- How to not blow your budget at Whole Foods.
- A charming and inspirational video of Daniel Boulud talking about his signature dish.
- A minty little salad to use up the best spring produce.
- I can’t wait for my first CSA box to arrive. Find out about CSA‘s and how to join one near you.
- Advice on mental toughness from some amazing athletes.
- I agree: the only problem with John Oliver‘s new show is that I want more of it.
Today I’m introducing a new segment to the blog called Kitchen Hacks, where I share with you some of the little tricks I’ve learned that can help you get in and out of the kitchen in less time and with less mess. Let’s kick things off with a simple trick to help you poach a perfect egg.
I don’t know about you, but I always found poaching to be the trickiest of egg preparations to master. If you don’t have a perfect technique down, you end up asking a million questions to figure out why your egg didn’t turn out right. How hot was the water supposed to be? How should I know if it’s done? Where did all these whispy whites come from? Why does my egg look scraggly instead of smooth? And then there are the myriad tips that you hear about poaching an egg – add vinegar! don’t add vinegar! swirl the water! – which are supposed to help, but instead making the process more complicated.
Here’s a way to make things less complicated: use your microwave. Okay, okay, I know microwaving an egg is not sexy, but once you see how well it works I suspect you’ll be a convert. Even after mastering a proper poached egg on the stovetop, I still use the microwave most often to poach my eggs. Why? Because the microwave produces consistent results that are difficult to replicate with a pot of boiling water.
This makes sense when you compare the environment of a pot of boiling water to that of a microwave. The boiling water is volatile, and the temperature can fluctuate based on the heat of the stove and the temperature of the egg introduced; each time you boil water for an egg the conditions differ slightly. A microwave, on the other hand, produces the same temperatures at the same rate every time it is used, making it an incredibly predictable and, as I said before, consistent tool.
So go ahead and give your microwave a try next time you want to poach an egg. In less than two minutes you’ll have a beautiful egg, with silky yet firm whites and a perfectly creamy yolk. Thanks to this little trick, I find myself cracking open an egg a bit more often, and I hope you will, too. Enjoy your poached egg with crumbled bacon on a salad of mixed greens, broken over a platter grilled seasonal vegetables, or (my favorite) served for breakfast overtop leftover mashed white sweet potatoes.
Perfect Poached Egg (In the Microwave)
Makes 1 poached egg
The one tip I will endorse from the millions recommended for poaching a perfect egg: strain your egg. Adding vinegar or swirling the water isn’t tremendously useful, but straining the egg in a slotted spoon does make a noticeable impact. The bit that is strained off is the more watery part of the white that might otherwise end up as stringy whisps in the water.
1. Fill a small bowl with 2-3 inches of water.
2. Crack the egg over a slotted spoon and allow the watery part of the egg to drain off. You can jiggle the spoon a little to help, but you don’t need to force the egg through. Slide the egg into the bowl of water.
3. Microwave on high for 1:20 to 1:40**. The egg is ready when the whites have turned opaque but still jiggle slightly.
4. Remove egg with slotted spoon and serve immediately. (If you plan to cook another egg in the same bowl after the first one, start with cold water again.)
**Know your microwave! They are not all the same. Don’t worry if your egg cooks in only a minute – perhaps your microwave is much stronger than mine. Watch through the window the first time you microwave an egg to figure out exactly how long it will take.
My favorite way to cook dinner, one which you’ll probably see me employ over and over again on this site until you beg me to learn to cook another way, involves roasting. It’s a pretty magical process, that of turning bits of raw meat and vegetables into tender, sweet, crisp, delectable dishes simply by closing a hot oven door. Really, though, as wonderful as food cooked this way tastes, I don’t prefer roasting simply with flavor in mind.
The true reason I love to roast is due to the method’s flexibility and forgiving nature. A roasted dish is pretty impossible to screw up. With your oven hot, and it doesn’t really matter how hot, add a bit of oil and seasoning and toss your barely handled ingredients into the oven, then cook until done. Or cook past done, if you’ve got vegetables in there – they’ll only get sweeter and more delicious.
Roasting is incredibly practical, too, especially when cooking dinner just seems like another chore. With all the cooking done in one pan, cleanup is practically non-existent, especially if you’re clever enough to line your baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper – then entire cleanup process just takes crumbling up that lining and tossing it in the wastebin. As for the rest of the time you’re “busy” cooking, hop up on the countertop with a good book and tell people to please leave you alone while you’re getting dinner ready.
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Prosciutto and Parmesan
Serves 4… or, at my house, 2 with lots of leftovers
This is a really lovely winter salad that would do well as an appetizer or side dish. To add a bit more protein and make it more appropriate for dinner, I incorporated some shrimp as well. We don’t often think about roasting shrimp (normally we have them boiled or grilled, or perhaps sauteed) but it’s such an easy way to cook them, especially if you’ve already got your oven hot. It’s harder to overcook them in the oven than it is in a pan and, most importantly, there’s no cleanup involved.
Because of its color and scale, this dish takes well to a rustic presentation. I like to plate it all on one big platter and let people serve themselves from that, though you could plate individually, as well. Note that because the cheese and prosciutto are already quite salty, you may want to hold back on the salt when you season your finished dish.
1 butternut squash
Sea salt and pepper
1 small red chile, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
1/2 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto
Small wedge of Parmesan
Preheat your oven to 375
Butternut squash: Cut the neck off the squash, and then halve each of the two sections lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, and cut each of your sections into quarters. Place these segments onto a roasting pan and scatter some olive oil over them. With a pestle and mortar (or with the end of a wooden spoon in a small bowl), bash up your chile with the coriander and a very big pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Rub this seasoning into your squash, and roast for 45 minutes. Squash will be tender and golden when ready. Allow to cool slightly before plating.
Shrimp (if using): Toss shrimp with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Distribute on a parchment lined baking sheet. When the squash has only 10 minutes left on the timer, place the shrimp in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then carefully flip the shrimp, and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes until golden and pinky-white throughout.
Plating: First lay your prosciutto on the plate. It will look nicest if you sort of let it fall onto the plate, twisting into little organic piles. With your hands, pull the squash apart into roughly 1-inch pieces, and tuck these amongst the prosciutto. Scatter a few handfuls of salad greens over the dish, tucking it in in places so that everything is visible. Drizzle balsamic vinegar, then olive oil, over the entire dish, and season with salt and pepper. Using a vegetable peeler, shave off shards of Parmesan over the finished dish.