Pretty in Pink: Deviled Eggs

April 9, 2017

Spring at last. Which means the chickens are beginning to lay eggs again.  Which means it’s deviled egg season.

Before you begin, a little digression on hard-boiling eggs.

When eggs are new, the membrane beneath the shell sticks tightly to its shell, making peeling them a serious challenge. As eggs age, the protective coating on the shell becomes porous and begins to absorb air making the whites less acetic. (This is why the whites of freshly laid eggs are cloudy; as they absorb air they lose some of the carbon dioxide in the albumen, the ph rises, and the whites become clearer.)

But while the egg whites are losing their acidity, they are also getting thinner, meaning that the yolk is moving farther from the center. So if you’re intent on perfect deviled eggs, begin with organic, new-laid eggs but put them in the refrigerator for a week and store them on their sides.

Bring the eggs to room temperature before cooking. This will prevent cracking.

 

Put your eggs in a pot that will hold them in a single layer, so that they cook evenly. Cover them with cold water and raise it quickly just to a boil.  Cover the pot, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 12 minutes.

Chill the eggs, immediately, in a bowl of ice water.  This will prevent the dread green circle around the outside of the yolk, which occurs because the iron in the yolk reacts with the sulfur in the white when the temperature of the egg reaches 158° F.  Although perfectly harmless, it lends your deviled eggs a slightly ghoulish air.

If you don’t want to wait a week, steam your eggs.  It’s easy. Put them in a steamer (or a colander over a big pot), and steam them for twenty minutes. Plunk them into an ice water bath until they’re cool enough to handle. Roll on the counter.  The shells will peel right off.

 

Pink Deviled Eggs

Shopping list: 1 jar pickled beets, Sriracha sauce, sweet pickle.

Staples: 1 dozen eggs, mustard, mayonnaise, salt pepper,

Makes 1 dozen.

Once your eggs are cooked and peeled, put the whole eggs into a bowl with the juice from a can of pickled beets; add a bit of water if the eggs aren’t completely covered.

Before long the eggs will begin to turn a vibrant shade of pink. Leave them in the refrigerator overnight, and the whites will be the most beautiful color, a dazzling contrast to the marigold color of the yolks. (Leave them in the beet juice for more than 18 hours, however, and the yolks will turn pink as well.)

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, then slice a  bit off the bottom of the white of each half so they won’t wobble on the plate.  It make them considerably easier to fill.

Remove the yolks and mash with  mayonnaise, a bit of mustard, and salt and pepper.  Add a splash of Sriracha for heat.  If you want truly etherial tenderness, whip the filling in a food processor; it will make it smoother.  Then pile the deviled yolks back into the pink shells. (A pastry tube makes this easier.) At the end, just for color, top each one with a little triangle of sweet pickle or a bit of sliced chile pepper. 

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California Dreaming

April 6, 2017

Last night I dreamed of …. not Manderly, but the incredible yellowtail and uni tacos at Holbox, a small perfect seafood stand in the La Paloma Market near USC.

Little wonder; I’m not in LA anymore, but in the cold, gray Berkshires where it’s mud season and the skies drip endless rain. Of course I’m thinking about this tropical dream of a dish: it’s rare to find such exquisite balance in a simple seafood dish. Every element here, from the smooth avocado to the chewy little nubbins of fish and the marvelously seductive sea urchin adds a different element, which is pulled together by the sharp, fruity bite of the chile morita.

There are lots of other dishes to love here.  Blood clams, almost scary in their red-rimmed shells, but incredibly fresh and delicious. Giant oysters. Wonderful shrimp cocktails, piled into tall glasses like savory sundaes.  And the most delicious surf clams, sliced into thin ribbons and swirled in bitter orange juice.  If you love the crisp crunch of giant clams at sushi bars, you’ll love this.

But when I dream, it’s the uni-yellowtail tacos I think of. I may just have to go back to LA…..

 

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The Original Mapo Tofu

April 5, 2017

  

I’ve never had the pleasure of encountering this incredible multi-volume Chinese Food Encyclopedia until today. And after I did, after I’d looked through the whole Sichuan volume page-by-page, I had no option but to walk outside, head a few blocks south, and into the first decent Chinese restaurant I encountered. What did I order when I got there? Mapo tofu and rice, of course. Here’s the dish from Grandma Cheng’s, in 1984: 

Though the whole encyclopedia was printed in Japan, this volume was written entirely by Sichuan writers. Each of the recipes comes from one of the best restaurants inthe province. This is Grandma Cheng’s, the institution credited for popularizing the dish:

And here’s the charming recipe: 

The factory where all of their tofu is made:

And the most astonishing knife skills I’ve seen in some time: 

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150th Birthday Party

April 3, 2017

So this is what you need to know: Darrell Corti knows more about food and wine than anybody else in America. No contest.  Steve Wallace was, for many years, the wine purveyor to the stars at Wally’s.  As they both turned 75 the other day, they invited a group of friends to celebrate with them at Chez Panisse.

It was spectacular.

Many people were there, including Cecila Chiang, who at 97 puts the rest of us to shame, and food critic and restaurateur,  Patty Unterman.  Cecilia ate everything, drank everything, and worked the room.

This is what we ate:  Blinis with mountains of the most wonderful caviar;

Asparagus with a citrus-enriched hollandaise and a slice of blood orange.  You forget sometimes, now that asparagus are available the year round, what in-season asparagus taste like. These tasted like – does this sound silly? –  the color green.  The sauce maltaise was like a gong of orange, clanging alongside. Synesthesia: eating colors.

The loveliest broth, clear as a bell, with little raviolini, filled with ricotta and greens and spangled with Parmesan.  The pea shoots, floating in the broth, were extremely eloquent.

Lamb, rare, clean-tasting, cooked in the wood-burning oven, with those lovely long bones.  A creamy little square of new potatoes.  And a pile of the sprightliest peas, carrots, baby artichokes and fava beans you’ve ever encountered. Sorry, but gorgeous as that meat was, it was totally overshadowed by the vegetables.

A cheese plate. And because Alice could never serve a meal without a salad, she came around to plunk a little fluff of baby greens on every plate.

This was an apple galette.  The tart was delicious. But that huckleberry ice cream… no words. Deep, rich… completely purple.

Music.  Of course there was music….

And wine… wonderful wine.

Look at the menu.

And then imagine that ’82 Haut Brion.

 

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Managing a Maidless Dinner in the Rumpus Room

March 31, 2017

There’s something poignant about the drift of the “hints” in The American Woman’s Cookbook, written by Ruth Berolzheimer in 1941. Though her tips run the gamut – there’s a section on food for invalids, and a glossary of French cooking terms – Berolzheimer’s audience is the striving woman of modest means, eager to keep up with the Joneses.

If this looks ludicrous – and so much of it does – consider this: The American Woman’s Cookbook sold one million copies in its first year. Kind of makes me sad…..

 

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