Summer Egg Blues (and, adventures in Hollandaise Sauce)

broken eggs  jean-baptiste greuze

“Broken Eggs” Jean-Baptiste Greuze 1756  (On display at the MET. Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920)

The painting was said, by critics in the 1700’s, that the broken eggs symbolized the loss of the girl’s virginity. I don’t think they’re right.  I just think that she was overwhelmed by the eggs, and the weight of deciding what to do with them. As is the case, in the long days of summer chickens just lay too darn many eggs.  (Although I do wonder why the little boy has a rat and that strange expression.)

My chickens have long since passed on to the pasture in the sky, so I source my eggs at a local honor farm stand. A couple of days ago I didn’t have change for a single carton of eggs, so I purchased four cartons (two medium $4.00 each, and two large $6.00 each) and stuffed my $20 bill into the locked box.

Now I have the weight of 48 eggs staring at me every time I open my refrigerator.

I don’t really feel like making an angel food or sunshine cake. Not in the mood for a savory bread casserole. (No stale bread, either.) Not in the mood for a souffle.

So, what do I feel like?  Custard? Flan? Quiche?

That is the dilemma. I feel like I can relate to that poor woman sitting on the floor. Deep in contemplation, annoyed at the lack of direction and unable to make a decision. I have 47 perfect eggs sitting waiting for me. Calling out “I’m yummy”. (The best I have done is fry one for breakfast.)

I think I’m going to make a Hollandaise sauce (which will bring me down to 46 eggs which will patiently wait until tomorrow).  I have some fresh, wild caught salmon that I will poach in some white wine, some fresh squash (who doesn’t have too much squash this time of year?) a glass of the white wine, and a Hollandaise sauce will be perfect.

I can taste it now. The butter and egg sauce with a lemony flavor, emulsified over heat served hot.

Hollandaise sauce is named for Holland, the place of its birth. Although made famous by the French. The name suggests that it was a Dutch creation imported to France (by the Huguenots). The sauce’s history is quite muddled, with many views on who was first, where it appeared in written form first, and why it came to be.

Most people only think of Hollandaise for breakfast (Eggs Benedict).

As all emulsified egg sauces, it has the reputation for being difficult, in this case,  notoriously difficult. The internet and cookbooks all have some trick and shout out: “this is the BEST RECIPE” that most people shy away from making a batch.

(Note: I’m cutting the recipe in half, because I’m just cooking for myself.)

The most important thing about all sauces is to not rush. Eggs and oil are an exercise in patience. Push to hard, heat too high, rush and the sauce will “break” (curdle, clump).

Some cooking experts will tell you to start with nearly frozen butter cut into small cubes and let the butter melt as you blend it with the yolk over heat. (It works. It can take a long time for the butter to melt, but the end result is fine.) Some recipes make no distinction in the temperature of the butter but say to put the pan directly on low heat and move it off when necessary to control the temperature. Other recipes call for an extra initial step: clarifying the butter first (which I prefer) and then mixing the oil into the yolk, much as with making mayonnaise, only over a bain-marie or a double boiler. Although, you can just do this in a saucepan over the heat.

(Something I have NOT tried until tonight.)

My husband insists that clarifying the butter is an unneeded step and that any butter will work, salted or not, although the only butter he usually has on hand is unsalted butter. He has made Hollandaise and Bernaise sauces hundreds of times. I, on the other hand, have made emulsified sauces only with clarified butter but have made mayonnaise many times, and I like liquid oil to mix into the egg yolk, because I find it easier to control and more familiar. Since we both come up with the same basic end result, I suppose it’s only a matter of which directions you care to follow and practice with. One thing is for certain: These are sauces you have to be prepared to practice, and make routinely, until the techniques are foolproof—or nearly so—for you.

The key is to not get frustrated. Once you have the hang of it, these are easy and elegant sauces to “whip up.”

If the egg in the sauce begins to curdle, you can strain the sauce through several layers of cheesecloth, return the liquid to the pan, add a new egg yolk, and try again. Addition of some very, very cold water (a teaspoon to a tablespoon) can cool the sauce down enough to stop the break. (Then whisk energetically to get the egg proteins to smooth out and accept more oil.) If a sauce breaks, it breaks. Everyone has it happen, sometimes. When it does, just start over and go slower, and you’ll find success. (I have a lot of mistakes I can make, and still have eggs.)

Tonight I’ll try my husband’s recipe [cut in half]:.

  • 2 sticks butter  [1 stick, or so 1/4 pound, or 4 ounces of butter]
  • 4 egg yolks [2 egg yolks]
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice [1/2 teaspoon lemon juice]
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper [I am going to skip the cayenne, because I don’t feel like it]
  • salt and pepper, to taste [just a small dash of salt, touch more pepper]
  • 2 teaspoons ice water, if needed [1 teaspoon ice water]

Cut well-chilled butter into small (1/4-inch) chunks, and set aside. In fairly large saucepan, add egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne, and pepper. With hand whisk, blend all ingredients. Add chilled nuggets of butter, and turn heat to medium. Start whisking ingredients, and do not stop until butter melts and sauce begins to thicken. If sauce starts to break, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of very cold water, remove from heat, and whisk feverishly until sauce combines again. Once sauce is thick and smooth, add salt and more pepper, to taste. Remove from heat, and serve. (You can put saucepan into pan of warm water to keep sauce heated for as long as 30 minutes. This sauce does not hold well—it will begin to break.)


I’ll report back —

Swedish Egg Coffee


The Scream   by Edvard Munch

I thought I’d heard of everything, and then someone mentions Swedish Coffee — an egg used in brewing it.


Something in the far back of my mind registered — wasn’t there some old fancy trick about using egg  to clarify the coffee?   I only vaguely remembered this — tossing a beaten raw egg into the hot-pot of coffee to collect the grounds. The egg adds flavor and mellows the coffee (in the process — wastes an egg).

Somewhere back in my memory I had heard of this. This was a childhood memory, and I only remember it like a dream.

Was this really something?

It is mixed up in my mind like Hobo Coffee. Where you boil some water, toss in the grounds usually in the same pot you boiled water in, let it steep for a few minutes, then pour in some cold water (which drags the coffee grounds to the bottom) and you end up with a perfectly good cup of lukewarm coffee.

And, then out of the haze, I remember my grandmother always put her egg shells aside in a wooden box, and when she made coffee — pretty much Hobo coffee — she just put coffee and egg shells into a pot of boiling water, stirred it, and set it aside to steep. When she poured it out, without straining, it was dark, hot coffee. She said that the egg shells bound the grounds together at the bottom of the pot. (These coffee grounds and egg shells would go into the garden compost pile every morning.)

Of course, the funniest thing about being at Grandma’s house was watching my step-grandfather with a hot cup of coffee.  He would, to my grandmothers chagrin, pour the coffee from the cup to the saucer, then back to the cup, then back to the saucer, and so on, until he deemed it cool enough to drink.  He ate his green peas off his butter knife, and slurped his soup. He was an old Scotsman, with a thick Scottish brogue. He would say all kinds of strange things.Always called me a cheeky bairn. Half the time I never knew what he was saying with all the peely-wally, stookie, stooshie,  aff, aye, and oof.

My grandmother (my mother’s mother) was always in the kitchen. She kept the bacon grease in a crock by the stove. She kept bread crusts in a paper bag, and  egg shells, rinsed, in a small wooden box next to the stove. Egg shells were used to wash out bottles (put place crushed egg shells into a long neck bottle, with some soap and hot water, and shake-shake-shake. The shells would scrub the corners and hard to reach parts and the bottle would come out sparkling.  She used crushed egg shells and a sponge to clean her cast iron pans (she never used soap on the pans, claimed it would “ruin them”). She added finely ground egg shells to soups and stews to give them a calcium boost. And, she would crush them in a paper bag with a rolling-pin, and make a fine line around her vegetable plants, because she insisted “it kept the snails away”.

While on the subject of coffee, my father liked to drink Turkish Coffee (basically finely ground coffee heated up, slowly with a ton of sugar, and some ground cardamom). Really fine restaurants, back then, would usually have it on the menu, as an exotic delicacy. It was good, I was often allowed to have a small sip. A thick swill that you almost had to chew to get down, but delicious. (Now I have a craving for that.)

Coffee making for me was either the electric percolator that my parents used, or the “modern” ways, which I embraced. When I was out on my own, I was in the land of paper filters, and, later, French Press coffee. My friends had very complicated ways to make the “very best coffee, ever”. Coffee bean stores were opening up — where exotic beans from all over the world, in different roasts were trendy (unlike the big cans of pre-ground coffee that my parents would haul home from the grocery store).  Everyone had specific instructions that they would insist on. There were various promoted blends of dark French roast mellowed with a small amount  of Rainforest South American or Hawaiian grown beans (a light roast to balance out and put complexity the blend).

Everyone had a blend. Exotic Ethiopian beans, or Jamaican Blue Mountain Grown were the high-end (thankfully Civit digested coffee hadn’t been discovered, or marketed, yet) and Mexican and Columbian were the low-end.

Coffee beans were always ground fresh right before brewing (beans always kept in the freezer for maximum freshness). The coffee pot had to be preheated. The water boiled, but then cooled for several minutes to 205 degrees (to not injure the coffee oils), and then (for the paper filter drip method) poured in a circular motion over the ground coffee.  For the French Press, the coffee was placed in the glass carafe prior to pouring the hot water over them, then stirred once, and allowed to steep for 2-3 minutes, maximum, then transferred (in the case of a big batch of coffee) to a preheated thermos.

Complicated stuff this coffee-making.

So, my idea of coffee is strong, and full-bodied. I still like my coffee dark and strong, on the occasion that I indulge (more of a tea person these days). Seems, according to cooking websites and blogs, Swedish (aka Norwegian, Scandinavian) coffee is a thing, now. I find references all over the web. As a self-appointed egg expert I just had to try it.

I tried it.

I read a conglomeration of instructions.  I took an egg, and cracked it into a room temperature pan, crushed the egg-shell well, and broke the yoke. Placed a heaping tablespoon of ground coffee (ground to the consistency of what you would use for French Drip). Mixed together it looked disgusting, like mud.  Poured cold water into the pan, and set it on the stove, on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mess was just below the boiling point (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit). .Removed it from the heat, and let it sit for two minutes.  Then, I strained it into a cup(had to clean the metal strainer several times because it would get clogged up).  The coffee was not coffee-colored. It was more like cafe au lait. The smell was like a very mild coffee. The flavor was very mild — not what I’ve come to expect from coffee concoctions. It was almost insipid, bland.  With added sugar it was more reminiscent of hot cocoa than coffee.  It would be a good drink for someone who didn’t like coffee very much.

Interesting. Different.

I added cream, and the coffee developed a chewy, chalky mouth feel. Not bad, just unexpected. It’s better without dairy.  There is no obvious egg flavor, but it does have more texture, perhaps egg proteins.The only other drawback, aside from using up an egg, was that it was messy to create, and the brown egg, shaggy mess left behind was unsavory.

I think it would be better with some cocoa (will try that next time) to make a super beefy, mocha drink.  It would be better with ground cardamom added. (Which, to me, would make it much more exciting of a drink.)  I might try mixing it with some chai spices (star anise, allspice, ginger, cardamom, fennel seeds, peppercorn nutmeg and cloves) or adding some milk masala powder, because the coffee base would be delicious brightened up with something more.

Overall, interesting.  I can’t rave about it, because it was just a little too flat and mild for my tastes.  But, worth experimenting with.



Monte Cristo Sandwich

The sandwich that is the oddest in my book is the Monte Cristo sandwich. It is a class of sandwich, with several regional variations. Generally speaking, the pieces of bread are sweet French toast and the sandwich filling is savory.

The sandwich filling may be ham and cheese or turkey ham and cheese, much as in a club sandwich. Some parts of the United States grill a “closed” sandwich, whereas other places serve it open-faced with Swiss (or other) cheese melted on top. The bread is always French toast. Some recipes call for a more savory approach (Thousand Island dressing on plain egg toast, with fries on the side), and others lean toward the standard American breakfast French toast with powdered sugar, maple syrup, and fresh fruit salad as garnish.

The thing is, French toast isn’t actually that unusual as a sandwich exterior. Several recipes call for two pieces of bread dipped in egg and fried. I think it’s the combination of ingredients and the name that make this sandwich stand out.

The name of the sandwich is, obviously, a nod to Le Comte De Monte-Cristo, the Alexandre Dumas adventure novel, published in 1844. The Count of Monte Cristo’s protagonist, Edmond Dantes, who had been wrongfully accused and imprisoned and subsequently escaped from jail, flees to the island of Monte Cristo and finds the legendary treasure of the Spada family. With the riches, he can fund his revenge on those who wronged him. His revenge is formidable and the results shocking. The book is a classic.

Alexandre Dumas, painted by Olivier Pichat

Alexandre Dumas, painted by Olivier Pichat

The history of the sandwich is more difficult to unearth than the Spada family treasure. Many references assume that the first incarnation of the Count of Monte Cristo sandwich was in Disneyland, in Anaheim, California (where it was served at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square and in the Adventureland Tahitian Terrace restaurants). The earliest Disneyland menu it is found on is from 1966.

The first cookbook to publish a recipe was the Brown Derby Cookbook.[1] Its recipe:

     Take three slices of white bread. Butter the first and cover with lean baked ham and chicken. Butter the middle slice on both sides, place on meat, and cover with thinly sliced Swiss cheese. Butter the third slice and place, butter down, over cheese. Trim crusts; cut sandwich in two; secure with toothpicks; dip in light egg batter; fry in butter on all sides until golden brown. Remove toothpicks and serve with currant jelly, strawberry jam, or cranberry sauce.

The Brown Derby did not claim to have invented the sandwich. In Southern California, it was served in many cafés, from some at swanky golf courses to the famous Cantor’s Deli in Hollywood[2].

However, all these citations are predated by the Monte Cristo Hotel in Everett, Washington. The sandwich was a house special in its cafe.

Monte Cristo Hotel, Everett Washington


The first written citation on the sandwich was in a weekly Los Angeles Times column by Chef A. L. Wyman[3] in 1924. His recipe:

     Cover six slices of sandwich bread with a slice of American full cream cheese, cover the cheese with slices of boiled ham, cover with slices of bread, tie with white string, dip in beaten egg and fry a nice brown on both sides in hot butter. Place on hot plates, remove the string and serve.

It is notable that his recipe called for cream cheese, not the Swiss cheese or Emmentaler (a type of Swiss cheese) that is fairly standard among all the recipes.

The Monte Cristo has many minor variations. The most common: The bread is made into French toast first and then grilled (using 3 pieces of bread in a “Dagwood” layering[4]); a sandwich (usually with 2 pieces of bread) assembled and dipped in an egg/flour thickened batter; meat variations such as ham, turkey, and chicken; a sandwich served with jam, jelly, fruit, or maple syrup and dusted with confectioner’s sugar (and sometimes whipped cream); and a savory version (Cumberland-head style) served with Thousand Island dressing and garnished with pickles, relish, or French fries.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

1 egg

6 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons flour

3 slices bread

2 teaspoons butter

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or other hard cheese

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 (2 ounce) slice Swiss cheese

2 (1 ounce) slices roasted turkey

2 (1 ounce) slices boiled ham

confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

jam, for garnish

Whisk egg, milk, and flour together to make thick batter. Heat skillet on medium heat to melt small amount of butter. Dip bread into batter until coated, and put into frying pan; sprinkle with grated cheese and nutmeg. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Put Swiss cheese between 2 pieces of battered bread. Grill until cheese has melted enough to join the 2 pieces together. Remove from pan. On plate assemble sandwich. Place ham and turkey on top of grilled cheese pieces, and put last piece of battered bread on top. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve with side dish of jam.
[1] Doubleday & Company: Garden City, NY, 1949 (p. 183). The Brown Derby was a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles, California. The first and most famous was opened in a building shaped like a hat. The restaurants were iconic during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The first restaurant opened in 1926.

[2] The original Cantor’s—a Jersey City, New Jersey, delicatessen—opened in 1924 and moved to Hollywood in the 1940s.

[3] The regular column was called Practical Recipes: Helps for Epicures and All Who Appreciate Good Cooking. The Monte Cristo sandwich recipe was published May 24, 1924.

[4] Dagwood Bumstead was a character in artist Chic Young’s long-running comic strip Blondie. Dagwood was famous for creating insanely tall, multilayered sandwiches topped with an olive on a toothpick. This name has become a food term to describe any sandwich with more than two pieces of bread.


hellman's fixed

1. Hellman’s Delivery Truck, circa 1930’s 2. BEST FOODS Real Mayonnaise Jar, 1939 3. Mr. Richard Hellmann, 1920’s 4. HELLMANN’S Real Mayonnaise Jar, 1939 5.) Richard Hellmann’s staff and original delicatessen, 1912 6. BEST FOODS delivery vehicle 1920’s

When most of us think of mayonnaise, we think of Best Foods, or Hellmann’s (depending which side of the country you are on). Few people actually TRY to make mayonnaise, because it has the reputation of being difficult to make.  Mayonnaise is a popular sauce for pairing with a wide variety of foods, was used in many ways, and had abundant variations. Much of this variety has been lost because of the ease of opening a jar. We have become so imprinted on the Hellman/Best Foods standard flavor that we overlook the delight to be found in fresh, homemade mayo.

I suspect that the commercial mayonnaise makers were responsible for the unreasonable claims that it is finicky and difficult to make. There are still pervasive myths. Among the most outlandish: Mayonnaise cannot be made by a menstruating woman. (It will fail to emulsify.) Also, mayonnaise cannot be made on a warm summer’s day, during a thunderstorm or a rainstorm, or when the barometer is showing a winter storm approaching. Some recipes insist that all the ingredients must be very cold, whereas others caution that they should be at room temperature. The mystique that surrounds creating the emulsion known as mayonnaise is certainly interesting. It makes you wonder: If it is so difficult to make, how is it that factories are able to consistently churn out truckloads of mayonnaise every day. (Do they ban menstruating women? Shut down during thunderstorms and fluctuating barometric pressure?)

The truth is: Mayonnaise is not difficult to make. If the idea was mastered in the 1500s, without refrigeration, by cooks during war campaigns — mayonnaise just cannot be that difficult.

The thing about making mayonnaise is that it, like most other cooking, is anything but an exact science. The most important ingredient (aside from good eggs and bland oil) is patience. A homemade product will, predictably, not turn out exactly the same every time. That is the nature of homemade, and the variations are part of the charm. The thing to remember about homemade mayonnaise is that it has a quality that cannot be mass-produced. It is an affordable luxury.

The science behind it is simple. Mayonnaise is an emulsion, which is a mix of two immiscible ingredients. Immiscible means incapable of mixing without a third substance called an emulsifier. In the case of mayonnaise, it is oil with a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar, which is mixed SLOWLY into egg yolks’ (lecithin in the eggs acts as an emulsifier).  A pinch of mustard powder or squeeze of prepared mustard (called for in most recipes) is an additional emulsifier.  The acid (lemon juice or vinegar) strengthens and lengthens the yolk’s proteins.


It is egg, and oil, with a little acid added (any kind of vinegar, lemon, or lime), plus a dash of salt. Mustard does help the emulsion hold together, so it is a good addition. Everything else is a suggestion. Keep this in mind when you read the following recipes. You can experiment with different kinds of mustards (grain, brown, dry powdered, prepared yellow) for different flavors. You can use different oils or oil mixtures. You can add various spices or other ingredients. The worst thing is to try to duplicate Hellman’s/Best Foods in flavor, texture, and color. It is nearly (if not completely) impossible to obtain the white color of commercially made mayonnaise. Yours will always be a richer, more interesting yellow. The flavor will be broader and the texture richer and creamier. The final product will often be thick. Add a tablespoon or more of cold water (or cream) to thin it.

The natural variation of homemade mayonnaise is due to the ingredients, the temperament of the cook, and the eggs. Eggs are not just eggs. They vary in seasonal quality—a spring egg is “wetter” than a late summer egg. A stored egg or an older refrigerated egg is thicker and dryer than a newly laid egg. An egg from a chicken fed on natural grasses is vastly different from an egg from a chicken raised on commercial pellets. A pastured chicken egg is different from a battery cage chicken egg. A freshly laid egg is different to work with than a commercial store-bought egg. Eggs from different strains of chickens probably have some minute differences, and eggs from different species have some very different characteristics. (A duck egg yolk and white are thicker than those of a chicken egg. A goose egg yolk is creamier than either a duck’s or a chicken’s.)

A freshly laid chicken egg is the easiest to work with for mayonnaise. But, unless you have chickens, this won’t be an option. Duck eggs make a very thick and rich mayonnaise, although you might need to add milk, cream, or water to thin it. Goose eggs make delicious mayonnaise, although some people find that it is too intensely egg-flavored.

A little about oil: Olive oil is the standard go-to for mayonnaise, but many olive oils are too flavorful and any undesirable traits, such as bitterness or an overbearing acid flavor, will be accentuated in the mayonnaise. In most cases, this detracts from or clashes with the flavors in the meal. It is better to find a neutral olive oil (such as a Spanish one) or use another type of bland, neutral oil such as safflower or sunflower oil. You can even try melted unsalted butter, it makes a very interesting mayonnaise, which is quite rich, and very unique.

(What causes me the most challenges is one of my own human foibles: impatience. Do not attempt to make mayonnaise if you are in a hurry. Mayonnaise cannot be rushed.)

Making an emulsion takes patience! By its very nature, an emulsion is something that does not want to blend. You have to coax the egg into accepting the oil and dribble the oil in slowly. I use an eyedropper and try not to add more than a few drops at a time. (I have never tried “pour in a thin stream” without awful results). I dribble the oil, drop by drop, at the start, and then move up to teaspoonfuls. I also give the yolk ample time to “rest.”  Stopping for a moment is handy. Stop and take a breath. This tip is good to remember if you begin to see the emulsification stalling and the mayonnaise just beginning to “break” (forming big, ugly curds that will not go back together again). You can settle the mixture down by pausing, adding a few drops of cold water, and just waiting a moment before continuing.

If you want a good workout, use a wire whisk and a large bowl that will allow the yolk to spread out into a very thin layer. It will give you a clear view of what is going on, and if any breaking starts, you can stop it quickly. (A deep, narrow bowl does not afford as much control.)

I’ve read that you can use a hand whisk, a rotary hand mixer, an electric hand mixer, a stick blender, an upright blender, or a food processor. However, I have used only a whisk or an electric hand mixer. It took me about three tries (one afternoon) before I managed to find a technique that worked for me. I have tried since then to use a blender and a food processor but always return to what I find easiest: the hand mixer and a big bowl with a flat bottom. But there is no one right way. Experiment, and find what works for you.

Expect a few mishaps before you get your technique down. The most common error, from my experience, is rushing it and adding the oil too fast. The point is to keep the egg yolk (or yolks) in motion while you add the oil, a drop at a time.

Basic Simple Mayo Recipe:


3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon prepared mustard
1½ cups olive oil, salad oil, or mixture

2 tablespoons boiling water

Beat egg yolks with salt, mustard, and vinegar or lemon juice. Add oil, a drop at a time, and keep beating. Dribble oil in, in short bursts, beating constantly to make sure egg mixture absorbs oil smoothly. Dribble, and then stop and beat. Dribble, stop, and beat. When 1/3 cup oil is mixed in, the chance of the whole sauce’s breaking is lessened, so you can add oil in larger amounts (such as a teaspoon at a time). Continue until all oil has been used. The end result will be very thick and creamy. Thin with a little boiling water or a mixture of hot water and more vinegar or lemon juice if mixture is too thick. Add seasoning after mayonnaise has been chilled, covered, for an hour. (If not covered, it may develop an unsightly “skin” on top.)

If you are at all fearful of the dreaded “salmonella” (which I will cover on a different post, and best avoided by buying the freshest eggs, from the most natural source you can find — like a farmer’s market with the actual chicken wrangler right there selling them, or, naturally, from chickens wandering your backyard) then here is a “cooked” mayo recipe:

Cooked Mayo

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon dry mustard

dash pepper

1 cup very light olive oil

In double boiler, over simmering water, stir egg yolks, lemon juice, water, mustard, and pepper until blended. Continue stirring constantly. Using a glass cooking thermometer, get temperature to 140 degrees and maintain that temperature for 3½ minutes. Remove from heat (take pan off hot water), and let sit for several minutes to cool. Pour into blender, cover, and blend at high speed. Add oil, drop by drop, slowly. Keep adding more oil while blender is going, until all oil is absorbed. Yolk will become very thick and smooth. Occasionally turn off blender to scrape down sides with rubber spatula. Remove mayonnaise from blender, and placed in covered container. Keep refrigerated.


The Spanish Fried Egg

Spanish Fried Egg

I am always looking for new ways to fry an egg. I came upon this recipe in my travels, and have found it to be very interesting. it’s like a poached egg, in oil!   The egg white get crackly, and the egg yolk thickens. It is perfect to top a steak, or as a change from the drab morning egg.  Nothing could be further from the “perfect way to cook an egg” that Chef Ferdinand Point promoted.  (He insisted the ONLY way to cook an egg was slowly, in ample amounts of butter.)  The texture is unique.  The Spanish fry everything in a rather bland olive oil (lacking in overall “olive” flavor). This may be cooked in a good quality cooking oil, in melted lard, or as the Spanish do, in olive oil.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a heavy pan (cast iron works well) until it is nearly smoking. Then reduce the heat to medium-high, and break an egg into the hot oil. Cook eggs one at a time (several eggs will instantly migrate together and coagulate into one big shaggy mess). Tilt the pan away from you, and spoon the oil over the egg or, alternatively, roll the egg gently with a spoon to cook all sides evenly. Cook until the white is opaque but the interior is still runny. The total cooking time is less than a minute, closer to 45 seconds, for a still-runny yolk and up to 2 minutes for a firm yolk. Use a slotted spoon to lift the egg out of the oil, and let the excess oil drip off. The technique and resulting egg texture are more like those of a poached egg, but with a decidedly fried, almost crispy, exterior.

Country Life, continued

Honor boxes are great.  In the summer I visit a small little honor farm that has fantastic, fresh vegetables. The farm has been in existence since the 1920’s, by one family. I find it quaint. The quality is great — although, you have to expect a few earwigs, and the occasional baby slug, in the mix. The leaves might not be perfect (a few holes chewed through by some errant bug). But, what a bargain. I can’t eat $20 of vegetables in a week.  Cabbage, kale, collard greens, lettuces, squash, corn, beans, carrots, potatoes — come through from early summer to early autumn. vege honor farmvege honor farm 2

I place my money under a chunk of wood, and serve myself.  It’s absolutely why I love living out of the city.  There are a lot of honor boxes and little farm stands. There are even a few “pick it yourself” farms.  You go out into the field, and select the foods, and load up a basket.  Can’t get any fresher than that!

There is an honor honey shack, where I buy a glass quart jar of the amber gold, and a dairy farm that has a regular old refrigerator — full of fresh milk — sitting on a covered deck. (You put the money on the door shelf.)

There are cutting flower farms, too.

It is pleasant to take a drive, through the back roads, and frequenting these places.


Country Life

eggs signIt is getting to be that time of year again.  I think I look forward to the coming of Spring and Summer just as excitedly as I used to as a child.   Only my reasons have changed. As a kid, I would look forward to sleeping in, and long lazy hot days.

Now, giddy, I anticipate the honor farm’s return.  In the area I live, which is quasi-rural, driving the back roads you’ll see signs that announce that eggs are for sale.  The “honor box” payment system is very common around.  So, my regular weekly shopping includes stopping at a few of these rural shopping sites.   I go to the same place, usually, for eggs. It’s an amazing all freely pastured farm. Chickens hatch and raise their chicks, and everywhere there are chickens milling about.   It’s quaint.   The honor box that I stop at is simple, and you stuff your money down a little wooden slot.  egg honor boxThe eggs are fresh, the cartons are recycled (and I bring back my used cartons).   It’s pleasant.

I used to raise chickens, and have chickens, and nightly close them into their coop. Every morning let them out, and routinely clean out the coop. Uggh.  I have one of my original 25 left.  (I call her “survivor”.)

After years of struggling to protect chickens from neighborhood dogs, and marauding raccoons, foxes, eagles, coyotes, and whatever else, I’m tired of it.  But, there is no way I could go back to the big corporate egg farmed eggs.   (They have no taste! They have been in cold storage for half-a-year, or more.   Yuck.)

I also, use a lot of eggs — and try several egg recipes each week (for my “someday” book Too Many Eggs, it’s at 400 pages, now, and still growing).  I like to help support a guy who is, clearly, crazy about chickens.

egg farm

the egg farmer walking down his driveway

Dessert Deviled Eggs

Everyone knows variations on deviled eggs, but what about dessert deviled eggs?

These two recipes are fantastic (and not just for the shock {wow} factor) Perfect for a potluck:

Chocolate Deviled Eggs

12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup cream cheese

¼ cup superfine sugar

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

several drops vanilla extract

¼ cup whipping cream

cocoa powder for garnish

Remove yolks from eggs, and set whites aside. With fork mash yolks and put into bowl. Add room-temperature butter and cream into yolks. Add room-temperature cream cheese, and blend into butter mixture. Add sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract, and blend in well. Put spoonfuls of yolk mixture back into egg whites, and reassemble both egg halves. Refrigerate to firm. To serve, whip up whipping cream with small amount of sugar, place dollop of whipped cream on plate, and place egg on top. Sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Italian Sweet Hard-Boiled Eggs

8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

½ cup butter, softened

¼ cup sugar

several drops vanilla extract

¼ cup flour

½ cup cornstarch

Cut eggs in half, and separate yolks from whites. Set whites aside. Mash yolks with fork. Cream butter and yolks, and add sugar and vanilla extract. Stir together flour and cornstarch, sprinkle a little at a time onto yolk mixture, and blend in. Fold until flour is incorporated. Make firm ball with dough. Refrigerate 2 hours. Remove, and make 16 small balls of dough. Place a dough ball in cavity of each egg white. Flatten dough slightly. Place on cookie sheet. Bake in 350-degree oven 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden-brown. Serve warm, or chilled.

The Science of Cooking an Egg

The egg white coagulates (turns from liquid and solidifies) at a temperature between 144 and 149 degrees Fahrenheit (62 and 65 Celsius). Egg yolk coagulates between 149 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit (65 and 70 Celsius). This difference in coagulation is why you can fry an egg and have the white fully solidify while the yolk remains runny or, for the sake of this chapter, how you can cook a soft-boiled egg so that the white is fully opaque while the yolk is still runny.

The coagulation is referred to as curdling in older recipes. It does describe the chemical reaction within the egg. When eggs are heated, the long chains of amino acids unfold and straighten out, and then as the temperature increases (to the ideal coagulation point), the proteins create stronger, firmer new bonds. The biological terminology for this is denaturing the protein. Denaturing is what happens when you cook an egg: in frying, when it forms a solid mass, and in scrambling, when it turns into soft lumps, or curds.

However, the current scientific definition of curdling is syneresis. (Syneresis is the separation of liquid from a coagulated mass, such as what happens in cheese-making when whey separates from the cheese curds.) In the case of eggs, their protein becomes overcoagulated and “breaks.” When this happens, liquid is forced out of the lumps of protein. Without liquid, the protein binds together more tightly. The result is a lumpy, almost granular texture.

Too high a heat or an overly long cooking time can cause this. When it happens, the cooking term (when one is talking about a sauce, for instance) is that it breaks. A break is considered to be a total and utter failure of the sauce, the custard, the emulsion.

Newer cookbooks and recipes on the Web try to slap on scientific names (used in other cooking science such as cheese-making) that are not a good fit. The point is that the modern definition that associates egg curds with syneresis (instead of denaturing) is confusing. Borrowed descriptive terms are not a good fit for cooked eggs.

Egg Proteins Altered

There are three ways to change the proteins in eggs: heat, beating, and chemical reaction.

1.) Heat causes the proteins to unfold and reconnect. Moderate heat (medium or medium-low) is better than high heat, which causes the bonds to connect too strongly, resulting in a rubbery, tough cooked egg. If you boil an egg on too high a heat, you may see a greenish tinge on the cooked egg yolk if the iron sulfide in the yolk reacts with the hydrogen sulfide in the white (This does not change the quality or the flavor of the egg, but it looks unattractive.)

2.) Beating or whisking egg whites causes the protein bonds to break and reconnect. The new bonds are stronger and cross-linked. Once an egg yolk is whipped into a foam, it will not return to a liquid.

3.) Chemicals that can denature, or break, the protein bonds in eggs include vinegar, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and alcohol. Numerous recipes call for the addition of an acid to egg whites for meringues, soufflés, sponge cakes, and the like, because it lengthens the protein strands and allows for stiffer egg white foam.

Egg whites are easier to alter than egg yolks, because the proteins in egg yolks are more resistant to change.

Urban Chicken Wrangler

I go into the feed stores, and hear the peeping. It is so hard to resist the chicks. So cute running around pecking. Its hard for me to resist.

I think everyone should have a chicken or two, in their lives. When I lived in an urban center, I  decided that I just HAD to have some chickens. (We already had a duck that my daughter had talked me into, and, of course, you can’t just have one duck, so we had three.)

As I discovered…a lot of people have chickens. My UPS guy, the mailman,the clerk at the grocery store…a few teachers at my daughters school. I even joined an “urban chicken” club. I found people who showed chickens.  (I found this weird.) There is a lot more poultry around in cities that would seem “normal”. I had no idea until I had chickens. It was like being pregnant, you don’t notice anyone is pregnant until you are, then you see pregnant women EVERYWHERE.  In this case, I didn’t now that there was a very active underground poultry society until I had my own.

smaller chicken and laundry

White Crested Black Polish chicken under my clothesline.,

I learned by trial-and-error, and from other people. But, compared to a lot of pets, chickens are the least demanding of any pet I’ve ever owned. In the beginning, I had two full-sized birds, and two bantam “Silkies” (very odd little birds). Bantams are half-sized chickens…so chicken lite, and they lay these cute little eggs. (Great for a diet.) The challenge was in keeping them safe. So, we trained them to go into portable dog kennels (the airline type) every night, and then haul them in the house. (I say “train” this consisted of seeking them from wherever they had decided to roost in the yard, and snagging them, putting them INTO the kennel every night…until they figured out that the kennels were the safe spot to go. However, if you don’t put the kennels in the exact same spot every day, they get confused.  Then they’ll go back to plucking them from bushes and trees every night. (Which sucks.)  I started leaving the kennels where they were, from when I left them out.  The chickens got the clue, and sometimes would lay their eggs IN the kennels, which made me happy. But, sometimes I’d forget, or one of the kids would move the kennels, and that night, I was again, out after dark, with a flashlight searching for where the chickens were hiding. When you snatch a chicken in the dark, it makes a terrible, terrified noise. Poor things sound pitiful.  It did anchor me around their schedule, until I built a hen-house and yard with a covered top and sides. It was a constant worry and race to get home “before it was too dark” to put them inside.

On second thought, maybe they trained me.
In the day they’d go out in the yard and run around. Eat bugs, and we’d give them a little grain and leftovers in the morning, and a small amount of grain at night, about an hour before sunset. (I didn’t like to keep food out because I didn’t want rodents.)  Grain is chicken crack, by the way, they’ll eat that before they eat anything else.

I’ll admit, I was ready to throw in the towel, at first.  I mean, chicks are cute, but the teen chickens are just jerks. They are messy, loud, and smelly.  But, once we had the eggs — that was is IT! We were addicted. With only four layers (two small eggs and two large) we would wait with anticipation of “someone laying”. On average, two eggs a day, was more than a dozen a week. That was great. (Back then I wasn’t all that into eggs.)

Once I moved to a quasi-rural area, I ordered 25 from McMurray (big online/catalog hatchery). I cannot tell you that 25 are as easy as a few. They aren’t. Even with a big, “formal” hen-house, there is a lot more cleaning, more heartache. We’ve had problems with when raccoons discovered the easy pickings, eagles swooping down, large ravens taking a few out, a local dog had a blast one afternoon.  Chickens are prey. They’re not always smart enough to get out of harm’s way. And, then, the chicken breeds, themselves.  I wish I’d paid more attention to when the catalog said “calm bird” or “good foragers” “lively”, etc.   I’ve come to find out “alert” and the “good forager” are polite terms for crazy chickens!  And chickens that are “good mothers” also mean that they’ll go broody, all summer long. (A broody hen is one that stops laying, and starts gathering every egg they can find to put under her ample butt, so that she can hatch them. Often a broody hen will defend the eggs, with a vengeance, and will also go rogue in your yard somewhere – MIA.  The broody hen won’t eat or drink, either.)

The bigger heavier breeds are much easier to deal with. I am a huge fan of the Orpington breed (especially the Buff Orpington).

Two dozen chickens produced up to two dozen eggs a day.  On average, it was, at the very least, a dozen a day (and with the ducks, another half-dozen, and when the geese are laying another four. Eggs, eggs, eggs!) For a while, I tried to supply most of my neighbors with eggs, until they were politely saying “no thanks”.  I baked a pound cake each week. Made angel food cakes (hey! uses a dozen) and custards, and searched for more recipes.  I froze eggs (separated works best).  I even started (recycling?) cooking up the eggs to feed back to the hens . (Cook the eggs before giving them back to the hens so they don’t start eating their own eggs, and cut out the middle-man: YOU.)

Over the years my chicken population has dropped (from the aforementioned predators), to a more manageable number of chickens.  I think that two chickens for each person in the household is the right number of chickens.

Poultry is about the closest you’ll get to having dinosaurs in your yard. Chickens are amusing to watch.  And, can they eat! They are eating machines. The bugs in the yard get gobbled up and, most important: they eat leftovers.  No more guilt over tossing out a stale loaf of bread, or the rice that no one seems to want to eat as a leftover,  or that last bit of breakfast cereal at the bottom of the box…that the kids won’t eat because there isn’t enough for a full bowl. They also gobble up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that come back from a packed school lunch all squished and miserable looking, vegetable trimmings, and wilted vegetables, bruised apples, and whatever else that would usually go into the trash can or garbage disposal.

I would recommend poultry for anyone. It’s hard to be depressed and feeling lonely when you have a flock of poultry that think you are a food god! You can’t be unhappy when all the chickens immediately stop whatever they are doing and  run over to see what you have for them. It adds a nice balance to life. They are always happy to see you.