Best Way to Fry Eggs

It’s easy to fry an egg, but getting it just is a minor skill.  If the heat’s too high the egg will get rubbery, and the yolk grows hard and unpleasant.  A properly runny yolk can be delicious, but not if it is undercooked, and spots of raw egg is nauseating.

The biggest reason fried eggs get messed up in our house is because it’s morning, we’re anxiously struggling to get everybody out the door for school and work. We sit our boys down and make them take their time while enjoying breakfast, and we can focus on the perfection of a yellow circle on a white background.

Use the Right Heat

1.  Add a few drops of water to a non-stick skillet, and pre-heat on medium heat.  When the water begins to boil, it is the proper temperature.

2.  Add a tiny amount of butter, and wait until it foams.  Crack eggs and drop into butter, and immediately turn heat down to medium-low. 

3.  Fry eggs for about 1½ minutes, until there is a yellowish oval and bright yolk on top of a cooked white egg.

4.  Flip the eggs, and cook for about a minute for runny yolks, or about 1½ minutes for a slighty more firm egg yolk.

5.  For “sunny-side up” eggs that are actually cooked, pour a Tablespoon of water into the pan immediately after dropping the eggs in, and put a cover on the skillet.  The steam will cook the top.

These eggs will be softer than eggs cooked at a higher temperature, so they will more difficult to flip.  It requires a forceful shove of the spatula underneath the eggs before flipping.

Cracking the Eggs

Why do yolks break when eggs are cracked for frying, but rarely when you crack them for scrambling.  It’s not common sense, but the harder you smack the eggs, the more likely the yolk will stay intact when you pour it into the pan.  If a piece of shell goes into the pan, use the large half of the shell to scoop it up, or wet a spoon before using it to scoop it up.

Best results come by cracking eggs on a flat surface, rather than the edge of a dish or pan.  I keep a plate next to the stove to crack eggs on, put the shells on, and make it easier to clean up.

For a change, lay a strip of sliced Swiss cheese across the top of the egg, immediately after removing it from the pan.  The residual heat will melt the cheese.

Ready to flip
Ready to flip

Easy Recipe for Turkey or Chicken Stuffing

It’s hard to duck up a turkey, which is why the bird rarely appears beyond Thanksgiving, sandwiches, and pot pies.  But a Thankgiving dinner doesn’t need to be a showcase for culinary skills, but rather a bland tradition, unchallenging, a time to rejoice with friends and beloved family members, and to collect stories of the annoying ones.

Same goes for stuffing.  There’s myriad ways to make it unique, but it’s hard to beat a straightforward mix that absorbs all the flavors of the turkey or chicken.

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 8 cups dry shredded bread (1 large loaf)
  • 1 cup Swanson’s chicken broth
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • turkey giblets (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons poultry spice

1.  Lay the bread slices out on a table to get partly stale for about 2 hours per side, or put slices in a large pan or bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel overnight.  If using a loaf of Italian or French bread, slice it first.

2.  Slice off the crusts of the bread, then use a fork to tear the white part into shreds, one slice at a time.

3.  Melt butter over medium heat, add celery and onion, and saute 8 to 10 minutes, until tender, but not brown.  Stir in parsley, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and poultry spice.  Remove from heat.

4.  Place shredded bread in a large bowl, stir in onion/celery mixture, then drizzle with chicken stock.  The mix should be damp, but not wet.

5.  Add optional giblets (cooking instructions below), or a cup of oysters, or cranberries, or whatever, at this time.

6.  Stuff the turkey.

7.  If you want to cook it separate from the turkey, pour the stuffing into a 2-quart casserole dish, or a baking dish.  Cover it with a lid or foil, and bake in a 325° oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Notes:  Chop the celery and onion as fine as possible, as many people dislike them.

Cooking giblets:  Bring giblets, except for liver, to boil in a saucepan (with enough water to cover them).  Cover and reduce heat to low, cook 1 hour.  Add the liver and simmer, covered, for 25 more minutes.  Drain and chop, before adding to stuffing.

Best Gin For Martini

A Martini is the quintessential drink to enjoy in a well-appointed hotel bar, but there’s this, by writer Kingsley Amis, “The best dry martini known to man is the one I make myself for myself.”

Martini Recipe

  • 2 ½ ounces London Dry Gin
  • ½ ounce Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
  • Green olive, for garnish
  • Lemon twist, for garnish. optional

— Add the gin to a mixing glass. Add the vermouth.  Stir with 7 large ice cubes for 40 seconds to get the correct icy dilution.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Add the olive, for garnish.  If you wish, twist a lemon peel over the glass, then drop it in.  A lemon twist with no olive is also a good garnish.

The recommended olive is a Queen (or Gordal) olive, pitted, with the pimento removed.  Rinse off the brine, and chill before using.  A Manzanilla olive will also suffice. Goya produces good olives.

Dry Martini

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • ¼ ounce Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
  • Olive, for garnish

Notes:  The Martini is a 5:1 ratio, and the Dry Martini is 8:1.  If you love the taste of vermouth, then mix 2 ounces of gin with ½ ounce of vermouth for a 4:1 ratio. Or you can go the other way, and decrease the amount of vermouth in a Dry Martini.

Beefeater Gin is recommended for a Martini, and Plymouth is superb for the Dry Martini. Boodles is another good selection, especially with vermouth by Martini & Rossi.  These experts can help you make other choices.

Vodka Martini

Sticklers will insist that Martinis must be made with gin.  However, many people like Vodka Martinis, and at this point, what else are we going to call them?

Use the same formula (5:1) as the gin Martini, and the vermouth will balance out the vodka taste.  If you enjoy the taste of vodka, the Dry formula (8:1) works well.  Any ratio in between doesn’t work very well.

Sobieski is a recommended vodka.  Tito’s, Hangar One, and Ketel One are also superb vodkas for this drink.

Or as Toby Maloney of Chicago’s Violet Hour noted, “Many times, when requested to be made with vodka, the bartender or server would recommend that it be made with ‘this great botanical, citrus-infused vodka we had.’  It would then be made with Plymouth.  Always a hit.”

 

How to Cook Brown Rice. Do Not Cook It Like White Rice.

Rule #1: Do not cook brown rice the same as white rice.  If you do, you’ll get one of the most unpleasant textures imaginable.   Instead, treat brown rice like pasta–boil the grains in lots of water, then drain it, and you’ll get a dish you may enjoy eating.

  • 9 or 10 cups of water
  • 1 cup of brown rice (rinsed, if you wish)

1.  Bring the water to boil in a 3 quart or larger pot.  Turn off heat, pour rice in. Stir.

2.  Turn heat back on, return to a boil, with no lid. Boil at medium-high heat for 30 to 35 minutes. Turn off heat.

3.  Drain with a sieve, or strainer, return rice to warm pot to steam for 10 more minutes.

4.  Salt to taste.

For more taste, boil 6 cups of water, add 1 can of Swanson’s chicken broth, return to a boil, and turn off the heat before adding the rice (otherwise it may boil over).  Follow the same times and draining technique above.

For even more taste, heat 2 teaspoons of oil on medium heat, sauté 1 clove of garlic (minced or crushed) and 1 scallion (sliced) for 2 minutes, add cooked brown rice, and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes.  Add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and stir it in. If necessary, add more soy sauce (1 teaspoon at a time) until it tastes the way you like it.

This will taste like pretty good fried rice. For a flavor spike, add very small amounts of Sriracha sauce.

 

How to Roast Hatch Green Chiles

chileroastOn a good late-summer day in New Mexico, you’ll smell tortillas being made, green chiles being roasted, and the smoke from burning piñon wood wafting in the air. Or maybe just the green chiles.  That’s good enough.

Directions

Heat your grill for 5 minutes on high, or fire up the charcoal.  Place the green chiles directly over high heat for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for 5 minutes more.

The outside of the chiles will be scorched and black, but the flesh of the chiles will cook and make steam, which will make the skins separate from the flesh.  Some chiles will pop, or the skins will open up, and that’s good.

Grills usually have hot spots, so move the chiles around until they get charred and blistered. The color will go from a vibrant green to a dull olive-green.

Remove the chiles that have cooked and drop them into a plastic bag, or a covered plastic 5-gallon bucket, and lightly close bag or bucket.  The steam will help the skins separate from the chiles.

Don’t worry, the hot chiles won’t melt plastic bags of any sort.

chilesteam

When the chiles are cooled enough to touch, rip off or cut off the stem end, and slide the skin off of the the chiles.  You can either tear open the chiles and rub out the seeds, whack them on the edge of a sink to make the seeds fly out of the open end, or hold the chiles by the tip with one hand, and slide the chile between the index and middle finger of the the other hand to squeeze out the seeds.

Skins on left, chiles on right.
Skins on left, chiles on right.

After cleaning the chiles, you can save them whole, or chop them for chile sauce.  To prevent freezer funk, put chiles in thick freezer bags and wrap the bags in aluminum foil.  Each chile weighs about 1 ounce, so about 8 or 9 chopped chiles make a cup.

Notes

It’s best to clean chile outside, dropping the seeds and skins into a plastic-bag line trash can.

Chiles can be roasted in an oven, directly under the broiler, for very good results, though your kitchen might get very warm.

If you clean more than a few pounds of chiles, use plastic or latex gloves to clean them, or your hands will become numb for a short while. These gloves are available in the broom and mop section of a grocery store.

If you rub your eyes while peeling chiles, don’t worry, you’ll never do it again.

Outside of New Mexico, Hatch green chiles are sold as either hot or mild.  The best way to test it is to break open a raw chile and eat a piece to see if it’s a heat level you like.  The heat of Hatch green chiles change every year, depending on the weather in New Mexico.

Click here for a classic Hatch green chile sauce.

Be careful if you’re not in New Mexico, and you have your chiles roasted in a mechanical drum roaster.  Some of the operators will roast them at too high a temperature, and the skins will get over-roasted and break into little black fragments that stick to the flesh and a beast to remove.

Some people don’t bother to peel the chiles after roasting, and put them in the freezer with the skins on.  That works just fine.

chilechop

A hot pepper in the Southwest and Mexico is a chile. Texans make pots of chili, with meat and no beans, and chillies are those little hot peppers that the Spanish spread around the world to Asia and other continents.

What Can I Do With Hatch Green Chile?

chiseeds

Chileheads will put green chile into just about anything.  A co-worker once put out a plate of chocolate brownies with green chiles (they all got eaten).

I’m not that obsessed, but there here are some tested ideas, other than green chile sauce (recipe here), burritos, enchiladas, rellenos, huevos rancheros, and other historic New Mexico dishes.

  • Tuna salad — just add to your favorite recipe
  • Cornbread
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Cheeseburgers, with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mustard (no ketchup)
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Open up a whole, fresh-roast green chile, salt and pepper, lay a slice of provolone, jack, or cheddar cheese on top, roll it up and eat it while it’s warm (not hot).
  • This sounds awful, but sauté some banana slices in butter or oil, add some chopped green chiles and heat them up, and put the mix over fried eggs on a corn tortilla.  It’s a simplified version of huevos motuleños.

What Not to Do With Green Chiles

Green chile seems like a natural to put into an Italian tomato sauce to make it spicy, but green chile is terrible in Italian food.  However, dried red chile flakes are a staple in spicy Italian dishes.

By the way, “Hatch” green chiles are just the chiles grown around Hatch, New Mexico.  They are no better or worse than any New Mexican variety of green chiles grown anywhere else in the state, for example, Lemitar. “Hatch” is an effective marketing term.

Jameson Whiskey and Q Ginger Ale

jamesonQ

There’s no question that whiskey and ginger ale belong together.  Jack and Ginger is a legend, and the Horse’s Neck cocktail blends bourbon and ginger ale, with a lemon peel deftly carved into the shape of an equine neck.

I mixed several combinations of whiskies and ginger ales, and the combination of Jameson Irish Whiskey with Q Ginger Ale from Brooklyn proved much more delicious than the rest.

The comparisons are below, but first, the best:

Jameson and Q Ginger Ale Recipe

  • 1½ ounces Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 3½ ounces Q Ginger Ale
  • ¼ of a wheel of Ruby Red grapefruit, for garnish and flavor.

— Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in the whiskey. Gently pour in the Q Ginger Ale.  Squeeze about 7 drops of juice from the grapefruit slice into the cocktail, and drop the grapefruit slice into the drink for garnish.

Notes: The Jameson Distillery sometimes serves the whiskey with a grapefruit twist to visitors, which is where the idea came from.

For an interesting variation, replace the grapefruit with a small lime wedge. Squeeze the lime into the drink, drop it in for garnish, and add 3 drops of Angostura bitters to the drink.

Kudos to Michelle Draguesku of Q Tonic, for the idea to mix it with Jameson.

The Whiskey and Ginger Test

Whiskeys:  Jameson’s Irish, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee, and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon.

Ginger Ales 

  • White Rock, a simple low-priced full-body ginger ale that’s made with sugar, not corn syrup.
  • Q Ginger Ale, which has a sharper ginger flavor, spices, and an astringent taste.
  • Fever-Tree, which has a very sharp taste of ginger and spices.

Mixed with Bourbon

  • White Rock mixes well with bourbon, as expected.
  • Q Ginger tastes astringent, and edges out the bourbon taste.
  • Fever-Tree completely overwhelms the bourbon.

Mixed with Jack Daniel’s

  • White Rock brings out the charcoal taste in Jack, but it’s a good thing, better than the bourbon mix.
  • Q Ginger creates a bizarre clash of tastes with Jack, but for some reason, I’ll drink it again.
  • Fever-Tree overwhelms the Jack, and adding more whiskey didn’t help.

Mixed with Jameson

  • White Rock and Jameson is just plain boring.
  • Q and Jameson complement each other perfectly. This is the most refreshing whiskey drink that’s crossed my palate.
  • Fever-Tree completely overwhelmed Jameson.  Fever-Tree makes the best tonic for gin, but their ginger ale is too strong for whiskey.

Q Ginger Ale is available at high-end groceries in the U.S.A.

 

Blueberry Pie No Baking Required

bluepie

Summer brings an abundance of American blueberries, and too much heat to turn on the oven.  This pie requires no baking–just a few minutes of cooking–and it’s so very easy.

Honeymaid and Keebler both make good graham-cracker crusts, but avoid their low-fat versions and the Target-brand crusts, which are slightly tastier than sweetened cardboard.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie

  • ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (½ lemon)
  • 2 pints blueberries (4 cups)
  • 9″ store-bought graham-cracker crust
  • freshly-grated nutmeg

— In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well.  Gradually add the water, stir until smooth.

Stir in 1 pint (2 cups) of blueberries, and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens.

Stir in the other 1 pint of blueberries, and cook for 1 minute more.

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool to less than 100° F.

Spoon the mixture into the graham-cracker crust, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Serve with a very light dusting of freshly-grated nutmeg, and if you wish, Redi-Whip whipped cream.

 

 

How to Grill Hamburgers with a Perfect Sear

grillburg

Most restaurants with famous hamburgers grill the patty on a hot flat metal surface called a plancha.  You can get the same results with a cast-iron skillet or comal, heated to the highest temperature on a stove, but you may have a problem with smoke and hot grease splatters in your kitchen.

The easy solution: Put the cast-iron outside on a gas grill, and cook away on the hot hot surface.

  • 1 ½ pounds of ground chuck (80/20 lean to fat ratio)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Heat the cast-iron skillet or comal on the grill, using high heat, for 10 minutes while you prepare the beef.

Mix the salt and pepper into the ground chuck with a chopstick or fork, handling very lightly.  Make the patties about 4½ inches round, and about ¾ inches thick. The best weight for a hamburger patty is 5 ounces.

Indent the center of the burgers, so they won’t bulge up from the steam while cooking.

Set the burgers on the hot cast-iron, and let them sear for 3 minutes.

Flip the burgers, cook 3 minutes more for medium-rare, or 4 minutes for medium. Stick an instant read thermometer in the burgers, from the side, to get the right doneness.  The safe temperature is 160°.

Add slices of cheese for the last minute of cooking if you want a cheeseburger. I prefer Cheddar, Provolone, or Pepperjack.

Toast the buns for a minute over the direct flame on the grill, or Texas Toast them by buttering the cut side and grilling them for a minute on the hot cast-iron after you’ve cooked the burgers.

If you are cooking more than 4 burgers, you might want one of these big Lodge griddles, about $30.

lodgepan

If you cook a lot of burgers, you can find an outdoor propane flat-top grill at Lowe’s for not a lot of money.  This grill would be excellent for cooking breakfast, too.

burgergrill

 

The Best Barbecue Sauce for Pork and Beef and Chicken

bbbq2

Grilling season in Texas ends on Halloween, and resumes at noon on November 1st, so there’s plenty of days to use barbecue sauces.  Homemade BBQ sauce can be superb, but it’s a pain in the butt and leaves a lots of remainder ingredients in the fridge, so I prefer to concentrate on grilling, and go with easy-to-find bottled stuff.

What’s the best national-brand BBQ sauce that I tested?  The answer depends on what’s cooking.  None of the 5 sauces from Target were “all-purpose”.

Bull’s-Eye Original  Pleasantly sweet, with smoke and tomato.  Well-balanced, but not in any special way.

  • Chicken — a little too smokey and too sweet
  • Beef — a pinch better than the tangy Cattlemen’s
  • Pork — good, for slightly sweet ribs

Cattlemen’s  Some sweetness, similar to Bull’s-Eye, but more tangy and spicy. Often used as a base sauce by professional BBQ competitors.

  • Chicken — the spicy tanginess works well with chicken
  • Beef — very good, for mildly tangy beef
  • Pork — slighty preferable to Bullseye.  Excellent choice for pork ribs, even though it’s called Cattlemen’s

Head Country  A more smokey taste than the other sauces.

  • Chicken — a little sweet and way too much hickory
  • Beef — excellent, if you like a smokey taste
  • Pork — the smokey taste is perfect for grilled ribs.  Cookmundo’s preference, but for sweeter ribs, go back to Cattlemen’s

Stubb’s  A tomatoey, tangy sauce which is thinner than the others.

  • Chicken — tangy delicious for chicken.  Cookmundo’s preference, but go light on it or the tang will overwhelm
  • Beef — good, for tangy beef
  • Pork — too liquidy to finish for ribs, but ribs don’t need much sauce anyway

Sweet Baby Ray’s  Tastes like barbecue-flavored candy.  Tolerable only for severely sweet ribs.  I have a sweet-tooth too, but I save it for dessert.

Notes: For sausage, as could be expected, what’s good on pork is good on pork sausage, and what’s best on beef is good on beef sausage.

These sauces were tested on grilled meats, not actual barbecue.  Barbecue requires cooking meat with heat and smoke, and we don’t own a smoker.

The closest to an “all-purpose” would be Bull’s-Eye or Cattlemen’s, but if you like smoky-tasting beef and pork, Head Country is recommended.

Yes, there may be better local sauces out there, but these are the ones that can be found in just about any store.  I’ve heard good things about Rufus Teague’s, so I’ll be trying that soon.