Eggs Benedict with Hot Dogs. I’m not joking. (My photo, with a Canon Rebel XS + kit lens + PS)
I was cooking up breakfast one Saturday morning for my better half when the urge hit me. You know. The urge. That crazy little idea in your head.
Yeah, I thought. Yeah, I’m a cooking badass. I’m going to make EGGS BENEDICT.
You don’t understand how exciting this idea was. I had never successfully poached an egg, nor had I ever attempted a French sauce. This recipe also contained four simultaneous (sort of) components.
To my “lazy girl curry”-making self (instructions: chop up onion/garlic/ginger, fry and add curry paste + protein + veggies, dump in coconut milk, cook it ’til it tastes good) making eggs benedict seemed like nothing less than scaling a cooking Everest.
Ok. So a real cooking Everest for me would be doing something like brining and deep frying a Thanksgiving turkey, but regardless.
There was only one problem. No, two. No bacon. No lemon (for the Hollandaise).
Being like any other lazy human being, I didn’t want to put on clothes to run to the corner store. I preferred to let the oil splatter my bare skin, of course. (Don’t try this at home, and don’t try it in high heels.)
So I subbed in hot dogs from the freezer and figured out I might as well use up the chicken stock in a velouté sauce, a French sauce made by combining roux (flour and butter) with stock. It’s more often paired with poultry and seafood dishes, but hey, I was gonna try.
Click on the link to get my humorous (but totally serious!) recipe.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with an American expat.
We happened to be at a faux-exclusive club in Shanghai with shark tanks and a glittering, ghostly clientele. It was a clear night, save for the fuzz of smog that filtered the 24th floor view through the violet gauze of pollution.
He asked where I went to school. I was a rising junior at Harvard at the time; he had graduated from Georgetown a few years back. Then he asked what I was studying.
“Social anthropology,” I said.
“That’s nice,” he said, eyes widening. He paused to collect his words. “But that’s not like, something you could build a house with.”
He settled into his velvet seat with a cigarette and a shit-eating grin, looking pleased with his metaphor.
I forget how I replied.
The truth is – and I’ve learned this from those smarter than myself – that what you study in undergrad probably won’t be directly applicable to a job. And if you’re a humanities/social science major like myself, you’ll occasionally have to converse at length with douchebags in suits (DBIS). Disclaimer: not all corporate dudes in suits are like this. But a few are. They’re probably rather young, and high on their own importance.
If it’s a short conversation, it’s better just to nod, smile, and escape. But if you’re stuck across a dinner table from a DBIS, you might want to build a convincing argument that you’re an intelligent life form, too.
My readers really know a lot more about food and cooking than I do. They prove this again and again with invaluable advice on what to cook, where to eat, what to order, and where to grocery shop. There’s an enormous amount of humbling that goes into being a food blogger, and I’m the first to admit that I’m a novice in many ways. Which is why I’m starting to collecting the wisdom of the Tweetosphere and share it here.
Today: what to do with leftover stale cake.
I made Mark Bittman‘s golden layer cake last week and poured the batter into a silicone mini cupcake tin. Many tins later, I still had some leftover, so I baked it in a mini loaf pan. This chunk of cake is still in the fridge. It is hard. It is cold.
I cut off a slice, heated up some peanut oil, and gave it an aggressive fry job, then sprinkled more sugar on it. The crumb had gone hard, but with some heat and oil, it had the appeal of a sponge cake – more structured, but who can hate the deadly one-two punch of refined carbs and fats? Or that new golden crust?
@MyCutsAndBurns had some interesting suggestions, including the deep fried ham cake sandwich idea.
What do you do with your stale cake?
This afternoon, curled up on a chair at the Harvard COOP, I read through recipes calling for purple perilla and banana leaves. (Shaw’s would definitely not stock those.) I inhaled instructions on making chantilly cream and fig sauce, preparing risotto ahead of time, and the expensive, three-page-long process of replicating Barbara Lynch‘s signature prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras appetizer. How much would it cost me to make Jean-Georges‘ braised lamb shanks with green curry?
No wonder it was a little strange to read Giada‘s recipes, some of which were as simple as skewering halved plums and nectarines and setting them on the grill. But Giada is really pretty! When I saw “whole wheat pasta” in the ingredient list, I stared at it, puzzled. Shouldn’t there instead be a sub-recipe on making said whole wheat pasta? What was going on? Also, why did marscapone cheese and ricotta cheese show up in everything? Was risotto even supposed to have that much cheese in it? Wow, Giada is really photogenic.
Nonetheless, I ended up reading Giada’s recipe on pizza pot pie and wondering if my dining partner would enjoy that, served up in an elegant ramikin (yet to be acquired) with premade puff pastry topping spilling over the sides just so. In the midst of my fine dining cookbook binge, Giada, along with the author of “Easy Chinese Stir-Fries,” was a reminder that not all food is difficult. Some food, like a recipe for broccoli and beef, are meant to be embraced without aspiration or trepidation. And there’s something soothing about the act itself of reading an ingredient list where everything is waiting in the wings, ready to provide weeknight comfort, if not transcendence.
Books mentioned in this post:
Here is a template for an ideal morning:
Wake up early, exercise. Shower, put on a dress and heels. Apply lip gloss, even though it’ll come off on the coffee lid. Brush your hair by running your fingers through it. (You don’t own a comb.)
Stop at a coffee shop (it can be Starbucks, but better pastries are to be had elsewhere). Buy black drip coffee and biscotti – just one. Get your own table, and a magazine. Nothing too serious, a tabloid is best. Eat and drink very, very slowly. Write down the things you want to accomplish that day, but don’t feel bad if you only get around to half of them.
Linger, then leave.
When I confessed that I wanted to make biscotti, my friend Daniel admitted, “I don’t bake. Baking is not cooking. It’s science.”
He’s right. You can just substitute oil for butter and expect an equally delicious result. The issue is, I come from a culinary tradition of imprecision.
I remember watching my mother bake her cakes in the brown glass dish on Saturday mornings. She has two cakes my tummy knows well: apple and sticky rice. Whenever she comes to visit me at school, she’ll bring a slab of sticky rice cake, lined in red bean paste and presented in white Tupperware. It’s always presented along with a set of clean bed sheets, or admonitions to exercise (I do, every morning, I’ll protest).