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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Frying Onions

print recipe card posted in Vegetables and Beans, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Frying onions inevitably results in someone saying “what smells so good”?

I’m going to show you how to fry onions two ways. First, we’ll fry (or “sauté”) the onions very quickly on a high heat. Second, we’ll “caramelize” the onions, which means frying them very slowly on a very low heat.

Sauteed Onions & Caramelized Onions

Sautéed onions have a slightly crispy outside and a very soft center. Caramelized onions are very soft and very sweet. You don’t need to add anything to make them sweet, since the natural sweetness of the onion develops through the slow cooking process.

This post is going to be a slightly longer than normal, since I am going to be showing you two different techniques.

Both approaches to cooking the onions require the same ingredients to start: – onions, butter, olive oil and salt and pepper.

For 2-to-4 servings of the sautéed onions you will need:

  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, butter, or a combination of both
  • 4 medium onions
  • Salt and Pepper

I have already discussed how to peel an onion, as well as how to slice an onion. Because we are slicing so many onions you may want to stick them in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before you start peeling and slicing them. That way, they won’t bother your eyes as much.

Using a sharp knife, slice the onions into ¼ inch, or smaller, slices.

Melt the olive oil or the olive oil & butter combination, in a very large fry pan over medium high heat. Be careful not to burn the butter! If it starts to smoke, turn down the heat!

Add the onions.

Quickly cook the onions, moving them around the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. It should take no more than 10 minutes at the most for the onions to get nicely browned.

These onions are great on hamburgers, steaks, mashed potatoes or just as a delicious side dish.

How to Make Caramelized Onions

To make caramelized onions you will need time but not a tremendous amount of cooking skill. You will also need:

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 pounds of onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of dry white wine or water
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

By the time you finish caramelizing the onions they will have cooked down to about half their size.

Peel and slice the onions.

In a really large fry pan melt the butter and olive oil over really low heat. Add the onions to the pan

Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of salt.

Cook the onions over the lowest heat possible for about 1 hour. (Yikes! That’s a long time!) Don’t be tempted to increase the heat. You can not speed up this process. Over the course of 1 hour they should not turn brown. Be sure to give them an occasional stir. This is what they will look like after 15 minutes of cooking.

This is after 30 minutes of cooking.

This is after 45 minutes of cooking.

After about one hour increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are well browned. That could take another 25 minutes. There will be a lot of brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Those bits are full of flavor. To get them off the bottom of the pan and incorporated into the onions turn off the stove and pour ½ cup of dry white wine (or water) into the pan.

After the wine is added turn the stove back on. This will ensure the alcohol doesn’t catch fire and flame up.

The wine will dissolve all the bits and make the onions even darker.

Now remove them from the heat. Add salt and ground pepper and even a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Caramelized onions are great on their own or can be added to stews and sauces.

Enjoy!

Adapted from: Joy of Cooking

Sauté Onions Ingredients:

(2-4 Servings)

  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, butter, or a combination of both
  • 4 medium onions
  • Salt and Pepper

Caramelized Onions Ingredients

(makes about 4 cups)

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 pounds of onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of dry white wine or water
  • Grated parmesan cheese

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How To Make Bread Crumbs

posted in Pantry by Kathy Maister

Bread Crumbs are just that – crumbled bread. Bread crumbs can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used as a filler in things like meatloaf, as a coating for fried food like home-made fish fingers, pork chops, goat cheese, eggplant Parmesan or chicken cutlets, or as a topping to a baked casserole.

http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_5137.jpg

Fried Goat Cheese Salad

If you’re reading a recipe, watch out for whether it calls for “dry” or “fresh” breadcrumbs; the two are not interchangeable! You can buy dry bread crumbs at the grocery store (which I always do) but you have to make your own fresh bread crumbs. You can freeze fresh bread crumbs, just be sure to date the freezer bag and use the crumbs within two months of freezing.

I always have a box of dry breadcrumbs in the cupboard. I particularly like the seasoned variety.

Fresh bread crumbs are really a snap to make! You can use any bread you have in the house.

There are basically three ways to make bread crumbs;

  • with a knife
  • with a food processor,
  • or with a blender

As you would expect, the food processor and the blender make really fine, uniform crumbs that are just perfect. But if you don’t own either of these pieces of equipment, a knife will work just fine.

Fresh bread crumbs made from slices of white bread need the crusts trimmed off first.

With a bread knife, cut the bread up into crumbs. If the bread is really soft just let it sit on the counter to dry out for a bit, and it should then be easy to cut into crumbs. Try to cut the bread as fine as possible.

Approximately 4 slices of bread will make one cup of crumbs.

Onion rolls make great, already seasoned, fresh bread crumbs. One big roll will make about 2 cups of fresh crumbs. A food processor makes perfect fresh bread crumbs in about 30 seconds.

You can also use a blender to make fresh breadcrumbs. While the motor is running add small chunks of the bread through the hole in the cover of the blender. Don’t over-fill the blender!

“Panko” bread crumbs are a Japanese version of dry bread crumbs that were once only available in Asian markets but you can now get them at the grocery store.

These dry bread crumbs are very light and SUPER crunchy. The Whole Foods grocery store in my neighborhood sells spinach flavored ones as well.

You can flavor your own dry or fresh unseasoned bread crumbs with different spices and herbs as well as cheese. The recipe below is one of my favorites that I have used for a topping over baked fish.

Seasoned panko bread crumbs:
Makes 1 1/3 cups

Crumb toppings or coatings can actually be made from a variety of foods. Corn flakes, potato chips, saltines or Ritz crackers can add a crunchy topping to almost any casserole, but that’s another day!

Cheers!
Kathy

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