Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.
~Sir Winston Churchill

Admittedly, my ancestry is prodigally open minded (or should the word “mindless” be used) — Scottish as well as other genetic variants.  A mutt, of sorts.  So, perhaps a native dish were posted here, at least one that swaddles an egg in meat and then is topped with this heavenly “mole.”  This proves to be a slight twist on a gastropub meal, one that appears disparate with both Scot and Mexican fare.  Not really.

The eggs seem self evident to someone Scottish, but the pipián verde sauce may be unknown or elusive to some home cooks.   Sometimes called pumpkin seed mole, the finished sauce is often spooned over fish, chicken, enchiladas, or rice and the like, but when used judiciously the sauce can be sublime with eggs (especially with sausage). Chiles de árbol are those smaller, potent red chiles occasionally known as a bird beak or rat’s tail chiles. They can be found in most groceries, so there is little need to pull any trades.

One has to adore giddy caresses which are not merely iconic, but ageless — heart theft food.

SCOTCH EGGS

6 large local, pastured or free range eggs

1 C hearty, good quality, artisanal sausage

1 C all purpose flour
1 C  fresh breadcrumbs
3 beaten local eggs

Extra virgin olive + canola oils in equal parts, several inches deep, for frying
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Place eggs in a saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover for some 6-7 minutes, and remove from heat, so they are sort of medium boiled, somewhat soft and not hard at all. Carefully drain, then place in a bowl with ice water to cool. Gently crack shells and carefully peel under cold running water. Place eggs to dry on a tea towel or paper towels.

Place flour in a wide glass bowl, beat eggs in another and then place crushed breadcrumbs in another wide shallow glass bowl. Divide sausage into 6 equal portions. Pat a portion of sausage into a thin patty over the length of the palm. Lay a boiled egg on top of sausage and gently wrap the sausage around egg, sealing to envelop.  Gently shape and coddle the meat around the eggs with your fingers. Repeat with remaining sausage and eggs.  Season with salt and pepper.

Then, roll the sausage encased eggs first in flour, shaking off any excess, then carefully drop into the beaten eggs and finally the breadcrumbs to batter them lightly and set aside to rest for a moment before frying.

Carefully fry in olive and canola oils which are heated to about 300 F for just a few minutes (about 4), to get the sausage lightly golden and crispy. Cool the sausage & egg mix on paper towels.

Serve with pipián verde sauce which could be prepared a day or two ahead of time (see below).

Pipián Verde 
8 chiles de árbol (“tree chili” tr. from Spanish), fresh

3 fresh smaller heirloom or plum tomatoes
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 C raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/3 C unsalted peanuts
1/3 C sesame seeds
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground allspice

1 small canned chipotle peppers
1-2 bay leaves
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T sea salt
1 T light brown sugar
1 T apple cider vinegar

Cilantro leaves, fresh

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles de árbol, and set a naked skillet over high heat for 5 minutes, then toast the chiles until they are fragrant, approximately 4-5 minutes.

Return the skillet to medium high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic, and cook, turning occasionally, until slightly charred. Set aside the mix to cool.

Again, return the skillet to medium low heat. Place the pumpkin seeds, peanuts and sesame seeds in a heavy skillet, and sear until they are toasted and fragrant, approximately 2-3 minutes. Put the seeds and nuts in a bowl, and stir in the cinnamon, cloves and allspice.

Put the chiles and some liquid in a blender with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, the nut seed mixture and the chipotle.  Purée until smooth.

Add the extra virgin olive oil to a large, heavy bottomed skillet, and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the purée and lower the heat, and stir, cooking the mixture down to a thick paste. Add the broth and bay leaf to the paste, and stir, then season with the salt, sugar and vinegar, and reduce for another 15 minutes or so, until it becomes creamy. Lower heat to a bare simmer and discard bay leaf.

Slather the sauce in a very distinct moderation over halved eggs + sausages, top with fresh cilantro, and serve with tequila drinks.

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What’s done cannot be undone.
~William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Eggs “up, sunny side up, with a skirt, basted, over easy, over light, flipped, dippy, runny, broken, over medium, stepped on, medium well, over hard, hard, done, over well, over cooked, nuked, dead“…an expectant diner’s heaven, but often a server’s and line cook’s hell. So many chefs and home cooks have dabbled with, have pondered and toiled over, have been bewildered and bullied by, and have sometimes finally mastered the divine fried egg.

The lipid of choice tends to set the stage whether unsalted butter, olive oil, canola oil, chicken fat, duck fat, goose fat, bacon fat or some other shared friend(s). But, the chosen mixes and methods for eggs, fat, heat, and timing tend to rule in the end.

While some consider them prosaic, when done right and softly savored, fried eggs are flat deific.

For me? Try frying one or two eggs at a time so your attention is focused on those brief moments that it takes to transform the critters. Melt a couple tablespoons of “fat” in a heavy, medium skillet over medium heat until it is gently foaming or just lightly shimmering. While the fat melts, crack fresh, local eggs into a glass cup or saucer then slide them into the foaming butter or shimmering oil. Cover with a clear domed lid and adjust the heat so that the butter does not brown, but is just hot enough that the white begins to set. Begin spooning the hot butter or oil over the eggs until the runny whites turn opaque and the yolks begin to set ever so slightly, but remain rather runny. (The white no longer clear and the yolk still loose.) Remove to a plate by simply sliding them out of the pan or use a slotted spatula. Season promptly with salt and pepper, and dine barefooted with a knowing smile.

Still, some disagree on the perfect technique. So because a fried eggs are rather personal by nature, a loosely wound decet (in no order of preference) follows.

FRIED EGG

1 fine egg, fresh and locally raised with a robust orangish yolk, at room temperature
Fat (unsalted butter, extra virgin olive or canola oil, poultry or pork fat)
Sea/kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbs, if desired

(1) In a small, nonstick skillet, melt unsalted butter over moderate heat. Add the egg and fry, turning once, until crisp around the edges, about 4 minutes total. The yolk should just begin to set, but still be in a runny state. Cook longer should you so desire. Remove to a plate with a slotted spatula or spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(2) Bring 1/4 cup of olive oil to medium high heat in a heavy, sided, smaller sauté pan. Tip the pan at a steep angle, so that the oil collects in a small bath, and slide the egg into the hot oil from a glass cup. Spoon the oil over the egg. After about 30 seconds or so of cooking, the egg white forms a protective coating around the yolk without becoming attached to it. Once the egg develops a golden hue from the oil, remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and season with salt only.

(3) In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Meanwhile, crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer, and then add the egg and cook gently in the heated oil. Even consider cracking the egg into a cool pan, and allowing it to heat with the oil until soft and silky. Remove to a plate with a slotted spatula or spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(4) Crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Gently slip the egg into a well buttered medium, heavy pan which is on low heat. Fry the egg over low heat, with the butter allowed to foam rather than simply melt. Cover the pan for the duration of the cooking process, which results in a soft, but firm white, and a runny yolk. Remove to a plate with a slotted spatula or spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(5) Place a smaller, heavy nonstick frying pan over the lowest possible heat. Add unsalted butter and allow to slowly melt. When all the butter has melted but has yet to foam, swirl the pan to coat the skillet and then crack the egg into a small glass bowl or saucer. Gently slide the egg off the dish into the frying pan and cover with a lid. Continue cooking approximately 4-5 minutes until the egg white solidifies from transparency into snow white cream; the yolk will thicken slightly as it heats.

(6) Crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer and set aside. Heat unsalted butter in a heavy, smaller skillet over low heat. Once the butter has melted, but has yet begun to foam, swirl it around the pan to coat, then slide in the egg. Cover with a domed lid and cook until the white is set, about 3 1/2 minutes. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper.

(7) Heat unsalted butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. When foam subsides, reduce heat to low and break the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Slip in the egg and then add a sprinkling of water to the pan (not the eggs themselves). Cover and cook slowly until done. The steam will cook the whites over and around the yolks.

(8) Break the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Meanwhile, heat poultry fat (chicken, duck, or goose) in a heavy skillet over low heat. Once melted and before shimmering, slide in the egg. Cover with a lid and cook until the white is set, occasionally basting with the melted fat, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon or spatula and season with salt and pepper.

(9) Heat canola oil in a heavy, smaller skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, crack the egg into a glass cup or saucer. Once the oil is hot, slide in the egg. As it cooks, spoon hot oil over the egg whites. Towards the end of cooking, carefully pour a couple of spoonfuls of oil over the yolks. Cook to desired doneness. Remove to a plate and serve.

(10) Put a few bacon strips in a skillet. Start with the heat at medium high, but as the bacon begins to cook, reduce it to medium so the bacon does not burn. Cook the bacon slowly until it is slightly crisped on one side and then turn to cook slowly on the other side. When the bacon is done, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and tent loosely with foil. Allow the skillet to cool for several minutes before cooking the eggs. Pour off any excess bacon fat.

Break each egg into a small glass cup or saucer and then slip the egg into the warm bacon grease. Place the pan back over low heat and allow the eggs to cook slowly. When the egg whites begin to set, tip the pan and baste with some hot bacon fat to cook the yolks. Remove to a plate and serve.

Baba Ganoush

August 10, 2011

Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
~Mark Twain

How the simple yet elegant baba ganoush ducked under the radar on this site is baffling. Not really a stealthy dish, as I have made, served and savored it many a time. Maybe it just took a needed, overdue coupling with two dear coastal pollo-pescatarians who have a penchant for hummus coupled with an oversupply of eggplant here to jump start the needed synapses. Just seemed natural to re-create a close cousin to, but in lieu of, sweetly addictive hummus. Breaking through that gateway hummus habit may prove brutally painful, but baba ganoush is a substance to consider. A methadone of food.

Baba ganoush or baba ganouj (بابا غنوج) is an iconic purée of eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and herbs. A protean dish—regional names, versions and services may vary across the Middle East and Mediterranean basin. But, whether served as an app, salad or side, the eggplant always remains front and center.

Baba ganoush can be refrigerated for up to 5 days prior to serving. Like most things, it improves after nestling overnight.

BABA GANOUSH

3 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
1/2 C tahini (sesame paste)
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Small pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 C lemon juice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t sea salt, or to taste

Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro leaves, for garnish
A drizzling of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F

Place eggplant with cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Prick in several places with a fork, place in oven and roast until soft, about 20-25 minutes. Cooking time varies depending on size and ripeness. A paring knife should easily slide into the eggplants. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

When cool enough to handle, scoop eggplant pulp into a bowl, discarding the skins. Add tahini, garlic, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Then gently stir together. Empty the mixture into a food processor fitted with a steel knife and purée in pulses until fairly smooth. Season to taste with more salt and/or lemon juice, if neccessary.

Garnish with parsley and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Serve with roasted bread slices or wedges of warm pita.

Pourboire: Adding a slight pinch of dried cumin or some seeded and diced fresh tomatoes are pleasing detours. Also, consider serving with a few fine cured olives.

A simple summer aside which dwells well with grilled meats. A delectable subordinate, sort of.

ROASTED ZUCCHINI WITH HERBES DE PROVENCE

4 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise in half
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 T herbes de provence

Parmigiano reggiano, grated

Preheat oven to 450 F

Brush olive oil over both sides of the zucchini slices. Season with salt, pepper and
herbes de provence on both sides. Align the zucchini pieces in a baking dish, flesh side up.

Roast 8 to 10 minutes, until tender and lightly golden brown. During the last minute or so, top with grated parmigiano reggiano.

Truffle Toast

May 14, 2009

Does Anthony Bourdain have an Egg Slut Club? You know, where we wenches would dine on eggs prepared anyway, anytime, anywhere, anyhow, anyday. How do you join?

This dish, which I first savored at ‘inoteca in New York, hits for the cycle in my culinary league—bread, eggs, cheeses and truffle oil. Rapture, pure and simple.

TRUFFLE TOAST

4 thick slices of ciabatta or brioche
8-12 organic, free range egg yolks, room temperature
10 oz fontina or gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
Parmigiano reggiano, grated
White truffle oil

Preheat oven to broil. Lightly toast bottom side of bread and set aside, then modify oven temperature to 450.

Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.

Hollow out an indentation in untoasted side of each bread slice large enough to hold 2-3 egg yolks. Take care to leave a sufficient amount of bread surrounding the depression to avoid leakage. Place bread slices on the oiled baking sheet.

Carefully drop 2-3 egg yolks into individual saucers and then gently pour into the bread hollows carefully trying to retain the yolks intact. Liberally strew grated cheese over egg filled slices of bread, all the way to the outer edges.

Place the bread in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. During the last 2 minutes of baking, grate parmigiano reggiano over the top of each toast. Remove from oven and lightly drizzle with truffle oil in a diagonal stream.

Take care not to overcook as you want that luscious yolk slowly oozing out as the bread is opened.

If you are in an edgy mood, try this over a parabolic wood grill.

Basic Vinaigrette

February 3, 2009

Vinegar, the son of wine.
~Proverb

Like sandwiches, vinaigrettes always taste better if someone else makes them. So, have a friend or lover whisk up this simple version for you. For use on salads, cold roasted vegetables, even as a marinade for grilled chicken…you name it.

Some maintain that vinegar was discovered when wine was inadvertently left to sour. This resulting in the first batch of full bodied wine vinegar. The Talmud, a central text of mainstream Judaism, refers to a wicked son of a righteous father as a “vinegar son of wine.” The word vinegar is derived from the French word vinagere, which literally means sour wine.

Given the overt simplicity of the ingredients, good quality vinegars and olive oil are much preferred, even mandated.

BASIC VINAIGRETTE

2 T sherry vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T French Dijon mustard
Sea salt to taste

1-1 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Whisking gently, combine sherry and red wine vinegars, mustard and salt in a bowl. Whisking more vigorously, slowly add olive oil to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning with a component of the food it will dress, such as a lettuce leaf or vegetable.

Pourboire: to vary, add or replace with any of the following: hazelnut oil, walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, citrus, smashed garlic, finely diced shallots, fresh chopped or whole herbs, whisked egg yolk, freshly ground pepper, white pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper…the possibilities are almost endless.

Store in a bottle or cruet in the refrigerator and shake or whisk at serving time.

Squid Triad

February 2, 2009

The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure.
~Michel De Montaigne

Squid belong to the class Cephalopoda, which means “head foot.” They are mollusks and related to octopi and some other culinary delights, such as bivalves (scallops, oysters, clams) and gastropods (snails). Cephalopods are thought to be the Einsteins of invertebrates, with highly developed senses and large brains…they even have three hearts that pump blue blood throughout.

Squid grow rapidly, reaching maturity within a year, and reproduce in large numbers. These characteristics help keep populations robust even when they are heavily fished; so they are a scrupulous, sustainable seafood choice. Squid are relatively inexpensive, are quite versatile and also make simply wonderful eats. Try serving them with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) or rouille (saffron & red pepper mayonnaise).

To clean squid, first separate the head from the body (mantle), cut free and retain the tentacles, trim off the eyes and hard beak which it uses to consume prey. With fingers or the back of a small knife, push out and discard the insides and the translucent cuttlebone or quill. Rinse, then dry thoroughly.

Squid must be cooked either quickly for a couple of minutes or slowly braised for about an hour—any time in between will result in one tough critter. Three variations on the squid theme (braised, fried and sautéed) follow:

CALAMAR AU VIN

3 T extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves peeled garlic, gently crushed
1 shallot, diced
1 clove peeled garlic, finely minced and crushed to a paste
1 C red wine
2 pounds squid, cleaned
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet with a lid, and turn the heat to medium high. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, then remove. Add the shallot and and garlic paste and saute over medium heat until shallots are tender. Add the squid and stir, then lower the heat, and add the wine. Stir, add the thyme and bay leaf, then cover.

Braise covered at a slow simmer until the squid is tender, about 1 hour. Uncover, season with salt and pepper to taste, raise the heat, and cook until most but not all of the liquid is evaporated. Stir in the remaining olive oil, and garnish with parsley.

CALAMARI FRITTI

1 lb fresh squid, cleaned
1 cup fine flour, such as semolina, rice or Wondra
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 C of peanut, sunflower or canola oil
Lemon quarters

Preheat the oven to 200.

Slice the squid bodies into 1/4 inch rings, and depending on the size, cut the tentacles in half lengthwise.

In a bag or an open bowl, combine the flour, 2 t salt.

Pour the into a heavy sauce pan or use a deep fryer. The oil should be at least 2 inches deep and should be heated to 375.

Dip a handful of squid into the bag or bowl of flour and shake to coat. Transfer the squid to a fine mesh sieve and shake to remove excess flour. Gently drop the squid in small amounts into the hot oil and cook until slightly brown—1 to 2 minutes. Do not crowd them. With a wire spider skimmer, scoop the squid from the oil and season immediately with salt and pepper. Then place in the warm oven with the door ajar as you continue frying the remaining squid.

Serve, garnished with lemon wedges.

SQUID WITH GARLIC, HERBS & TOMATOES

1 lb squid, cleaned bodies and tentacles separated but kept intact
6 T extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh plump garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (1 1/2-inch) serrano chile, halved lengthwise
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 C dry white wine
1/4 C drained bottled capers, rinsed & dried

1/2 cup loosely packed roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 T lemon zest
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

If squid are large, halve ring of tentacles, then cut longer tentacles crosswise into 3″ long pieces. Cut bodies crosswise into 1/4″ thick rings. Rinse and thoroughly pat squid dry.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic and chili, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squid and sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and wine and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes. Add capers and simmer, stirring, 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Remove from heat and stir in basil, pine nuts, zest, and salt and pepper to taste.