Thursday, October 1, 2009

from my head down to my legs

So those eggs.

Eggs are a good example of why I say to get to know your ingredients.  When you take the rote approach to cooking, just memorizing different methods, you don't really know what you're doing.  You're Berlitzing it, reciting phrases.  You know what you're saying, you know the meaning is getting across, but you don't apprehend the structures and grammar.

Everyone knows how to hard-boil an egg, most people know how to soft-boil an egg.  Everyone's got different tricks, you know, whether you start the eggs in the water before heating it, whether you let them cool in the water, how to peel the eggs, all that.  The thing to keep in mind is how sensitive eggs are to temperature, and how much the texture will differ between an egg cooked at a hard boil for thirty minutes and an egg simmered for 15.

These eggs, what I call unctuous eggs, similar to hot spring eggs, are neither hard- nor soft-boiled.  They never come out exactly the same, because there are too many variables and my kitchen is not a laboratory of controlled conditions.  But the idea is that the white comes out set but not rubbery -- nor even as solid as that of a nice hard-boiled egg -- and that the yolk remains unctuous.  It's not liquid like a soft-boiled egg.  But it has none of the chalkiness of a hard-set yolk, and may in some cases -- we hope for these -- remain orange and custardy.  This is not a hard-boiled egg.  This is not a soft-boiled egg.  This is some other egg.

You bring the egg up to room temp, or let it sit in warm water a while.  You bring your pot of water to a simmer.  You put the egg in the water for 6-8 minutes and then immediately plunge it into ice water, for the same reason you do with blanched vegetables: you don't just want to remove it from the cooking environment, you want to halt the cooking.  Otherwise that egg's going to retain heat and keep cooking the yolk.  Once the egg has cooled down, you can peel it, and you can marinate the thing if you like -- soy sauce is good, hot sauce is good, in either case I'd dilute some with water.  Eggs can suck up a lot of marinade, as you know if you've ever et a pickled one.  I didn't marinate my eggs because I don't want the marinade to clash with my lima beans.

Eggs, lima beans.

You really can't tell from looking at these how custardy and unctuous the eggs are, particularly the yolks.  A minute less of cooking and they might have been too soft; thirty seconds less would probably be just right to keep the yolks completely orange with none of that canary yellow.  With the eggs, I'm having a lima bean salad, which is just cooked limas marinated with pecan oil -- nut oils in general are terrific for this kind of thing -- with smoked paprika, salt, sage, and a little homemade pepper vinegar.  It's best at room temperature or slightly warm -- I microwaved it a bit, because it's cold lately and room temperature's not what it could be.

On the eggs: Hawaiian pink sea salt, and more of the green chile salt.  The Hawaiian pink sea salt is nice and crunchy -- maybe the sort of thing you'd usually have with French fries instead of egg, but I dig it here.

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