Eggs Florentine

This post might as well be called “sometimes I like to eat two sticks of butter and five eggs.” I was a little cocky, though. My eggs florentine was just too rich to finish. I’ve been wanting to try making this dish since I first made eggs benedict at the beginning of my restaurant-less adventure, and I finally had the spinach and cream on hand to do so. I don’t think I could have possibly packed any more fat or protein on one plate, but since this is AMERICA, I don’t feel bad. Just look at how beautiful this plate is:

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In an attempt to fill my body with the fat and protein it desperately needs after three hard days of dancing, working, and partying, I figured it was about time, and oh boy does making anything with hollandaise take time and both hands. I started by creaming the spinach — about a big cup of torn and fresh big leaves (not the kind from the bag), 3-4 tbsp heavy cream, 2 tbsp butter, and a pinch each of salt/pepper/nutmeg over medium heat until the leaves were just wilted. Each step in the process takes both hands and I still can’t multitask like I usually do while making these things.

Next, I started in on the hollandaise — my least favorite, most tedious thing so far to cook — and repeated the process I used before. After switching off the low heat to let the sauce thicken, I stuck some tomato slices under the broiler for about ten minutes while I started to boil about an inch and a half of water at the bottom of a saucepan. As it boiled, I turned down the heat to simmer, and buttered the slots of this nifty egg poacher. I cracked the eggs into the slots, and dropped the whole thing in to poach for about five minutes or so until the the whites were firm and the yolks were wobbly and still runny.

I turned the heat up and down over and over attempting to keep the simmer going without boiling, which was tricky and time-consuming. Once the eggs were finished, I ended up dropping them both into the shallow water as I tried to lift the tray from the saucepan, but luckily, neither of the yolks cracked open through the whites. I toasted a gluten-free English muffin, and started assembling. As I started topping the tomatoes with the creamed spinach, I realized I hadn’t made quite enough. Plus, the spinach was now cold and the hollandaise was headed that way. Because both have cream and butter and are very sensitive to heat, I hadn’t left the heat on while I’d cooked the rest. I had to reheat the spinach on the stove, but I still wish I’d doubled or tripled the amount of spinach I’d used, added an extra tablespoon of both butter and cream, and an extra pinch of nutmeg (which turned out to be fantastic with the spinach!).

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Over the top, I chopped green onions and topped with some paprika and pepper. It was absolutely as fabulous as it looks on a really snowy night. I’m stuck at home after being blown off and totally unable to work, and animal crackers and eggs florentine were exactly what I wanted to binge-eat on my recovery day. One pro tip, though? Don’t put your animal crackers near your hollandaise. The flavors don’t mix well.

I’m off to get more animal crackers.

Eggs Benedict

I crave protein and raw fruits and vegetables in the morning. Normally, I’m such a carbs junkie that I can’t stay off the corn and rice long enough to get a solid amount of protein, but first thing in the day, all I want is meat, eggs, cucumbers, and an ocean full of water. This morning, I stayed in bed nearly two hours before I got up for good — at 1:30pm. The one time I did get up was only to let the dogs out and eat a cookie!

Nevertheless, it was my breakfast time when I woke up, and making eggs benedict sounded like a winner. Who doesn’t need five eggs, 4 oz of sliced uncured ham, and a full stick of butter first thing in the morning, anyway? This is the Midwest, lovers. This is America. This is exactly what the rest of the world thinks we eat, all day long. And I, your giggling blogger, did just that.

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Sort of, anyway. The first round of hollandaise sauce was botched. I remembered that it was just a full stick of butter, three egg yolks, and a bit of lemon juice, but forgot the technique. Still too cocky, I threw everything in the pot on low and watched it all clump up. Damn.

I hit the internet again, and found a basic hollandaise recipe before trying again. I’ll save you the trouble, and repeat it here. You don’t need a double boiler, and it doesn’t have to be as hard as some sites claim (what kind of non-chef has a fancy double-boiler anyway?). But you do only have two hands, and you’ll need both of them to slave over the stove for the entire length of cooking the hollandaise — about 15-20 minutes. Put on a good audiobook or some jams and rock out while you stir incessantly. Warm up your wrists in whatever way you see fit.

  1. Chop up an entire stick of butter into about 20 pieces and set within arm’s reach of the stove.
  2. Crack the eggs and retrieve the yolks of three eggs, put those in a saucepan. A big, 3qt saucepan is what I used, and it worked well. You don’t actually need an egg white separator. Here’s a Lifehack if you don’t know how.
  3. Bust the yolks and stir until they’re an even consistency with the heat off.
  4. Turn the heat on the tiniest, lowest possible setting on the stove. Add in each one of the butter slices veeeeeerrryyyyy slowly. V-e-r-y fucking slowly. Like, until the entire slice is melted, don’t add the next one. Stir. Stir. Stir. Stir until your arm feels like it will fall off. Stir until you feel like you’ve given a hundred handjobs. Stir some more. Don’t let the eggs scramble. If they scramble, you’re screwed. Stir some more. I used a rubber spatula, and that worked much better than an unreliable whisk (I don’t even own a whisk). Don’t switch arms, cheater.
  5. Add a little less than a tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir. Taste. Decide if you want more lemon. You can’t undo lemon.
  6. Stir more. When the sauce is thickened enough to stick to whatever you’re stirring it with and feels warm and your arm really hurts, you’re done. While you prepare the rest of the meal, stir it more to avoid getting a gelatinous “crust” over the top. I don’t add seasoning to hollandaise, because I add it on top of my meal to control the amount of salt that finds its way into my food.

The rest of the meal is pretty straightforward. Warm up some English muffins* and some sliced ham by whatever means you deem necessary. I poached my eggs for the first time as I listened to this lovely British man talk, but it was far more complicated than it was worth to boil the water and watch the thing swirl around, worried I was going to lose more eggs to my cooking experiment. I’ve done it. I’ve poached, now. I’m totally giving myself (and you) permission to fry the damn thing over-easy if you don’t have time or inclination to boil your stupid eggs all fancy-like. I assembled the dish: English muffin, ham, egg, hollandaise, and then topped it with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

Ta-da. Looks pretty neat, huh? Kind of made it worth slaving over that hollandaise, huh?

On the side: a cara cara orange.

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*Note: I used Kinnikinnick’s English muffins, available here. They were “okay for gluten-free food,” but not amazing. I probably won’t top them with my finest jams, but for soaking up hollandaise, they worked great. Kinnikinnick makes way, way, way better animal cookies than anybody else, for the record.

Sweet potato pizza crust

After finishing those amazing tamales as my last restaurant meal until 2016, I jumped into working for the night. Rather than spending my New Year’s Eve with friends and family, I spent it with coworkers and screwing with drunk people. The DJ was too apathetic to announce when the clock struck twelve, and I broke a shoe at exactly 12:00. Still, it turned out to be a good night, and I left the building feeling like a rock star and ready to eat everything in sight.

I hit the grocery store, and couldn’t pass up getting myself two cheap, glittery “Cheerful Bouquets” for my table to start the year. I wasn’t sad buying them for myself, or longing for a mister. Cooking for one, as inconvenient as it often is, seemed a special treat, a nice time to reflect deeply on the previous year, and set my intentions for the coming year.

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My dining room is still a mess. And truthfully, I mostly moved the table’s contents to the floor for the picture, because I’m an actual human who was exhausted at five o’clock in the morning. I set myself up with a big glass of water, very much needing to refuel after a long night of sweating and working. I worked hard to create a new dish all my own in my head as I took the stage, without the help of Yummly, Whole30, or Google. I came up with a sweet potato pizza crust topped with ground turkey, sweet peppers, onion, fresh mozzarella, and spices. On the side, I used up some left over baby bellas by stuffing them full of ricotta and thawed summer Iowa sweet corn. Recipe below.

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As I quietly rang in my own 2015, happily alone and bathing in the quiet morning hours before sunrise, I became even more attached to this crazy idea that I won’t eat at a restaurant for one full year. I tried to figure out the specifics: Can I have drinks at restaurants while others eat? (Yes.) Are the authentic, beautiful, savory tamales at the Mexican grocery two blocks away considered “grocery store food” or “restaurant food?” (Restaurant food.) What will I say to people who invite me out to dinner? What about explaining this thing to people I don’t know well enough to invite over without some serious awkwardness in explaining my year off? Should I eat out when I travel? (I’ll use social dining apps first, try to find local bed and breakfast-y places on the much-loved AirBnB, stay with friends, grab some grub from the grocery store to snack on, or, yes, as a last resort, eat at a special and local restaurant.)

I started to figure out that this year will require a leap of faith. I’ll have people into my home that I don’t know as well as I normally would before inviting them over and feeding them, or asking them to do something different and explaining my own priorities this year. I’ll have to trust that I will get through the year, and not already corner myself into believing I’ll quit halfway through when hitting up a restaurant is more convenient or PMS is in full fury.

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All the shit you need for this:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2tbsp olive or preferred oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2lb cooked and drained ground meat of choice
  • Pizza sauce or marinara
  • Sweet peppers and onion sauteed in butter or oil of choice
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Oregano
  • Black pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • Baby portobello mushrooms
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Thawed summer Iowa sweet corn (or…your cooked corn of choice)

Sweet potato pizza crust:

Peel and cook one large sweet potato. I used a microwave because I’m lazy, but you could dice-and-boil, roast (yum!), or bake that bitch. Mash and let cool slightly, probably while you do other things like chop vegetables or cook ground turkey. Add two eggs, stir until it has the consistency of cake batter. If it’s too thin from the egg, add in a little pancake mix or flour to thicken.

Brown 3tbsp butter in skillet on medium heat. Drop in 1/4 – 1/3 of the batter, depending on how many and the size of mini pizzas you want. Flatten out into a 1/4″ thick patty, and cook until pancake-finished on one side. Flip, repeat. Repeat process using rest of batter.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees or so. It doesn’t really matter, but 400 always seems like a nice round number for baking things.

To cook garlic you’ll need later: 3-4 tbsp butter, in skillet on medium, until melted. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic, until garlic is soft and butter is browned.

Grease cookie sheet with olive oil or nonstick spray. Top pizza crusts with whatever pizza sauce you like, or leftover spaghetti sauce. Add ground meat of choice (I used lean turkey), sauteed sweet pepper/onion combo, fresh sliced mozzarella, and garlic from above (save the butter for later, just scoop the garlic out with a fork). Top with oregano, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Bake for about 6-8 minutes, just until toppings are hot and mozzarella is melted. Overcooking will lead to rubbery mozzarella — ew.

To make stuffed mushrooms:

Take out stems and dark brown innards of mushrooms with a spoon, being careful not to bust the sides or bottom. Gently cook mushrooms in butter just long enough to soften, top-down, over medium-low heat — about 4 minutes. Flip, cook another 2-4 minutes with the inside down. Plate, fill with ricotta, top with corn, drizzle the rest of that yummy hot garlic butter over the top, and add paprika or pepper if desired.

Pro tip: eat the mushrooms with your fingers and the pizza with a fork.