Breakfast, Staples

Frugal Food Series | Tip 8 : Eggs

The traditional chef hat is a silly looking thing.  A cylindric shaped hat with numerous folds along the edges, as tall as Abe Lincoln’s top hat.  Here is an old picture of me wearing one (giggle giggle).Frugal Food Series | Tip 8 : Eggs // Keeping Willow

These seemingly meaningless folds were originally a means to mark your masterfulness as a chef, like metals on a solider’s uniform.  Notice how my hat has more folds than my assistant on the right. That’s because I was the team captain of the competition we were competing in, which means, in a way, I held a higher rank. These folds don’t simply display one’s rank.  Each fold represents a different way in which the chef can make eggs.  Yes, eggs.  Why eggs, you ask?  Well, probably because eggs are delicate, temperamental, and can be high maintenance.  It took me a few tries to successfully make a meringue.  But I like to think eggs are the barometer for a persons cooking skills because they are the best food in the world.

I’m not being hyperbolic here.  Eggs are the best.  They are amazing.  There are nutritional rockstars.  They offer a great source of protein (especially for those vegetarians like me).  They are an ingredient in such a wide variety of dishes the list would be exhausting.  They add fluffiness to the most moist cake and substance to a bread like challah. Oh, and did I mention they taste like HEAVEN!  But only if they are properly cooked, right?  Nothing is worse than a rubbery egg white or an overcooked yolk. Duh.Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs // Keeping WillowIn our family we eat eggs every morning.  If we run out of eggs or time and have something else for breakfast, the day just doesn’t feel right.  Sometimes I’ll have eggs in the morning and eggs for lunch.  Yesterday I had eggs for every meal [It was an accident– kind of].  Some of my closest friendships include fond memories around the eating of eggs.

Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs // Keeping Willow

Ok, maybe I have a problem. An obsession, if you will.  But can you really think of another protein as frugal and delicious as eggs?  It is the perfect frugal food.

This week, rather than leaving you with a delicious egg recipe (I thought of many ideas…huevos rancheros, eggs benedict, quiche) I am going to teach you how to make a perfect egg, my favorite way, over easy.  An over easy egg is not by any means “easy” to make.  I have been perfecting it for years and still screw it up often.   So many things come into play.  The amount of heat, the time before the egg is flipped, the right kind of spatula and the proper time to let it stay “over” before you remove it from the pan, not to mention the chance that your yolk may break when you crack it, touch it or breathe next to it.  But the skill of cooking the perfect fried egg is invaluable.  You can eat it on toast, over pasta, on a pizza, on a burger.  The possibilities of the fried egg are endless. So to remove the years of perfecting I have endured off your timeline, here is my step-by-step, how-to of cooking the perfect over easy egg.Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs // Keeping Willow

How to Make a Perfect Fried Egg
1. Choose your pan.

The pan, in the egg cooking process, is very important.  It has to be non-stick in some regards, and be good enough quality to carry heat evenly throughout the pan.  I like to use a smaller pan, generally, but recently we have been cooking EVERYTHING in our 12″ cast iron skillet.  In my opinion, cast iron is the way to go.  It offers a non-stick surface without the fear of teflon flakes getting into your food.  It also has the bonus of adding flavor and natural iron into your food.  But any, good quality non-stick pan will do.

2. Choose your fat.
When it comes to frying eggs, some people are olive oil people, some people are butter people.  I used to be an olive oil person, but lately I have found butter to be the better option.  I find that olive oil repels the liquid of the egg causing brown, crunchy or rubbery edges.  For the perfect fried egg, use a small pat of butter.

3. Choose your tool.
Choosing the right egg flipper, spatula, or whatever you want to call it, is pertinent.  First, it needs to be wide enough to support the width of the entire egg.  Using a spatula that is too narrow leaves your eggs flopping around in the air while you make your flip.  Total risk for breakage.  Second, the spatula needs to be relatively thin.  A thick hamburger flipper is not going to cut it.  You want the spatula to easily get under the egg.  Lastly, it has to be just the slightest bit flexible.  As previously mentioned, a hamburger flipper is to thick and doesn’t offer the flexibility to bend the spatula slightly.  Go too thin and your spatula starts to bend underneath the weight of the egg. Here is what I consider to be the perfect spatula for eggs.Frugal Food Series | Tip 8: Eggs

Now that you are prepped and ready, let’s get crackin’ (oh my god, I’m my father’s child).

Step 1: Turn the heat source onto your pan on medium low.  If you have numbers on your dial, shoot for between 3 and 4, depending on your range, although 4 is generally too high.  Keep the dial on low and don’t touch it.You do NOT  want that loud sizzle sound you are used to when you make eggs.  Having a pan that is too hot is the biggest mistake when frying an egg.  Breakfast restaurants do it all the time.  Either your outside will be cooked and your inside will be too runny and cold or the outside will be brown and crispy and your inside perfectly cooked.  Low and slow is the way to go.

Step 2: Add your butter.  Once the butter had melted and shows just the slightest sign of bubbling, the pan is ready.

Step 3: Crack your egg onto a flat surface, like the countertop, and not the corner of your pan. This decreases the risk of breaking the yolk.  Hold the egg just above the top of the pan and open it onto your pan.  Very gently hold the egg in place with the shell of the egg for about 10 seconds, to keep the egg from sliding all over the pan.  Now we wait.


Step 4: Once the majority of the whites have set, your egg is ready to flip.  Here is a picture of what the egg should look like.  Season your egg with good quality salt.  Run the edge of your spatula around the outside of the egg.  Put your spatula under the white just before the yolk and quickly slide the spatula completely underneath.  When you turn the egg, try to flip it by going slightly up and then down rather than quickly flick your wrist to the side.  Don’t worry, this part will take some practice.

This egg is ready to flip!

This egg is ready to flip!

Step 5: Immediately turn of your heat source and count to 30. Your egg is done.  Quickly removing it from the pan by swiftly sliding your spatula under the egg.  Flip the egg right side up onto your plate.  You have done it.  Enjoy your perfect egg.



Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch

Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and a Saffron Aioli

First, thank you.

Thank you to all of those who voiced your support and concern for my grandmother.  She greatly appreciates your kind words, thoughts, and especially your prayers. And it means a lot to me to receive such overwhelming support.

Now on to food.

The idea of surprising yourself is kind of funny.  I mean, doesn’t it seem like something impossible to do?  How can you surprise yourself when you are conscious of your own thoughts and actions?  I love surprises and if I knew how to control it, I would surprise myself all the time.  I would throw myself little surprise parties, celebrating a good hair day or a great day at work.  And there would be a pie and my dog, Porter.  Sometimes, I might make my favorite dish for dinner and buy a bouquet of flowers, just as a nice gesture.  And then I would totally freak out like “oh my gosh, how thoughtful!  I love peonies, oh, and that dish smells divine.  You are such a culinary genius. You really shouldn’t have.”

All that to say, I really surprised myself with this dish.

Tortilla Espanola is a traditional dish from Spain made with potatoes, onions, and eggs.  Not that they are any comparison, but tortilla espanola is as common to the Spanish as say maybe french fries are to Americans.  I like to describe it as a cross between au gratin potatoes without the cheese and a potato omlette with not enough egg and too much potato.  So pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever tried before.  You are in for a heavenly surprise.

So I took a traditional tortilla espanola recipe and gussied it up like teenager on her first date.  I made it with vitamin rich, sweet potatoes instead of russets, added a Spanish, saffron aioli and sprinkled it with gremolata {I know, it’s Italian, but the two are relatively close to one another, right?}  And, rather than frying the potatoes and onions before adding the eggs, I tossed them lightly in olive oil and just slightly baked them– only because it was easier and less time consuming, health had no part in that decision.

This dish turned out so well I really badly wanted to devour every last decadent crumb.  And if I hadn’t made it for someone else, I just might have. Which wouldn’t have surprised me.

So here’s to Spanish food, to healthy eating and to surprising yourself!

Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping Willow Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping Willow photo-3Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping Willow

Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli
8″ nonstick frying pan or braiser
1-2 sheet pans
mandolin/food processor with slicing attachment/or handy dandy chef knife
rubber spatula

tin foil

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 spanish or yellow onion
6 eggs
2 T milk of choice
1 t kosher or sea salt
1 T olive oil
1/2 T butter, ghee or coconut oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flat leaf italian parsley
2 lemons
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 pinch saffron threads
1 t warm water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 415°F. With a mandolin, the slicing feature of a food processor or with a knife, slice the sweet potatoes as thinly as possible so that they remain in one round disk. I used a mandolin, which I think works best. Cut your halved onion (along the core) in half again (again, along the core). Slice the onion quarters the same way as you sliced the potatoes. On a foil lined baking sheet (I needed two), toss the potatoes, onions, olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together your egg and milk mixture, adding a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Grease a 8″ non-stick frying pan or braiser with the butter/ghee/coconut oil. Take potatoes out of the oven and turn the oven to broil on high, leaving the rack about 8″ below the burner. Layer the potatoes into the pan so that it is relatively even (you don’t have to be super precise here for you perfectionists). Turn on the heat to medium low. Once the pan has warmed up, pour in the egg mixture. Gently and slightly lift the edges of the potatoes with a rubber spatula to allow the egg mixture to get fully absorbed. You want these eggs to cook slowly, so if you notice any browned eggs or if there is a lot of sizzling going on, turn down the heat. Low and slow is the way to go (as my dad always says about roasting the perfect marshmallow). Cover the pan, running your spatula along the edges every few minutes, checking to make sure the heat is not to high.
3. In between checking on the tortilla you can start on your condiments, your gremolata and the saffron aioli. To make the GREMOLATA, finely chop the leaves of your italian parsley. Using a microplane, grate the zest of the two lemons and the garlic clove over your chopped parsley. Run your knife over the mixture a couple times to combine. Presto, you have a perfect Italian condiment that will go on mostly anything from eggs to green beans to osso bucco.
4. The SAFFRON AILOLI is very simple. First, allow the saffron to bloom for 5 minutes in the teaspoon of warm water. Combine the mayonnaise with the saffron and water infusion and season with salt and pepper.
5. Back to the TORTILLA ESPANOLA. When the egg in the middle of the tortilla is a little runny but almost set, place the entire pan under the broiler for 6 minutes or until the top is just turning golden brown and the egg is completely set. Allow the tortilla to cool slightly. You can then gently slide the tortilla out of the pan, cut it into portions and serve with gremolata and aioli. You can eat is hot or at room temperature. Either way, you’ll love it.

Creative Commons License
Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.