18 April 2012
Eggs Jeannette with sugar snap pea and radish salad
We've been watching Jacques Pepin's newest PBS show for the past few months, getting more and more excited about making all the delicious things.
Jacques Pepin is far more worth watching than practically any other chef currently on the air. He is very clearly invested in not just cooking, but teaching people how to cook. His food is simple and changes with what he has on hand, and he lets his audience know that that's fine. In fact, that's one of his signature lines. The whole message is that food and cooking should not be this overly hyped, worrisome, and fetishized thing, with methods requiring such terms as "best" and "perfect," but a normal, joyful activity you do every day with your family. Damn straight.
So for dinner I made Eggs Jeannette. These are more or less a variation on deviled eggs: hard-boiled eggs stuffed with a yolk-based mixture. However, the comparison fades when you whack all the stuffed eggs into a pan of hot oil and sear them off until the filling has turned brown. You finish by enveloping the eggs in a rich dijon and egg yolk vinaigrette.
I made these pretty much as-is from the show tie-in cookbook, Essential Pepin. The main thing I changed was to use yogurt instead of milk to thin and enrich the filling (see the aforementioned problem with milk dying a swift and glorious death in our refrigerator).
plain yogurt or milk
a couple garlic cloves
red wine vinegar
chives or parsley for garnish
Start by hard-boiling four eggs. We thought this was plenty for the two of us as a main course; you can clearly make more if you want to. It's also fine to boil the eggs a day or two in advance. They're just hard-boiled eggs. What's the worst that could happen?
Everyone has their own method of hard-boiling eggs. Mine goes like this: put your eggs in an adequate saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the whole business to a boil. When the water boils, reduce the heat to a fast simmer (lid on) and start timing. Cook for eight minutes before immediately removing the pan from the heat. Pour out the hot water and run the entire pan under cold water--outside as well as inside--to stop any residual heat conduction and entirely halt the cooking process. Then fill the pan--eggs still inside--2/3 with cold water, add a couple handfuls of ice cubes, and let the eggs cool. This produces perfectly done hard-boiled eggs, with a beautifully set white and a yolk with a bare dimple of dampness at the center, every time.
To assemble the eggs, cut each one in half and gently remove the hardened yolks, being careful not to rip the whites. Mix the yolks with chopped parsley, finely minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, as well as a tablespoon or two of yogurt or milk. You can totally play this by ear with no problem. If you want to chop and add other vegetables to the yolk mix, that's obviously a good idea--I might try finely chopped mushrooms or spinach in the future.
Fill each egg half with a spoonful of yolk mixture, leveled off so it's flush with the white, and set aside. You should have a couple spoonfuls of yolk mixture left over. Using a fork, mix this with a spoonful of dijon mustard, another spoonful of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, a little water, and about 1/4 cup olive oil to make a creamy egg-based vinaigrette.
Heat a frying pan on medium-high and swiftly sear your eggs in a little oil, flat side down, until the yolk mixture has just turned golden brown around the edges. This should take maybe two minutes, depending on your stove. Deposit eggs on plates, add a generous amount of dressing--a traditional French chef would "nap" the eggs by serving them cut side down and totally covering them with sauce--and garnish as desired. Voila!
Obviously, a dish of eggs with an egg-based vinaigrette requires a highly contrasting fresh vegetable of some kind. I had some of the first sugar snap peas of the year plus a bunch of radishes. Clearly it was time for a raw pea and radish salad.
Sugar snap pea and radish salad
sugar snap peas
lemon zest and juice
red wine vinegar
Wash your peas and radishes. The proportion here is up to you; I used about two or three times the volume of peas as radishes.
To prep the peas, snap the stem ends and pull them down across the shorter side of the pod to string. This lets you avoid any stringy fibrous business in your teeth later on. Then cut the pea pods into two or three reasonably sized pieces. Top and tail your radishes and cut them into the thinnest possible slices. If you want to add any other vegetables, go ahead and wash and chop them too. Put all your vegetables into a reasonably sized bowl.
Next, make your dressing. I just mixed up a standard red wine vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice and zest. So. Start by peeling a strip or two of zest off a quarter of a lemon and cutting it into thin julienne. Then, in a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the lemon's juice and its zest, a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, several good grinds of salt and pepper, and a handful of chopped chives. Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a thin stream while mixing the whole business with your fork. Taste and correct any seasonings.
Toss your vegetables with as much dressing as you like, and serve.
While we just ate our salad as-is, it would be really great on a bed of greens. In fact, everything in this meal would be great on a bed of greens. Spinach, arugula, or a mesclun mix would all be good combinations.
Note the multiple vinaigrettes in one meal. This may seem ridiculous on first glance, but we didn't think so. In fact, since the two dressings were so different--one heavy, mustardy, and eggy, and the other light and lemony--they actually balanced each other out pretty well. Of course, the massive amount of fresh raw vegetables didn't hurt either.