Friday, May 6, 2011

The Egg and I

In response to my May 3, 2011 blog, my friend Lynn confessed to me over lunch today that she no longer peels fresh garlic, but buys it already prepared. Lynn also said she rarely uses any kitchen tools because she buys most foods ready-made. Lynn probably expected me to be shocked, or to protest, or to say “Tut-tut, how lazy is that?” but my reaction was quite different.
If you want fish for dinner, do you have to catch it, or can you buy it? (Actually, I do catch, gut, and scale fish. Fishing is one of my passions. If it’s not one of yours, why bother?) In a fast-paced world, when the choice to have or not have a salad comes down to “Do I have the time to make it?” I’d usually prefer to make it - but if I’m squeezed for time, I won’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt in buying a packaged salad mix. The same goes for birthday cakes, Chinese food, fancy rice mixes, and several other foods. I love to cook, but why be puritanical about it?
Lynn went too far when she told me the use to which she’s put her egg slicer. I have to admit, it’s ingenious, and I also have to admit, doing this would never have occurred to me. Lynn’s cat, Lacey, likes to lap water from the drinking glass Lynn keeps on the night table beside her bed. While this is endearing, it’s not very hygienic (Who knows what germs Lynn may harbor …?  Just kidding, Lynn). Lynn now places the tines of the egg slicer (that she never uses for eggs) over her glass of water. Now that is clever!
My conversation with Lynn once again got me thinking about useful kitchen tools. I happen to be wildly besotted by my egg slicer! Last winter, my friend Patrick overheard me grousing about those useless plastic egg slicers that rely on wires to do the job. They work beautifully for a year or two - until the wires go SPROING! What’s that called again ...? Built-in obsolescence. When the dutiful cook trots out another, the cycle repeats itself.
As I explored the galley on Patrick’s sailboat a couple of months ago, I discovered the most wonderful egg slicer at the back of a drawer! I’d never seen another like it, and assumed it to be ancient. You’ll find it depicted in the bottom photo below this blog entry. The usual kind of egg slicer is pictured in the top photo. I’ve tactfully placed my thumb over the brand name of the plastic one - not that it makes much difference! Whatever the brand, these gizmos look and function the same, with only minor variations.
There was no brand name on the superior egg slicer, so I can’t suggest you rush out to buy it. All I can tell you is that it’s made of heavy-duty aluminum, and that the single word that appears in raised type reads TAIWAN on the inside handle. Welded fast, the tines appear strong enough that they’ll never break - even if you slice mushrooms with the thing.
I praised this gadget as though it were the Holy Grail, but Patrick said very little. The next thing I knew, he’d gift-wrapped and presented it to me when he dropped in for a visit. I was and remain very, very thrilled. Eat your hearts out, Dollinks! It’s mine! All mine!
One of my other useful egg-preparation tools is a simple push pin. I use it to prick the air sac of eggs before I hard-cook them. My friend, Lorna - a former home economics teacher - taught me that you should always prick the large end of the egg because that’s the end in which the air sac forms. 
As the egg ages, the air sac expands and the white slowly evaporates through the shell. It’s the expansion of the air in that cell that cracks the egg as you bring it to a boil, allowing cooked egg white to burst through the shell. Very fresh eggs don’t yet have an air cell (if they do, it’s small), so even if you don’t pierce them, the shells won’t crack as you bring the eggs to a boil. 
About egg storage: The fact that egg shells are porous is exactly why they should be stored in a closed container rather than on one of those silly egg-shaped shelves that refrigerator designers used to favor.
Eggs stored at room temperature for a day age as much as they would a week in the fridge. I’ve been in countries where cartons of eggs are stacked in a huge pile without refrigeration. I would never buy those eggs! 

More from Lorna: Always store eggs large-end up, so that the air cell doesn’t migrate and deform the white surrounding the yolk of the hard-cooked egg (For more about hard-cooked eggs, see my April 16 blog).
Last tidbit: Eggs should be kept away from anything strong-smelling. All that air transmitted through the shell to form the air bladder will happily carry onion, garlic, or hand-lotion odors into the egg. 
But back to Patrick’s egg slicer! Google claims to have 24,500 images for the words “hard-boiled egg slicer.” I didn’t even try to look for them all, but I did scan 900 photos: The one Patrick gave me wasn’t among them. If you want an egg slicer like mine, I suggest you hunt for it at tag sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. The hunt is half the fun!
Today’s blog wasn’t going to be about eggs, but I got carried away. I was going to give you the recipe for the Grilled Salmon Salad with Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette that I enjoyed over lunch with Lynn. Its publication will have to wait until the weekend. I’m attending the Kentucky Derby* tomorrow, so I’ll give you this great recipe on Sunday!
My friend Heather and I are going to watch the Derby on closed circuit television, at the local racetrack. We’re each going to wear massive and elaborate hats, leaving the impression that we’re wildly sophisticated and elegant women. It worked for Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice at the Royal Wedding, didn’t it? Oh, I forgot ... that beige number wasn’t a hat; it was a TV antenna. As for that electric blue thing ... that was an iron in search of a board. 

Hear those cutting wires? SPROING!

An oldie, but goodie!

Cracked: Egg on their royal faces?

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