Monday, July 30, 2012

Kitchen Adventures: Deep-Fried Poached Eggs with Creamed Spinich

This week’s kitchen adventure comes courtesy of Gourmet Today cookbook, which has become one of my most dependable sources for flavorful meals.

Pretty little things, aren’t they?

The keystone of this main dish are the eggs, of course. The recipe suggested that I would have better luck using fresh eggs, as the fresher the egg, the more sturdy the yolk membrane, and thicker the white. So fresh I went, picking up a dozen local eggs from my co-op that had been packed two days before the planned meal.

I began by poaching the eggs, using more water than I usually use when poaching, but what the recipe specified. The poaching process didn’t go off without a hitch, but I blame a lack of suitably-sized slotted spoon for removing the cooked egg. The one I used was from my Fry Daddy days, and it had sharp edges that slightly pierced one of the egg sacks. Oh well.

Note the tell-tale signs of a yolk accident oozing across the center of the plate.
The eggs were dried on paper towels, then cradled like baby birds (which they almost were) through a flour/egg wash/breadcrumb dredging set of stations. I diverged slightly from the breadcrumb suggestions, simply because I didn’t have the optimum sturdy white bread, and instead used a package of freezer-stale whole wheat pita that I toasted in the oven until dry, and then ran through the blender.

As soon as the oil had heated to the proper temperature, I dropped in thin strips of prosciutto ham and let them cook for a few seconds until nice and crisp.

The ham was removed and drained, and oil re-heated, then each egg was placed in the oil for about 15-20 seconds each - just enough time for the breading to fry, but not enough time to cook the yolk.

Separately I had made a creamed spinach using frozen spinach and whipping cream. This went on the plate first, then the egg, topped by the ham. The ham turned out to be a highly critical flavoring ingredient, as well as textural.

It was meant to serve four people, but I decided to make it two and have it as the entire meal, as it probably wouldn’t re-heat well. And it was a good choice. Filling, without being difficult to digest on a day that ended up being 108ºF.

In case you're wondering, yes the yolks were stayed that perfect grade of runny throughout the cooking process.
Would I make this again? Yes, absolutely. But it was a very labor intensive meal, with one hour of the 1 1/4 cooking time being active cooking (chopping, breading, frying, etc.) A casual meal it is not, nor is it something I would want to prepare for company - unless I minded living in the kitchen while everyone else was off having fun.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Quilt Crunch Time

At some point in the last two months, I realized that my plan to complete the hand quilting of my new winter quilt in time to put it to use this fall, was unattainable - especially at the relaxed rate I had set for myself. You know, where I go into my craft room and quilt as long as one episode of Fresh Air, or Sticks & String, or half of a Stash & Burn podcast, etc. That was a rate that intruded into my work schedule as little as possible, yet still showed progress over time.

In reality, I have had so many other intrusions into my work schedule, that weeks would go by when I couldn't justify even 30 more minutes. A quick glance at the calendar compared to what quilting remained confirmed that I was in the weeds. It was time to take extraordinary measures. No, no sewing machine was involved. Instead, it was time to move my quilt frame into the living room.

With the quilt in this new position in the home, I can quilt while I watch the morning news. I can quilt during lunch while we catch up on Graham Norton, Around the World in 80 Plates, or MasterChef. I can quilt in the evening during War Room, Masterpiece Theater, or while reviewing my LP collection looking for candidates to donate to the next charity sale. All of which would be done regardless, so no time lost or wasted. The one issue with this set-up has to do with the cats.

You see, a quilt in its frame makes a stupendous cat hammock for afternoon or late night lounging. And invariably I would return to the quilt and have to spend the first ten minutes tightening it up again.

Scolding cats isn’t an effective method. They realize that they need to restrict the banned activity to when there are no human witnesses around. Cats are smart that way. So instead, I decided to rig my quilt frame so that the cats would teach themselves to stay away.

Here’s the quilt stretched in the frame. Note the white plastic sleeves that are keeping the quilt taut:

When I leave the quilt for an extended period, I simply remove the sleeves, and set them across the quilt. If they were to jump up on the quilt in this form, the quilt would sink under their weight, and the sleeves and anything else on the quilt would tumble toward the stunned animal, leaving something like this in its wake:

This was the second and last cat collapse - and not nearly as pronounced as the first because the cat/victim here was our youngest, smallest and most agile.

This method has been extraordinarily successful, to the point that I’ve only had to repeat it once.