Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Brunch

Breakfast foods have always been big for me.  When I was little, my dad used to make pancakes for us most weekends.  My favorite were "silver dollar" pancakes--basically mini pancakes just small enough to shove in your mouth in one go.  My dad's other culinary specialty was crepes--though these were typically dinner fare at our house.  They were thin and fabulous, and seemed so exotic to me!  (Never mind that we filled them with peanut butter.  The French would be so disappointed.)  My mom, who made dinner virtually every night for my family while I was growing up, also featured breakfast foods for dinner every once in a while.  Scrambled eggs (with ketchup) and cubed hash browns were a regular quick fix.  So, there's a delicious history here.

This morning's brunch was part nostalgia, part adventure.  The final meal included johnnycakes, sweet potato fries, poached eggs, and a side of salad greens.  Nostalgia: sweet potato fries.  Adventure: poached eggs!  Yup, it was my first time poaching an egg.  And it turned out to be great fun.

Okay, first off, I love sweet potatoes.  They're orange and roast-able, and pie-able, and actually good for you, and really just scrumptious.  In the grocery store they look like abused root veggies, with forlorn twisty root whiskers sprouting here and there.  But once scrubbed or peeled and cut up, the sweet potato emerges as a shining veggie gem.  A root jewel, if you will.  Below you will find my recipe for sweet potato fries (which are actually baked, not fried at all).  They are sweet and spicy and can be eaten for brunch or with dinner or as a movie snack.  Anytime.  They can be eaten any time.
Next up: poached eggs.  Recently I saw Giada making Eggs Florentine on the Food Network.  She made poaching an egg look so simple--I had to try!  So, I warmed water in a large skillet, and per Alton Brown's advice, added a teaspoon of vinegar.  Not really sure what the vinegar is for, but no harm, no foul...  The water can't be boiling--it will break the egg.  It shouldn't even be simmering.  You want to poach the egg in water that is at a pre-simmer state.  Once the water is ready, you crack an egg into a small bowl, being careful not to break the yolk.  Then, you carefully lower the bowl into the water and let the egg gently slide out.

And suddenly, the egg has wings!  It has a cape.  A magical ghost-like white aura immediately encompasses the egg.  This is otherwise known as the egg white instantly cooking.  It's a grand and speedy transition regardless of the metaphor once chooses.  The egg cooks for four and a half minutes, and then you scoop it out with a wire net or a flat slotted spoon.  I poached three eggs; the third time around a tried a technique Giada suggests, which is to create a mini whirlpool as you put the egg in the water.  This actually worked great--it helped the egg's cape wrap around it rather than spread out in the pan.
The poaching process resulted in eggs that were creamy and runny and happy.  Or, maybe just Greg and I were happy, but the eggs seemed happy to still be in their cheerful egg configuration.
This morning's brunch has inspired a brunch party--maybe for May when Spring is truly here.  Greg's already rolling his eyes at me as my menu gets longer by the moment.  (Scones and quiche and fruit and Eggs Benedict and granola.  And mimosas!)  There will be tulips, too.  And friends.

 Sweet Potato Fries

2 Sweet Potatoes
2 tsp olive or veggie oil
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp brown sugar
Cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Peel the sweet potatoes.  Cut in half lengthwise, then in half again the other direction.  Cut in 1/4 inch thick wedges.  Toss in a bowl with oil, salt, brown sugar, and a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

Spread in one layer on a baking sheet.  Roast for 25 minutes (give or take).  The tips and edges should turn black a bit before they're done.  Serve hot.  You can sprinkle additional salt or pepper after they've cooked, if you'd like.  I like to eat mine with ketchup or just plain.  Enjoy!

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