This is the time of year when the weather app on my phone tells me that it’s 85 degrees outside, and my little digital thermometer on my bookshelf tells me that it’s 82 degrees in my apartment. Hot. I won’t even touch humidity because it will just make my hair frizzier. I can’t stand the sound that a window A/C unit makes, and I can’t stand to see my Con Edison bill rise, so my unit is rarely on. And as someone who complains that she is cold at least once a day, I’m not too bothered by my warm apartment. But when I get sweaty just by making toast, trying to think of suitable summer cooking projects has proven to be a challenge. Because I don’t just want to make a pretty salad. This resolution was about learning new techniques and skills, domestic goddess training.
The best thing I could come up with last month was Hollandaise sauce. No oven, minimal stove work, but I would get to try my hand at emulsifying eggs and butter. I (obviously) thought of making some sort of eggs Benedict, my mind going directly to a decadent version I had at Russ & Daughters Cafe with challah, sauteed spinach, and smoked salmon. But if I was going to stay in on a Saturday night for this once-a-month task, then I was going to bake my own base. Challah requires the oven. English muffins do not. They just require time and a hot cast iron skillet. I had both. Numerous times I’ve thought about making English muffins, but just never found the reason to. I’m as bad at eating frozen leftovers as I am regular leftovers, so I’ve never wanted to deal with those that remained. But for the sake of my Hollandaise, I would. Not surprising to me now, they were the sleeper hit of this meal. Easily fork-split and full of nooks and crannies. Even untoasted with butter they were perfect (my appetizer), as the golden crust from the skillet and the crunch of the cornmeal offer up a great textural contrast to the soft interior.
Right, but I did make Hollandaise for a Benedict. With prosciutto and white asparagus. When I saw the asparagus at Zabar’s, I thought of a meal I had in Berlin last year when the spargel was at its peak. One night, I got about half a pound covered in the silkiest Hollandaise ever (with a side of wiener schnitzel) and became a big fan of the pallid stalks. I aced the sauce. I didn’t go full on traditional with a vinegar reduction, as doing so would have been difficult for a single serving. So, just lemon, butter, eggs, a bit of cayenne. My arm nearly fell off, but there was no sauce breakage. The slightly undercooked poached eggs are what revealed my amateur hands. You’ll see that one of the yolks slipped free of its white jacket, ruining the shot. It obviously got punished with the fork poke first.
The Kitchn’s English muffin recipe – So, my starter only sat for about 90 minutes. But I did do the cold ferment for 36 hours. I have no complaints, but I would like to try them again with the starter going for the full 12 hours. I do not have special rings, but I did weigh my dough to get equal portions. I didn’t want little muffins, so made a batch of five. I wrapped what remained individually in plastic wrap and then put them in a freezer bag. After about 30 minutes on the counter, they could be easily split with a fork. There are no leftovers…
Hollandaise sauce on Food Wishes – I’m not a big consumer of video instructions, but for something like this type of sauce, I thought it would be wise. After watching a number on YouTube, I remembered that a friend of mine really likes Food Wishes. I don’t think he would be to everyone’s taste, especially the quality of this older video, but it ultimately was his technique and recipe that I used with success.
Cooking white asparagus – While waiting for my muffins to rise, I procrastinated by Googling white asparagus. I was just going to steam my stalks until I learned via Martha and Gabrielle Hamilton that white asparagus must be cooked much longer than green. I didn’t follow them exactly, but I did cook my asparagus in a shallow pan for way longer than I would have thought (20-ish minutes), continually checking their tenderness along the way.