Category Archives: Eggs

This is so difficult you may not even want to try.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

The gift of a spaetzle-maker, originally intended for the giver’s daughter – “Honestly, you’re more likely to use it.” – has plagued me for years. It sat in the cupboard leering, challenging me to finally take it from it’s simple, clear plastic wrapping and make a batch of the quickly simmered soup dumplings.

For some reason, however, making doughs, an activity involving things like measuring and specific ingredients, always seems so foreboding, a challenge best left to classically trained pastry chefs and German grandmothers.

Last week, the need to dress up my recipe for asparagus soup drove me to research spaetzle. Custards felt fussy, and a garnish of wild mushrooms just lazy. Mushroom spaetzle, though daunting, seemed the perfect solution. We carefully measured each ingredient only to discover that sweet, light Oyster mushrooms disappeared in the rich dough. We pressed on, sautéing hearty, bold Criminis for a second batch. They were delicious and we were in love.

So, was it worth the painstaking pain and suffering? Should spaetzle be left to the chefs? The answer is “no.” Made with four ingredients, simmered and served, spaeetzle couldn’t be simpler. Guten appetit!

Mushroom Spaetzle

Serves 6-8

Spaetzle makerIngredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until softened and golden on edges. Add wine to pan and scrape up any brown bits. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Chop mushrooms and parsley together until minced.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together flour and salt. Add mushrooms and whisk to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until it forms into a smooth dough.
  • Press dough through a colander, or spaetzle-maker, over simmering water. Cook for 2-3 minutes and drain.
  • Serve with butter or over soup.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 6-8

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley, reserve stems
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Sherry vinegar

Directions:

  • Snap tough ends from asparagus. Add ends to a 4 qt saucepan with stock, thyme, bay and parsley stems. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer potatoes and leeks in butter. Add a little water as needed. Cook until potatoes are soft.
  • Strain stock into soup pot and cook for five minutes. Cut remaining asparagus into 2” pieces and add to stock. Remove 10-12 tips after 3 minutes.
  • When asparagus is just tender, pass soup through a food mill or processor. Stir through parsley.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and vinegar. Garnish with asparagus tips.

Sobering.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My friend Ali and I are both responsible, mature adults. However, for a brief period, before we met our husbands, she and I got together regularly for an after work cocktail or seven. We often ended those less-than-sober nights dining on what we affectionately referred to as “cheap Chinese.”

Several years ago, after a glass of wine, we returned to the scene of youthful excess, excited to once again dine on some of DC’s best Chinese food. It was an epic mistake. Rule #1 of drunken dining: don’t ever go back sober. The food was terrible.

Unfortunately, Chinese food, which can be fresh, bright and rich, often disappoints, salty, fatty and limp. Egg fu yung, is perhaps one of the worst perpetrators,  laden with a corn (starch and syrup) gravy. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Farm fresh eggs and toasted sesame oil makes this Asian omelet rich. Lightly stir-fried cabbage delivers the crisp crunch missing in mung bean sprouts, while Shitake mushrooms provide the umami depth typically derived from MSG. Our gravy, thick with cornstarch is bright with vinegar, soy and homemade stock. So sober up, and get ready for some amazingly good Chinese!

Egg Fu Yung

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

For Omelet:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tbs peanut oil
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 1.5 cups Shitake mushrooms, slice thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For Sauce:

  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs Sherry Vinegar*
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1.5 cups vegetable stock or Asian stock

*For a more complex flavor with a hint of sweetness, use 1 tbs Sherry vinegar and 2 tbs of Sapore’s Serrano Chile Honey vinegar.

Directions:

  • Whisk together eggs, sesame oil and green parts of scallions in a large bowl.
  • On medium heat, warm 1 tbs peanut oil in a 12” skillet. Sauté white part of scallions until softened. Add cabbage and stirfry until tender but still firm. Add to egg mixture.
  • Return skillet to heat, add 1 tbs peanut oil and shitake mushrooms, sauté until softened and browning on edges. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Stir into egg mixture.
  • Heat 2 tbs oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in eggs, cover and cook.
  • While omelet cooks, mix together sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer until thickened. Keep warm.
  • When the top of the omelet is set, loosen the Egg Fu Yung with a rubber spatula, slide onto a platter, and serve with gravy. (Or just eat it right from the pan.)

Surprise!

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Easter EggWhen I was four or five we had a jellybean hunt instead of an Easter egg hunt. File that away for later.

At the age of fourteen, on the Saturday before Easter, I snuck out of the house at 10pm, after everyone had gone to bed, and rode my bike down the hill to the local Dairy Mart. I purchased four dozen eggs, several dying kits and one package of those plastic, shrink-wrap collars that cling to the egg when submerged in boiling water.

Back home at 11:00PM I hardboiled and decorated each of the 48 eggs. They were dyed brightly, names added with the clear, wax crayon, and the Paas stickers, including the turtle and the little, golden cross, placed carefully.

Well past midnight I snuck quietly out into the backyard and hid each of the 48 eggs before creeping up to my third floor bedroom and drifting off to sleep, smiling, knowing I would wake to greet my family with this wonderful surprise.

I rose Easter Sunday about 1 hour after my dad, who was up early to let the dogs out. I came down and announced, beaming, the prior night’s mischief. Dad, looking worried, walked me out into the yard. “Do you remember,” he said, “when we had the jellybean hunt for Easter?”

“Of course,” I replied. It had seemed so different and magic at the time.

“We had planned an outdoor Easter egg hunt that year too, but when we let the dogs out, they ate each and everyone of the eggs. I suspect they did the same thing this morning.”

Sure enough, the eggs were gone. Every one of them. All that was left were pieces of shell and the chewed plastic shrink-wraps. Dad and I walked back inside, and he let me help hide the two dozen eggs we had decorated as a family the afternoon before.

NOTE: For those of you worries about the dogs, our two labs were just fine, despite looking a bit smug that morning.

Spinach Frittata

Spinach FrittataIngredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound spinach leaves, stemmed
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp cream
  • 1/2 tsp
  • nutmeg
  • cayenne
  • white pepper

Directions:

  • Warm oil over medium heat in a 12″ skillet. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add spinach to pan and cook until wilted and most of the water has evaporated. About 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove spinach to cutting board and chop finely.
  • Whisk together eggs, and cream. Season with salt, a few grinds of pepper and a pinch each of nutmeg and cayenne.
  • Return pan to medium heat and melt butter, swirling to coat the bottom and edges of the pan.
  • Sprinkle the spinach over the bottom of the pan, and gently pour the eggs over the top. If the eggs don’t spread evenly over the pan, gently tip the pan to distribute.
  • Now, stop messing with the eggs. Don’t stir them. Cover the pan with a lid and let them sit for 5 minutes or so. Take a quick look, and if they are nearly set, move a rubber spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the frittata. Return the cover and cook until the eggs on top are set.
  • Once finished, remove from heat and loosen the frittata with a rubber spatula and slide it onto a cutting board or serving plate. If it feels like it won’t loosen from the pan, cut it into wedges or squares and remove it piece by piece. Either way, it tastes awesome!

I ❤ Jason.

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Jonathan and JasonThree years ago I woke up on Valentine’s Day, a Sunday, and grabbed my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which had spent the better part of a year next to my bedside. Deciding it was high time I learned to make a soufflé, I turned to the chapter on entrées and luncheon dishes.

This recipe is a shining example of Julia’s genius as a teacher and a writer. She breaks it down into three parts – sauce, flavor base and egg whites for leavening – that make soufflés not only simple, but easy to remember. Julia also praises the value of a copper bowl for whisking egg whites, which, she claims, increases the volume by a third.

I dressed and headed to the kitchen while Jason showered. When he came down to the breakfast table he found not only a beautiful, puffy, golden soufflé, but a vase filled with hand-arranged, white flowers.

Jason handed me a folded piece of paper. It unfolded to reveal an order receipt for a copper whisking bowl. I fell in love all over again.*

*With Jason. Not the bowl.

Julia Child’s Soufflé Recipe

That morning my first soufflé was flavored with Manchego cheese and jamón Serrano, both Spanish, that we had in the cheese drawer. Here is the recipe below, adapted from Julia Child. Forget all of your fears, soufflés are really quite simple. I have never had one fall in the oven, and entertain of brings lots of big boys stomping around our kitchen. By your second soufflé you’ll have it in the oven within 25 minutes, and served, with a vinaigrette-dressed salad, within an hour.

SouffléIngredients:

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, unbleached
  • 1 cup milk, whole
  • White pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese*
  • 1/2 cup diced jamón Serrano*

*You can substitute about 1 cup of cheese and just about anything else you want. Try bacon, sautéed mushrooms, fresh corn, smoked or cooked salmon etc…

Directions:

  • Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Butter the inside of a 2 qt soufflé dish. Add grated parmesan and turn dish to coat, reserving extra cheese.
  • Make the béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2-3 minutes being careful not to brown the roux. You are cooking the raw flavor out of the flour. When ready, it will smell pleasantly sharp.
  • Off the heat, add the milk all at once and whisk vigorously to avoid lumps.
  • Return the sauce to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes until it thickens. The sauce will be very thick. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and a pinch each of cayenne pepper and nutmeg.
  • Stir the egg yolks, one at a time, into the sauce.
  • Next whisk the egg whites, in a copper bowl if you have one, or a freshly cleaned bowl, until they support their own weight on the whisk.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the béchamel sauce with the cheese and jamón. Stir in 1/4 of the stiff egg whites. This lightens the mixture so you lose less volume folding in the remaining three quarters of the egg white.
  • Gently fold in the remaining three quarters of the egg white, until only a few white streaks remain. Transfer the mixture to the prepared soufflé dish, smooth out the top with an offset spatula (or the rubber one that’s already dirty from folding) and sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake for 25 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 20 or so. the soufflé is done when the top is golden brown and moves slightly in the middle when shaken. I prefer mine still wet in the center. Serve immediately. Warn your guests ahead of time.

Strange chocolate.

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IMG_3406If you need someone to blame, then it is my Mom’s fault. For most of my teenage years, we would tackle Bon Appetit’s ridiculously complicated Valentine’s Day dessert together. This recipe taught me several important life skills including the proper pronunciation of framboise and Grand Marnier, and that, though still underage, if you cook with a new alcohol, it is easy to convince otherwise responsible adults that you needed to taste it.

More importantly, it taught me to enter the kitchen without fear, to fail boldly, and that if it meant eight hours together with someone special, your day was a complete success.

Unlike the glazed strawberry tarts with crème patissiere and spun sugar, or the aforementioned white and dark chocolate, marbled heart, this recipe is a snap. You have to wait 20 minutes for the cream to steep with the vanilla bean, and make sure not to scramble the egg yolks.

Chocolate Pasta + Crème Anglaise

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 cups cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large-egg yolks
  • 1.5 cups raspberries
  • 1.5 tsp Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar*
  • 8oz chocolate pasta*

Simple Substitutions: You can use a thick, syrupy, 25-year balsamic and a tablespoon of dark, bittersweet chocolate shavings instead of the vinegar. No pasta? Grab some fresh berries, or just eat the sauce with a spoon. We won’t tell.

Directions:

  • Warm cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add bean and seeds to cream. Turn off heat, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
  • Strain cream and return to heat with sugar. Return to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  • Add cream slowly to egg yolks. Return to med heat. Stir until sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Crush 5-6 raspberries in a bowl. Strain sauce into bowl. Add vinegar.
  • Cook pasta until al dente. Strain and return to pot with sauce. Cook an additional 5 minutes over low heat. Stir often.
  • Cool to room temp over a bowl of ice water and serve topped with berries.

Denver Beer is a whole other story.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“Good Lord! This recipe looks ugly.” You’ve said that before, and you’re about to say it again. This hors d’oeuvre has lots of ingredients, many steps and big, scary challenges like homemade mayonnaise. It’s time to channel Dr. Bob Nakosteen. Dr. Bob was my econ and stats professor during my MBA program. One day, he explained why we hate math.

“When we read a paragraph of prose,” said Dr. Bob, “it contains a certain amount of information. Our brains have gotten pretty comfortable with that ratio of text to info. Math, on the other hand,” he said, “contains a lot more info per character. In fact, a line of mathematical symbols could contain as much information as one or several paragraphs of prose. This is when your head explodes.”

The key is to take a deep breath, change the speed on the record, and break the problem down.

Recipes are the same. The purée mashes together peas and sautéed shallot, simmered in a little stock to add depth and liquid, and seasoned with mint. The vinegar balances the slightly cloying sweetness of peas.

Mayo is simply oil whisked into egg yolks, using mustard to hold it together and seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and wasabi. We chill the seared steak in the freezer so it is firm enough to slice thinly. Then we put it all on toast.

That’s it. Two really short paragraphs that translate  all those steps and ingredients below. Sure, it’s four recipes in one (if you count toast), but you can do it. Plus, it looks and sounds really impressive, just like math, so you can tell your friends just how amazing you are. That, my friends, is worth a toast (with a Denver Beer – you’ll have to ask Dr. Bob about that too.).

*Shout out to the Isenberg School of Business at UMASS

Berbere beef crostini with wasabi mayonnaise and minted pea purée

Ingredients:

Minted pea purée

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1# bag frozen peas
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 1-2 tbs Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*

Wasabi mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks**
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tbs wasabi powder or wasabi paste

To assemble

  • 1# sirloin steaks, about 1-1.5″ thick
  • 1-2 tbs Berbere seasoning*
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 baguette cut in 1/4″ slices

*Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar is slightly sweet and mildly acidic. I would substitute a splash of sherry vinegar. Berbere is a complex spice blend unique to Ethiopian and Eritrean food. It’s got a lot of ingredients, but you can make a simple start with equal parts cumin, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cayenne and paprika. 

**The egg yolks in homemade mayonnaise are not cooked. There is some risk here, just like crossing the street or bungee jumping. Buy your eggs farm-fresh from someone you trust. If there are special health risks you are worried about, talk to your doctor or use store-bought mayo and mix in the wasabi powder.

Directions:

Make the pea puree:

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced shallot and sauté until softened.
  • Add peas and cook 1-2 minutes.
  • Add stock and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add mint. stir through and turn off heat.
  • Mash peas in a food mill or a mortar and pestle. You want a little texture to remain. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper. The sweetness of the peas should be light, not cloying.

Make the wasabi mayonnaise

  • Whisk together egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt, until yolks are thick and sticky, about 30-60 seconds.
  • Whisk in oil, a couple drops at a time, until mayonnaise starts to form. Add remaining oil in a thin stream until incorporated. Mayonnaise can feel quite thick.
  • Whisk in wasabi. Let rest in fridge. Before serving, season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if needed.

Season and sear the beef

  • Heat a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cut sirloin into 2″ wide strips. Pat dry and season with salt, pepper and Berbere. The Berbere will need to be a thick rub, because the flavor will only come from the outside of the thinly sliced steak.
  • Add 1 tbs vegetable oil to the pan. Heat to almost smoking and add the beef, searing on all sides for 1-2 minutes, until browned.
  • Remove beef to a plate, tent and let cool to room temp. Place in freezer until firm, but not frozen. Using a sharp knife, cut beef into the thin slices, 1/4″ or less.

Make crostini

  • Place baguette slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned. Remove and let cool. (That was easy!)

Assemble

  • Check the seasoning on the pea puree and the wasabi mayonnaise. Add salt, pepper, wasabi, vinegar etc… as needed.
  • Spoon the mayonnaise into a ziplock bag or piping bag. Cut a tiny point off the corner of the bag.
  • Top each crostini with a tbs of pea purée. Place a slice of beef over the peas. Pipe a thin stream of mayonnaise over the beef.
  • Eat them all because they are so delicious. Make another batch for your guests. Or just bust out the Brie and crackers.

Of patricide and proteins.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

The first time I made this dish I nearly killed my parents.

Zabaglione is simple, in concept. Whisk together 8 egg yolks, 1/3 cup of Marsala wine and 3/4 cups sugar. Place it in a metal bowl, over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until it increases to three times it’s volume and will hold a soft peak. Serve over fresh berries. There, wasn’t that easy?

There are a few finer points. The basic chemistry of this dish relies on whisking egg yolks over the gentle heat of a double boiler, allowing their tightly-coiled proteins to uncoil in long strands. Those strands interlock forming pockets of air. As the air expands and the egg yolks slowly cook, the whisked custard expands in volume creating an airy foam. Et voilà! Zabaglione. (There’s a joke in there somewhere. Linguistic humor is hilarious!)

How can such a simple dish go wrong? Cook the custard over high heat and fail to whisk constantly, allowing the eggs to scramble before the proteins can uncoil and form air pockets. Then, you end up with about 1 cup of custard, barely a few tablespoons per person, of highly concentrated fat, sugar and alcohol. Which is exactly what I served my parents the first time I made it.

Despite several near heart attacks that night, everyone remains healthy to this day and we continue to enjoy much lighter Zabaglione, like this autumnal version I’ll be serving up at Thanksgiving dinner.

Calvados Zabaglione With Apples

Ingredients:

For Zabaglione:
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup Calvados

For Apples:
2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated
1/4 cup Calvados
2 tbs Cinnamon Pear Balsamic vinegar*

*Sapore’s new winter vinegar. You can substitute a syrupy aged balsamic vinegar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Directions:

Zabaglione:

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and wine in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan filled with simmering water.
Whisk steadily, keeping water at a simmer, until cooked through, and volume triples. about 5-7 minutes.

Apples:
Melt 2 tbs butter in large sauté pan over medium heat.
Sauté 1/2 apples for five minutes. Remove, add additional tbs butter and sauté remaining apples. Remove from pan.
Add sugar, nutmeg, Calvados, vinegar and remaining butter. Simmer until thick. Add apples and toss to mix.
Serve apples topped with custard.