In which I dye eggs with other foodstuffs to greater and lesser success

The last time I dyed Easter eggs… well, I really couldn’t tell you when it was, exactly. I was the official dyer in our house growing up, however. My dad had exactly zero interest. my brother past age six or so followed suit, and my mom isn’t really into things that make a mess on the kitchen counter. We dyed them as a family when I was little, of course, but once I could oversee things on my own, I was pretty much left to it. My mom would buy me the Paas® box, though, with the crazed bunny on the front and the tablets inside with the bronzed wire holder with which to gently dip the eggs into their colored baths.

I’ve been meaning to try dying eggs with food, for professional reasons, for quite some time. After a wee bit of research I decided on:

Red cabbage for blue

Beets for pink

Tumeric for yellow

Onion skins for orange

Red onions skins for purple-ish

Spinach for green

I also played around with making the dye ahead or just cooking the eggs in the dye. Wasted food is anathema to me. It is bad enough the dye-making food would get tossed; I wanted the eggs themselves to be edible, and deliciously so. They would not be boiled to a rubbery death in order for the dye to take on my watch.

The fairly great successes were the red cabbage, tumeric, and, to a very surprising slightly lesser, beets.

For each start with 4 to 6 cups of water (figure out how much you need to cover 6 eggs in the pot or bowl you’re going to dye them in). Then choose your color:

Blue: Add a small head of red cabbage, shredded, and boil it up for about 15 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let it sit to cool. Strain out the cabbage shreds, stir in 1/4 cup distilled vinegar, and let eggs soak in the cooled mixture until they are nice and robin’s eggy blue.

Yellow: Cover 6 eggs in a medium pot with 4 to 6 cups of water. Add 1 tablespoon tumeric and 1/4 cup distilled vinegar and bring to a boil. Cover, let sit 14 minutes, and remove eggs to an ice bath. You can also boil up the tumeric in water and use as a dye in which to dip eggs, like the red cabbage above, but they will be a less vibrant yellow.

Sort of pink in a mottled, old-fashioned, could-be-mistaken-for-a-stone way: Proceed as with a red cabbage for blue, but use 2 grated red beets. Do not cook the eggs with the beets – you don’t get any color to speak of and you need to fish the eggs out of a real mess.

Curious readers will still be thinking about all those onion skins and spinach and what became of them. I used skins for four onions and boiled them down to get a dye. I tried cooking the eggs in that dye and dyeing them after cooking, all with the same shades of brown results:

Looks like a bought brown eggs, doesn’t it? In fact, this set of 8 includes some dyed with yellow onion skins, some with red onions skins, and some naturally brown eggs. As booty for an Easter egg hunt, they are a bust. As conceptual art, they are magical.

And the spinach? Yeah, that didn’t work. At all. Those all got dyed blue and yellow instead.


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Sausage omelet

If you have never had a cheese omelet with a sausage patty or two tucked inside, please, do yourself a favor and go fry up some sausage patties, set them aside to drain while you whisk up an omelet, sprinkle on some cheddar, plop on the sausage, fold it up, and enjoy. This is how they make the “cheese omelet with sausage” at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco (if you click on that link, beware – a very loud cable car will rumble through your computer), a fact that this friend and I discovered together one morning after a none-too-brief dip in the San Francisco Bay from the cozy base of the Dolphin Club. We needed warmth and nourishment and the Buena Vista was happy to oblige us. You may run into some tourists having too many Irish Coffees (BV proudly claims to have invented them), but their moods tend to be as jolly as the servers are sour and it’s all part of the grand experience. If you swam extra hard that morning, I recommend a shot of aquavit (one nice thing about the BV is no one blinks an eye at that breakfast beverage order – it is, actually, a suggestion on the breakfast menu); if not, the ever-filling cup of coffee is good, too. If you’re at home, roast up a few cherry tomatoes, as my clever friend did. They cut the heft of the sausage omelet quite nicely indeed.

San Francisco

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Warm asparagus and cabbage salad

Whenever my dashing husband and I find ourselves in the happy position of being able to go out for a quick meal together – which, let’s be honest, just isn’t that often – we head over to Piccino an almost embarrassing percentage of the time. It’s close, it’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s no big deal while also being insanely pleasant.

We darted over there for an early dinner the other night when our son was at a friend’s house for his own last-minute dinner plans.

One thing I love about their salads is they are never quite what you expect, despite the ample menu description. I suppose this would annoy some people, but it fits my eating out strategy perfectly. I eat a lot of good food. Or, rather, a lot of the food I eat is good. I don’t worry too much about whether any given dish is going to be good – at this point I’m often looking to be surprised, if only a bit, when I eat out. This salad did that. Who, as my dad might say, would have thought?

Warm asparagus and cabbage salad

The key to the success of this dish is to use a cast iron frying pan. It gets nice and hot and gives the cabbage and asparagus a bit of a charred edge.

1 egg

3 shallots

Vegetable oil

1/2 head Savoy cabbage, chopped or shredded

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal

2 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the egg in a pot and cover with water. bring to a boil, cover, take off the heat and let sit 14 minutes. Drain and peel the egg under cool running water. Set aside.

Peel shallots and slice them.

Heat a thick layer (almost 1/4 inch) of vegetable oil in a cast iron pan over high heat. Add shallots and fry until they are browned and stop sizzling so swiftly. Lift shallots out of the oil and drain on a layer of paper towels. Set shallots aside. Pour out any excess oil from the pan.

Return pan, with its now-scant covering of oil, to the heat. Add cabbage, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until it wilts and starts to brown. Lift cabbage out of the pan and transfer to a wide shallow bowl.

Add asparagus to the pan, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring often, until tender and starting to char on the edges. Add to the cabbage, sprinkle with lemon juice, and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Add fried shallots and toss to combine. Divide onto serving plates or serve family style – but first finely chop or shred the egg and use it to garnish the salad.


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Egg radish crostini

I got a little crostini crazy last week. After those sweet pea creations I figured anything would be good on toast. In one case, I was definitely right.

These are all about spring – brightly yolked pastured eggs, fresh grassy butter, green garlic, spicy radishes, and delicate chervil.

Egg radish crostini

The eggs are key here. Use the best ones you can get your hands on.

4 eggs

8 thick slices delicious bread

1 stalk green garlic

6 to 8 radishes


Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chervil or other spring herbs – thyme, mint, parsley, or dill – chopped

Put the eggs in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, cover the pot, take it off the heat, and let the eggs sit for 14 minutes.

While the eggs cook, toast the bread.

While the bread toasts, finely chop the green garlic and the radishes.

When bread is toasted, let it sit to cool for a bit.

When the eggs are done, drain and peel until cool running water to keep from burning your hands. Use a large-holed grater to shred the eggs.

Liberally butter the mainly-cooled toasts. You don’t want the butter to melt into the toast but to be its own distinct layer in the crostini. Sprinkle each piece with green garlic. The layer on the shredded egg. Top with radish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Garnish with the herb(s) of your choice.


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Spring risotto

Delicate green spring vegetables – the asparagus, the peas, the fava beans – are plentiful, but our San Francisco spring is not keeping pace. Lots of gray and rain and chilly wind and not as much sunshine and clear days as we’re used to this time of year. It’s hard to get excited about simply steamed asparagus with aïoli when I’m chilled to the bone.

A big warm bowl of creamy risotto, though? That I can tuck into with glee.

Spring risotto

Go ahead and play around with the proportions of veggies here – nothing’s set in stone. Add some chopped fennel in with the green garlic, use spring onions instead of green garlic, add mint or dill or chervil at the end.You will find plenty of risotto recipes than demand that you stir the rice constantly. This is not one of them.

1 to 2 pounds fava beans

1/2 pound sweet peas/garden peas/English peas

1/2 bunch asparagus

2 green garlics

5 cups broth (I use homemade chicken stock – if you used commercial broth dilute 4 cups of it with 1 cup of water)

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 cup aborio rice

About 3/4 cup freshly shredded not-super-aged Pecorino cheese

First things first – and experience spring cooks know what this is going to be – you need to double shell the fava beans (I even have this step-by-step guide on how to do it!). I’m sorry. It really is a complete pain if you’re not in the mood to slowly but surely work your way through those beans. Grab the phone, put on the radio, have a chat, or just take a moment and have a little day dream while your hands and eyes are busy.

Set the shelled, blanched, and shelled favas aside.

Shell the peas – doesn’t that seem like a breeze after the favas? – and set them aside with the favas.

Snap the asparagus spears where they break naturally and discard the ends. Cut the asparagus into relatively thin, angled slices, leaving the 1-inch to 2-inch tips intact. Set aside.

Cut off the root ends off the green garlics. Cut the white and light green part of the stalks in half lengthwise – the darker green top will hold the whole things together. Chop the white and light green parts. Reserve the dark green tops for making stock, if you’re so inclined.

Put the broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Keep it at a very low simmer.

Meanwhile, heat another medium-ish saucepan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil. When the butter is melted and stops foaming, add the chopped green garlic and the salt. Cook, stirring, until the green garlic is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to completely coat it with the butter and oil. Cook, stirring until the opaque rice grains turn a bit translucent around the edges.

Add about a cup of the warm broth to the rice and cook, stirring as you like. Adjust teh heat so that when you’re not stirring the mixture simmers a bit but doesn’t boil or get too excited. When most of the broth is absorbed – when you can see the bottom of the pot for a few seconds when you stir because the mixture is thicker than the broth – add another 1/2 cup broth. Continue cooking, with some stirring, and adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until the rice is almost tender to the bite but still has a kernel of uncooked-ness in the center – it took mine a bit over 15 minutes to get there.

Add the asparagus and more broth and continue cooking and stirring and adding broth as needed until the asparagus is almost done and the rice is al dente – tender but with structure to each grain. Add the peas and fava beans.

Continue cooking, adding a bit more broth and stirring, until the peas and beans are warm, just a minute or two. Stir in the cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter and taste – add more salt if you want. We found more cheese on top and some freshly ground black pepper was tasty indeed. As mentioned above, a bit of chopped spring herbs would be lovely too.

We had ours with a boiled egg on the side – we have all these picture-perfect pastured eggs in the house and they are difficult to resist. I meant to soft boil them – start in cold water, bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat, let sit exactly three minutes, remove from hot water, and peel. But the risotto timing with the rice and vegetables and whatnot had the bulk of my attention and the eggs sat around on the counter after I took them from their hot water bath and kept cooking and they weren’t soft-boiled at all. They were, however, delicious and super-spring-y with the risotto.

fava beans
green garlic

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Rice bowl

This is for all the lovelies out there just trying to get a tasty dinner on the table – you know who you are. It isn’t fancy, but the bright ginger, fresh asparagus, rich pork, and hearty brown rice make for a deeply satisfying dinner after a long, hard day. You start cooking the pork and asparagus while the rice and egg cook, so while there is sort of a lot going on at once, much of it is hands-off.

Rice bowl

This – and by “this” I mean a bowl of rice with stuff on it – is a favorite around our house. I’m partial to the ground pork and asparagus combo, but greens, butternut squash, and minced chicken has its fans, as does the tofu, peas, and spinach combo I’ve broken out on occasion.

2  cups  short-grain brown rice

1/2  teaspoon  salt

4  eggs (optional)

1  pound  ground pork

1/2  cup  sake or white wine (optional)

2  tablespoons tamari or soy sauce, plus more to taste and/or for serving

2  bunches asparagus or similar amount (lots) of your favorite vegetable

1  piece ginger, about 4 in. long

3  cloves garlic

8  green onions

2  tablespoons  vegetable oil, divided

Cilantro for garnishing

Bring 4 cups water, the rice, and the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender to the bite, about 35 minutes. Or, do as I do and set it all up in a rice cooker and forget all about it.

While the rice is cooking, cook everything else. First things first: Hard boil the eggs. I use Julia Child’s method and it turns out a perfect egg every single goddamn time: put eggs in a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling – not just tiny bubbles along the edges of the pan, but big bubbles coming up all over – cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let sit 14 minutes. Drain and peel the eggs under cool running water. Slice and set aside.

While the eggs are cooking, put the pork in a medium bowl and pour the sake or white wine and the tamari or soy sauce over it. Mix gently and let sit until you’re done with the eggs.

If you still have some time waiting for the eggs, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut the spears into bite-size pieces (or peel/chop/prep whatever vegetable you’re using).

Now grate the ginger, mince the garlic, and chop the green onions.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of the oil and the pork and cook, stirring once in a while, until the pork is about half-way cooked – some is cooked through and some isn’t and none if it is starting to brown yet. Add 3/4 of the grated ginger. Stir in the ginger and cook until the pork is cooked through and starting to get brown in some spots.

Transfer the pork to a bowl or plate and cover to keep warm. Return the pan to the stove and add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the remaining ginger, garlic, and green onions. Cook, stirring, until the fragrances blend, about a minute. Add the asparagus, stir to combine, add 1/4 cup of water, cover, and cook until the asparagus is tender, about 4 minutes (other vegetables may take longer).

While the asparagus cooks, chop or mince the cilantro.

The rice should be done now. Divide the rice between four deep cereal or chili bowls. Top with asparagus, pork, and a sliced hard boiled egg. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with tamari or soy sauce on the side for people to add to taste. We put various hot sauces and hoisin on the table at our house, too.


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Forgotten cookies

These poor cookies have been forgotten many times over.

So much can go wrong with meringue. If not beaten enough, the whites will collapse. If beaten too much, the water will break away from the protein strands and leak out. If the sugar isn’t incorporated properly it will settle, creating a solid raft of caramelized mess on the bottom of whatever shape you’ve made. If the oven is too hot, the meringue will brown and take on a flavor that isn’t caramelized sugar and isn’t burnt eggs, but a rancid combination of the two. If there is too much humidity in the air, well, just don’t even try to make meringue. The mixture will just keep on soaking in moisture from the air, getting sticky all over again, no matter how long or how many times you dry it out in a low oven.

There is no rushing meringue. You can’t really turn up the temperature in the oven (it will brown), and however long it takes to dry out, it takes. There are no shortcuts to perfect meringue.

I didn’t know all this one day in March of 2000, after I’d finished grad school and was fitfully starting a career as a food writer but making my living doing curriculum development for a continuing education company. I was thumbing through the latest issue of Saveur magazine – at that point a highlight of each month for me – and I came across a recipe for “Forgotten Cookies.” They were little meringues, studded with chocolate and chopped pecans, baked long and at a low temperature, as one would expect for meringues, and then left in the turned-off oven overnight to finish drying (that’s the “forgotten” part, get it?). They sounded good. I dog-eared the page and promptly forgot all about them.

A few months later a friend had me over for tea to celebrate my birthday. On the table was a plate of little meringue cookies studded with chocolate and chopped pecans.  “Forgotten cookies?” I asked. They were delicious.

So about a month later I pulled out the recipe, separated some eggs, and left cookies in the oven overnight. First thing the next morning I pulled a pan of cookies out of the oven thinking a little egg white cookie would make a nice accompaniment with my morning coffee. I picked one off the pan, expecting the light airiness of the cookies I’d had on my birthday. Instead the little nugget stuck to my fingers and the pan. The outside of each cookie had turned into a thin layer of sugary egg white glue. I quickly realized that they hadn’t dried properly and turned the oven back on. They were dry in about an hour, cool a bit after that, and made a lovely mid-morning snack. I stacked them in a cookie tin, cleaned the pan, and continued with my day. After dinner I pulled out the tin to offer a few of my creations to my dashing husband for dessert. Instead of the little puffs I’d put away earlier that day I had a tin full of gooey stuck-together globs. I extricated the baking sheet from the cupboard (our small San Francisco apartment kitchen required master puzzle skills to store my large assortment of cookware), turned the oven back on, gently worked the cookies apart and onto the sheet, and dried them out yet again, even going so far as to leave them in the oven overnight again to cool and dry.

When they were sticky again the next morning I felt the tears welling up in my throat. No, I thought, there is no crying over sticky cookies. I set the oven to 200°, dried the cookies again, and hit the books. I soon realized that summer in San Francisco – dreary, foggy, ever-so-slightly damp summer in San Francisco – is no time to make meringue. I tucked the recipe away for the bright, dry days of fall.

I’d forgotten all about them until an abundance of egg whites and a burst of clear dry weather last weekend brought them back to mind.

Forgotten Cookies

I’ve made many modifications from the original recipe. I find a second drying is necessary to get them from getting sticky within a few hours (although if you live in the dessert or it’s winter and you inhabit an overheated apartment the second drying may not be necessary). Also, I switched out the chocolate and used cocoa nibs instead – a bit more bitter and perfect against the sweet meringue air.

6 egg whites

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup cocoa nibs

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 225. Put egg whites in a large bowl and beat until very frothy. Add salt and continue beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks – that is, when you lift a beater out not only does a peak remain in the bowl of whites, but you can turn the beater upside down and the peak on it will hold its shape against gravity. This is tricky stuff because you are beating the whites to their limit. You are taking them right up against over-beaten territory. They should not in any way look dry or start to pull apart. If they do, start over.

Reduce speed of the beater or mixed to medium-slow and add sugar 3 or 4 tablespoons at a time. Let each addition dissolve into the whites before adding another. Once all the sugar is added the whites should look glossy and as smooth as ice.

Gently fold in cocoa nibs and pecans. Seriously, fold these in a gently as possible, trying best you can not to deflate the egg whites you just painstakingly inflated.

Line three large cookie pans with parchment paper and drop spoonfuls of the mixture on the pans. They don’t spread and bake into the shape they are going into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, rotate pans, bake for another 25 minutes, and turn the oven off. Let the cookies sit and slowly but surely dry out overnight. In the morning turn the oven back on to 200. Let it come to temperature, bake the cookies 15 minutes, turn the oven off, and let them sit until the oven is completely cool.

Store cookies in an airtight container. Since they are just meringue and chocolate and nuts they keep forever, or at least several weeks. Why you wouldn’t have eaten them all by then I have no idea, but they do keep very nicely. If it’s humid out or starts to rain they may start to stick. Just dry them out in a 200-degree oven all over again.


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A neighbor asked for popover tips recently. I shared what I know and promptly made a batch of my own. The three of us ate the twelve of them in a snap.

They are good with roasts, good with stews, and a delight for breakfast. I suppose you could put jam or something on them, but it seems like a bit of gilding the lily to me.


Here is what I know about making popovers pop. You want a very hot oven, a preheated muffin tin or popover pan, and room temperature ingredients. I’ve done the whole “fill only every other muffin cup” nonsense and never noticed it made a lick of difference.

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Heat the oven to 450. While the oven heats, put the eggs and milk in a blender or bowl and let sit to come to room temperature. Once the oven is hot, put an empty 12-cup muffin tin or popover pan (or 2 6-cup pans) in the oven and let it heat while you make the batter.

Whirl the eggs and milk or whisk them vigorously until completely combined. Add flour and salt and whirl or whisk until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and whirl or whisk to combine.

Take pan(s) out of the oven and brush the cups with the remaining melted butter. Fill cups evenly with the batter. Twelve muffins tins will each be about half full.

Put filled pan(s) in the oven and reduce heat to 425. Bake 25 minutes without so much as thinking about opening the oven door. Reduce heat to 350 and bake until completely golden and mostly brown, about another 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve popovers hot, or at least warm. Time does them no favors.


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Oeufs a la neige

I love the Winter Olympics. The Summer Olympics are fun to watch and all, but the Winter Olympics grab my heart. I read the coverage, I watch clips, I follow the way fans follow things. I even disconnect our internet connection and plug the cable cord into an old 9-inch TV tottering on a stack of books on my desk to watch the coverage.*

This love is clearly the fall-out of a Minnesotan childhood. As active as we were when the snow melted and the humidity and the mosquitoes set in, so many Summer Olympic events bear little resemblance to the things I ever did or do. I love to swim and always have, but as a kid I swam in lakes, not pools. The winter sports seemed more like expert versions of what we all did all winter long – skating for both speed and grace, hockey, skiing whether with our heels fixed or not, sledding down hills aiming for speed and hoping against crashes.

Every November we’d head to the sporting good store for new-to-us skates. Every garage had an arsenal of sleds and hockey sticks. Our neighbors flooded their backyard to skate on. If that was full we grabbed our skates and a shovel and cleared the creek near the house or headed to the park where acres of baseball and soccer fields were drenched and cleared and turned into so many skating rinks. I took figure skating lessons after school every week and on Saturdays our parents put my brother and me on a school bus that took us to the various ski hills within two hours of Minneapolis.

A DC friend recently tweeted, after six days home in Snowpocalypse, for advice from Minnesotans on what to do now that all the bread was baked and the movies watched.

I told him that snow is celebrated in Minnesota. It’s what makes the cold fun. No snow and you have a gray, leafless, and ultimately useless landscape. Snow means you can ski and snowshoe and snowmobile. Snow lets you build the banks for pond hockey.

As much as I identify with the sports, though, I know an even more important element of this love of mine stems from the memory of those two weeks when – in those late days of winter when it still got dark by 4 and the cold had set in deep and all that snow had lost the novel luster it had in December – my parents and my brother and I would gather and cheer. It probably helps that I was 9 (going on 10) when the Miracle on Ice happened at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980. Of that twenty-man team, twelve, plus the coach, were from Minnesota.

So, as an ode to the games and as a way to keep busy on a school holiday that caught me by a bit of surprise and as a way of apologizing for steering every conversation towards the end of the Russian reign in figure skating or the number of Olympic-grade luge tracks in the Western Hemisphere or the percentage of Canadians who shoot left in hockey for the next two weeks, last night I made my dashing husband’s favorite dessert: oeufs a la neige.

Oeufs a la neige

These delights are lightly poached meringues floating in a vanilla custard sauce. A fun food fact: this dessert is called floating islands in English. The seemingly direct translation of that back into French would seem to be the dessert known as île flottante, which is, in fact, a different dessert altogether that may be made of meringue or cake but in any case is one big island surrounded by the sauce, not lovely little poached “snow eggs.” Since they are delicious served cold, you can make them up to a day ahead of serving.

4 eggs

tiny pinch salt

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

2 1/2 cups milk, plus up to 1 cup more

Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside for the moment.

Put egg whites into a copper bowl, if you have one, but any large bowl will do. Feel free to use a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, if you like, but I’ve timed myself and I can beat four egg whites by hand almost as quickly – and with much less hassle and much more control – as the machine. Beat eggs with a large balloon whisk, if you have one, but any whisk will work, or in the machine until foamy.

Add salt and keep beating as it turned fluffy.

Keep beating until firm peaks form – when you lift the whisk or beaters out of the egg whites the peak that forms should droop a bit, but then stay put.

Fold in 1/4 cup of the sugar, incorporating 1 tablespoon at a time. Then fold in 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla.

Put 2 1/2 cups milk and 1/4 cup sugar in a wide pot or sauté pan. Heat the milk to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally to help the sugar melt. Use two large spoons to form football-shaped dumplings of the egg whites, scooping the mixture with one spoon and shaping it in that spoon with the other spoon.

Then using the free spoon to help ease the meringue into the simmering milk. Do as many meringues as fit without crowding or touching too much in the pan.

Cook, turning over once, until meringues are firm, about 2 minutes each side. You may be tempted to go check your email while the meringues are poaching. I cannot recommend you do that since, in my experience, it leads to this:

When the meringues are cooked, lift them out of the milk with a slotted spoon and drain them on a clean kitchen towel.

Repeat with remaining egg white mixture.

When all meringues are cooked. Strain the poaching milk through a fine mesh sieve. Add enough more milk to equal 2 cups, if necessary.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until lighter yellow and thick. Keep whisking as you pour the milk mixture, which will still be very warm, into the egg yolks. Constant whisking will keep the yolks from curdling. Transfer this mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring pretty much constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon and show the path where your finger runs to have a taste.

Stir in remaining teaspoon vanilla. Strain custard sauce, if you like.

You can now cover everything with plastic wrap and chill it up to a day before you serve, or prepare the dishes, cover them and chill them until you serve them, or assemble the desserts and eat them warm. You could even make one and eat it right away and then put the rest away for dinner time. Put about a sixth of the sauce in a bowl and float three meringues on top. Make five more.

* That’s right, we have no TV. We have no place we want to put it where the cable runs and we’ve just never fixed that because we seem to be able to watch most of what we want to on our computers or DVD. Don’t worry, we’re not actual crazy “no TV” people. As I’ve stated here before, the very fact of Project Runway gets me out of bed in the morning. I look forward to 30 Rock as much as anyone.


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Deviled eggs


I’ve been unplugged for about 24 hours now. Not completely unplugged, but off twitter and off facebook and not reading blogs because I just can’t read any more laments about the closing of Gourmet. I’m right there with others in the food world – particularly the food writing world – in my disappointment to see a fine food publication shuttered. I have some extra blah about it, too. Someone/someones were faced with the decision to close either Gourmet or Bon Appetit and they chose Gourmet. Nothing against Bon App, but Gourmet was one of those magazines that still had these things called words and stories in it, not just pictures and recipes, and I liked that. I’m sure it was a business decision – I know the Gourmet numbers were down even more than the horribly depressed Bon App numbers – but one way or another it’s a reminder that I’m not the target audience (a fact my dad once gently pointed out when I expressed dismay at some sports car ad when I was in my early and very outraged teens). People want pretty pictures and recipes in their food magazines, and not quite so much yackety-yack and crazy, interesting rather than purely pretty shots of the food. Where, I ask, does that leave the food writer? Or, rather, the writer who likes to write about food? What message can one take that isn’t a bit of a giant bummer? But, as I said, I’m tired of the laments, and so I will end my own.

Before the Monday Gourmet-closing blues hit, I spent the weekend going to parties. It was fabulous. Since I found myself in possession of a large number of pastured eggs (those from hens who spend their time actually running around a field scratching for bugs), I made crazy numbers of deviled eggs and brought plates of them all over town. Regular readers may notice that I don’t tend to get too excited about serving ware and styling – it’s never been my thing. But when it comes to deviled eggs I’m in possession of two particularly well-suited plates. That actual deviled egg plate with divots for the eggs pictured above, suitable for dinner parties (especially those thrown by a friend from Atlanta, a Southern girl who appreciates rarefied things like plates just for serving deviled eggs) and this bright plastic number better suited for toting deviled eggs to a raucous house-warming party at which I was offered a certain dessert (wink, wink) that had to be hidden from the children in attendance.


I’m sure you already have a fabulous recipe for deviled eggs (perhaps your mother cut it out of Gourmet at some point?), but, just in case, I make them by first, of course, hard-boiling however many eggs I’m going to need, usually at least six, so let’s say six – that’s easy to double to a dozen and keep doubling as the party requires.

So you start with six eggs. Put them in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and take off heat and let sit, covered mind you, for 14 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and peel.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks into a small bowl. You can push them through a sieve if you want to be super-fancy, but my lord is that a mess to clean so I never do it. Add a tablespoon each of softened butter and mayonnaise. You can also add a teaspoon of mustard, which I like and put into one batch but left out of another batch because one of the other people at the party really doesn’t like mustard and I didn’t miss it at all. Mash this all up with a fork and add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture back into the eggs (you can use a pastry bag to make this fancy but, again, what a mess to clean up). I like to garnish them with either minced chives or a bit of paprika. I played around with smoked paprika and hot paprika and, honestly, it made almost no difference at all because the aroma was lost by the time the eggs were served.

I added about a teaspoon of capers, minced within an inch of their lives, to one batch and that was delicious. Sweet pickle is another fine option, as are herbs of all sorts.

I try to make deviled eggs in a timely manner so they never go into the fridge after being cooked – the texture is a bit lovelier that way. They can, however, be covered and chilled for a day before serving.

cooked it

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