalids.” The Lunch Box section reads:

“As much care is needed in selecting and preparing the food for the lunch box as for the other meals served to the family. If the lunch is inadequate or lacking in food essentials throughout the year, the individual’s whole nutrition will be seriously affected, and his work will suffer. The lunch box is one of three meals, not just a ‘snack,’ and should possess the following characteristics:

1. It should be abundant in amount for a hungry, healthy individual. A little too much is better than too little.
2. It should be chosen with regard to nutritive needs of the individual, and in relation to the whole day’s food.
3. It should be clean, appetizing, wholesome and attractive.”

That’s a tall order. It’s also quite different from today when most people get a $7 burrito from Qdoba or a $5 footlong from Subway and call it a lunch. I like the idea though of a well-prepared, carefully presented lunch, in a metal box, with a thermos and cloth napkin and silverware (to say nothing of course that the woman didn’t have much of a choice whether this was the job she wanted or not, preparing cute and wholesome lunches for her husband and kids). Some of the menu suggestions are cream of spinach soup with crackers, an egg salad sandwich with lettuce, raw vegetable strips, an apple, and cup cake (that’s one lunch); or peanut butter, bacon and lettuce sandwiches, carrot sticks, cauliflowerlets, a hard-cooked egg, gingerbread, grapes, and milk (again, that’s all one lunch).

“Food for Invalids” reads, “The following general suggestions are intended to help the housewife who, in addition to her other work, has the duty of ministering to the needs of the sick and convalescent.” It recommends presenting the food as nicely as possible, and serving hot foods very hot and cold foods very cold, with meals arriving at regular intervals, perhaps with a sprig of green or a flower on the tray. Dishes in this section include banana gruel, egg drinks, kumiss (milk, yeast-cake, and sugar), rice jelly, and flaxseed lemonade. A recipe for something called “panada” says to place 2 soda or graham crackers in a bowl and add boiling water to soak the crackers, for 20-30 minutes. Lift them from the water carefully and serve on a hot saucer, serve with sugar and cream.

Needless to say I can’t wait to start cooking from this book. I’d like to try the chess pie, which includes only pastry, butter, sugar, eggs, raisins, nuts, and vanilla; fricassee of chicken; chicken and dumplings; the devil’s food cake; and many more. This weekend I hope to carve out some time for at least one or two recipes, and if I do you’ll hear about it here of course.

Making a tortilla Española, or Spanish omelette, is not as easy as it looks. Or rather, not on the first try, but maybe the second or third. My friends and I made one Tuesday night for dinner and the results were certainly tasty, but didn’t necessarily come out tidy or resembling a dish you’d serve at a tapas bar in Salamanca.

We followed a recipe by Seamus Mullen, whom you might know from the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef, or as the founder of Manhattan’s two Boqueria restaurants. This month Mullen opened a new spot, Tertulia, in the West Village, serving northern Spanish fare like tosta setas and ham croquettes, from morning to night.  I like him for his food, but also his heritage: Mullen grew up on an organic farm in Vermont.

So first, the ingredients. There are only five: eggs, olive oil, onion, garlic, potatoes. Oh and salt. Traditionally, I think, no black pepper, green herbs, tomatoes, cayenne, peppers, nada. Keep it simple. Of course the entire time I was making it I was also making mental notes of substitutions and additions—chives, more garlic, slightly thinner potato slices, roasted tomatoes…

You’ll notice this recipe calls for a lot of olive oil. This doesn’t actually all end up in the dish, it is drained and reserved for future tortilla making.

I recommend, in Step 6, repeating the flipping process one or two times to make sure your tortilla really sets and turns out with well-rounded edges. We skipped that and thus our dish came out looking, well, rustic.

Here’s the recipe we more or less followed:

Tortilla Española

Recipe adapted from Seamus Mullen, New York City
Yields one 10-inch tortilla, serves 4-5

Ingredients

8 eggs
Salt
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed slightly
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds/slices

1. Lightly beat the eggs and season generously with salt, set aside.

2. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet (I used cast-iron), heat the olive oil over medium-low heat until it’s warm. Add the onion and garlic and gently cook until the onion is translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add the potatoes, cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes are falling apart but not browning.

3. Remove the pan from heat and strain the mixture through a colander, reserving the olive oil for the next time you make a tortilla. After straining the potato-onion mixture, season it with salt and add the eggs, mixing until combined.

4. Heat the same skillet over medium-low heat, adding one tbsp of olive oil from the reserves. Pour the potato-onion mixture into the pan and let it cook for 2 minutes without touching the pan, until the bottom begins to set. Gently shake the pan to release the eggs from the bottom; using a rubber spatula, gently pull the mixture away from the edge to make sure it isn’t sticking at all. Cook until the bottom is set but the top is still very wet, about 5 minutes.

5. Place a large, flat plate on top of the skillet, hold it tightly, and using one quick motion, flip the tortilla onto the plate. I recommend watching this video first. We also had two people doing this step.

6. Wipe the pan with a paper towel, turn the heat back on, add another tbsp of the reserved olive oil and carefully slip the tortilla back into the pan, under-cooked side down, cooking for another 3 minutes. You can repeat this flipping process one or two more times until the tortilla is nice and set, rounded, and golden on the outside.

Serve with little sides, like a green salad, a bowl of olives, or sardines on crackers.

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