April 1, 2015

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Dear friends,

The photo that accompanies this week’s newsletter is not an April Fool’s joke. It is a reverse hard-boiled egg with the yolk on the outside and the white in the middle.  I spent a lot of time making this sucker after watching a Japanese scientist explain the process – in Japanese – on the Tokyo TV station we subscribe to. The scientist was the first to successfully duplicate a technique described in a Japanese cookbook that dates to 1785.

I was less successful. I whirled that egg so vigorously in a pair of pantyhose (more on this later) that the white and yolk separated and then combined again, producing an egg that was yellow through and through. It was still pretty cool, though.

I have been obsessed with eggs since watching a February episode of the Japanese TV program Cool Japan, which devoted an hour to the country’s fascination with eggs. The reverse egg was just one of the amazing things the Japanese do with eggs. They somehow mold hard-cooked eggs into flower and star shapes for children’s lunch boxes, infuse hard-cooked eggs with wasabi, soy sauce or salt, and make many-layered omelets that are so popular entire stores are devoted to them.

I’m lucky to have an endless supply of the sushi-bar version of the layered omelets, called “tamago,” which my husband makes the traditional way by hand in a square skillet he brought from Japan. The thick omelets, flavored with dashi (fish broth), sake and a pinch of sugar, are served at his sushi bar in narrow slices as part of an array of sushi or sashimi.

I have been eating eggs lately in broth bowls (see the March 11 See Jane Cook) and have come to prefer soft-set yolks. They are firmer than soft-boiled but not quite hard-cooked. They are creamy and delicious. I put the eggs in water, bring to boil, cover and let it steep off the heat for exactly 6 minutes. Then I stop the cooking in very cold tap water. Yum.

In Japan, raw and hard-cooked eggs garnish all kinds of dishes, including the ubiquitous curry and ramen noodles. A bowl of rice topped with a raw egg is a staple breakfast item. Eggs are eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  The Japanese are third in the world in average per person consumption at 347 annually.  In comparison, Americans eat an average of 251 per person each year, according to the International Egg Commission.

One of the reasons Japan outstrips us may be that salmonellosis enteritidis, a relatively new bacterium that can contaminate eggs inside the shell, hasn’t made it to that country yet. Consequently, eggs not only may be safely eaten raw but are stacked in supermarket aisles at room temperature, a shocking sight for Americans who are warned to keep them cold. Eggs are branded, and it’s not unusual for a store to carry 15 different brands.

But back to the reverse hard-boiled egg. It looks so cool you may be tempted to make a few for Easter. Even if you fail, it’s a fun project. First, warm an egg in hot tap water to enlarge the yolk. Slip it into a length of hosiery (one leg’s worth). Position the egg at the midpoint and secure it with knots on either side of the egg. Holding one end of the hose in each hand, whirl the egg in a circle until the hose is completely twisted like a rubber band on a toy airplane. Then pull to untwist the hose. Repeat again and again for 5 to 10 minutes. The yolk will migrate to the outside of the egg, encasing the white in the middle. You can tell when this happens by shining a small led flashlight through the egg in a dark setting. The light will stream through a regular raw egg, while the reverse egg will be opaque.

Place the egg in a small pan of warm water. Gently heat to just below a boil. Continue to heat for about 15 minutes. Place in ice water or very cold tap water. Peel when completely cool.

My egg cracked in the hot water, even though I did not jostle it or bring it to a boil. The crack was fairly large, but cooked egg quickly sealed it and it continued to cook. Use older eggs so the shell slips off easily.

Here’s a video that demonstrates the technique: http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/learn-make-reverse-hard-boiled-eggs-yolks-inside .

If you opt for more traditional eggs for Easter, you might want to try a deviled egg bar. Cleveland author Michael Ruhlman came up with the idea last summer while promoting his cookbook, “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient.” He starts by cutting the eggs in half through the “equator” and cutting a thin slice from the bottoms for the egg halves to rest on. Devil the yolks, he says, and top the eggs with anything from a slice of grilled hot dog and ballpark mustard to — my favorite – smoked salmon and a sprig of dill, with the egg resting on a cucumber slice.

Other suggestions from Ruhlman for a mix-it-up deviled egg platter:
The BLT: Top with crisp crumbled bacon, tiny cubes of tomato and julienned romaine lettuce;
The Japanese: Sautee shiitake mushrooms and toss with miso paste and rice vinegar; pile on eggs and garnish each with a chive tip;
The Vietnamese: Scallions, lime juice, fresh mint, cilantro, jalapeno and Asian fish sauce.

Here’s a link to order a signed copy of Ruhlman’s egg book, which is up for a James Beard Award: http://blog.ruhlman.com/my-books/ ;  and here’s his recipe for perfect deviled eggs:

BASIC DEVILED EGGS

jane-snow
•    24 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
•    3 tbsp. minced shallots
•    2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1/2 cup mayonnaise
•    2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
•    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
•    1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)
Cut a thin slice from both ends of the eggs, then slice them in half crosswise. Remove the yolks to a mixing bowl and reserve the whites. (You can discard the ends or press them through a sieve and add them to the Japanese or Vietnamese garnish below.)
Combine the shallot, lemon juice, and salt and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, cayenne (if using), and the shallot mixture to the yolks. Mash the yolks with a fork, stirring to combine all ingredients until the mixture is uniform. This can all be done up to 12 hours before serving, if kept wrapped and refrigerated.

Shortly before serving, spoon the mixture into the egg white halves (or put the yolks into a plastic bag, snip off the corner, and pipe the yolks into the whites).

THE MAILBAG

From Judy in Arizona:
My cardiologist has put me on a low-sodium lifestyle. Soy and salt are restricted in my cooking now and the No-salt  seasoning alternative interferes with my medication so I can’t use it. Help, everything tastes awful. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Dear Judy: I assume you’re aware of low-sodium soy sauce. If the sodium content is not within your doctor’s prescribed daily consumption level, try using vinegar as a flavor enhancer. Fresh herbs, of course, do wonders for almost any food. I can’t imagine cooking without salt. Maybe someone who has been there, done that can help with more suggestions.

From Francie Labriola, Akron-Summit County Public Library:
I found this in a Recipe Roundup column from the Beacon Journal in 2004. Hope it helps.

BROWN SAUCE OF NOTHERN ITALY
•    5 oz. prosciutto fat or larding pork, ground
•    14-by-5-inch piece (about 2 1/2 oz.) pork rind, boiled for 10 minutes and drained
•    2 lbs. rump or shank of beef, cut into chunks
•    1 lb. boneless veal shank, cut into chunks
•    4 to 5 lbs. cracked beef and veal bones, with marrow
•    1 ounce dry mushrooms, soaked in tepid water for 20 minutes, squeezed dry and chopped
•    2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
•    2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
•    2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
•    1 clove garlic, chopped
•    2 whole cloves
•    1 tsp. salt
•    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
•    1 cup red wine
•    1 bouquet garni (1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1 crushed bay leaf, sprigs of parsley and 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram tied into cheesecloth bundle)
•    1/3 cup flour
•    1 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained, seeded and chopped
•    3 quarts boiling water
•    Additional salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven. Line bottom of roasting pan that can be used on stovetop with prosciutto fat or larding pork. On top place pork rind, beef rump or shank,
veal shank, beef and veal bones with marrow, mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cloves, 1/2 tsp. salt and the black pepper. Cook on the range top over low heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the meat starts to brown, add the wine and bouquet garni. Cook, stirring, until wine is almost
evaporated. Remove from heat, sprinkle with flour, and stir well. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly over very low heat for 1 minute.

Add tomato pulp and mix well. Add boiling water to cover and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer (do not boil) for 5 minutes. Scum will start to rise. Remove it with a spoon or ladle until it ceases to accumulate.
Place in oven, partially covered, so that steam may escape, and cook for 4 hours, being very careful that it barely simmers.

Take out of oven; remove beef, veal, and pork rind, and reserve for other uses. Strain liquid, discarding vegetables, bones, and bouquet garni, into a saucepan. Simmer until liquid is reduced to 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups), removing fat from surface with spoon or ladle. Allow to cool.

Place liquid in refrigerator, uncovered, until remaining fat has hardened on top and can be scraped off. Taste for seasoning, and, if flavor
is weak, boil to reduce water content further and remove any scum that rises to surface.

Sauce may be kept in refrigerator or freezer. If kept in the refrigerator, it must be removed and brought to a boil every 3 or 4 days before storing again.

Dear Francie:
I knew I had seen that recipe somewhere. Thanks for sending it in for the reader who misses the sauce from the old New York Spaghetti House. I don’t know if this is it, but it sounds good.
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