Monday, March 9, 2009

The Beauty of Fried Egg Soup

David Tanis’s new cookbook, A Platter of Figs, has been called “a gem”, “inspired” and “one of best cookbooks of the year”. I agree, and although I have only cooked a couple dishes from it, I’ve been swayed by the beautiful matte photography of its simple ingredients and the inventiveness of the carefully planned meals. In fact, I have often curled up with the book, fantasizing about all of the amazing meals I will prepare over the year.

The recipe I have enjoyed the most so far is for a soup. I have a particular weakness for the velvety soups that taste like the elixir of the gods—like those ingeniously made at Gramercy Tavern in NYC and 10 01 in Portland. Sadly at home, no matter how much cream I seem to add, or how crazy I get with my emulsion blender, I just can’t seem to recreate that velvety, creamy goodness. Therefore, my house winds up quite….soupless.

But recently, when flipping through the spring section of Platter of Figs, I became enchanted with the idea of doing the “Salmon on my Mind” meal with fried egg soup, roasted salmon with Vietnamese cucumbers, and rose scented strawberries. I was particularly curious about the “fried egg soup.” Generally, anything with ginger and garlic catches my attention, and I am very fond of cooking eggs in sauces and broths. This soup could not be simpler. You fry the eggs ahead of time, so it is a great dish for company, and you can also have the broth simmering and ready to go. If you are really inspired and make a great broth from scratch, the soup will be even better. I am one of those cooks who has never really kept homemade stock in the freezer, but even if you use prepared stock (I used Pacifica chicken broth), it will still be great.

This is also the perfect meal for one if you happen to be having dinner on your own. I think it going to be ideal for variations—as soon as the summer basil crop comes in, I am going to take out the ginger and bok choy, and add some pesto and zucchini instead. I will be soupless no more!

Fried Egg Soup

- serves 4 -

Adapted from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis.


4 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
6 cups chicken stock
2 bunches green garlic shoots or 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 half-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced bok choy or baby spinach
4 scallions, slivered

1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a soup pot, then add the garlic and ginger. Simmer for about five minutes, then check for seasoning. Salt and pepper as needed.

2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a skillet and fry the eggs gently until the white is set but the yolk is still a bit runny. Season generously with salt and pepper. The eggs can be fried ahead of serving.

3. Add the spinach or bok choy to the broth and simmer for an additional minute. Ladle into shallow bowls, and top each with a fried egg.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pomegranate-Glazed Roast Pork

I know that January is a time for resolutions, most of them generally involving promises of living healthier and indulging less in meat, alcohol and the like, but I have been wanting to blog about this recipe for some time. This recipe for one of the most delicious roasts I have ever eaten would have been perfect for December, but for most of the month, I was deep in a snow and ice driven funk after our romantic, white Christmas in Portland weather went on for two weeks and hindered my travel plans.

I have a predilection for anything tart and this recipe is no different. It is slathered in a simple mixture of pomegranate molasses, dry mustard, and maple syrup, which results in the most amazing balance of the savory with the sweet. I notice that I use that expression quite a bit, and I must say that this combination is the driving force behind most of the foods that I love. Over time, I have even noticed (get ready for it) a waning love for anything overly sweet, which includes most of my former favorite desserts (from cookies and cakes to my nightly ice cream). Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have a fondness for those desserts, but now often when eating something sweet I am searching for balance. You may not have pomegranate molasses in your pantry, but after trying this you will probably want to add it to everything from fish and chicken to vegetables and dips—it is beautifully tart and acidic, and again, not too sweet. I was able to find my bottle at my local Whole Foods, but they should also have it at Middle Eastern markets.

I first made this roast for my father’s surprise birthday party last year. My mom, the genius that she is, surprised him with a trip to Savannah, Georgia, where his entire family was waiting for him in the most beautiful gothic townhouse. Deciding to go with a new recipe was a risk but it certainly paid off. It was perfect with a creamy potato gratin, and if you do decide to serve it with the gratin, be sure to dip the potatoes in the pomegranate pork jus. The roast could not be simpler and once you try it, I predict you will want to make it for someone special. It might even inspire you to throw a surprise party of your own.

Pomegranate-Glazed Roast Pork

Adapted from Food and Wine
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
One 5 1/2-pound pork rib roast, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Mix the molasses, maple syrup, garlic, dry mustard and rosemary to make a glaze. Rub the pork with the oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in a 500° oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° and roast for 20 minutes. Brush the roast with the glaze and cook for 25 minutes or until the center reaches 155°; brush with glaze again 10 minutes before it's done. Let the roast stand for 15 minutes, then carve and serve with the pan juices mixed with the remaining glaze.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eggs and Snow

It is snowing in Portland. Snowing, It’s-a-White-Christmas, giant, powdery white snowflakes kind of snow. The kind of snow that conjures the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and dreams of skating in Rockefeller Center and drinking hot cocoa afterwards at Serendipity.

After I have imbibed all of the hot chocolate I can possibly handle, it is precisely this kind of day that makes me crave comfort food! One of my favorite comfort dishes is one that Court introduced me to when we were first dating. In fact, I think he pulled it out to make sure I would be powerless to resist him. It is a simple Cantonese dish that transports him right back to his childhood, and for me, provides great satisfaction when I don’t want to make much of an effort for dinner.

Steamed eggs might not sound like the incredibly luxurious dish that it actually is. It is a very simple dish—with only 4-5 ingredients and a short cooking time, but the result is a silken custard of savory eggs topped with scallions and oyster sauce. I am incredibly attached to oyster sauce—it is the perfect balance of savory and sweet. I should warn you that it might take a couple of attempts to find the perfect bowl to cook it in. We like rounded bottom ceramic dishes the best, and use our double boiler as our steamer. It is hard to nail down a cooking time, as it varies so much from dish to dish, so for the first time please stand close by and check every two minutes with a fork. You will know it is set when it is the texture of silken tofu in the middle. Once you have the cooking time down, it might just become one of your go to comfort foods as well.

Let it snow!

Cantonese Style Chinese Steamed Eggs

Serves 2
• 3 eggs
• ¼ cup broth (I use chicken)
• 1/2 teaspoon of salt
• 2-3 drops of toasted sesame oil
• 1 teaspoon canola oil to coat the bowl
• 2-3 scallions, finely minced
First, bring water in double boiler or wok to a rolling boil and be sure to coat the bowl with canola oil.
Whisk the egg with salt, sesame oil and broth in the ceramic bowl.
Place bowl into a steamer or double boiler and cover with lid. (You can make your own steamer by simply adding some water into a wok and raise the bowl above the water by using a small wire rack. If you do this, don’t close the wok lid fully... leave a small gap)
Gently steam for 8-15 min (time varies greatly depending on dish). You should open the lid and check if the egg is cooked by placing a fork in the center to see if it has set. Remember that it should be the texture of silken tofu.
Remove from steamer, drizzle with oyster sauce and sprinkle scallions on top just before serving. Serve with steamed white rice.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jill's Stuffed Cornish Game Hens

I am thankFULL.

I must admit that after moving away from all our family and friends earlier this year, Thanksgiving was not something I was looking forward to. This may be a common feeling for many of those who have to journey long distances to have stress-inducing conversations with extended family, but for me, Thanksgiving has always been an uproarious family event with a ridiculous amount of amazing food and hilarious conversations with people I love. My relatives plan out the menus months ahead of time and the day itself is spent imbibing copious amounts of champagne while roasting birds and vegetables to culminate in a collectively prepared feast.

Over the years, I have spent Thanksgivings apart from my family, but always in the company of friends who have felt like family themselves. This year my Thanksgiving woes were put to rest by my dear friend Emma, who also loves food, plots out feasts months ahead of time, and even better yet, loves to drink champagne while filling pies, stuffing birds and roasting squash.

We had a delightful dinner for six—starting out with one of my favorite salads: grapefruit, avocado and butter lettuce is the ultimate palate cleanser (to help wash away the many rich cheeses we had been devouring in the hours leading up to the meal).

The star of the main event was my mother’s amazing Cornish game hens dusted with nutmeg and stuffed with herb cheese. I have come to enjoy preparing turkey (I baste all day in butter and wine), but when we found out there would be just six of us, Cornish game hens seemed so much more special. We served it with caramelized butternut squash, roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta, apple sausage stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce and my mom’s mashed potatoes.

As much as I loved the entree, Emma’s beautiful apple galette may have been my favorite of the night—she even made a homemade Calvados applesauce! Suffice to say, a wonderful time was had by all!

Jill’s Stuffed Cornish Game Hens:

These are ridiculously easy, and a real show stopper. I generally serve with a loaf of crusty bread, roasted carrots (with butter and thyme) and a nice bottle of red wine.


• 4 (1-2 pound) Cornish game hens
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• Salt and white pepper
• Freshly ground nutmeg
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1/4 cup chicken stock
• 1 container of herb Boursin or Alouette cheese


*The night ahead: scoop out six 1-2 Tbsp of Boursin or Alouette cheese and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Place the herb packets in the freezer overnight. You can get away with freezing them the morning of if you forget!
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and position the oven rack in the center of the oven.

Rinse hens inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Tuck wing tips under the hens, then place them, breast side up, in a large roasting pan, alternating directions of hens so that they fit well in the pan. Rub the hens with 1/2 tablespoon each of the butter. Season the hens inside and out with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Unwrap the cheese and place inside the cavity of each bird. Tie each hen’s legs with kitchen twine. Roast hens for 20-25 minutes, then move them slightly in the pan to prevent them from sticking on the bottom. Continue to roast the hens until they are golden brown and the juices run clear, about 20-30 minutes longer. The hens are done when you can pull the leg away from the body without any resistance.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer hens to a serving platter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil while you prepare the sauce.

Pour off any excess fat in the bottom of the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over high heat. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and stock, scraping the bottom of the roasting pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon gravy over the birds and serve with crusty bread!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Of Eggplants and Parmesan

Since we are heading full throttle towards the beginning of a new year, I have started working on a couple of early resolutions. For one, after much hemming and hawing, I have decided to get over my need to have perfect photos to go with every entry, and just focus on writing more. I am not a photographer and do not foresee an expertise in this realm any time soon.

As you might be able to tell from my new running head, I was also craving a new look for the site. This gorgeous ode to cheese was taken at what is undoubtedly one of my all time favorite restaurants, Gramercy Tavern in New York City. It is a photo of their renowned cheese station, and though I took this picture several months ago, I am still amazed that I was able to capture this image. Gramercy Tavern is a New York institution, the place where Tom Colicchio got his start, and a place that never fails to delight me with consistently excellent food and an ambiance that is at once intimate and rollicking. This photo reminds me how absolutely beautiful a table of nothing but cheese in all its artful simplicity can be.

Cheeeeeesse. I would not want to imagine my world without it. When I recently discovered that I had a sensitivity to wheat, my first thought was, “Thank God its not dairy.” I was of course fazed by the news, but truth be told, I feel so much better after cutting wheat out of my diet that it’s hard to get too worked up about it. And many of my favorite recipes don’t have anything to do with wheat. After a few crestfallen moments realizing that I would have to eat less pasta (I refuse to give it up entirely!), I began to account for all the wheat free foods I could come up with. The first recipe that came to mind was Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan. Before trying Oliver’s recipe, I was not at all a fan of this Italian-American classic. Somehow, being battered and fried and smothered in tomato sauce is something I think best left to the mozzarella sticks of my youth.

This recipe is light, even airy, and is delightful with a salad and crusty bread (if you are so inclined). If I want a couple extra portions leftover, I add in lasagna noodles* to make it more substantial. I also tend to add a bit of fresh mozzarella to the top, but it is lovely with or without it...

*For gluten-free readers: I recently discovered the joy of Tinkyada’s brown rice pasta. Try theirs if you want to opt for the lasagna option.

Eggplant Parmesan

Adapted from “Jamie’s Italy” by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion, 2006)
3 medium-large eggplants, cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 28-ounce can no-salt plum tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or as needed
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs, optional.
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, optional.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with oil, and place in a single layer on two or more baking sheets. Bake until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, then turn and bake until other sides are lightly browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add onion. Sauté until soft: about 10 minutes. Add garlic and dried oregano and sauté another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juices, breaking up whole tomatoes with your hands. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Add vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Into a 9-by-9-inch, 10-by-5-inch or 10-by-6-inch baking pan, spoon a small amount of tomato sauce, then add a thin scattering of parmigiano, then a single layer of eggplant. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending with a little sauce and a sprinkling of parmigiano. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and oregano, if using, with just enough olive oil to moisten. Sprinkle on top. If desired, recipe can be made to this point and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.

4. Bake until eggplant mixture is bubbly and center is hot, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size of pan and thickness of layers. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Recipe can also be reheated.

Yield: 4 main dish servings.
Time: About an hour 45 minutes- 1 hour