Hello, hello, and Eggs for Dinner
Whew. What a year. How often I’ve wished that I’d found the time to stop in here and tell you more about it, but, as it turns out, this past year swooped in like a mother cat and snatched us up by the backs of our necks, dragging us from one destination to the next without once stopping to ask us if we were ready to move again.
The number one reason for that constant motion, of course, is that we started 2008 with a docile infant, just learning to crawl, and ended it with a toddler who runs full-throttle everywhere she goes, laughing gleefully or shouting, “No, no!” at the top of her lungs, depending upon her mood and whether or not the cat is doing something that displeases her (poor Matilda, our little black kitty who joined our family in the spring; it seems she can do nothing right as far as Josie is concerned.) The presence of a toddler makes our days full and chaotically busy and delightful and maddening all at the same time. And that’s without adding in work and school.
One happy obstacle completed in 2008: I passed my General Exams and am now, officially, a candidate for the Ph.D., a distinction known in the academic world as A.B.D. (all but dissertation). The dissertation is a big, momentous thing looming ahead, but it is only one thing. And since I’m a girl who likes to pour my intellectual concentration wholeheartedly into one, focused job at a time, that feels like a huge relief. For now, our immediate task ahead, is for David to finish his thesis show and graduate (hooray!) with his M.F.A. in May. I can’t wait.
In the midst of all of this, I am, slowly, learning how to be a cook in this still-new parent-teacher-student life, and I hope to occasionally document the ways that this season is changing how dinner gets on the table (as it still manages to do, miraculously). One way is that we always have good eggs in our refrigerator. At our local farmer’s market, eggs are such a hot commodity that if you aren’t there promptly at 8 a.m. when the bell rings signaling the start of business, you’re usually out of luck. It’s one of the only days of the week we’re thankful to have an early riser: Josie gets us there on time, and usually, we come home with eggs.
And it’s a good thing: they have sustained us through many, many a long week. This preparation is one of my favorites for when we have an abundance of Swiss chard in our garden, which, this year has been pretty much all the time, save the hottest months of the summer. You poach the eggs right in the pan with the greens, so it’s a one-dish meal, and except for the cooking of the eggs, it’s a fairly lazy method: the onions can be left alone for a while to carmelize, and then the greens can wilt at their lesiure after that. Chard is laden with nutrients, but the flavor can be a bit astringent; in this dish, the bitterness is all lost beneath the cloak of creamy yolks and buttery onions. It’s a particularly satisfying meal on a cold night, a warming end to a long day. Or year, as the case may be.
Eggs in a Nest
I found this idea in Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the informational and interesting story of her family’s move to a farm and conversion to locally grown food; you can find more recipes and information on the book’s website. It’s a great read, particularly if you’re interested in how we eat affects the world around us, and one of my favorite parts is that Kingsolver’s college-aged daughter, Camille, contributes recipes and meal plans at the end of each chapter. This recipe is an adaptation of her version.
1 large bunch Swiss chard, or other leafy green
1 large, or 2 small sweet yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
3 cloves garlic
Coarse salt and cracked pepper
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
Remove the stems from the chard leaves and wash all very, very well. Wrap the leaves in dishtowels to dry and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter together over medium. Chop the onions and chard stems into pieces roughly the same size, and dump into the skillet. Stir occasionally, but let them cook until the onions are brown and very, very soft, about 20 minutes. In my opinion, the flavor of the dish comes from well-caramelized onions, so don’t skimp on the time here; if you need longer, say because you’re bathing a baby or something, you can always reduce the heat and let them continue to get all golden and yummy. They’re pretty forgiving as long as the heat isn’t high enough to scorch them.
While the onions are cooking, roughly chop the chard leaves; I like to roll them into long skinny cylinders and slice them into thin ribbons, but whatever works for you.
Once the onions turn brown, season with salt and pepper, and add the garlic. Cook for another minute or two and dump in the leaves. Stir to coat with the onion mixture until the leaves are wilted. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
Make six depressions in the greens, each large enough to hold an egg. Carefully break an egg into each depression, making sure to keep the yolks in tact. Spoon a tiny amount of cream over each egg. Cover and cook the eggs for 4-6 minutes, depending on the size of your eggs and how well-done you like your yolks. When done, sprinkle a little coarse salt over all. We like to serve ours with biscuits or hearty whole grain toast.
If anyone is still out there checking in from time to time, I wish you and yours a full and happy 2009. Thank you for bearing with me as life has swept me away from this space for longer and longer periods of time; it means a lot when I hear from one of you to know that a recipe has been useful or that you’re visiting for the first time. I hope you and I both will have many reasons to return this year.
Yes, that’s snow! In southern Louisiana!