Showing posts with label eggs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eggs. Show all posts

Monday, April 26, 2010

Croquer: Mercantile

A perfect brunch is the quickest way to my heart. Despite my intense love for Los Angeles, there has always been a fallow pocket in said heart awaiting its unrequited. Many have come close, but after living in Portland where brunch is quite literally sanctified, I will be the first to admit how high my standards are. Enter the modest and saintly Mercantile. Quietly it entered the scene some months ago tucked in an offbeat stretch of Sunset not used to the weekend brunch crowd. Which immediately made me like it. Still rarely overcrowded, Mercantile offers an extremely level-headed, approachable, and knowledgeable staff, a casual no-frills setting, yet incredibly high end food. It is something this city has been begging for, and I'm praying it continues to deliver.
Serving double as a marketplace, Mercantile has a stocked cheese case, shelves of condiments, affordable hard-to-find house-packed spices, Dolin Vermouth (the best), imported oils and vinegars, and a sinful display of daily homemade doughnuts, 'oreos', canneles, other breakfast goodies and gorgeous desserts.
Once seated in the main market space, lofted dining room, patio or bar, a clipboard displays their brunch menu and all its country comfort glory. If it's a hair of the dog morning, Mercantile makes a mean housemade bloody mary served in a frosty mason jar. Of course there's always a mimosa, but for a twist try their French 75, gin blended with lemon, lime, and orange zest, a splash of juice from each, and topped with sparkling wine.
My first bite at Mercantile was the Chilaquiles (always a defining breakfast dish), theirs made with a pumpkin seed chile sauce, topped with cotija and a sunny side up eggs. A robust, crispy take on the dish, perfectly cooked eggs bolstering a thumbs up.
To share at the table, the Ginger Snap Pancakes with vanilla soaked prunes, mascarpone & almonds. What sounds saccharine is actually quite spicy and refined, a trace of syrup on the plate the only truly sweet component. Recommended for those tempted by breakfast's sweet side, but easily overwhelmed by sugar.
The winner of the first visit was the genius Southern Benedict, poached eggs atop corn meal cakes, a hearty crab-tasso ham ragout, mustard greens, and a purely evil Tabasco hollandaise! Spicy, crabby and decadent.. a veritable Louisiana hangover helper.

Other winners I've had since (oh yes, I've been back) include the Duck Confit Hash with sunny-side up egg, sweet potato, wild arugula, candied black walnut, caramelized onion and mustard. But my favorite dish to date is the Maple Glazed Pork Belly. Quite the "it" dish lately, this pork belly stands apart as probably the best I've ever had, tender and smoky with a kiss of woody sweetness, served over white grits, topped with scallions, and sunny side up egg, and drizzled with a fine maple reduction. Magnifique!

Do yourself a favor this weekend and enter Mercantile's warm embrace.

6600 West Sunset Blvd. Hollywood; 323.962.8202
themercantilela.com
The Mercantile on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Recettes Secrètes: Street's Kaya Toast

Thank you LATimes for this gift - I just discovered the recipe for one of my favorite dishes in LA posted on Culinary SOS... You may recall my blathering last year over Susan Feniger's exquiste "uniquely Singapore" Kaya Toast. Consisting of lightly toasted Malaysian white bread slices sandwiching slivers of butter and a thick spread of coconut jam, what makes Kaya Toast so magical is its pairing with a soft-fried egg drizzled with dark soy and a dash of white pepper. Breaking the egg yolk with the toasty sweet mini coconut sandwich and melding the soy, pepper, buttery yolk and tropical creamy flavors is, in a word, divine. Definitely make it to Street to sample the dish if you haven't, then use this recipe to tirelessly emulate it at home every weekend morning for the rest of your life.

Street's Kaya toast plate
Total time: 50 minutes
Servings: 1

Note: Adapted from Street. Coconut milk will separate; stir well before measuring. Pandan leaves can be found at Thai and many general Asian markets. Dark soy sauce is a slightly thicker soy sauce and is available at Asian markets.

Coconut jam:

1 cup coconut milk
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
8 pandan leaves, washed and tied into a knot
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
3 egg yolks

1. In a small sauce pot, mix together the coconut milk and one-half cup sugar. Stir in the pandan leaves and salt and bring to a boil over high heat, keeping the pandan submerged in the milk as the leaves cook and soften. When the milk has come to a boil, remove from heat and let the mixture steep for 10 minutes.

2. Remove the pandan leaves from the milk, squeezing any excess liquid from the leaves into the milk. Discard the leaves.

3. In a medium stainless steel mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and remaining one-half cup sugar. Whisk in the coconut milk mixture to form a custard base.

4. Place the stainless steel bowl over a medium pot of lightly simmering water. Gently cook the custard, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens, 15 to 20 minutes. The final texture should have a thick custard consistency (a trail of the spatula should remain on the surface of the custard for more than 10 seconds).

5. Immediately remove from heat and strain into a medium bowl set over a larger bowl of ice water. Stir until the custard cools, then cover and refrigerate until needed. This makes about 2 cups coconut jam, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the jam will keep for 1 week, refrigerated.

Kaya toast plate assembly:

2 tablespoons coconut jam
2 slices dense white bread, such as pain de mie or pullman, toasted on 1 side
1 1/2 tablespoons shaved salted butter
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
Dash ground white pepper
1 soft boiled egg, peeled

1. Spread the coconut jam evenly over both slices of bread on the untoasted side, then place a layer of shaved butter over the jam. Place one slice of bread over the other to form a sandwich.

2. Halve the sandwich, then cut each half into thirds to form 6 even wedges.

3. Pour the dark soy sauce over the egg and dash with the pepper. Serve the egg alongside the sandwich wedges.

Each serving: 443 calories; 13 grams protein; 51 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 282 mg. cholesterol; 1,055 mg. sodium.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Croquer: Ammo

Ammo is no new kid on the block. Nestled modestly on Highland between finishing houses and industry equipment shops, Ammo has been the go-to lunch cafe for studio execs for the past decade. But should it be a destination for us non-power lunchers? If my first experience has any holding, then yes; I would vouch for its quiet, casual elegance over the buzzing brunch scenes elsewhere. Where a man in a straw fedora and shorts can walk up and be seated on the sidewalk patio beside us and enjoy his book and cappuccino on a Sunday at noon, un-bothered.. a pleasant retreat.
Crisp white linens, simple lines, natural wood and exposed wine storage comprise the clean and warm interior. Small masculine leather booklets encase the single page brunch menu. It takes one glance, and I know what I am ordering. Nowhere makes it this easy for me (what, I'm a Libra). Simplicity, with consideration; Ammo is classic seasonal Californian cuisine. Something I have grown to appreciate in my years as an converted Angeleno.. (thinking back to my fine dining days in Oregon, cringing at anything "Californian").
I didn't have to over think anything at Ammo. And obviously neither have they. The food speaks for itself, humble as the virtually brand-less storefront space (the word Ammo is printed crisply once on the awning, and is set in bronze on the doorstep.. that's about it). My cappuccino was picture perfect. But the plate that followed something more.I ordered the Poached Eggs with shaved fennel, roasted golden beets, cherry tomatoes, haricot verts, cucumbers, and olive tapinade, which came with a side of roasted fingerling potatoes. I immediately appreciated the wildness of the egg white, obviously poached in an open pan without use of a mold or other device; a cloud-like preparation only achieved by a person using just a pan of water (and something about this honesty comforted me). The vegetables were seasoned only with salt and pepper, the potatoes with some fresh herbs. Everything was impeccably cooked, ripe, and crisp. Nothing about the meal was heavy or overly filling, like that rare absolutely perfect salad that satiates lightly, imbuing a fresh vivacity like that which follows good sushi.
My date couldn't resist ordering French Toast with caramelized apples, maple syrup and crème fraîche.. and I couldn't resist taking a bite once I saw it. Tall, thick and narrow slices were lightly battered on all sides, golden, with succulent slices of apple flesh that may have been "caramelized" but not in the sense one might expect (no goopy sauce here). A delightful treat.

Reinventing the wheel? Surely not. But my fresh and lovely meal at Ammo earned a high mark in my merit book, which can only help convince me to return again in the future.. Especially if that day calls for a serene place to enjoy my book and a capp.

1155 N Highland Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038; 323.871.2666
ammocafe.com

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Croquer: Susan Feniger's Street

If you don't already, you will soon know Susan Feniger's name. If not for her LA food world fixture status from opening City Cafe and then City Restaurant in the 1980s with business partner Mary Sue Milliken, to their popular Food Network cooking show Too Hot Tamales, to opening signature restaurant Border Grill, then their downtown Latin bistro Ciudad... Yes, if not for that, you will know her name since she found out you can't copyright a common term (and original concept name) like "street," thus formally calling her newest restaurant, and first solo venture, Susan Feniger's Street.
After devoting nearly three decades to exploring and showcasing the culinary treasures of Latin America, Feniger's passion for world travel and the most 'common' form of unsung ethnic cuisine, street food, made clear what she was destined to do next: An unpretentious, interactive and affordable dining experience spanning continents in courses. The concept, albeit a personal triumph for Feniger, doesn't immediately sound like anything new. Foodies have been cringing at fusion cuisine since power suits bolstered clumsy shoulder pads. But the big question I had going into Street was in the cultural melting pot of Los Angeles, could a sit-down dining room introducing the concept of "street food" really be relevant? Fine-tuning street food in the best American city FOR street food?
The answer came as a pleasant, good-intentioned and satiating "sure, why not?"
From entering the spacious, minimal but warm dining room to a round of smiles preparing for the weekend brunch rush to the last of several gracious goodbyes upon leaving, Street was a comfortable, non-rushed and enjoyable dining experience, akin to a visit to your neighborhood coffee shop.Though lacking greenery, Street's patio is vibrant, with orange and black walls covered with stick figure "graffiti", orange umbrellas covering sturdy wooden tables and chairs. A long narrow window along one wall with sliding doors above a metal counter is a clever and subtle nod to the street dining aesthetic. Our congenial server was more than prepared to ease first-timers into the concept and method by which to best enjoy the Street experience. The menu is split into numerous categories (which change surprisingly from brunch to lunch to dinner) of mostly sharable dishes, making the decision near-impossible. Categories include Tea Cakes & Dumplings, Salads, Noodles & Soups & Stews & Curries... Luckily the brunch and lunch menus offer a convenient any half salad & dumpling plate option, which helped us narrow it down while still feeling like we were getting a variety. As we whittled it down, our beverages of Cantaloupe & Beet Agua Fresca and (honey-kissed) Iced Chrysanthemum Mint Tea arrived, which were both incredibly refreshing.In general, I like -prefer really- to order together and share meals communally with my dining companions (especially when I plan on writing about it). I became concerned for a moment, realizing I was dining with a vegetarian whilst my eyes passed over items such as the Mung Bean Pancakes (griddled with anise glazed pork belly, scallions, and kimchi; with hot mustard sauce). YET was soon eased, shocked at how easily Street's menu made me feel completely satisfied with all of our choices - which were all meat-free (at most places not an easy feat!).Feniger's obviously intends to begin Street's sample-friendly dining ritual with a soft bang, our server first bringing a small metal dish of complimentary Millet Seed Puffs, bite-size with BIG flavor from curry, fennel seed, coriander, blackcurrants, cumin and a lightly sweet marshmallow binding. Whoa! Not as 'tasty' as it is curious.. it's a Rice Krispie treat's exotic expat cousin.The Paani Puri came next, crispy puff nests filled with spiced potatoes, chutneys, and sprouted beans, served with a yogurt-cilantro water. The exoskeletal crunch was gratifying, traditional Indian spices and chutneys mingling nicely on the palate; A good starter.
In perfect time, our half & half platters came out. The first had Mandoo Vegetable Dumplings, potsticker-style and golden fried, filled with Asian vegetables and "sweet potato noodles" with roasted honey yam and sesame dipping sauce. Probably the least-exciting offering we tasted, the dumplings were greasy and over-fried, the contents rendered immaterial in that mushy state. The coupled Indian Potato Flatbread with Baby lettuces was quite tasty; Spiced potato parantha griddled then topped with sprouted beans, lettuces, dates, tomato, and homemade paneer cheese with chat masala and yogurt dressing. You could say over-dressed, though opening dimensions of pleasing flavor, making clear that Indian cuisine is one of Feniger's absolute favorites (it is).
The platter set before me was a gorgeous sight, the Beet and Apple salad (of slow roasted beets with apple, black currant, watercress, toasted walnut, and millet croutons in a juniper vinaigrette) was something from a Bon Appetit cover shoot. The juniper vinaigrette, tart and refreshing is a fitting match with such a ripe and crunchy array of ingredients. The other half of the plate was my absolute favorite though. The Kaya Toast is "a uniquely Singapore experience" consisting of mini lightly toasted Malaysian white bread slices sandwiching slivers of butter and a thick spread of coconut jam; served with a succulent soft-fried egg drizzled with dark soy and a dash of white pepper. I was guided by our server (me imagining Feniger gingerly instructing her staff) to break the egg's yolk with the crisp bread. The radical combination of flavors is staggering, intoxicating, and indulgent. A moment which demands silence and literally thought in order to process. Immediately followed by craving and obsession. I ignored the other dishes as I relished in every tiny bite of the Kaya Toast, the creamy-sweet coconut encroached by pungent yolk and sharp salty soy and white pepper notes. The last taste left me wanting more.Though we weren't staying for dessert, the list made me sad we didn't actually see the Brunch menu (noon on Saturday I suppose is "Lunch", but had it been Sunday(?) some of the breakfast-friendly sweets would have been presented to us as options from the get-go). Case in point: the Turkish Doughnuts. By description, small spiced pastries fried and then simmered in a cardamom rose syrup served with sour cream and rose hip jam. Did you read that? Do you need to again? My heart sank, but gave me another reason to return. And now, thanks to the LA Times (yet again) for including with their Street preview the actual RECIPE (and even cooking show style video instruction by Feniger) for the Turkish Doughnuts with rose hip syrup! OK then, good compromise! Not only will I be back to Street, but I'll try my hand at the doughnuts and compare.I have to say, overall my nonpartisan expectations were surpassed. The most common complaints I'd read so far about Street had been of overworking the simple and easy to come by (in LA anyway) dishes such as Beef Pho... but I guess my question for those critics is then why did you order Pho here? Personally as I diner I am always looking to expand my horizons, and further, if I want authentic ramen, you know I'm not going to order it in a fusion Asian shop in WeHo; I'm going downtown. Street's menu is bursting at the seams with exotic niblets I've surely never had prepared quite like this before or seen on many menus in town, and those are what I gravitate to... I have to defend Street here, after all, it enlightened me to Kaya Toast, and in Feniger's own words, "No one ever has enough Kaya Toast!"

eatatstreet.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gala Parfait: Mother's Day Brunch

I had the pleasure this year of spending Mother's Day in my hometown with my family, especially excited to be near my sister and week-old niece. Brunch was the first event scheduled, though I was "informed" that the menu had already been selected by the moms while watching the Food Network the week prior. Though I was happy to prepare the southern brunch spread selected from Down Home with the Neelys, my sister and inspired chef Megan (only a week after giving birth) was DYING to get back into the kitchen. Together we prepared the feast of Peach Fritters with Orange Glaze, Eggs Benedict on a Sausage Croquette, fresh fruit salad, and Morning Glory cocktail (sparkling wine, splashes of Cointreau, cherry brandy and fresh pine-orange juices).

Peach Fritters with Orange Glaze

1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can peach halves in syrup, drained
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish

Heat deep-fryer to 350 degrees F (I used a candy thermometer in a deep saucepan with oil).
Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Remove 3 peach halves from can and cut into small cubes.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, butter, cubed peaches, and almond extract. Add wet mixture to dry and stir well until combined.Using a small ice cream scoop, drop batter into the hot oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Remove when fritter begins to float.Lay on a paper towel lined sheet tray. Sprinkle immediately with confectioners' sugar. Place on platter and serve with Orange Glaze.
Orange Glaze:

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

In a large bowl add the confectioners' sugar and drizzle in the orange juice while whisking.


Eggs Benedict on a Sausage Croquette
makes 6 servings

1 pound country pork sausage
3 baked potatoes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley leaves
Vegetable oil, for pan-frying

Hollandaise Sauce:
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash hot sauce
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Eggs:
6 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
1-2 large tomatoes, sliced thickly

In a heavy bottom skillet, brown sausage over medium heat. Add a little oil to the bottom of the pan if it sticks, add a little oil and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook until all the pink is gone. With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the skillet into a bowl.
Remove the inside of the potatoes and place a bowl with the Parmesan. Mash with a potato masher until they are smooth. Add the egg, sour cream, 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, and season with salt and pepper. Add sausage to the bowl with the potatoes and mix well.
With your hands, divide the pork mixture into 1/4 cup portions and flatten so that each croquette is about 1/2-inch thick.
Add 1 cup panko bread crumbs to a 13 by 9-inch casserole dish and add chopped parsley and stir to combine. Dredge croquettes through the panko mixture and repeat.
Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the croquettes and saute until golden brown and crisp, about 6minutes per side. Hold in a 200 degrees F oven while you prepare the eggs and hollandaise.For the Hollandaise Sauce:
Add yolks, mustard and heavy cream to a blender. Blend until the egg yolks look light yellow and foamy about 1 minute. Keeping the blender on, slowly stream in the melted butter, making sure it emulsifies fully. Keep blending and add a pinch of salt and pepper, lemon juice, cayenne and hot sauce. Blend again until fully incorporated, then add chives at very end. Keep warm.

For the eggs:
Poach eggs in shallow simmering water in a wide pan or dutch oven (be sure to add vinegar to water to help eggs hold their shape). When the yolks are set but not firm (about 3 minutes), transfer eggs to a cold water bath in a casserole dish to stop them cooking. Continue until all eggs are set. Return cooled poached eggs to heated water quickly just before serving to rewarm.

Lay a handful of baby spinach on the serving dish and top with sausage croquette. Top croquette with a large tomato slice and poached egg, season with salt and pepper, then ladle over the hollandaise sauce. Garnish with leftover chopped chives.
Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Croquer: Brunch Alfresco at Little Dom's


When Little Dom's opened in Los Feliz proper last year on Hillhurst, I was very excited. It was exactly the breath of fresh air that corridor needed - not intrusive, but complimentary. Very much a "neighborhood joint", Little Dom's also offers a level of class most of the other establishments in the area don't strive for. So when I heard they were starting to offer breakfast and brunch, up pricked my ears. Coming from Portland, OR, where brunch is a ART FORM, I have at times fallen out of the habit here in LA. With a few exceptions, the brunch scene has done little to titillate, rather rehash the same ol' offerings in a lukewarm bath of cheap champers. After months of longing, I finally made it to Little Doms' brunch. None of this was the case here.
I was running a tad late. Passing the busy corner of Hillhurst and Avocado still scoping for parking, I saw my date idly waiting among a small crowd outside. Shoot! I hadn't anticipated a wait here. I jogged up to the corner to find we actually already had a table waiting, everyone was all smiles (this was no queue at Fred 62!) and we were led to our lovely little sidewalk table. Our glowing waitress took our drink order and let us know about a lovely sounding special of roasted asparagus, poached egg, grilled bread and fennel pollen hollandaise. The menu didn't make deciding any easier. The Italian twists are subtle, but enough to rub the breakfast diner clichés right out with a firm rustic hand. I had read good things about the sweets (ricotta blueberry pancakes; french toast soufflé), but the idea of fennel pollen hollandaise made me swoon. My date set his sights on the Eggs Funghi (Poached eggs w/ Roasted Mushrooms, Grilled Bread, Fennel Pollen Hollandaise), so I was satisfied to try something different. I ordered the Oven Roasted French Toast Soufflé w/ Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream & Maple Syrup and a side of Grilled Wild Boar Bacon. We got a side of Fried Potatoes for the table.
My cappucino was just as I like it, and the first word out of my date's mouth tasting the orange juice was "w-wow!" - tart and juicy fresh-squeezed, nothing else but the fruit. Though we opted for a virgin morning, the table beside us ordered a bloody and mimosa, which defined perfection coming out: chili-salt-rolled lemon wedge and bright red pepper clinging alongside the 13" celery stalk on the handsome bloody; an elegant crystal flute holding an almost rose-hued mimosa put the dinky cheap glass OJ shots elsewhere to shame. Note for return trip! Realizing we were salivating at the cocktails' reflection in the window beside us, we turned our attention back to our own table as the food arrived.The soufflé sat snugly in an earthenware ramekin, coated in powdered sugar. It was crispy on the surface, but steaming and custardy in the center, like a perfect union of bread pudding and funnel cake. The wild boar bacon was a challenge even for me (a meat and bacon lover), it was possibly the thickest, most fragrant and beasty bacon I've ever tasted. Closer to skirt steak or deer jerky than bacon, the slightly gamey plate of meat tendrils wasn't quite the compliment to the soufflé I anticipated, rather a staggering flavor to be reckoned with. Still, it was deliciously prepared (and yes, my brain was already planning uses for it after I took it home).The Eggs Funghi on the other hand, was big on flavor - but delightfully light and far from overwhelming. The idea of a heavy hollandaise was one main reasons I wavered on the menu, but this is not your commoner's "benedict". No, the fennel pollen hollandaise is light, in flavor and texture, and popping with tart, complex flavors. An instant favorite. The simple sounding fried potatoes (note: I tend to HATE breakfast potatoes) were also completely delectable, caramelized from cast iron and benefiting largely from a generous squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs. We were impressed.
Like every good server should, ours was at our side the second the first bite hit our lips.
Yes, we had everything we needed.

2128 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (323)661.0055
littledoms.com
Apologies for my subpar mobile photos!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Croquer: Which came first? The Biscuit or the Egg?

The last time I was in New York, before heading off to the airport I had the loveliest breakfast at Williamsburg's beloved Egg (135 N. 5th St at Bedford Ave, Brooklyn; 718-302-5151).
I had French pressed sustainably grown coffee with my superstar Eggs Rothko (Easy-cooked egg in a thick slice of homemade brioche and topped with melted Grafton cheddar), served with broiled tomatoes and a patty of homemade pork sausage. Wow!
Since, chef-owner George Weld has expanded Egg's hours to lunch (every day) and dinner (Wednesday through Sunday), featuring farmhouse supper favories like Brunswick Stew, fried chicken, collared greens, and the addition of a tasteful beer and wine list. One of Egg's trademarks though has always been their buttermilk biscuits, and thanks to my assumed Raison d'être, the continually winsome Tasting Table you don't have to travel to Brooklyn to have them!

Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from George Weld, Egg
Makes 8 to 10 biscuits
The trick, he says, is to use bleached flour (for extra-fluffy texture) and very cold butter, then work quickly and mix with a light hand. And don't forget Weld's favorite biscuit topping: molasses.
1 pound and 10 ounces bleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
6 ounces cold unsalted butter
2½ cups buttermilk or sour milk*, plus more for brushing
1. Preheat oven to 500°. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
2. Cut half of the butter into thin sheets and place them in the freezer.
3. Blend the remaining butter into the flour mixture with your hands. Work quickly, blending until the flour resembles very coarse meal with a few pea-size lumps. With a rubber spatula, mix the buttermilk or sour milk into the flour and butter just until a dough begins to form.
4. Dump dough onto a floured work surface and pat it into a rough rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Lay the slices of frozen butter on top, then fold the dough over twice (as if you were folding a letter in thirds). Press down gently on the dough until it's about ¾ inch thick. Use a 2½-inch biscuit cutter to punch out biscuits (do not twist the cutter). Place biscuits onto a greased baking sheet and brush the tops with milk.
5. Bake the biscuits for 13 to 18 minutes, until risen, golden and light. If they feel wet or heavy, bake them longer.
* To make sour milk, combine 2½ cups of whole milk with 2½ tablespoons of white vinegar.

Tasting Table, a daily foodie email subscription now comes in LA and Everywhere editions alongside the original New York.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: A Perfect Poach

Last weekend I woke up on Sunday morning passably hungover to overcast skies, wanting nothing more than to enjoy a perfectly poached egg. Congruous was the realization that though poaching is my preperation of choice, I had never actually poached an egg myself. It was the perfect simple project for a day with such limited ambition!
I decided to do a simplified benedict (no drive or patience for hollandaise this particular morning), with english muffins, Niman Ranch apple wood smoked bacon and green heirloom tomatoes.
As much as I love my cast iron skillet, I've been enjoying my thick cut bacon prepared in the oven. It is far less greasy and a nice even cook. To do so, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a lipped baking sheet with tin foil, then place a wire cooling rack over the foil. Lay the bacon flat across the rack and cook for about 15 minutes or to desired crispness. Turn off the oven and let sit until your eggs are ready to serve.
Common Poaching mistakes I've learned are using too much water and with too much heat. The water shouldn't be rapidly boiling, rather a torrid simmer. I also remembered hearing that adding vinegar and salt to the water will aid in holding the egg white's form. My first pass was sub-par, overcooking the yolks. After a second pass, this is what I found worked best:
First, retrieve a medium-sized skillet or shallow pan that has a lid. Fill the skillet with only about 3 inches of water. Put the skillet on high heat and cover to speed up the heating time. Meanwhile, carefully crack each egg into individual measuring cups or small bowls.
When the water in the skillet boils, remove the cover. Add one tablespoon of vinegar (I use apple cider) to the water, and some kosher salt. Lower the lip of each egg-cup 1/2-inch below the surface of the water. Let the eggs ease out into the water. Immediately return the lid to the pan and turn off the heat. Set a timer for exactly three minutes for medium-firm yolks. More or less for runnier or firmer yolks. While the eggs cook, you have time to toast the english muffins and slice the tomatoes. When the timer goes off, remove the cover and lift each egg from the water with a slotted spoon. Lay the bacon and tomato slices on each piece of toast and then gently top with a poached egg. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like a little chipotle hot sauce on mine. Enjoy!