Side Dish: First blog (November 16, 2009)

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Dear Friends,

It’s 6:00 AM and I’m sitting cross-legged on my couch while my husband sleeps quietly in the next room. Usually this time of day is relaxing for me, but not today. In fact, today I feel panicked because I’m typing the first tentative lines of my food blog and, as my closest friends can tell you, writing has never been my strong suit. Some of you may recall my attempt in high school at self-publishing the comic: Johnny Truth and the Big Secret Squad.

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I don’t want to call it a dismal failure, but let’s just say I couldn’t even convince my parents to buy a copy. But I’ve been poked enough times by friends and colleagues to put a few of my kitchen and culinary musings into print to reconsider my literary ambitions. I know you were hoping for a cookbook, but after Johnny Truth, this seems like a more manageable first step. Who knows? A blog today, a cookbook tomorrow…

Part of the deal with my little online journal is that it remain amongst my friends. The truth is that as much as I love my slumbering husband, I’ve become entangled in his family’s life rather profoundly and I’m looking for a bit of an escape. I want to talk about my thoughts on cooking, recipes, restaurants and all of my culinary adventures free from the Walker family’s web of gossip. As much as I love my Mother-in-Law she has her way of making a Hollandaise sauce and I have mine.

Because it’s my first post and it’s so early in the morning it seems fitting to start with breakfast and a few thoughts on a kitchen classic that is all too easy to get wrong: the poached egg.

And, believe me, over the years I’ve gotten the poached egg wrong. In fact one of my first recipes was a Zucchini Summer Stew with a poached egg on top. I first made it for my Dad when I was 9 and my Mom was out of town visiting Granny. It was so good he hasn’t stopped asking me to make it for him since. Coming up with the recipe (which I can share later) was the easy part – poaching the egg proved a good deal harder.

So here are my favorite egg poaching pointers – I wish I had these when I was 9:
• You need to use a fresh egg. There’s no substitute for that. Trust. Me.
• I always add a tiny bit of vinegar to the water first (about 1 TBSP per pint). Something about the chemicals helps to keep the egg together as it cooks.
• Bring the water only to the slightest boil. A roaring boil can pock the egg and leave bubbles.
• To make sure your egg is perfectly shaped, crack it into a small bowl first, and then tip the egg from the bowl into the boiling water.

Two other things. First, I’m not a believer in the whirlpool technique for poaching eggs. I’ve tried this “chef secret” many times and just find it messy. I used to work with a sous chef who liked to say: “Whirlpools are for happy blokes, not cracked yokes.” I couldn’t agree more.

Second, don’t overcook the egg. It probably needs a maximum of 3 minutes, covered. A runny yoke is always preferred, unless you are classless. (You know who you are.)

I like to serve my eggs with salt and pepper on toasted bread smeared with the slightest bit of White Truffle Butter. My sister-in-law just brought me a tiny jar of the stuff from a recent trip to France. Now don’t think that I am one of those people who thinks that everything taste better with truffles. But I do think that starting your day off with a bit of class can only lead to good things.

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And on that note I think I may just open up that bottle of Champagne that has been sitting in the back of my fridge, make a Mimosa, and bring sleeping beauty some breakfast in bed.

Scotty.