How to Perfectly “Boil” an Egg

So we all know the story about Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss.  Well, I believe it was because Sam was boiling his eggs for too long and on heat that was too high.  Perfectly boiled eggs do not have that gray/green rind that we so often see around the yolk.  Over cooking also leads to rubbery eggs, and that is NOT yummy.  😉  Eggs are so easy.  They are quick, delicious, and nutritious (in moderation).  I will post an excellent breakfast sandwich later this week, but first, lets boil some eggs to buttery perfection!

Start with cold eggs, and cold water.  Place enough water in the pan to completely cover the eggs by an inch.  Also, don’t over crowd the pan as this can lead to broken shells with the whites oozing out….. anyway…..

Bring to a SIMMER (notice I did not say a BOIL) over MEDIUM heat.  This step is important.  (They should really have named them simmered eggs) When the water starts to simmer, put a lid on the pan and keep the temperature as low as you can to maintain a simmer, but prevent a boil.

Now, cooking times.

Soft “boiled” eggs, cook about 4 minutes.

Medium “boiled” eggs, cook about 6 minutes.

Hard “boiled” eggs, cook about 10-12 minutes.

Voila!  Perfect eggs!  If Sam had used this method, he would have had an easier time getting his friends to eat his eggs!

Happy Cooking!

Kitchen Diva

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 10:13 AM  Comments (2)  

To Weigh or Not to Weigh, That is the Question…

Have you ever been perusing the cookbook section at your local bookstore looking for the latest and greatest to read in the bathtub?  I do.  Ok, I’m a little odd in that I not only read cookbooks from cover to cover, but yes, I do actually read them while relaxing in a hot bubble bath.  Uhem…. back to the subject…

If you look at a lot of professional cookbooks, especially in the baking section, you will notice that a lot of them measure by weight instead of by standard measuring equipment.  Let us take a brief minute to discuss my all time favorite kitchen collectible; measuring cups and spoons.  Yup, I love ’em.  I can never have enough of the little beauties.  With so many beautiful measuring cups and spoons available, why in the world would any chef or cook want to measure by weight you ask?  Because weight is a true method of measurement.  When it comes to liquid ingredients measure cups work (IF you use a LIQUID measuring cup, liquid and dry measuring cups are different for a reason…and not just because it is easier to pour the liquids from the measuring cups with the use of a spout).  When it comes to dry ingredients things can become a little tricky when accuracy is key to turning out a dish, especially in baking.

Dry goods weigh differently than liquid, so a fluid ounce will not weigh the same as two tablespoons of flour.  Also in standard American measuring equipment there can be slight variations in the actual sizes.  Adding to the problem with accurate measurement is home cooks will measure differently.  For example flour, if you spoon your flour into the measuring cup lightly then level it off the flour would weigh less than if you scoop your flour into the measuring cup and then level it off.  Chances are pretty good when using the scooping method the flour will weigh more than the spoon method (which, by the way, is the preferred method for measuring flour).  While it may be a little daunting at first, measuring ingredients will ensure accurate, even results in recipes every time.  So next time you pick up a cookbook that uses weight measurements, don’t put it back on the shelf just because measuring by weight is unfamiliar.  Pick yourself up a small scale and give those recipes a try, you just might be amazed by the results.

Happy Cooking!

Chef’s Tip:

For ease when using a scale to measure food, place the container you intend to use to hold your ingredients on the scale and then tare (zero) the scale so that the scale does not count the weight of your container, just the substance you are actually weighing.

Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 9:43 AM  Leave a Comment  

Eggs: A Delicate Subject

It’s common  knowledge that eggs are good for breakfast.  For me,  nothing says good morning like a sunny yolk looking up at me from my plate.  However; there is so much more to the egg than easy and delicious breakfast food.  Eggs provide color, moisture, protein and flavor to a wide variety of foods. But wait… there’s more.

Egg yolks contain lecithin, which in cooking terms means that adding egg yolks will help emulsify (combine oil and water substances); such as when preparing mayonnaise or aioli’s.  Egg yolks are also a natural thickener which is why you will see the use of just egg yolks in some sauces such as traditional hollandaise, custards and puddings, and occasionally in ice-cream.

Egg whites contain a water and protein called ablumen.  This helps produce structure (stability) in products such as meringues and angel food cake.  Egg whites can also be used as a glaze for baked goods to add shine as well as hold onto additional toppings if desired such as sesame seeds.  Egg whites are also a binder for cooking things such as meatloaf which helps to hold all the meat, grain crumbs (such as bread crumbs, cracker crumbs or oatmeal just to name a few that are commonly used when preparing meatloaf or meatball type dishes). When beating egg whites, the whites must be completely free from yolks and at room temperature.  Keep in mind eggs are easier to separate while they are still cold.  Separate eggs straight from refrigeration, then bring the whites to room temperature in a bowl.  The bowl and whisks must be completely clean and dry, any trace if grease or fat will prevent the whites from whipping.

Here are a couple of tips for preparing eggs.  The fresher the eggs, the more stable the yolk which makes it easier to keep the yolk in tact when frying or poaching.  When using boiled eggs, the older the egg the easier they are to peel .  To check the freshness of an egg if you do not have an expiration date handy is to place the egg in a cup of water.  The older the egg the more it will stand upright.  DO NOT USE AN EGG THAT FLOATS.

Egg Disclaimer: It is recommended that you do not serve raw or undercooked eggs to children, the elderly or people who are immune compromised.  Eggs have been known to carry salmonella which can be destroyed at temperatures of 165*.  If you decide to consume raw or undercooked eggs, use the freshest eggs you can find or simply buy pasteurized eggs that you can now find in most grocery stores.

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 11:48 AM  Comments (3)  

Simply Salt?

The purpose of salt

The simplicity of salt makes it one of the most misunderstood and taken for granted ingredient in the spice cupboard.  Its complexity is over looked and it’s often misused.   I am here to demystify and debunk the notion that salt is anything but ordinary.

Once upon a time, there was a time when nobles ruled and peasants were tolerated.  In those days salt was considered a prize spice.  Tables were arranged in order of hierarchy.  Salt and pepper were placed at the “head” of the table where the nobles were allowed to use salt and pepper (once the single most expensive spice in the world).  Peasants were not allowed to use salt; they had to rely on herbs to flavor their food.

Interestingly, if the same social class restrictions were in place today, it would more than likely be the exact opposite.  Have you perused the spice and herb isle at the supermarkets lately?  Salt is practically free while the cost of herbs makes them somewhat a precious commodity, even though you can grow them in abundance in your very own windowsill or garden.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Simply put, salt is a flavor enhancer.  Just try cooking without it.  Your dishes, whether they be savory or sweet will turn out flat without it.   That being said, I also think that salt is one of the most misused ingredients in the kitchen.  I have had my share of dishes that either had too much, or too little salt.  It has a very direct impact on the flavor (and sometimes the texture!) of the dish.  Because people have varying opinions on how salty they like their foods, its best to season well so that people can add salt if they desire while leaving the dish palatable for those who do not like as much salt.

I believe it is best to use unsalted ingredients whenever possible so that you can control how much salt ends up in a dish.  This is also why it’s important to taste your food throughout the cooking process; season in layers and taste as you go.

Let’s look a little closer at cooking with salt.  Just walk down the spice isle and you may find yourself in awe at the many different choices you have when purchasing salt.  Kosher salt, canning salt, rock salt, table salt, or the French Fleur De Sel,  just to name a few.  I am not a fan of table salt.  The only use I see for it is in baking.  Most baking recipes do not take into account the difference in size granules of other salts.  Table salt has a bitterer flavor than other salts.  In other words, not good eats.   While Fleur De Sel is so expensive that I would only use it for a “finishing salt” (salt that is used after cooking, like a garnish you can’t see).

Salt should be added early on in the cooking process.  Salt (and pepper) added late in a dish may take on too harsh of a flavor.  Salt binds the flavors together; helps them meld and blend while enhancing their inherent flavors.  This is also why it’s important to properly salt the water when making pasta and rice; it’s the only opportunity you have to season these particular foods.  They will not absorb flavors as well once they are cooked and as I mentioned earlier, they will taste flat.  Salt perks up depth and complexity of dishes and baked goods while balancing flavors both sweet and savory.

This is just the bare basic essentials of salt.  I have not even begun to share how wonderful and amazing this spice truly is.  I have not touched on how it preserves food, how it can tenderize food, and other food science behind cooking with it.  It’s so much more than just an afterthought or simple ingredient.

I hope I have inspired you to really think about the ingredients you use in the kitchen.  There are entire books written solely on salt.  It really is amazing and its uses are endless.  I hope you take the time to explore the more intricate uses of salt in your own cooking.

Play with your food!!

If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.

~Fernand Point

Published in: on December 22, 2010 at 12:43 PM  Comments (2)  
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