Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Buy, Store and Boil Eggs

posted in Eggs by Kathy Maister

Today’s post is a little bit longer than normal, because I’m going to talk about three things – buying, storing, as well as how to boil an egg. If you just want to know about the boiling part, skip ahead.

Eggs are a staple food all over the world. Apparently, the average American eats about 250 eggs per person, per year, and the average hen lays about 250 eggs per year. So somewhere out there, there is one hen whose sole purpose is to provide you with your eggs. Fortunately, the grocery store acts as the middle man.

Buying Eggs

When buying eggs you get to choose which size and color you want. Size matters, color doesn’t. White, brown, or South American light blue and green eggs are all the same on the inside. Official sizes are Peewee, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Jumbo. It is rare to see Peewee and Small eggs in grocery stores here in the USA.

Sometimes when you open a box of eggs one or two seem smaller than the rest. The cartons of eggs are actually sold by the total weight of the carton, not each individual egg. Most recipes nowadays use large eggs as the standard size.

Before putting a carton of eggs in your grocery cart, open the carton and make sure there are no cracked eggs. Move each egg slightly to make sure none are stuck to the carton. If any are stuck, choose a different carton.

Always buy eggs before the sell-by date on the carton. If stored properly in the refrigerator they should keep 3-5 weeks from the time you bring them home from the grocery store.

Here’s what to look for when you crack open an egg: If the sticky stuff surrounding the yellow yolk in the center, (known as “the white”), is somewhat cloudy, that means it’s a very fresh egg. A clear white means the egg is ageing, but still fine to use. If the white is pink or “iridescent” then the egg has probably gone off and should be thrown out.

Storing Eggs

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, by the time you get home from the grocery store, you end up with a cracked egg. It may have been cracked from the very beginning, and you just didn’t notice when you were checking them in the first place.

For whatever reason, just throw the cracked egg away. There is no point eating an egg that may have an unwelcome history of germs!

The only time it really is OK to eat a cracked egg is if it cracked while you were cooking the egg. That should present no problem.

Refrigerating Eggs:

Although virtually all refrigerators in the USA have egg-holders on the door, that’s not really the best place to store eggs. There is too much temperature fluctuation on the door shelves. Consequently, the best place to store eggs is in the original carton that you bought them in.

Buying and storing eggs is different through-out the world. My post “Born in the USA” explains why.

(Briefly “In the USA, government standards say all eggs must be washed and stored at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Washing the eggs is a good thing but it does leave the eggs without an outer coating and very susceptible to invasion by bacteria. Hence refrigeration of washed eggs is absolutely necessary.” Unwashed eggs do not need to be refrigerated)

Can Eggs be Frozen?

You can freeze eggs BUT it can be a bit more complicated than just popping them in an ice-cube tray. PLUS both the taste and texture will be compromised.

There are several very good sites that describe how to freeze eggs (if you must!) including oChef, the National Center for Home Preservation, What’s Cooking America.

Also the USDA has a great general information page on eggs.

Cooking Eggs

Very few cooks (or cookbooks) agree on how to cook an egg. In fact, the BBC News announced a foolproof way to cook eggs. A temperature-sensitive ink stamped on an egg lets you know if the egg is cooked by changing color as you cook the egg!

I don’t know why everyone uses the term soft boiled or hard boiled eggs. One should never ever boil an egg. In fact, you know when a “cooked” egg is overcooked by that green ring that you sometimes see around the yolk. It is perfectly fine to eat, but it doesn’t look great.

When hard cooking eggs it is best to use eggs that are at least one week old. You will find that they are much easier to peel.

OK, here we go!

Place the eggs tightly in a single layer in a saucepan. (One egg or 10 eggs will all take the same time to cook, as long as they are in a single layer.) Add one Tablespoon of salt to the water. (This will prevent the eggs from cracking.)

Then cover the eggs with water.

Place it on your stovetop on high heat.

Cover the pan.

Bring the water to a boil.

A lot of recipes will ask you to gently place the eggs in boiling water but I don’t like to do it that way. Too often while placing the egg in the water it has slipped, cracked and …well…hello poached egg!

After the water comes to a boil, immediately shut off the stove and let the pot of eggs just sit on the stove, covered, for 15 minutes for large eggs. Some people say to remove the pan from the stove top to avoid over cooking. All pans hold heat differently. Once you make the perfect hard cooked egg, try to use the same pan and timing to make all future hard cooked eggs.

After 3-5 minutes you will have a soft cooked egg.

A hard cooked extra large egg should sit for 18 minutes.

Drain the hot water from the saucepan and let cold water run over the eggs.

It’s best to peel the eggs right before you use them.

I know two ways to make the peeling easier. One is to crack the shell at the ends of each egg and return them to cold water. This allows the water to seep in.

Or after the eggs have cooled just put them in the refrigerator for a few hours. Cold eggs are much easier to peel.

A hard cooked egg should be put in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking and will keep in the refrigerator, unpeeled, about 1 week.

That’s it for eggs!

Cheers!

***

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12 Twists on Instant Hot Chocolate

posted in Beverages by Lisa Freeman

Chilly afternoons cry out for mugs of steaming hot chocolate. It’s time to rescue all those instant hot chocolate packets wedged in the back of the cupboard! If you’ve got the time and ingredients to make homemade hot chocolate, by all means do so.

But there’s no shame in going instant, especially if you jazz it up with different flavors.

Just follow the package instructions for making the hot chocolate, and then try one of these 12 twists – topped off with marshmallows or whipped cream, of course.

  1. Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.
  2. Ice cream: It may sound weird to put something cold in your hot cocoa, but a scoop of ice cream makes it really creamy and thick. Make sure your hot chocolate is as hot as you can get it without allowing it to boil, and pop in a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
  3. Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these always adds zip.
  4. Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight.
  5. Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.
  6. Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold.
  7. Dark or White Chocolate Shavings: Dig that Hershey bar out of your bag and grab a grater. Sprinkling a few shreds of the real deal into your drink – or on the whipped cream on top of it – can only make things more heavenly.
  8. Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter , take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix really well until it melts.
  9. Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 fresh slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in.
  10. Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. Tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.
  11. Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.
  12. Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of maple syrup livens up ordinary old hot chocolate.

Voila!

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Irish Coffee

print recipe card posted in Beverages by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Irish coffee is a delicious drink made with only four ingredients; coffee, cream, sugar, and whiskey. Some people vary the ingredients, but I’m going to show you the “classic” way to make Irish coffee.

The final taste is affected by the strength of the coffee, the type of whiskey you use, the way you add the cream, whether or not you use brown or white sugar and, of course, the proportions used of each ingredient.

Another choice when making Irish coffee is the type of glass or mug you will use. The “classic” glass is a 6-ounce stemmed glass. Another familiar glass or mug used is an 8-ounce mug with a handle. This type of mug actually seems a bit more practical for holding a hot cup of liquids.

The basics steps to make Irish coffee are

  1. Warm the glass
  2. Fill the glass 2/3 full of coffee
  3. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and stir (3 teaspoons for the larger glass)
  4. Add 1 ounce of whiskey (1 ½ ounce for the larger glass)
  5. Top with prepared cream
  6. Assign designated driver

If you are making several Irish coffees, do one first and taste it to see if you need to adjust the proportions.

Step 1. Warming the Glass
You can run the glass under hot (or warm) water to warm the glass. Leave the hot water in the glass while you are making the coffee and preparing the cream. The thick mug type of glass is usually made of tempered glass so that it will not crack when you use it for hot liquids. If you are using a stemmed glass, you need to be more careful that is doesn’t shatter from the hot water — use water with a lower temperature.

Step 2. Fill the glass 2/3 full of coffee

Make a pot (or French Press) of fresh coffee. This is not the time to use flavored coffee.

Step 3. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and stir

Don’t skip this step, even if you don’t normally put sugar in your coffee. The sugar actually helps the cream to float above the coffee. You can use either brown or white sugar.

Step 4. Add 1 ounce of whiskey

This amount can be adjusted according to your taste and the size of the glass you use.

Bartenders may pour straight from the bottle but measuring cups are more accurate for the untrained eye.

Step 5. Top with cream

This is the critical step to get the classic look and drinking experience. You must pour heavy cream over the back of a spoon so that about ½ inch of cream floats on top of the coffee. You actually drink the coffee through the cream. You are not meant to blend the two layers together.

As an option, you can thicken the cream by whipping it with a whisk, ever so slightly.

This will help you to keep these layers separate when you are making your Irish coffee. My first pour of the cream was done using heavy cream which I did not whisk. The photo below is what’s not not supposed to happen!

Over in England they sell what’s called “double cream” which is much thicker than our heavy cream and probably doesn’t need to get whisked.

Do not sweeten the cream. You also may be tempted to use a can of whipped cream, but don’t!

Step 6. Assign a designated driver

Of course!

Irish coffee is actually a great drink to serve with dessert or with cookies. There are some who would like to make their Irish coffee look a bit more seasonal by adding a drizzle of green Crème de Menthe over the top. (I cringed when I heard this, then I took a sip of this Irish coffee with Crème de Menthe. It is really delicious!)

A slice of my Mom’s Irish Bread is perfect with this Irish Coffee!

Cheers!

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