The Chicken or the Egg?

RECIPE: Petite Crustless Quiches with Fines Herbes and Chèvre
Fines Herbes Crustless Quiche

Fines Herbes Crustless Quiche

It’s an age-old question. But I’ve finally answered it.

The chicken. Who would scramble up your morning eggs if not for the mother hen in your life? Do we really want all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put Humpty back together again? Then we’d have no omelets!

A month ago, I posted a recipe for Petite Crustless Quiches with Fines Herbes and Chèvre. And I told you I was entering it as a contestant in the First Annual Eggland’s Best Bloggers recipe contest. I’ve never entered a recipe contest before in my life.

But, Revolutionnaires: We won FIRST PLACE!

The recipe will be featured on the Eggland’s Best website for a month. And in honor of our little victory, I thought I’d answer some more age-old egg questions by sharing some very interesting information that I gleaned at the Eggland’s Best Bloggers Breakfast for Dinner event on Tuesday evening.

Kerry and EB White

Me with EB White, my new stuffed egg. His Humpty Dumpty head is stamped with EB for Eggland's Best and he's white. How cute is he!?

Egg Mysteries Unraveled

As it turns out, the only difference between brown eggs and white eggs is the breed of chicken (proving, once again, the chicken before the egg). And, while I thought brown eggs were always chosen for organic packaging, it turns out that brown egg-laying chickens are more aggressive than the white, and so are better at surviving in a cage-free environment. Interesting!

In Europe, I’ve noticed that the eggs sit on the shelf, not in the fridge. Why is that? Aha! It is because in Europe, they do not wash their eggs before selling them. If you do wash them, as we do here in the States, that causes potential permeation of the shell, and so the eggs must be kept chilled.

Apparently, some cooks wash their eggs when they bring them home from the store. It can compromise your egg! Just rinse them off quickly, if at all, right before you use them.

Fines Herbes Crustless QuicheAs I’ve said before: size isn’t everything. As it turns out, the smaller the egg, the higher the quality. Medium-sized eggs will have firm whites and more intact yolks than large, extra-large, or jumbo.

Chickens actually have a higher mortality rate in a cage-free environment, and an even higher mortality rate in an organic environment. Shy chickens can often be pecked, and cage-free coops keep a man walking around to keep the wall-flowers safe. Organic eggs are the only grade of egg that requires outdoor time for the chickens–giving them healthy freedom, but also exposure to more disease.

And, last, something I learned not Tuesday from Eggland’s Best, but last summer from Ecole Lenotre: using older eggwhites produces a stiffer meringue. If you separate your whites the night before, and leave them in the fridge, chances are your macarons will turn out better!

If you feed a chicken marigold, her yolks will be yellow. If you feed her red pepper, they’ll be orange!

As it turns out, victory isn’t sweet. In this case, it was very savory indeed. And very high in protein.

Bon app!

Kerry and EB White

Looks like I've fallen for Humpty Dumpty.

Petite Crustless Quiches with Fines Herbes and Chèvre
serves 4

Fines Herbes Crustless QuicheIngredients

  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chervil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly snipped chives
  • 2 ounces chèvre (soft fresh goat cheese)
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Whisk together the eggs and the milk, and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the herbs and the Parmesan.
  2. Ladle the mixture a scant ¼ cup at a time in a well-greased 12-cup muffin tin, so that each cup is almost full.
  3. Dollop the goat cheese evenly among the 12 cups.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-22 minutes, until all the quiches appear puffy and firm.
  5. Allow to cool in the muffin tins for 5 minutes, then loosen with a knife and serve hot or room temperature.
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Categories: 30 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Easy, Eat, Eggs, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Preserved Lemons) Part III: Preserved Lemon Chicken

RECIPE: Preserved Lemon Chicken

 

Preserved Lemon Chicken

Preserved Lemon Chicken

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Preserved Lemon Chicken
serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken, cut into pieces, about 4-4 1/2 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 or 2 small preserved lemons, thinly sliced, seeded, and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • Chervil Gremolata (recipe follows)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Zest 1/2 orange
  • Zest 1/2 lemon
  • 2 stems fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

When you buy a whole chicken cut up into pieces, you will get 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 legs. Because the breasts are so much bigger than the other pieces, I cut them each in half, cutting perpendicularly through the bone. Season the chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil.

Heat a wide, deep sauté pan over medium heat, and when the pan is hot, add the oil. Place the chicken in the hot pan, and sear until golden brown. Turn over, and sear until golden brown on the other side. Remove to a plate.

Lower the heat to low, and add the preserved lemons, garlic, and citrus zests. Quickly stir them around in the hot oil, and then add the white wine. Raise the heat to high, and use a whisk to pick up all the pieces of crisp chicken from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, and season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken pieces back into the pot, and when the liquid boils, reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot, and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes more. Take the pan off the heat, and move the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Whisk 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche into the hot wine and stock, then pour over the chicken. Top with the Chervil Gremolata (recipe follows) and serve with crusty baguette or colorful couscous.

Chervil Gremolata

Mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl, then sprinkle on top of the hot Preserved Lemon Citrus Chicken.

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Categories: Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

The Secret Ingredient (Preserved Lemons) Part II: Parmesan, Preserved Lemon, and Thyme Wafers

RECIPE: Parmesan, Preserved Lemon, and Thyme Wafers
Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Parmesan, Preserved Lemon, and Thyme Wafers
makes 9 wafers
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon (about 1/2 small preserved lemon)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the finely chopped preserved lemon pieces in a mesh strainer, and rinse very well. Dry on paper towels, and pat very dry.

Mix together the dry lemon pieces, the Parmesan, and the chopped fresh thyme leaves. On a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, heap little tablespoon mounds of the cheese mixture, leaving room for them to spread as they melt, and bake in the oven for 4 or 5 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet, then lift off with a spatula and allow to rest on paper towels.

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The Secret Ingredient (Preserved Lemons) Part I: Preserved Lemon Semifreddo with Basil Syrup

RECIPE: Preserved Lemon Semifreddo with Basil Syrup
Preserved Lemon Semifreddo

Preserved Lemon Semifreddo

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

My grandmother was born in Casablanca, Morocco, just in time for the era of Rick’s Café Americain. I think glamor must have been one of the components of Casablanca’s municipal water in the 1940s, and my grandmother must have imbibed a lot of it. By the time she was six years old, she was fluent in French, Arabic, and Hebrew. How fortuitous for me–not linguistically, but culinarily. It is a lucky few who go to grandma’s for couscous and mint tea.

Mémé (that’s “Nana” in French) was, and is, something of a femme fatale. And every woman will tell you that the secret to allure is mystery. I think certain things, like her natural hair color and the dimensions of her still-narrow waist, are a mystery even to Mémé herself. And she guards some of the secrets to her cuisine as closely as she does the name of her perfume.

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French in a Flash: Dijon Pork Paillard with Spinach and Flower Salad

RECIPE: Dijon Pork Paillard
Dijon Pork Paillard

Dijon Pork Paillard

It was Voltaire who told us to tend our gardens. I prefer to eat mine…

Have spring flowers for dinner tonight in this week’s French in a Flash for Serious Eats: Dijon Pork Paillard with Spinach and Flowers.

Bon app!

Dijon Pork Paillard
serves 4

Dijon Pork PaillardIngredients

  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 thin-cut pork chops
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon
  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • 1 1/2 cups baguette crumbs
  • Olive oil for pan frying
  • 5 ounces prewashed baby spinach
  • 3/4 ounce edible flowers

Procedure

  1. First, prepare the salad dressing. In a jar, combine the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, grain mustard, honey, crème fraiche, and salt and pepper. Twist on the cap and shake vigorously.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Pound the pork chops by placing them between two pieces of plastic wrap and smacking them repeatedly with a rolling pin until they are about 1/2-inch thick. Season well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  4. Set up your breading station by putting the flour in one pan. The eggs and Dijon mustard should be beaten together with salt and pepper in the second pan. The panko and baguette crumbs should be tossed together in the third pan. Pass the pounded pork pieces lightly through all three stations, shaking off any excess.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add just enough oil to coat the bottom and rise up 1/4-inch or so--enough to shallow fry.
  6. Cook the pork about three minutes on each side, until golden. Transfer to a baking sheet, and finish cooking for 5 minutes in the oven.
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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad
 

Vive French Revolution!

RECIPE: Rose Cream-Filled Birthday Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache

Raspberry Rose Cupcake

Raspberry Rose Cupcake with White Chocolate

Happy 1st Birthday, French Revolution!

French history is full of important dates. The 14 juillet, the start of the French Revolution, is, of course, most famous. Less widely acknowledged and less widely celebrated is the equally important 13 avril, today, the start of this French Revolution. Today, révolutionnaires, amis, is the first anniversary of this blog.

History is all about facts. Let us compare these two momentous events in French history, and see what we find. The French Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille, where prisoners lived on nothing but bread and water, resulting in the overturn of the ancien régime. Frankly, if the bread had been good Parisian baguette, and the water had been Volvic, I would have been just as happy living out my days behind the barricaded stone walls. This French Revolution began with the storming of my mother’s kitchen, and I like to think it toppled the ancien régime as well—the one that says French food is tedious, intimidating, and terrifying.

Speaking of the Terror, more than 20,000 people met with Madame Guillotine over the course of the original French Revolution. In this last year of our French Revolution, 10,000 people have joined in slicing the heads of lettuces, gouging the eyes of potatoes, and shucking ears of corn. Positively gruesome…or delicious, depending on which revolution you decided to participate in.

For the original French revolutionaries, their work centered around three things: liberté, egalité, fraternité. For us, révolutionnaires, it is more like carrots, celery, onions—the triumvirate of any self-respecting mirepoix. For them, it was the Sans Culottes. For us, eggs en cocotte. For them, it was peasants and royalty. For us, it is peasant food, like brisket bourguignon, and royales, like a raspberry rose royale champagne cocktail. For them, it was bleu, blanc, et rouge. For us, it is blueberries, fromage blanc, and vin rouge. Quel tricoleur!

Marie Antoinette declared: “Let them eat cake.” Well, I say: “Let us eat cake!” Birthday cake, in the form of cupcakes filled with rose-scented crème, painted with white chocolate ganache, and crowned with fresh raspberries. In France, on the 14 juillet, the dark night is lit with the booming sparkle of feu d’artifice. In America, on April 13, a dark room is lit with the gently hissing flame of a single birthday candle. Both leave me oohing and ahhing, with surprise, and delight.

The French Revolution lasted ten years. In retrospect, the first year started it all—namely, ending the bread-and-water diet of the Bastille prisoners, and introducing brioche to the peasantry (or, at least, a suggestion thereof). But much more was yet to come. Thanks for joining me this first year—I’ve had the time of my life.

Vive la Revolution!

Rose Cream-Filled Birthday Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic White Cake mix
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites

Rose Crème Ingredients

  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoons rose extract

White Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 12 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup cream

Garnish

  • 20 raspberries, and maybe a birthday candle

Procedure

  1. Prepare the cupcake batter according to package directions. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes in a muffin tin lined with cupcake papers. Allow to cool on a cooling rack until absolutely room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, make the rose cream. In a stand mixer, beat the cream on high until it starts to take shape. Add the sugar and rose extract—1 teaspoon for a hint of rose, 1 ½ teaspoons for a hit of rose. Beat until stiff, and spoon into a piping bag fitted with a simple, narrow tip.
  3. Then make the ganache by heating the chocolate chips and cream in a double boiler until just smooth and melted.
  4. Take each cool cupcake and stab the pastry tip down almost to the bottom (there must be a bit of violence in any Revolutionary cupcake). Fill with the rose cream. Then top each cupcake with white chocolate ganache and allow it to harden. Crown with a raspberry in the center.
  5. Let them eat cake!
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French in a Flash: Choucroute Nouvelle

RECIPE: Choucroute Nouvelle
Choucroute Nouvelle

Choucroute Nouvelle

Some things in life were never meant to be updated. A rewritten version of Great Expectations, for example, would fall far short of the original. Nothing is quite as lovely and elegant as the original Coco Chanel tweed suit. The Plaza hotel in New York, now renovated, cannot hold a candle to the original elegance of The Plaza of old. Perfect the first time, such things age gracefully.

Other things, like iPhones and Prius-es and Choucroute usually improve with every generation. Normally, my renovation of classic French dishes is inspired by how much I adore the original version. Occasionally, it is my distaste for the original version that goads me into developing the, say, Second Generation of Choucroute. It’s a rare thing, but it happens.

In this week’s French in a Flash, I recount an episode of when my father and I took Mr. English to Chez X (our favorite uptown French restaurant despite the events of that evening), so that I might impress him with a lovely French dinner. He ordered the choucroute, a crock pot steaming with sauerkraut, sausages, and par-boiled bits of pale ham. It was awful.

Choucroute Nouvelle Ingredients

Sausage and Savoy Cabbage

In honor of Mr. English’s 25th birthday, and in yet another attempt to impress him, I reinvented it, and brought some twenty-first century youth to an ancient dish. The sauerkraut is replaced with braised Savoy cabbage, topped with a melange of sausages, steamed in traditional Alsatian Riesling and crisped in butter. Whole grain mustard and a thick pan gravy (Mr. English’s favorite) finish the dish. Voila! Choucroute Nouvelle. As always, the whole post, article and recette, can be found at Serious Eats. Bon app!

Choucroute Nouvelle
serves 4

Choucroute NouvelleChoucroute Ingredients

  • 12 links assorted large sausages
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • About 1 bottle Riesling
  • Salt and pepper

Choucroute Procedure

  1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan with high sides on medium heat.  Arrange the sausages in the pan, and brown for 2 minutes, until a little crust appears on the bottom sides.  While they’re cooking, use the point of a sharp knife to stab each sausage three times along its length, leaving little nostrils for the sausages to “breathe” through while they cook.  At the end of the 2 minutes, flip the sausages and create the same holes on the reverse side.
  2. Add enough Riesling to cover the sausages about 2/3 the way up.  You don’t need to wait for the other side to brown.  Reserve at least ¼ cup of the wine, but chances are, you won’t even need that much.  Season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper.  Flip the sausages every so often as they cook.
  3. Allow most of the wine to boil off.  After about 40 minutes, there will be very little liquid left, and it will be stained with sausage juices and thick.  The sausages will begin to brown, so knock the heat down to medium.
  4. When the sausages are crisp and golden on both sides, remove them from the pan to a plate.  Add in the ¼ cup of Riesling you reserved earlier, and whisk the pan sauce.
  5. Plate the choucroute by mounding the braised Savoy cabbage in a large, wide bowl.  Then slice all the sausages in half on a angle and arrange them on top.  Pour the pan sauce down over the whole thing, and garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley.  Serve with Dijon mustard and cornichons.

Mustard-Braised Cabbage Ingredients

  • 1 head Savoy cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut into ½-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Riesling
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 20 chives, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Mustard-Braised Cabbage Procedure

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the apple cider vinegar, Riesling, and a handful of salt.
  2. Add the cabbage to the water, and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain, and run until cold water.
  3. In the same pot, that is now dry, put the heat on low, and add 1 ½ tablespoon butter and the olive oil.  When the butter is melted, add the chives, parsley, and cabbage, and raise the heat to medium-high.  Season with salt and cracked black pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes until most of the excess water has evaporated.  Stir in the mustard.
  4. Put the braised cabbage in a large bowl, and top with the remaining tablespoon of butter.  Top with the sausages.
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Categories: Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series