Eggs, egg salad, etc

It’s amazing what you find whilst skulking about on the internet. The latest “odd” thing was a novel method of making lots of hard-cooked eggs at one time: in the oven.  It sounds simple–I may have to try it just to see if the texture is as good as reported.

But one thing leads to another–I guess that’s why it’s called browsing. On a chilly, rainy day with a big mug of not cocoa in hand, it’s not possible to simply check one link, so this one relating to cooking eggs lead me to a link on pickled eggs and other eggy links, including “All About Eggs” which covers eggs other than chicken, as well as information about color and size, and printed stuff on the carton, just in case you want to know about cage free or natural.

 

6-Pack-Chicken-EggsEggs (and milk) seem to be among the necessities in my kitchen. Whether working–or have a lazy hiatus between jobs–eggs get used in so many ways. Some of the less frequent uses include deviled eggs and pickled eggs. If I’m in a mad rush to meet a deadline an egg (or two) are easy to turn into a quick meal in so many ways. Omelettes, scrambled, poached, egg salad, or just added to soup or as a “dressing” for veggies.

 

Although I don’t make deviled eggs often, I do collect recipes for those occasions that call for them. Mostly deviled eggs call for mayonnaise. I’ve got no problem using mayo in them but I like some options for flavoring.  Following the Food52 link lead me to a recipe calling for yoghurt which sounds kind of interesting (though it does include some mayo).

I almost always have mayonnaise in the fridge–but a recent reluctance to venture out in the rain to go to the grocery store left me without mayo and a need for some quick egg salad, which like deviled eggs seems to almost always call for mayo.  I had the onion and celery, and capers so I decided to “wing” it: chopped up my eggs, and carefully, bit by bit while tasting added Arbequina extra-virgin olive oil (again from Bull City Olive Oil–love that place) that is a medium intensity but still rather delicate, and then just (again by taste) a bit of apple cider vinegar, and finished with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Definitely not southern-style egg salad, but very good. It’s likely that I’ll do it again even if there is mayo in the fridge. (I did eventually find an egg salad recipe using olive oil.)

That little experiment got me looking for other recipes for egg salad made without mayonnaise–some recipes that I found just use mustard (I do sometimes put some mustard in egg salad), others used Greek yoghurt (though I don’t “do” non-fat–and I use Skyr as starter for my homemade). Another recipe that I found interesting was one using avocado for the “fat” part of the egg salad–so intriguing that I may have to try that when next I have a ripe avocado on hand. And then, the delightful post from Food52 on “How to Make Egg Salad Without a Recipe” which I think will elicit a smile (at least) if you’re an egg salad fan. If you want to really take your egg salad to another level, take a look at “Mediterranean Egg Salad” or “Egg Salad: The True Breakfast of Champions“.

Why my foray into egg salads? Well, hot weather is approaching, and I know I’ll be looking for more meals involving minimal heat–and I really like eggs, but always looking for new ways to use them–maybe even graved eggs!

Wondering about other things to do with eggs? Try here.  A son gôut!

from wikipedia

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Pork confit

 

Cool weather inspires cooking! Something warm and cozy–confit as a “pantry” staple for a starting point for multiple dishes. With the weather a bit up in the air I decided to make something that would give me lots of possibilities even if Matthew decides to visit.

Confit was originally made as a method of preserving meat–often duck or goose, but it’s a method that can be applied to other meats, fish, and seafood–e.g. tuna which I love for summer salads and cold meals but it’s a great starting place for cool-weather meals too. The traditional method is to poach meat in fat (oil) at low temperatures which yields meat that is intense in flavor, and absolutely luscious in texture. If you’re wondering, it’s NOT greasy! The Science of Cooking addresses many of the questions often asked about confit.

With cool weather here I decided to opt for my favorite meat–pork–and to try a slightly different method of achieving the end results. This inspiration sprang from finding country-style spare ribs on special at my local Harris Teeter market. Since the weather wasn’t quite cool enough for me to want to have the oven on for hours, I decided to use the my multi-function pot in slow-cooking mode to make pork confit.

packaged pork from the meat counter in the supermarket

Since country-style spare ribs have a lot of fat on them I decided that I didn’t need to submerge them in oil–the fat would render from them as they cooked in the slow-cooker. From experiments when I was trying to do monk fish sous vide, I knew that the slow-cooker mode would keep the temperature at 185ºF. Most confit recipes suggest temperatures between about 190ºF and 200ºF. I thought 185ºF would be workable (especially since the confit will be refrigerated after cooking) but will be covered with the rendered pork fat.

I took my country-style spare ribs and salted them liberally over night–e.g. “dry brine”, then rinsed, and patted them dry. Because of the fattiness of this cut, I added only a couple s tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of the cooker and packed in the meat. I didn’t add seasoning other than the previous salting so I have a flavorful (but kind of “blank” canvas) to build other dishes. I set the cooker for eight hours and went on to do other things–like hive inspections.

The liquid which (intensely flavored broth/gelatin) was separated from the fat that was rendered and will ultimately make its way into soup or as “au jus” with the confit. The meat is now tucked away in the fridge sealed in the fat. Since this was originally a method of preserving meat, now with the addition of refrigeration, there is a long shelf-life if you separate the broth/gelatin liquid from the fat and then “seal” the meat in the fat. Old method, but useful in modern cooking.

This cooking method works with any meat–a favorite in this household is confit made with chicken (especially leg quarters or thighs). I think that this fall as “turkey” season rolls around I will try to find thighs to cook this way. It might improve my attitude toward turkey given the flavor and texture changes that result from the confit process.

The result? Absolutely as good as if I had done it in the oven though requiring less added fat than I would have added for that method.  Enough fat rendered to submerge the meat about three-quarters of the way up the sides. Even without additional seasonings the meat is luscious immediately after cooking–pure unadulterated pork flavor.

What’s on the menu for supper? Well, I’m thinking cabbage steak (done under the broiler) with pork confit that has been quickly reheated and browned (also under the broiler) but with the tahini sauce replaced with the juice from the confit process.

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Krups rice cooker IMG_3796

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Labneh

I finally got around to making some yoghurt cheese or labneh! I don’t know why it has taken me this long to do something that simple–it’s practically effortless. After reading David Lebovitz’s post on Labneh I finally did it. Now that the weather is getting warmer I’ll be looking for lighter things to eat with fresh vegetables.

After googling “labneh recipes”, I had a plethora from which to choose. Variations include some calling for full-fat plain yoghurt, some for Greek, one for adding lemon juice, and others for herbs. All called for some salt.

Greek yoghurt cheese

Labneh

For my first trial, I used full-fat plain that was lingering in the fridge since I’ve found that I really prefer skyr (even to Greek yoghurt). I added a healthy pinch of salt, then set the yoghurt to drain for 15 hours.

Tasting the labneh I discovered that it wasn’t quite as tangy as I had hoped–I’ll try adding lemon juice next time.

I suspect that this is going to become a “fixture” in my fridge instead of the usual cream cheese. I am a fan of radishes so adding those and other vegetables to labneh sounds like a great summer treat, and I’ve many other interesting recipes for using it. Some found its way into my omelette with sautéed kale as an improvised breakfast with the Always Hungry? meal plan inside the omelette, rather than as a topping, or have berries without the skyr  or yoghurt.

It’s such fun to discover new foods!

omelette with labneh and kale

Leftovers. . . and second servings

One of the banes of refrigerator maintenance is leftovers. I work hard to avoid them, but I’m often defeated in my efforts, especially when eating out. So often restaurant servings are HUGE, and, sucker that I am, I don’t just leave the excess on my plate.  I bring it home, tuck in into the refrigerator, and then likely at some too-far-in-the-future date I get an odoriferous reminder that I now have to do something with the leftovers, which are likely to be found in the back of the refrigerator. They will most likely be unidentifiable now, so they go into the garbage.

cat in refrigerator

lookin’ for leftovers

The obvious first step is to think carefully about bringing home restaurant leftovers: Will it reheat well enough that you really want to eat it?  After all it probably doesn’t make much difference when it gets thrown out–then or a week later. If I decide to tote it home (and I already know that the cat won’t eat it), then I need to label it, and be sure that it doesn’t end up in the back-most corner of the fridge.  I have used masking tape (which comes off easily–often too easily), Sharpies (which can be removed from some things with rubbing alcohol).  I recently found a suggestion to use dry erase crayons (which I didn’t even know existed).  Might be worth a try, but better yet for me would be to be much more judicious in what I put into the fridge as a “leftover”.

“Leftovers” from my own cooking aren’t as much of a problem, but I’m always looking for ways to use the bits and pieces of produce or the last part of that can of beans. I’ve got a handle on the bits and pieces of bags of frozen vegetables and even partially on the celery.  But there are still bits  and pieces….

The Cook’s Illustrated books on cooking for two and Joe Yunan’s book (see bibliography) is the cross-indexing of recipes that use the same ingredient so you have a suggestion for what to do with the other half  of that head of cauliflower.

I’ve found several tools to help reduce waste in single-serving cooking. First from the kitchn is an article titled What to Do With…? 75 Tips for Leftovers and IngredientsThere is a long list of things from produce market, the refrigerator, and the pantry with suggestions of what to do with the extras. For a lot, the suggestions are “freeze it” which does not necessarily solve the problem–just moves it to some point in the future; however, there are some good suggestions.

The flip side of this is throwing away things that could reasonably be used. For some examples, see 10 Foods You Should Never Throw Away. I can agree with the cheese rinds and chicken bones, but here again, I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of just changing where you stash the leftovers. When you’re doing single-serving cooking you do need to consider carefully what you bring home and what you keep.  Also useful might be Top 10 Ways to Use Up Overripe Fruit.

Another article that is useful 15 Foods You Should Freeze in an Ice Cube Tray. There are lots of other things to freeze as “ice” cubes, and the put into zipper-lock bags for freezing.  Having these portioned out can make it easier to use them. One of the things I do with excess celery and carrots is to make mirepoix (soffrito) in a big batch, then freeze it in ice-cube trays. One or two cubes will be what you need for small-time cooking–and it cuts time from preparation, and should reduce waste!

Planning use as in having thought about possibilities for that second serving (no, not meal planning–I don’t do that), and shopping with single-serving cooking in mind should help. One way to manage what gets pushed to the back is to add a triage box to the fridge.  Triage  refers to the process or sorting, or assigning priority to something.  In the fridge it would be an eat-me-first box where you put things that have a short shelf-life, or perishables so that they don’t get pushed to the back of the fridge.

 

Refrigerator and freezer use

Admittedly we need a stove in the kitchen, but we also need the refrigerator–and it’s probably the appliance that we misuse most often. When I stop and think about the times that I’ve had to clean out the refrigerator because something got “lost” back there and made its presence known in a rather aromatic way, I know I need to work on this problem–yes, I’m writing this because I have to clean out the fridge again. . . .

We don’t usually stop to think about the micro-environments inside. I know that I often just open the door and plop something in without much thought to where it would keep best.

Just recently I found a series of articles on the kitchn on using and maintaining the refrigerator for best performance.  I thought I’d share these–I know that I do misuse mine–and I suspect (hope) I’m not alone.

Of course, then there is the freezer which can be wonderful, or a trap cooking intentions. Again, I’m facing the necessity of cleaning out the freezer after the recent kitchen disaster which was directly attributable to me just opening the freezer door and chucking stuff in–I think I need to stop and think about why I’m putting something in the freezer, and make a huge effort at organization.

This is a list of main articles–within each, there are links to other useful tips for managing the cold spots in the kitchen. Now,  off to the kitchen to attack the fridge!

Cat in fridge

A “roast” beef sandwich

Sandwiches are not just something to be thrown together without thought–definitely NOT two thin slices of baloney and Wonder bread!  They are a special kind  of meal–sometimes comfort food (like grilled cheese sandwiches) and sometimes even need planning when cooking for one person.  I’m always on the lookout for good “recipes”–or maybe inspirations–for sandwiches–particularly roast beef.

As much as I like cooking for one, there are a few drawbacks. One is that  realistically you can’t do real roast beef.  One of the things I miss is a good roast beef sandwich–it’s just not the same when the roast beef comes from the deli–no matter how good the deli.

image from Lemony Thyme

roast beef sandwich

One of the ways to satisfy my craving for roast beef sandwiches is with the planned  “leftovers” from my  thick-cut  steak–intentional leftovers of nice rare, pink, juicy  steak to slice  thinly and make a sandwich.  Then the fun begins–it’s a happening.

  •  Start with good bread (my oat bread , if possible),
  • Add some  flavorful, spicy greens:  radish sprouts or possibly arugula, or endive.
  • Maybe tomato,  if in season.
  • Cheese:  something “bleu”– gorgonzola dolce, Cabrales,  or Danablu–is one of my favorites with beef, though nothing wrong with a good cheddar or Swiss.
  • Maybe some thinly sliced red onion (or Walla Walla, Maui, or Vidalia,   sweet onions, if those just happen to be lying around).
  • Maybe a good “smear” of horseradish or horseradish sauce, instead of onion.
  • Finally,  a thin film of butter, preferably European style cultured (salted or unsalted)!
  • The final touch would be a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Now choose a beverage–beer, cider, or even a glass of wine. Enjoy.

Under-appreciated vegetables: celery

bunches of celery in the Harris Teeter produce department

celery

It seems that celery is a problem for many of us who do single-serving cooking!  I’ve seen comments to that effect in several cookbooks dedicated to cooking for one.  One of my “things” to do with that head of celery is to make mirpoix or soffrito and stash it in the freezer so that I’ll have it to facilitate making a quick meal.  That works, but you need only so much of that in the freezer and how many celery sticks can you munch on?  Buying the precut celery stick is the produce department is NOT  an option–they keep even less well than the whole head of celery.  Admittedly, I like celery ribs stuffed with peanut butter and pimento cheese, but again, how many can you–or should you–eat?  Or, buy it off the salad bar at the supermarket–but then you may not have it when you need it unless you’re willing to make a trip

One thing that I’ve found helpful is to store the celery in a partially open zipper-lock bag with a paper towel that’s been dampened and then squeezed as dry as possible.  This extends the storage time, but still I end up tossing a lot of celery on the compost heap.  There must be a better solution.

I think that perhaps the best solution to this is to recognize that celery is a vegetable with nutritional value and learn to use it as a vegetable and not just as a seasoning.  Until I started this research I was not aware of many recipes treating celery as a vegetable on its own.  (I’m not including its use in salads or as a snack, or even to add crunch to caponata.)  I’ve been looking for more celery recipes.

My first stop was my favorite vegetable cookbook (note that I did not say vegetarian cookbook), The Victory Garden Cookbook (see bibliography).  I was amazed at how many recipes were given for celery–I think that this goes to show my  under-appreciation of celery!  (Yes, I know it’s popular in stir-fries, too–but there’s a recipe for a stir-fry of celery as a veggie!)

There are recipes for braised celery (p. 79-80), celery slaw (p. 78), and salads (Celery Antipasto p. 78 and Celery Rice Salad, p. 78) as well as the expected Cream of Celery Soup (p. 81) I found a Chilled Celery-Lemon Soup (p. 81) that certainly looks intriguing as a way to use celery as a vegetable. There are other recipes here that look as if they have potential for celery as a vegetable.  (At least go to the library and check this book out and try some of these.)

I went to Eat Your Books and ran a search on the books that I’ve added to my bookshelf.  Turned out that there were lots of recipes for celeriac (later discussion), but I did not find many for simple stalk celery; here are a few of the ones that I did find:

  • Celery à la Grecque (Céleri à la Grecque) from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.
  • Braised celery stalks with onion, pancetta, and tomatoes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
  • Braised and gratinéed celery stalks with Parmesan cheese  from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
  • Risotto with celery from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

If you feel like trying this approach to the celery crisis that often afflicts those of us who do single-serving cooking here is a starting point–all it really takes is a trip to the library!  If you do an online search you need to search for “stalk celery”, “rib celery”, or “celery stalks” or you will probably get lots of recipes for “celeriac” or “celery root” which is a great vegetable, but likewise under-appreciated in American every-day cooking!

Another solution might be to search for recipes for Florence (bulb) fennel and substitute celery in some of those with possible changes of seasoning.

That is not a lot of recipes–I think that it likely reflects celery as seasoning, not as a vegetable, but I think well worth exploring.   Have celery–I’m going to experiment.  I’ll keep you posted!

A son goût!