Is it the weekend yet?!? I want to make brunch! Last week was Egg Week and I’m dying to put these new egg skills to good use. We had a full week of egg dishes, egg based sauces, sweet and savory custards and souffles — and so far it has been a highlight for me.
Brunch is my favorite meal to prepare, eat, and entertain with. 99% of the time brunch means at least one of the following: 1) It’s likely the weekend or you’re on vacation. 2) You have a casual day ahead with friends or family. 3) You drink delicious adult beverages before noon. 4) You have permission to settle in for a guilt-free afternoon nap. These are some of my favorite things in life.
Last week there were so many dishes that I’ve always wanted to make and I finally had the chance to learn the right way. It began with the most delicious Eggs Benedict with lemony hollandaise sauce.
I have only ever made hollandaise sauce once before and it wasn’t very good. If made incorrectly, it can break and turn into a clumpy, separated mess that nobody wants to eat. It is, however, one of my favorite things to order in a restaurant and I’ve always wanted to perfect it. I learned so many tricks to making this delicious dish and really it’s pretty simple. The sauce can be (and usually is) made ahead of time and kept warm in a thermos- brilliant! And, have you ever ordered a poached egg in a restaurant? It was likely made hours before and kept in a tub of water and then reheated in hot water just before serving. You’d never know- I practiced this technique over the weekend and it’s nearly impossible to tell which poached egg was just pulled out of the simmering water and which one was cooked ahead of time and then reheated. Restaurant secrets are fascinating to me.
Other tasty dishes we made include 4 types of savory souffles.
These were fun to make and even more fun to see just as they emerged from the oven. Never did I think that I’d be among a group of people who get as excited about a dish coming out of the oven as I do. People who have their cameras ready to catch the rise before the fall, and then quickly whip out their tasting spoons to grab a bite of the puffy, airy dish. As my Chef instructor says, “Souffles wait for no one.”
And what’s Egg Week without deviled eggs? 7 types to be exact! Even though there were some really creative and interesting flavor combinations, my favorite remains the classic flavors of cornichons and capers; although the Blood Mary version came in a close second for me.
There was also Roasted Halibut in a Fig Leaf with Braised Artichoke and Bearnaise Sauce, Sauteed Chicken with Tarragon Sauce, Creme Caramel, and Creme Brulee.
As yummy as all of those dishes were, there were two welcome additions to lighten things up a bit- a most delicious soup and salad. The soup was a Sun Gold Tomato Gazpacho that was smooth and creamy (no cream!) and one of the best food things I’ve had in recent memory. I’m not sure if it was just a welcome relief to all the heavier dishes we had or if it was because tomatoes are currently at peak season and little nuggets of tomato candy.
All I know is this recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook has been sitting on my shelf since roughly 2011, and I did not know this recipe existed. What a great excuse to bust out that cookbook and reminisce about the year that my cooking club did a deep dive on this book and made some pretty incredible, albeit complex and challenging, meals. Perhaps the dive was not deep enough because I don’t recall this recipe at all!
The other fresh and healthy dish from the week was a Citrus and Shaved Fennel Salad. This was particularly special to me because it used both navel and blood oranges- my brother and his family have a blood orange orchard and with harvest just around the corner, I was excited to share this dish with them to add to their growing repertoire of blood orange recipes. This one is a keeper!
And finally, with all the great recipes that I’ve gotten my hands on, a big part of cooking school is to develop the ability to taste. I’ve always been pretty good at finding and following recipes. But this is what I went to cooking school for- to know how to season so that all the intended flavors come through. How adding salt or some acid can drastically transform a good dish into an excellent dish. I’ve learned so much and yet I have so much to learn.
This journey continues to be rewarding, challenging at times, and no doubt the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m grateful.