Tuesday, October 14, 2008

soft boiled eggs anyone?

when i started this blog i did not realize the emphasis was going to revolve around cooking. the original plan was to write about what i was doing post corporate life..i should have realized that after 20 years of working 10-12 hour days, traveling 50-60 percent of the time and having loads of catch up work on the weekends, having the opportunity to cook as much as i wanted would be irresistible...regular readers know that i cannot sing, dance, paint, draw or sculpt...so my artistic endeavors rely on the art of cooking... the smell, taste, look and feel of cooking and baking..the beauty of fresh produce at the farmer's market..or the way my imagination is inspired by rows of ingredients in a gourmet store..or country market...the creativity that comes from making up recipes based on remembered tastes...or favorite recipes..or tasting a dish that you know could be improved just by adding a bit of this..or a lot of that...

so cooking is my art form...and story telling during my blog posts can feel quite creative...but when i get to writing the actual recipe it is very straight forward..1 cup of x ingredient, 1 tbsp of that..mix, stir, bake..etc. i love to read and love to find passages in books describing meals, dishes and cooking..often this will be the starting point for recipes of my own. i was re-reading a book by the author toni morrison last week. she is one of my favorite authors but i had not read anything by her recently. i stumbled upon the novel, song of solomon, which i first read about 15 years ago. (it was originally published in 1977).... and, because it is the story of a man's life and family, there are frequent passages involving food.

song of solomon is the story of a boy, macon dead, jr (but everyone calls him milkman.) he is the “son of the richest black family in a midwestern town” . milkman was born in 1931, the same day the town’s insurance agent kills himself while attempting to fly off the roof of the hospital. (milkman is the first black baby allowed to be born at mercy hospital..referred to as “no-mercy”)...the story covers milkman’s life, his family, the exploration of his history, his roots, his travels to the south where his father was born, the journey to find the family's misplaced gold, and ultimately the magic and sorrow that comes with really knowing yourself..the good and the bad. there are a lot of depictions of meals and food throughout the story... as i was reading the book, i was struck by the beautiful way she describes recipes...much more creative and poetic than my style..i thought it would be interesting to compare 2 versions of the same dish..so i picked one of my favorite examples of the beauty of morrison's writing…oh yeah..and i love eggs! milkman’s aunt pilate makes him soft boiled eggs the first time they meet. now, i cook eggs all the time..and have a favorite poached eggs dish. for this post, i substituted soft boiled eggs for the poached to stay true to the book... my recipe is straightforward..and the only poetry comes from imagining the taste of the finished dish. pilate’s recipe for soft boiled eggs follows mine. the beauty and brilliance of toni morrison shines through. you will see the difference…

soft boiled eggs with heirloom tomatoes and sourdough toast

bring eggs to room temperature.
place just enough water to cover the eggs in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.
add 2 tbsp kosher salt to pan
prick wide end of egg with a pin or needle
using a slotted spoon, place the eggs into the water
when the water comes back to a boil reduce heat to simmer and begin timing. large eggs take about 4 minutes for firm whites and runny yolks. experiment with timing to suit your preference.
serve immediately with tomatoes and toast drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Soft Boiled Eggs, by Pilate Dead
“You ought to try one. I know how to do them just right. I don’t like my white to move, you know. The yolk I want soft, but not runny. Want it like wet velvet. How come you don’t just try one?”....”Now, the water and the egg have to meet each other on a kind of equal standing. One can’t get the upper hand over the other. So the temperature has to be the same for both. I knock the chill off the water first. Just the chill. I don’t let it get warm because the egg is room temperature, you see. Now then, the real secret is right here in the boiling. When the tiny bubbles come to the surface, when they as big as peas and just before they get big as marbles. Well, right then you take the pot off the fire. You don’t just put the fire out; you take the pot off. Then you put a folded newspaper over the pot and do one small obligation. Like answering the door or emptying the bucket and bringing it in off the front porch. I generally go to the toilet. Not for a long stay, mind you. Just a short one. If you do all that, you got yourself a perfect soft-boiled egg.” Pilate Dead from Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

here is a tip..read the book..try the recipe..you will not be disappointed.. let me know what you think in the comments section of this post...and please share your favorite recipe descriptions from books...i will keep posting recipes i love...but the artistry will come when you imagine the finished dish..not from my recipe writing style :) oh..and feel free to share your favorite egg recipes too...

happy reading..happy cooking...

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

follow me on twitter


Anonymous said...

I love your style of writing and your photographs are gorgeous. I have never made soft boiled eggs. Will have to give them a try.

Anonymous said...

Nothing better than a soft boiled egg.

Strangely, I cook mine just like Pilate, but I couldn't have written it like that in a million years!

Here we go: Put the egg into cold water. Leave to come to room temperature. Put the pan onto boil and, when it reaches boiling point, simmer gently for three minutes. I add a pinch of salt just in case the egg cracks, because that prevents it from oozing all over the place.

Serve with "soldiers" - toast cut into fingers which you dip into the runny yolk after topping the egg with a spoon.

ApothecaryJeri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ApothecaryJeri said...

Love the "art of the recipe"..

The mentioned "obligation" reminded me of my mother...her "obligation" was a prayer...the length of "Hail Mary" was perfect...oh yeah...did I mention I was raised a Catholic?

She was also very observant of how the boiling unfolded....and taught me to pay attention to the small things...like temperature and size of bubbles.Thank you for stirring those memories in me today.

I've a love of eggs...fresher the better...a reason I raise chickens...and my home/farmhouse is Circa 1869.

I'm thinking I'm going to enjoy your blog a lot.

Found you on twitter..so glad I did.

Blessings...In Peace,



ncfoodie said...

Lovely blog. I love the mix of recipes and literature.

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi jenna..thank you so much for your kind words..let me know if you try the eggs!

hi sally...thanks for posting your method..i found soft boiled eggs hard to master the first few times..then..easy and delicious..do you poke a hole in yours? mine explode if i don't..i am going to give your method a try..

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi jeri..and welcome..thank you for sharing your memories of your mother...i look forward to getting to know you through your blog..

Anonymous said...

It seems like you were meant to blog, it's written in the stars. What a great story you have of how you started blogging.
As a child, my mother would make soft boiled eggs and put it over hot rice. We'd enjoy poking it with our chopsticks and see some of the yolk ooze out on the rice,mmmm........