Friday, 26 March 2010

An egg for the day

The difficult thing about writing in this space is coming back after a period of absence. Like anything really, if you don't keep it up, flex the muscle, and keep well-oiled, things tend to fall apart a bit.

This, I remember, is why I always did my homework. I learned early that if you don't stay on top of papers or reading or even those little collage assignments we had to do as freshmen in high school for my untraditional Humanities class, it builds and worsens.

So here I am, a desktop full of photos waiting to be written about that I have been sneakily avoiding...and I have made the decision to begin again with the egg.

All eggs are not created equal. As Howard McGee has taught me in his epic "On Food and Science," eggs have serious grading divisions. And once you learn about these divisions, it's hard not to notice. The most obvious indicator of quality in an egg is the color of the yolk. While your standard Safeway egg will most likely have a pallid yolk that could hardly boast the title of "sunny" in a sunny-side up egg, farms eggs have yolks so vibrant they could make an orange blush.

Another indicator of freshness and quality is how much the egg holds its shape. This is twofold: both how perky the yolk is, and how much the white spreads when it is cracked into a pan. A good egg will have a yolk that sits tall and a white that hugs close to that yolk. A not so great egg will have a flattened yolk, with a white that spreads thin and wide over the pan.

These are some good eggs:

My current favorite egg dish is hardly a recipe, but holds it's own against any great meal: a bacon and fried egg sandwich, doused in tangy hot sauce.

This begins with excellent bread. My current favorite is the Como sandwich loaf from a bakery in Healdsburg, an uber chewy bread with finely ground cornmeal stirred into the dough before baking. It is yeasty and tangy, with a slight sourdough flavor.

Next, a slight smear of mayonnaise (if you are so inclined). Then, a layer of bacon. Not too crispy or it will shatter all over the place, but plenty of it, regardless of cooking technique. A slice of juicy tomato and some crispy lettuce, to complete the BLT. And then, the egg.

The egg must be runny. All of you hard yolk people, be warned, you may not be welcome in this scenario. The runny yolk is the glue of this sandwich. It runs and binds and messes all over the place. It mixes with the hot sauce (don't forget the hot sauce) and smears on your cheeks and runs down your elbows.

Think of those old Carl's Jr. ads, where basketball players made messiness appetizing. That's what you're going for here.

It's a beautiful combination, this sandwich. Devoted to the wonder of a good egg, there should be no messing around with pallid yolks or slimy lettuce. Go for the good stuff, and revel in dripping yolk.

Fried Egg and Bacon Sandwich

1 egg per person
2-3 slices bacon per person
2 slices bread per person
mayonnaise (optional)
hot sauce (not optional)
butter, for frying

1) Fry the bacon - tender but cooked through.

2) Prepare the lettuce and tomato.

3) Toast the bread, add mayonnaise if you like.

4) Arrange the bacon, lettuce, and tomato on one side of the bread.

5) Melt a tiny pat of butter in a nonstick pan. When it begins to sizzle, add the eggs. Cook on both sides till the white is set but the yolk is not yet cooked though. Slide the egg onto the second slice of bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle or drown in hot sauce.

6) Enjoy with copious napkins.

*April Update:

Fried egg sandwiches for a group: Happy Birthday Susan!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

roots of consumption

Who needs New York for food, when you have San Francisco?

It's continuing folks. The mad rush of rabbit agnolotti with lemon zest and herbs, pork cheek sandwiches, lobster pot pies, chocolate and bourbon semifreddos...

Saucisse de provence en croute, topped with tomato compote and a perfectly cooked quail egg:

A kimchee oyster, plated with a skewer of pig heart:

Delicious, amazing, and resembling little to do with real life, I need a rest (for a few days at least). Honestly, I'm not sure how I'm still standing, much less functioning at this level of consumption.

But this interim period, is in fact, my natural state of eating: vegetables and fruit. Perhaps some bread and cheese.

Today's lunch at the office, thrown together the night before from the leftover vegetables in the fridge that were showing a bit of wear after a weekend of overly chilled temperature, was a prime example.

Fresh, raw vegetables, flavorful on their own, but delicately dressed to bring them past the level of rabbit food. For though I've recently discovered the merits of a rich, earthly, celery root, who would want to eat just a root for lunch? And a beet. What do you do with one beet, dirty and crooked?

Julienne is the answer. Segmented into thin strips, these two nubbly roots become a bit more approachable, and very welcome after one two many dishes of braised pork belly. Tossed with bright cilantro and a spicy yogurt sauce, a lively and bright salad is born.

Brought in a brown bag to my chilly office on the ridge, the salad maintained a surprising elegance. Each matchstick of these normally humble roots was enlived by lemon, garlic and cumin, and bound together by the tangy yogurt. It felt beyond clean and exceedingly healthy, but perhaps backfired a bit, as later I felt justified to bake these brownies (which, by the way, I highly recommend).

Winter Salad

for the salad:
1 celery root
1 yellow beet (you can use purple, but it will stain the celery root)
1 carrot
2 tbsp chopped cilantro

for the dressing:
4 tbsp plain yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon (or more)
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp (or more) ground cumin
chili powder (optional)

1) Peel the celery root and the beet. Cut each in half. Take one half and slice it into halfmoons, 1/8 inch thick or as thin as possible. Keep the slices in line with one another. Rotate the whole half sideways, and slice again, 1/8 inch thick or as thin as possible. Repeat with all halves of celery root and beet.

2) Grate the carrot. Toss with celery root, beet, and cilantro.

3) Mix all ingredients for dressing together. Season to taste with lemon, cumin, chili, and salt. Toss with vegetables.

Serves two generously