Sunday, January 25, 2009

i have an affinity for side dishes

i went to a great restaurant with friends last year,
and there, on the hand-written blackboard, i saw my dream meal.
20 vegetable side dishes. pick four. there's your dinner:
artichokes hearts with parmesan
roasted grape tomatoes with garlic
beets with goat cheese
mixed mushrooms with leeks and herbs

i was in heaven.
and i've thought about recreating this dish
or one like it
for many meals since.

there's just one problem.
a very agreeable, thankfully adventurous, rarely complaining problem:
i have a husband.
one who, puts up with tofu, my love for lime juice and avocado and a recent obsession with
seaweed. who brings me to restaurants that specialize in vegetables and who actually finds it
amusing when i spend an afternoon experimenting with different sweet potato sandwich recipes.
but, one, who really, really, really just wants
a steak.

so every time i feel myself sliding toward a side dish supper,
i stop somewhere short of making a plate that looks like
i just ransacked the farmer's market. and instead, try to make
it look like a meal. sort of.

which brings me to last week.
i had my heart set on roasted parsnips
but then i remembered the purple potatoes and the onion
sitting not-so-patiently on the counter.
in the grocery store
i stared at the seafood counter,
the chicken and the turkey
before remembering
i had a carton of eggs in the fridge.

i like to separate the vegetables, just in case one cooks faster than the other. it's an easy way to avoid burning your onion and serving crunchy potatoes. once cooked, you can mix together, or keep the cobb effect.

i'm telling you, when faced with a lot of veggies and no plan,
roast 'em,
poach an egg,
toss it on top
and call it dinner.

this time i used parsnips (they are so sweet and delicious, when you let them brown for a while), a sweet onion, purple potatoes and cremini mushrooms. but, the options are endless: a bowl of garlicky swiss chard, grilled asparagus, sauteed tomatoes, just to name a few. it couldn't be simpler, you just cut them all up into somewhat similar-sized pieces (obviously, i don't care if they look identical, but it is important for them to be the same size so that they cook evenly), put them on a roasting pan with a drizzle of olive oil, some kosher salt and pepper. and then wait for them to shrink, brown and sweeten. use the last ten minutes of the roasting time to poach the eggs. i sprinkled the finished plate with chopped chives and a few drops of admittedly-decadent truffle oil -- both completely up to you.

ok, i'll admit it. i forgot about these at first. but it worked out well - they cook much faster than the others. while, i think the other vegetables are fine with cooking spray, mushrooms need a little flavor coaxing from olive oil.

and please, don't be scared to poach an egg.
believe me, i understand. there's boiling water,
in a shallow saucepan,
and timing
and the whole thing seems so freaking delicate. but it's easy.
and it's by far, my favorite way to prepare and enjoy an egg.

Roasted Root Vegetables
4-6 parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into thirds
1 sweet onion, peeled, halved and sliced
1 pkg. (8 oz.) purple peruvian fingerling potatoes, brushed and quartered
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cremini mushrooms, rubbed clean with a paper towel and sliced
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
olive oil
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 400˚F. Coat foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray or a thin coating of olive oil. Place parsnips on left side (or whatever placement makes sense to you). Drizzle with oil or spray; sprinkle with salt and a few cracks of black pepper; toss with your (clean) hands. Repeat with onions and potatoes. Sprinkle garlic cloves on baking sheet. Repeat with mushrooms on a separate foil-lined baking sheet. Roast 20-30 min., or until vegetables are golden brown and tender, turning once or twice. Toss together; divide mixture among two plates. Gently place poached egg over vegetables. Sprinkle egg with chopped fresh chives and add a few drops of white truffle oil, if desired.

Poached Eggs
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt

Crack each egg into separate extra-small bowls. In medium saucepan, heat 2" water over high heat until just starting to bubble. Stir in vinegar and salt -- they both help the egg set faster and prohibit the white from fraying and spreading. Wait until the water bubbles again, then gently dip the rims of the bowls into the water and let the egg slip out; lower the heat to about medium. As soon as the egg starts to set, slip a spatula underneath to loosen from the bottom of the saucepan. Next, very gently flip the egg. Let cook about 2 min., more, or until the white is reasonably firm and the yolk is still runny (it will appear slightly wobbly if you give the egg a small shake). Using spatula or slotted spoon, remove the egg from pan and let the water drip off; blot with paper towel, if desired. Using scissors, cut frayed edges.*

*I never do this, but if you want a prettier presentation, this is how they make it happen in restaurants.


Lisa said...

I suck at making eggs. Especially poached eggs, which I LOVE. I'll try your method next time. I don't think I've ever flipped the eggs in the water...

brooke herman said...

i'm terrible at making most kinds of eggs, too. for some reason, i can poach. i've never seen anyone flip them, but after multiple times of not being happy with how they looked, i flipped. it doesn't seem to affect flavor/texture and i think they look prettier.