Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Carolina On My Mind.

The following post is from an article I wrote for a local magazine, in Spring 2015.
Hope you enjoy.

 Carolina on my mind.
On the Outer Banks.

While going through a family album, I found this yellowed envelope, addressed to me, from my father.  1971. 
So many memories tumble out.  And a few tears.

It’s amazing what a simple stimulus elicits. 
The fact that it leads me to food is my comforting homecoming and safe harbor.

I lived in London for 2 months during the summer of 1971.  I ate at the University cafeteria during that time.  There was always a tray of oval, dark brown blobs, the size of a large tennis ball.  They were served breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  This was the “Scotch Egg.”   The Scotch Egg was a rock-hard, over-boiled egg, encased in sausage, heavily battered, and deep-fried.  The egg itself had been cooked beyond recognition and edibility.   The sausage was likely from a goat.  It was a horrid concoction.  I detested the Scotch Egg.

I thought I’d put that Scotch Egg out of my head for good; but, no.  It raised its ugly head again when I received an email featuring the Scotch Egg.  Just reading those two words made my stomach lurch a bit, but I opened up the email in spite of that.

 The first thing I see is the chef plating his Scotch Eggs and these eggs are nothing like the eggs I had in London.  These eggs look wonderfully, incredibly, edible. These were soft-boiled eggs with an oozy yolk, marinated in a Teriyaki-like sauce, encased in sausage, lightly fried to a lovely golden brown in panko breadcrumbs, and served on a bed of Napa cabbage salad.

I must give the Scotch Egg another chance.

I’m glad I did.  It was fantastic.  Then I started thinking, which can be a scary thing, about the Scotch Egg.  What if I took the basic Scotch Egg idea and put a Northeastern North Carolina spin on it?  And that, my friends, is how I ended up with a spring breakfast column featuring my Carolina Blue Eggs – Carolina Blue for our Blue Sky and Blue for our Blue Crab, Callinectes sapidus, our “beautiful swimmer.”

 I’ll also be presenting two other eggceptional breakfast dishes for your gustatory pleasure – Eggs Hawthorne and Oeufs Mollet à la Florentine.  Take time, when you can, to prepare a special, leisurely breakfast.  It’s the nicest thing you can do for yourself and your family. 

 Rosie’s Carolina Blue Eggs
Serves 6-8.
8 oz.  crab meat
1 egg, beaten
1 heaping tsp minced celery
1 heaping tsp minced red onion
1 heaping tsp minced red bell pepper
1 heaping TB chopped parsley
1 TB mayonnaise
½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

3 cups Napa cabbage, shredded
2 TB lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 eggs

1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Combine first nine ingredients. Refrigerate.

Mix cabbage with lemon juice.  Season to taste.  Refrigerate.

With a pushpin, prick a small hole in the large end of each egg to keep them from cracking while cooking.  Fill a medium sauce pan with water.  Bring to a boil.   Carefully transfer the eggs to the boiling water.  Cook for 5 minutes and 15 seconds.  Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and chill completely.

Carefully peel the eggs.  Using ¼ of the crab mixture, pat it out in a thin layer on your hand.  Place an egg in your crab-covered hand and gently wrap crab mixture around the egg.  Eggs can be prepared ahead of time to this point.  Wrap each egg in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to fry.   At fry time, roll each egg in flour, dip in egg wash, then roll in the panko.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Pour 2 inches of peanut oil into a heavy-bottomed pot.  Heat over medium until temperature reaches 375°.  Working in two batches, fry the eggs until they are golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Divide cabbage among 4 plates.  Cut each egg lengthwise and place on cabbage.  Drizzle with Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise sauce is one of five mother sauces of French cuisine and it’s one of the most finicky.  You need to baby sit it.  The final viscosity of your sauce is determined by how much fat (butter) is emulsified in and the degree to which the yolks are cooked.  The more the egg is cooked, the thicker the Hollandaise, but you also risk the chance of ending up with scrambled eggs instead of sauce.  The more butter whisked in, the more you risk curdling and having your sauce separate.

My first recipe for Hollandaise is for the classic French sauce, made using a double boiler.  My second Hollandaise recipe is made in a blender and it’s much more user friendly than the classic recipe.

Classic Hollandaise Sauce
2 egg yolks
1 TB lemon juice
½ stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pats
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Vigorously whisk the yolks and lemon juice together in a round-bottomed bowl until mixture thickens and increases in volume.   Hollandaise can be a finicky sauce, so if you’re inexperienced in making it, I’d recommend using a double boiler.  Place your bowl over a pot of simmering water.   You want to gently heat the eggs, not scramble them.  Constantly whisk the yolks over indirect heat until light colored, thickened, and creamy.  With the first wisp of steam, start adding the butter, one pat at a time, whisking until the fat is incorporated.  Keep whisking until your sauce is like thickened cream.  When you get more comfortable doing this, you can hover the pan over your heat source and not bother using the double boiler. 

What can go wrong with hollandaise?  If the heat is too hot, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs and there’s no fixing this.  If you add too much butter or add the butter too fast, the emulsion will break down, causing the sauce to separate.  Not to worry.  You can fix this.  Simply whisk in an ice cube and the sauce becomes smooth once again.

Eggs Hawthorne is my version of Eggs Benedict.  I lightly butter and toast English muffin slices, add a slice of grilled ham,  a nest of sautéed spinach, and a lightly poached egg, and top it off with a luxurious Hollandaise sauce.  This time, I’m making Hollandaise in a blender, not on the stove top, and I’ll be using browned butter to give it extra nutty flavor.

Eggs Hawthorne
Serves 4.
2 English muffins, sliced in half
Unsalted butter
8-oz. package of fresh spinach or a bunch of spring asparagus spears
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 slices grilled ham
4 poached eggs
Blender Hollandaise sauce
Cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly butter and toast the muffin slices.
In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter, add spinach, and cook until wilted.  Season to taste with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

Melt two tablespoons butter in a ribbed iron skillet and sauté, turning the ham slices so that you have criss-cross grill marks.  Set aside.

Blender Hollandaise sauce:
2 egg yolks
1 TB lemon juice
½ stick melted, unsalted butter
Cayenne pepper

Place half a stick of unsalted butter in a small sauce pan and heat over medium low until you start to get little brown specks in the butter.  Remove from heat.
Put the egg yolks and lemon juice in your blender and process for about 30 seconds.
Slowly pour in the browned butter while the blender is running, incorporating it into the yolks.  Leave the brown bits and the foamy milk solids in the pan.

To poach an egg, bring a small sauce pan of water to a boil.  Add in a tablespoon distilled white vinegar.  This helps the whites to coagulate and hold together.  I stir the water to make a vortex, crack the egg, and drop it in.  Cook for 2 minutes 15 seconds for a nice, loose yolk.  Cook a bit longer if you like a tighter yolk.  Remove egg and let drain.

To assemble, place a slice of ham on the toasted muffin, make a nest of spinach, and gently place the egg on the spinach.  Spoon the Hollandaise sauce over top.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper if desired.

Blanched spring asparagus spears could be substituted for the green here.  Simply bend the end of each spear until it snaps naturally, add the asparagus to a pan of boiling water, and cook for about 2 minutes, until just tender.  Plunge the spears in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set the bright green color.

My last breakfast offering for you is Oeufs Mollet à la Florentine, or soft eggs with spinach.  Baby bella mushrooms are sautéed in butter and placed on top of a bed of spinach.  Sautéed mushrooms are spread over the spinach, and then eggs are soft-cooked, peeled, and placed on top.   Mornay sauce, another classic French sauce, is poured over, and the whole is sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.  After a quick trip under the broiler to lightly brown the cheese, breakfast is ready.

Oeufs Mollet à la Florentine
Serves 4.

8 eggs
In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Again, pin-prick the large end.  Gently lower the eggs into the water, bring to a simmer, and cook about 6 minutes.  Pour water out and shake the pan to crack the shells.  Cool completely, then shell eggs under cold running water.

Spinach Mushroom Mixture
1 pound fresh spinach, stems discarded, and chopped
8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4 TB unsalted butter
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 TB grated Gruyère cheese

Melt 2 TB butter over medium high heat in saucepan.  Cook spinach until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Arrange spinach in ovenproof dish large enough to accommodate 2 eggs.
Melt remaining butter over medium high heat in saucepan.  Sauté mushrooms until nicely browned.  Season to taste with salt.  Spread mushrooms over spinach.

Add two eggs per serving.

Top with Mornay Sauce.

Mornay Sauce
1 TB unsalted butter
1 TB flour
¼ cup skim milk
¾ cup heavy cream
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 TB grated Gruyère cheese
1 large egg yolk
2 TB freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour.  Stir constantly for about a minute.  Do not brown.  Add milk and cream, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper, and Gruyère and whisk over low heat for one minute.  Remove from heat and whisk egg yolk into the sauce.

Coat eggs with sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan, and place under broiler for about 5 minutes or until nicely browned.  Serve immediately.

With power breakfasts like these, you’re ready to take on the world.

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