Sunday, August 31, 2008

Two Ways With Poached Eggs

Ever since Chris and I went to California to visit Danny and Tiffany in the summer of 2005, I have been ordering my eggs poached (in a cup!) when we go out to breakfast. This is because Danny let me have a bite of his Eggs Benedict one morning and explained that poached eggs were just like over easy eggs but without the butter used to fry them. Until this summer, when Danny came to visit us in NY, I had never attempted to make poached eggs at home. There was an episode of Good Eats on our dvr in which Alton Brown makes everything from poached eggs to poached fish and there are explicit instructions in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So one morning, I jumped in with both feet and made some for Danny and myself. They came out great. Here I have two different breakfast choices that I've made recently. The first was made on 8.28.08 and the second was made on 8.31.08.

The trick is to not boil the water. I use a 10 inch sauté pan and heat it over medium high flame until the bottom is covered in little bubbles. Like this:

Both Alton and Julia talked on the use of vinegar if your eggs are not super fresh as a means of holding the whites together. In the first experiment, (which are all of the pictures in the pan) I did use vinegar to see how well this theory works. Another choice would be to crack the egg into a ladle held in the hot water and dipping it a bit to allow some water to come in. Once the eggs has set a little bit you can slip it out into the pan. I prefer to crack the eggs right into the pan, but it must be done slowly and with full attention.

I usually use my slotted spoon to flip the eggs over once in the water. I have no idea if this does anything or not to effect cooking, but it makes sure that they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Once the eggs are cooked (which only takes about 2-3 minutes) you can lift them out with your slotted spoon, wait a few seconds for them to drain and then plate. If you used vinegar, you want to rinse the eggs before serving to get off the vinegar. Usually what I do is set everything up first. I take out the toaster, put the bread in (but I don't turn it on yet), if there is any meat to be cooked or anything like that I do that first while the water is heating up. Once I am ready to cook the eggs, I put the toast on, crack the eggs into the water, stand there and watch them, flip them once and then take them out. By then the toast has popped, I grab it, throw it on the plate and top it with the eggs. If I have other ingredients to construct on top of the toast, I put the eggs into a bowl with enough room so that they aren't on top of each other.

The first plate is a buttered English muffin with poached eggs on top and sprinkled with cracked pepper. The eggs did hold together very nicely with the addition of the vinegar, however, I either didn't rinse them enough or I just didn't like the taste of the whites because of the vinegar.

The second plate is an Arnold Sandwich Thin (I really love those) topped with a slice of swiss cheese, ham that was heated for about 30 seconds in a pan, poached eggs with cracked pepper and a side of Potatoes O'Brien. You can find Potatoes O'Brien in the frozen french fry section of the supermarket. It is basically home fries with onions and peppers. I add a little black pepper and thyme to mine for some flavor. This is the batch that I didn't use the vinegar with and the eggs were definately more tasty, although they were smaller.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Danny's Diner Style Cinnamon French Toast

I'm guessing you can probably make french toast already. So, I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "why did this guy waste his time posting an entry on how to make french toast?" It's because:

This recipe is subtle!

It's easy, in theory, but takes practice to get right ("wrong" = "it's good"; "right" = "extra fluffy and tasty").

  • eggs
  • bread (normally "white" bread, but if you want to experiment --go for it!)
  • butter/oil (your choice)
  • milk
  • cinnamon
  • syrup (make sure you have some before you start :)

How much of each ingredient? Figure 1 egg per slice of bread (2 triangles).

Here you can see I've got 3 slices of bread which means I'm using 3 eggs. I put them in a plate, not a bowl. This is how we did it when I was working at the diner. They don't have some giant bowl of pre-mixed eggs, they just whip out a plate, crack in a few eggs and make 1 order of French toast.

I also encourage you to NOT crack open more than 4 eggs into the plate at a time. There's no need to make an overflowing plate of eggs. Crack a few eggs, make a few slices of bread, then crack in a few more as you go.

What's great about this is, it's easy to NOT waste food. Rather than mix-up a bunch of eggs only to find yourself with left overs as people get full, you can stop adding eggs the moment you feel you have enough French toast for everyone --or you can run back to the kitchen and make a few more without mixing up another giant batch of eggs.

Also, look back at that splash of milk. Realize that in the picture, the milk had time to spread some before I could grab my camera, that looks like more milk than it is. Imagine how much milk you put in coffee via those half-n-half creams you see on the table at restaurants. I put in the same amount of milk as liquid in 1 of those little half-n-half containers. One container's worth per egg.

Here's the first subtle part! DON'T BEAT THE EGGS! Lightly scramble them with the fork. I broke the yolks and then pass the fork through the eggs about 10 times. That's it. Not 50 times and not at some high speed blender rate. Lightly scrambled. See the big patches of egg white in the pictures? *Lightly.*

Here's the part you'll be repeating. Cover the top with cinnamon. Lightly mix it into the eggs. Then put a few triangles of bread in the eggs. This is another subtle part. The next subtle part: leave the slices in for 10 to 15 seconds per side --not 30 seconds or a minute per side. The bread will absorb the eggs if you just give it some time, you don't have to over compensate but you do have to give it a moment.

I find that the best result is when the eggs are NOT soaked through all the way to the middle of the slice of bread. When you get them that soggy, the middle doesn't cook very well and you end up with soggy, raw-egg middles while you're eating.

Remember, Here's what you repeat:
  1. put some oil or butter in the pan
  2. make sure you have enough eggs in the plate
  3. sprinkle on some cinnamon and lightly mix in
  4. 10 to 15 seconds a side.
  5. go directly into the pan.

Don't sprinkle any cinnamon over the pan. It will just burn and make later slices of French toast taste burnt as well.

I use triangles because they are easier to fit in the pan and easier to share when you put a big stack of french toast on the table for a group of people. Above I have 3 triangle because I wanted to cook half at a time. If you take the corners that are 90 degrees (the original corners of the bread that were not cut in half) and put them in the center of the pan, you can easily fit 4 triangles in the pan with the longest, cut edges facing outward.

The last subtle part: Cook until golden brown? No, cook until golden brown -buts still white. What's that mean? Look back at the picture. See how you can still see the white of the egg even though a lot of the toast is golden brown? That's what I mean. It's easy to over cook them and make the whole side golden brown, which actually ends up tasting a little burnt. It's also easy to over-brown one side which still effects the overall taste. So stay with them and watch *both* sides carefully.

Here's my assembly line. In the next picture, if you look closely at the slices in the center, they are overcooked because I was busy taking that last picture while they were still in the pan. See the subtle difference in color?

As they finish, I stack the triangles directly on top of each other to keep in the heat. Right before they go out is when I arrange them on the plate to look nice. This way they are usually steaming when they're placed on the table.

If I'm at your house, please don't put a big pat of butter on top of mine at the last second. I don't like that very much. You may want to ask your guests how they feel about it before you add the final pat of butter, or you can let them do it themselves at the table.

Variation: Omit the bread and just make lightly scrambled eggs with cinnamon. They're a little sweet and go great with bacon.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What could make a kitty turn upside down?

Steak of course!

Tenderized and rubbed with Chris' Sweet with some Heat Steak Rub that is...

We weren't planning to blog tonight's dinner (so don't mind the messy plate!) but who can resist a purrrfect photo op?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baked Pork Chops with Apples

This was an idea I had based off of some stuffed pork chops I made last winter. Those are a little tedious to make and I didn't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen after a long day at work. So this is what I came up with.

First, we tenderized the meat with our new totally awesome Jaccard meat tenderizer (now with even more blades!). (This was our first time using our new toy, thanks Danny and Tiffany!)

The I sautéed half of an onion with one cubed Granny Smith apple in 1 Tbls of butter and a little olive oil. After they cooked for about two minutes I added some dried Thyme and a pinch of salt.

Next, I made some room in the bottom of the pan and added the pork chops. I browned them for about 20 seconds on each side. Then I put the whole pan, covered, into a 350° oven for about 20 minutes. (picture is before they went in the oven)

We made some baked potatoes and corn to go with and dinner was served! It was very good. Chris really loved it. I think next time I would add a little liquid to the pan before putting it in the oven, maybe some chicken stock or white wine. The chops got a tiny bit dried out. Also, I think I would brown them for just a little longer. They tasted fine and you can't really tell in the pictures but they were a little washed out and pale when they came out of the oven. A little more golden crust would make them looked even yummier. Lastly, I would peel the apples next time.

Definitely a great quick dinner.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chicken with White Cream Sauce

Tonight I made Chicken with White Cream Sauce from the Julia Child cookbook because we were having our friend Anthony over for dinner. I've made it once before and I think it came out better last time. This time we had a few things that didn't work out quite like I wanted.

1) I didn't realize that the bottle white wine I had in the fridge didn't have very much in it, so I ended up using less wine and more vermouth.

2) I didn't check how much Arborio rice we had left and had to send Chris and our friend Anthony to the store to get more when I had already put the chicken in the oven and started the onions for the risotto. The chicken was out of the oven for more than 20 minutes before we ate.

3) My camera battery died in the middle of me cooking so there are not a lot of 'in progress' pictures. This is a picture of the chicken breasts once I cleaned them, rubbed them with lemon juice and salt and peppered them.

This is the cream sauce bubbling after I added the heavy cream

The final product on a bed of risotto (also from the Julia Child cookbook).

The chicken came out a little drier this time (probably from being kept in the pan for too long while they ran to the store) but it was still really yummy. The risotto was perfect, in spite of me having to throw out the first batch of onions and start over once the new container of rice arrived. All served with a side of steamed broccoli.

For dessert I made Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey's Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. Yuuuummmy. It was so good. Check out my baking blog for details on that.

Edit on 8.28.08 to answer Danny's questions:

For the chicken I used white wine (chardonnay) and vermouth because that is what I had in the kitchen. Also, I used chicken stock since I was making chicken (didn't make sense to me to use beef stock). I'm trying to remember but I'm pretty sure I read the recipe wrong. I thought it said a 1/4 c of vermouth and a 1/4 c of white wine, but looking at it now it seems to only say 1/4 of vermouth. Oh well, it was still yummy.

Next time I make this I am going to follow the variation recipe on page 269 for Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream, because that just sounds delicious.

For the risotto, I again used chicken stock because I was serving it with chicken. I don't know that I would change that if I were cooking beef only because beef stock can have an overbearing flavor and this risotto has such a delicate flavor.

Camper's Pizza

I found this recipe for pizza-in-a-pan called camper's pizza and I had to try it. I just like things that involve getting craft with what you have handy.

This pizza-in-a-pan can be cooked over coals or in the oven. Mushrooms, ground beef and peppers are the stars of this version, but you can top with your favorite meats and veggies.

Estimated Time Needed:

Est. Preparation: 15 mins
Est. Cooking: 30 mins

Serves: 2 (sort of, see Danny's details below)


3/4 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8-oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls
1 (8-oz.) can Pizza Sauce
1 (4-oz.) can mushrooms stems and pieces, drained and chopped
1 (2.25-oz.) can sliced pitted ripe olives, drained
1/3 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown beef and onion in well-seasoned 11- to 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium coals. Remove to paper towels; season with salt. Pour off drippings from pan.

Separate crescent dough into triangles; place in skillet, points toward center, to form circle. Press edges together to form bottom crust and 1-inch rim up side of pan. Spread half of pizza sauce over dough; spoon ground beef mixture over sauce. Top with mushrooms, olives and green pepper. Pour remaining sauce over all; sprinkle with cheese and oregano.

Place pan in center of grill over medium coals. Place cover on cooker; cook 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Cooking Tips:

If cooked over an open grill or coals, cover pan securely with foil.

So I'm notorious for not quite following the recipe. In this case I picked up garlic crescents and used garlic pasta sauce instead of "pizza sauce". I also subbed in pepperoni instead of ground beef and used a whole green and red pepper instead of the 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper. As a result, it came out really tasty, but we had twice as much filling for the pizza than we needed.

BTW: before we start, turn your oven on to 375 degrees. Also, do you have stuff stored in there? We do, and it was already hot, hot, hot when we remembered.

Also, if you use a skillet like I did, make sure it can go in the oven (in other words, will the handle melt off your skillet if you put it in the oven?)

Here you can see, I've stir fried the filling together and used the crescent rolls to make a pizza crust shape. But I've got twice as much filling for that little pizza. However, since it was in a skillet, the crust was kind of rounded on the bottom. So it was lower in the middle and higher on the edges, which meant it held a lot more filling than I expected.

This was right before I covered the top with Oregano. Then I covered it again with Mozzarella and put the whole thing in the oven.

I baked it on 375 for 20 minutes, then watched it for the next 3 minutes to get the top browned just the way I like it.

Here's a revelation: "Crap! How am I going to slice this in the pan without ruining my pan!?" Luckily enough, those biscuits were greasy enough to let the whole thing slide out with minimal braking (remember, that crust is *very* flaky)

Because we had so much filling and we're lucky enough to have a rice cooker, the moment I realized we had too much stuff and that our pizza was kind of on the small side, I threw rice in the rice cooker.

So this is what we had for dinner and it was pretty tasty. The pizza itself was much more filling than we expected. We had two slices of pizza left over when the meal was done.

Next time I'll either do half and onion and only one pepper, or just buy a second tube of crescent rolls and make two pizzas.

BTW, of the ingredients in the photo at the beginning, I had 2/3 of a jar of sauce left over, most of that bag of Mozzarella, and of course, I didn't use the whole bottle of oregano. :)

On a side note, while stir frying everything, it occurred to me "I'm making sausage and peppers with *pepperoni* as the sausage --this sounds delicious!" So if you're looking for another dinner Experiment, give Pepperoni and peppers a try :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Danny's Country Duo

This is an experimental break fast with two rules.
  1. make "country scrambled" eggs with a veggie (keep meat separate)
  2. only use two spices when seasoning.
I used to work at a diner in South Carolina and we had a customer who'd always order "country scrambled" eggs. I don't know if that's his own name or a more popular name, but it basically means "scrambled eggs that are scrambled in the pan." The result is, eggs that aren't completely yellow, they still have bits of white in them and hence have more than one texture.

Next is my second rule, two (and only two!) spices. This comes from our recent visit to France. Our friend, who was hosting us, said, "in the U.S. they put on many different types of spices or 'toppings', but in France that gets looked down on. If you order ice cream, you order 1 -maybe 2 toppings, but not 3! As soon as you order 3 they will roll their eyes at you and think 'Americans!'" Of course I, being an ignorant American asked, "why?" He told me it was because as soon as you add more than two spices or toppings, you can't taste the food anymore."

So rule two is about learning to taste your food and the spices you experiment with. Many people default to salt and pepper with their eggs, but today, try dropping one or the other and look at your spice rack for something new to replace it. Stay away from your habit combination (mine is garlic, oregano and black pepper OR garlic, basil, and parsley, which I put in nearly everything :), instead stick with two, not more than two. And lay it on a little *thick,* --let this experiment make it undeniable what these two spices taste like together.

Here I've used a fairly good amount of black pepper and a lot of thyme.

I tried to choose mild veggies (a mix of corn, peas, carrots, and green beans) and got the pan going with just the veggies, olive oil, and my two spices. Note: NO MEAT. Meat is so over powering that it might as well be considered as another spice. If you want meat with your breakfast, cook it in a different pan --not with the scrambled eggs. One of the reasons we're using eggs for this experiment is that eggs have such a mild flavor and it helps you taste your two spices, as soon as you add meat, you will taste mostly meat.

When the veggies are tender or browned to your liking, break an egg right into the pan. I used *wooden* chopsticks to scramble the egg in the pan because I like my pans and wouldn't want to scratch them up with a metal spoon or anything.

As you can see, I skipped the breakfast meat this morning because I just wasn't in the mood. However I did top it all off with some toast, fruit and a nice steaming Hot lil Pepper mug :)

Have fun!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chris & Renée's Sausage & Peppers

Monday night Chris and I made Sausage & Peppers for dinner. It is really easy to make and very yummy. First, you gather the ingredients. You will need:

Some Italian sausage (we got ours from the butcher but we also like the Premio brand)

Veggies, we like to use some red and yellow bell peppers, onion and garlic.

And some rice, we used Spanish style rice last night, but normally we use Jasmine rice.

We also cut up some cantaloupe for after dinner. It was so sweet and ripe, one of the best melons I've ever had. mmmm.

Start your rice first because that will take the longest.

Then grill and slice the sausages.

Cook the veggies in a little olive oil until tender but still a little crunchy. Then just mix the sausage in with the veggies. We simmered ours, covered, for about 5 minutes to let the juices come together and to make sure the sausage was cooked all the way through. Then, serve over the rice. Easy, fast and delicious.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Easy Shepherd's Pie

I was looking for something different and realized I hadn't had shepherd's pie in a long time --in fact I've never *made* shepherd's pie! So I used the internet (which is full of "awesome") and I found this shepherd's pie recipe on

Easy Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20-40 mins
Cook time: 45-60 mins


  • 1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1-2 cups vegetables - chopped carrots, corn, peas
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice


1 Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).

2 While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.

3 Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.

4 Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcesterchire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.

5 Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.

6 Place beef and onions in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.

7 Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.

Serves four.

I had to run out to by everything, so I didn't get started until 7pm or so... then with all the prep and such, it was 9pm before it was moments away from taking out of the oven. I didn't do the math ahead of time. I saw "easy" in the title and assumed it'd be fast... 2 hours later I'm all OMG WTF TTYL GG BFF AFK. (translation for mom: "Oh My God, What The F***, Talk To You Later, Good Game, Best Friends Forever, Away From Keyboard.")

I tried to follow the recipe closely so when it said "other seasonings of choice," I chopped up a half clove of garlic! ^_^

Here's how the bottom layer came together.

Just butter.

Brown the onions and garlic.

Drop in the veggies.

After adding the meat, it also calls for a few table spoons of beef broth and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce (?!) --I put in at least 3 times that.

We peeled and boiled some potatoes.

Tiffany did the mashing :)

After we had both layers, I put it in the pan and then into the oven --but not as long as they suggested, which was 30 minutes. Instead I went with 20 minutes on "bake" and then flipped over to "broil" to brown the top for 10 minutes... oh wait... that's 30 --BLAST! Out smarted again!

Now I know what you're thinking. You're asking yourself, "Which bottle of wine complements Shepherd's Pie?" And the answer is: "Rum & Coke" :)

Final Thoughts

It was tasty, but next time, more spices and more Worcestershire Sauce.