Eggs and Quiche…and more eggs

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile then you’ll know what I mean when I say that we have an abundance of “real” eggs in our house at the moment. My parents have a fabulous neighbor who keeps chickens (and reads this blog – Hi Jennifer!) so she knows about how many eggs my boys go through in a week.

Last week my dad called and told me he had some eggs for us and to “bring a cooler.” He wasn’t kidding. Four-and-a-half dozen!!

I immediately hard-boiled at least a dozen of them.  We had breakfast for dinner one night and used up a bunch more. My five-year-old loves that the eggs are all different colors and the double yolks are the biggest deal!

Even with all of that, there were still a lot of eggs hanging around. So I got busy formulating a mini-quiche my two-year-old could eat, since he is still on some dietary restrictions…it can get a little tricky.

But I was able to come up with these:

Onion and Spinach Mini-Quiche with a Manchego “Crust”

He can’t have cow’s milk products, but he can have goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. So I grated some manchego in the bottoms of the mini-muffin cups in hopes it would get just crispy enough to seem like a thin crust. Onions and spinach were sauteed in bacon grease and spooned on top of the cheese. Then the eggs…and instead of cream I used chicken broth to keep it a little moist.

You can sort of see the slight crispiness on the bottom of this one. They are flatter than a traditional quiche – partly because of the tiny muffin cups and partly because there’s no cream or cheese in the egg mixture.

But the two-year-old did not care. He ate twelve of them for breakfast. Yes, twelve. And then he finished off the rest of the batch later in the morning. I have it on my list of things to do for this weekend to make up several more batches so I can have them on-hand in the freezer. He loved them. And I loved sneaking all that spinach into him.

Since I didn’t want the rest of us to feel left out, I made a regular one, too.  Same basic process, but I used Monterrey Jack and Parmesan for the crust…onions and spinach, cream and eggs…tomatoes on top.  I had it for brunch several days this week and wondered to myself why I don’t make these more often. They are so versatile, easy to grab and go, freeze well…so more quiche is certainly on the list for next week’s meal planning.

The weird shadows on the food are due to the fact that I was taking these photos at sunrise...which means I wasn't awake enough at the time to notice them and reshoot shadowless ones. I trust you all can overlook my early morning deficiencies. 🙂

There are still plenty of eggs in my house so, I’m guessing there might be Buttermilk Pie and Angel Food Cake posts coming soon.  Maybe I’ll finally make it around to another try at the elusive macaron! Either way, a big *thank you* to Jennifer R. and her “real” chickens!! (I’ll send the empty cartons back soon.)

Crustless Onion and Spinach Quiche

1/2 cup each Monterrey Jack and Parmesan cheese, grated

1 onion, diced

4-6 ounces baby spinach, chopped

2-3 TB bacon grease (or olive oil)

2 cups eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups cream

2 TB corn starch

salt, pepper

1 large tomato, sliced

Preheat oven to 425°. Spread the cheese across the bottom of an ungreased pie plate. Saute the onions and spinach in the bacon grease or oil until the onions are starting to brown. Spoon the spinach mixture evenly over the cheese. Mix the beaten eggs and cream and corn starch until well mixed. Add salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture through a strainer into the pie plate. Place tomato slices evenly around on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes (until center seems set and the edges have browned.) Let cool slightly before cutting.

 

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Boiled Eggs…Really.

Lately both of my children are semi-obsessed with hard-boiled eggs. I think if I let them eat as many as they wanted…well, I’d have to start keeping chickens.

So I boil a lot of eggs. Often.

My youngest just likes the whites. He will politely hand the mushy yolk back to me if I put them in front of him.

My oldest has taken to requesting his eggs “doubled.” Which is actually deviled…but I think it’s cute, so I don’t correct him. “I’d like some doubled eggs, please.” Cute.

For plenty of years I was boiling eggs incorrectly. Did you know that was possible? I mean, it’s boiled water…and an egg. How can that get messed up? But it can.

I’m in the middle of some serious holiday baking right now. My eyes are starting to cross from counting out cups of flour and sugar. Consider this post my break. Water+egg. This I can handle right now.

Have you ever seen the yolk of a hard-boiled egg that is all gray-greenish?  Like this double-yolk egg photo I found at ask.com:

Ewwww. That gray-green coloring is due to ferrous sulfide which forms when an egg is overcooked. It’s tasteless and harmless as long as you aren’t offended by the awful color created when you use those yolks to make “doubled” eggs.

To avoid this is simple.

Place your eggs in cold water in a pan. Bring the water to a boil. Just as a full boil is reached, cover and turn off the heat. Let the eggs stand for 10 minutes. Then drain the water and replace with cold water and/or ice to stop the cooking process. (I usually just put the whole pan in the sink and fill with water/ice and let it sit until four hours later when I realize I forgot all about them later… and then I put them in the fridge.)

Photo from slashfood.com

Then they turn out so pretty and yellow. Every single time.

There you are. Helpful tip for the day. Just one step above “how to boil water.”

I feel refreshed. Now, back to the oven mitts and cooling racks and tiny little loaf pans…it doesn’t look like I have any little elves who are going to show up and do it all for me!

Favorite Breakfast

Whenever it is my husband’s turn to have his birthday breakfast he always chooses the same thing.

Eggs Benedict.

Of course, I don’t mind one bit because it’s one of my favorite breakfasts, too.

And even though it is just four ingredients (English muffin, ham, poached egg, hollandaise sauce,) I used to dread doing the poached egg part because I didn’t really like the poaching pan I had. It was kind of like this one:

When I was growing up my grandmother poached eggs a lot and she always used one of these pans and an egg timer – you know, the hourglass kind? So when it came time to poach eggs, that’s how I did it. But my non-stick pan was pretty sticky and the little egg cups were too small…so by the end of it there were egg whites overflowing everywhere and the eggs were nearly impossible to get out without breaking the yolks. Not fun.

So I threw the pan away.

This is much easier.

 

photo from Delia Smith/guardian.co.uk

I didn’t remember to take photos while I was poaching…but this is what it looked like. Doing it this way makes the whole Eggs Benedict process much, much easier.

You want a nice-sized pot of salted, boiling water. Once it is boiling, add a couple of TB of white vinegar. Then reduce the temperature to a very gentle simmer so you can add the eggs. I like to use a large soup ladle, but you can use a bowl or any small container, to gently place the eggs into the water one at a time. Let them float around and cook for 3-4 minutes and then remove with a large slotted spoon.

Let them rest and dry a little before plating them. One of the nice things about poaching is that it is a pretty healthy way to prepare an egg – no butter, no oil, no bacon grease. We’ll have to do something about that, of course…so, let’s talk about Hollandaise sauce!

Easily one of my favorite sauces.

A little bit of work. Yes. Yes. It is.

Now a traditional Hollandaise sauce starts with a reduction of white wine vinegar, shallots and peppercorns and sometimes white wine. However, I’ve seen plenty of recipes for this sauce that skip that reduction process entirely. Including Tyler Florence’s recipe. So feel free to skip that part if you aren’t particular about the sauce having all the authentic flavors…I mean, if it’s OK for Tyler, it’s bound to be OK for the rest of us, right?

This recipe is from one of my favorite kitchen resources, “The Professional Chef” by The Culinary Institute of America. At more than 1000 pages, it easily qualifies as one of my kitchen Bibles. Mine is 7th edition, but I believe there is an 8th edition out now. Good thing the classic stuff doesn’t change too much.

Hollandaise Sauce

1 TB chopped shallots

1/2 tsp cracked peppercorns

2 oz white wine (or cider) vinegar

2 oz water

4 egg yolks

12 oz clarified butter (or just melted will do)

2 tsp lemon juice (if you skip the reduction part of the recipe, do NOT leave out the lemon juice.)

salt

white pepper

pinch of cayenne (optional)

Combine the shallots, peppercorns and vinegar in a small pan and reduce over medium heat until nearly dry. Add the water to the reduction and strain into a stainless steel bowl.

Add the egg yolks and set over gently simmering water. (If you have a double boiler, you can use that…or use a pot of simmering water – just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of your bowl and that the water isn’t really boiling. You just want a lot of steam coming up from the water’s surface.)

Whisk eggs* constantly until they triple in volume and will fall in ribbons from the whisk.

Remove the cooked eggs from the water and gently ladle in the butter (preferably at about 145°) in a thin stream, whisking constantly. The sauce should begin to thicken. (If it gets too stiff you can add a little water to help the eggs absorb all of the butter.)

Add the lemon juice and salt/pepper to taste. Add cayenne if you like. Hollandaise is best used as soon as it is made.

*If I have a bottle of white wine open, I will also add a few tablespoons of wine to the egg yolks before the whisking begins. Which kind of makes it a hybrid between a Hollandaise and a Béarnaise. But, really, no one in my house is paying that much attention.

Hollandaise is considered one of the “mother sauces” and can be easily varied to make countless other sauces. So it’s a handy recipe to have in your repertoire. Here’s a great explanation of all the mother sauces.

If you fold in whipped cream you have a Mousseline Sauce. If you add orange juice and zest you have Maltaise Sauce. Béarnaise Sauce is basically a Hollandaise with tarragon and wine and chervil added to the process. And if you add about an ounce of tomato paste or tomato purée to a Béarnaise, then you have created a Choron Sauce. Goodness that’s a lot of sauces.

When the Hollandaise is finished, I poach the eggs and toast the muffins and warm the Canadian Bacon, assemble on plates, drown in the sauce and sprinkle with paprika or cayenne. Hmmmm, it just occurred to me that this meal is quite an international feast: ENGLISH muffins, CANADIAN bacon and a sauce which is reported to be FRENCH and DUTCH. I, for one, am very happy all these countries combined their efforts. YUM.

Luncheon Party

My mother’s cousin, whom I refer to as my aunt, is one of my most favorite people in the world.  In fact, we often tease that I should have been her daughter and perhaps was switched as an infant (her own daughter was born just two short weeks after me.)  Anyway, she is a fantastic cook and even more fantastic hostess.  I love the get-togethers at her house…”Hen Parties” as her husband calls them.  She had one recently and this time it was a Surprise Pot Luck.  (A very uncharacteristic thing to have in my family full of control-freaks, but it worked out well.)  It’s simple: Bring something to eat.  Don’t tell anyone else what you are bringing.

So, yes, it means you could end up with five salads or, even better, five desserts.  Or, you might wind up with a fun hodge-podge of yummy things, which is pretty much what happened.

I spent way too much time pondering what to take – or rather trying to figure out what I thought everyone else would bring!  I finally decided on Italian tea-style sandwiches and deviled eggs.  (And, of course, the only duplicate we had was the eggs – my aunt did them, too!  See, I really was switched at birth.)

There was also some pasta, a big salad with chicken in it, pecan pie and a chocolate cake…and lots of talking and solving of important problems.

Eggs

Sandwiches

So, deviled eggs can be kind of awful if you aren’t careful.  Usually, I find them to have way too much mayonnaise in the filling.  There’s a million ways to season that filling, so I’m not going to give an exact recipe here…just a few words on what I think should be standard-deviled-egg-making-steps.

First, the eggs themselves.  If you will store your carton of eggs on its side before boiling them, the yolk will settle in the middle of each egg making it much easier to fill since your little cup will be centered in the white.  Those flimsy, thin white sides that don’t hold the filling in are kind of messy.  Also, place the eggs into cold water in the pan and then turn on the heat.  When the water reaches a full boil, turn it off and cover  the pan for ten minutes.  The residual heat is enough to finish cooking the eggs.  When hard-boiled eggs are over-cooked they get that gray-green tint around the edges of the dry yolk.  They’ll be prettier if not over done…and the yolks will taste better.

Deviled Egg

As for the filling, well the possibilities are endless.  Pieces of shrimp.  Bacon.  Capers.  I mean, really, you can do just about anything here.  These particular eggs got a little mayo, a little more sour cream (I prefer that to cut the excess mayo taste,) a few spoonfuls of chipotle-mustard and salt and pepper.  And a sprinkle of dill at the end for color.

Egg Tray

Now for tea-style sandwiches.  These are so easy.  First the bread:

Bread

Aren’t these cute?  I used the refrigerated Italian loaf dough in a cute little fluted bread tube.  When you slice the cylinder of a loaf, you get these cute little flowers.  Too much.

Tomato Ricotta Basil

Then you spread each slice with some seasoned ricotta cheese (salt, pepper and Italian seasoning,) add sliced tomatoes, basil and some cucumbers, season again…and that’s it!

Sandwich Assembly

Secure with some toothpicks and look how fun they are piled on a platter together:

Sandwich Tray

Sandwich Close

So, go plan a “Hen Party” of your own and don’t let anyone coordinate what they are bringing…see what happens!