|So in this case, I'm going to drop in four, and make sure that they are covered by at least one inch of cold water, and just turn it on and let the kettle do the work.||
Never leave home with small electrics on.
[the kettle snaps to off] There. When the kettle turns itself off, set your timer to 15 minutes
and leave those alone.
After 15 minutes, drain your eggs and then fill the kettle with cold water. In just a couple of minutes, the eggs will be cool enough to peel. And you do want to get them peeled. Because as they cool down, that outer membrane will start to re-bind with the shell and that can make for considerable frustration down the line.
Now I realize that, if you know how to turn on a television set odds are you know how to, you know, peel a hard-cooked egg. But this is how I do it, you know, just in case. Just kind of rap it softly, while turning it. The goal here is to create kind of a network of faults, little fault lines. There. It's broken all around. Now it's easy enough to just get under that membrane and you should be able to peel it, pretty much all in one piece like that. If it gives you any trouble, just give it a little run under water.
The only question remaining: Is it done? Only one way to find out. It requires just a pinch of salt. It's a very scientific move here. [salts the egg] Once it's completely covered with kosher salt ... [takes a bite] I'd say that's just about perfect. Creamy, creamy white. The egg yolk is nice and bright. It's a good thing. Oh, by the way, this recipe only needs two eggs. One of the four is to check for doneness, and the other is, well, you know, a snack.
Peeled, hard cooked eggs can be refrigerated in a
sealed container of cold water for up to a week.
|The word "bacon" has different meanings depending on where you are. In Europe, "bacon" usually refers to one half of a fattened pig. In Ireland and Canada, "bacon" refers to cured meat from the loin on the back of the animal. But here in The United States, we're talking about side meat taken from between rib number five and the hip bone. It is then usually cured, usually smoked, but sometimes smoked without being cured, and sometimes cured without being smoked.||
[Pig Chalkboard Sketch]
Bacon is available sliced into individual rashers, which come either in thick
or standard sizes. Or you can get slab bacon, which comes in a whole flitch.
Now, although it's a little tougher to find, and you have to slice it up
yourself, I'm a slab guy all day long.
Now although it delivers a sublime symphony of salty, smoky, and crunchy, our main concern here is the fat itself, which will serve dual duty as both dressing base and sole cooking agent.
In America in the 1930's and 1940's spinach was a slang term for nonsense.
If you went with the thick-cut bacon, then you can completely ignore the next 30
seconds of this program. [it's actually 1 minute] But if you went with the slab bacon—and I certainly
hope you did—it could be a little on the slimy and slippery side. So take a
little precaution before cutting. If it came home in butcher paper, then you're
already halfway there. If not, just break out a piece of freezer paper or
parchment. Kind of wrap it up, nice and tight; swaddle it, if you will. There
you go. And lay it, curved side up, nice and tight.
Now, as for knife selection, you don't want to do a lot of sawing. You want a clean cut. So, use the longest thing you've got: either a slicer, a long chef's knife like this or, of course, a 14-inch scimitar would do very nicely. So, make sure that you've got it held tight and make your cut. Now if it's really, really, really difficult, you can always freeze the meat briefly before you start cutting and it will firm up a little bit. I'm looking for anywhere from kind of a, about a quarter inch would be nice. Don't worry about the paper. We can get rid of that later.
Cooking bacon on a stovetop can lead to greasy counters and charred pork. The safe bet, roast it. Stretching your rashers out on a cooling rack like this will keep them nice and flat. The sheet pan will capture the drippings for later use. Now start in a cold oven, turn to 400 degrees, and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until it's nice and crispy. Now you're going to want to cool and crumble the bacon. Drain off the fat, reserving three tablespoons for our hot dressing, which will also contain ...
Vinegar may mean "sour wine" in French, but it appears just as often in the
sweet and sour cuisine of Germany, as it does in that of their oft-occupied
neighbors to the west. What was once a lovely wine is now a slightly acidic
solution in which most of the alcohol has been metabolized by a family of
bacteria known as acetobacters. The resulting liquid has been used for centuries
as a condiment, a medicine, a hair tonic, and half of the greatest salad
dressing ever invented.
Now, good vinegars such as those produced via the orleans† [pron: or-lee-AWN] process, spend months in wooden barrels slowly developing substances called esters, which give them a deeper flavor. Mass produced vinegars usually use cheap wine and very little time.
Now we're also going to require a wee bit of Dijon mustard which is made from crushed brown or black mustard seeds. And like other mustards, it gets its characteristic kick from a chemical reaction that occurs when the broken seeds come in contact with water. Now by adding either vinegar or wine to the mix, mustard makers can stop the reaction in its tracks locking the flavor in place forever. Not only will it bring flavor to the party, mustard's microscopic particles will help to emulsify the bacon fat and the vinegar keeping them together when they hit the salad.
Now, let us consider one of the more unusual, albeit classic elements in this salad, which takes us back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
GUESTS: Amish Man #1 and #2
Once upon a time, Agaricus bisporus—the white mushroom—was cultivated in caves
around, and even in, the sewers of Paris. The knowledge migrated, eventually, to
England and then to America where mushroom seeds, or spawns, were perfected. Now throughout the 19th century, this entire area was known
for flowers, especially carnations, which were grown in large greenhouses.
In the 1890's, a couple of Quaker growers decided to try to make use of the area beneath the raised carnation beds. Burlap curtains were hung, and mushrooms were planted. What started as a sideline became a major industry, mostly because of the area's proximity to several large cities, and to rail lines, which make fast shipment possible. And there was, and is, a large abundance of horse manure in the area which is used to produce the compost that the mushrooms grow in. But don't worry, it's pasteurized. It doesn't even smell. Today, Pennsylvania is the undisputed mushroom capital of The United States.
Now let's see. German settlers, bacon dressing on dandelions, eggs, zillions of mushrooms. You know, it was just a matter of time before ...
[an Amish Country Road, AM #1 and #2 walk by each other, bump and some of their food in their baskets transfers to other's]
AMISH MAN #1: I believe thou hast got thine salad in my mushrooms.
AMISH MAN #2: Oh, I'm sorry, but I believe thou hast got thine mushroom in my salad.
AM #1 & #2: [both each take a bite of the mix, grunt a "mmm" in approval and walk off]
By and large, when purchasing mushrooms you want to look for whole specimens,
free of wrinkles, bruises, wet or soft spots. They shouldn't be spongy. Now as
far as white button mushrooms go, remember, the gills should always be closed.
Tempting though they may be, resist pre-sliced mushrooms. Once they're exposed
to air, the flesh of any mushroom goes downhill quickly. So anything you gain in
convenience will definitely be lost in quality.
Oh, a few words about dirt. If you don't really see any, then just assume that your mushrooms are clean enough to use as is. If they look a little scruffy, you can give them a quick rinse under cold water. Washing will not result in a waterlogged mushroom, unless of course you give them a very long leisurely soak, which we won't. Now for this salad, we only need four large white button mushrooms, about doorknob size. But the rest of these, well, that's another show.
Most mushrooms continue growing after they are harvested.
Now the Pennsylvania Dutch may have enjoyed dandelion salad as a rite of spring.
But you know, that weed's never really got much in the way of culinary respect
in this country. So it makes sense that they would eventually reach for a more
accepted early riser, spinach, which the 12th century food writer, Ibn al-Awam,
called, "The Prince of Vegetables."
Now, several types are cultivated in this country and are available both in spring and in fall. Let's see, here we have the crinkly Savoy spinach. One of my favorites, there is a hybrid, semi-Savoy. And that, of course, is a flat-leaf which is generally available in both the mature and the baby forms. Oh, I shouldn't leave out this one. This is a red-veined spinach. Looks kind of like beet greens, but it actually is indeed a spinach. Now I find that either the Savoy or the semi-Savoy works best in this salad because the leaves don't really fall apart when they wilt, and they don't lie flat against the bowl.
Now, as far as the form goes, I really do like them just loose like this, but you can also get them in bunches, and triple-washed in bags. But you know, I just don't trust these things, because washing kind of accelerates decomposition and that can be blocked by the bag itself. So I'll just keep the washing to myself.
You always want to look for leaves that are dark green, very crisp, and are free of discoloration. Any slimy spots, excess gooeyness and what-not should be avoided. Dirt's okay. We'll deal with the dirt.
|Since it's usually grown in sandy soils, spinach requires a lot of washing. And I don't mean just a little shower. I mean a bath in water that is deep enough for any dislodged sand to sink down away from the leaves. Big batches may even need a change of water. Now, after the bath, any surface agua on the leaves will have to go. So you're either going to have to roll this all up in a paper towel or go for a spin.||8 Ounces Fresh Spinach|
[AB is sitting on a merry-go-round which begins to spin faster as he talks] I remember the day that I learned all about centrifugal and centripetal
forces. I was four, and clinging to a runaway [playground] merry-go-round propelled by some
overzealous third-graders. I decided at one point just to let go, and suddenly
found myself flying off into the side of a trash can at Mach 2. The results
haunt me to this day. Of course, luckily, these forces can be used for good. For
instance, making astronaut trainees pass out, doing blood work, wringing water
out of clothes in the spin cycle, and of course, spinning the water off of
greens like spinach.
Now the forces that do the actual work will be provided by nature. The machine that will take care of that, however, we have to provide ourselves.
AB: Jane, get me off this crazy thing!
The salad spinner is really a simple device. Just a kind of plastic colander
that fits inside a base with a little pivot point. The real difference between
models comes in the drive mechanism. Now this one has a crank, which can get up
a lot of speed. But it gets out of balance, and, ... ugh. No
This is a bit of an improvement. It's especially popular with you guys who like to mow the lawn. You just pull this cord, and you can get a good bit of speed, but... [the lid comes off as AB demonstrates].
Well, maybe we'll try out the plunger model. Now this doesn't seem to be plagued by all the other problems that the other machines have. Just use the old Archimedes screw. It's got a nice little brake on it, and ... nice and dry greens. Now lest you think this is a uni-tasker, you can also dry pasta in here, and yes, that is something I would do.
Our last piece of software isn't exactly traditional, but I do find that one small red onion, frenched—that is, cut excruciatingly thin—adds color and an earthy pungency that helps to hold the salad together.
|And now we build. Three tablespoons of our reserved bacon fat goes into a large, heavy, stainless steel bowl, directly over the heat, and that is on low. You just want to heat that up until you just start to see a little bit of ripple in there.||3 Tbs. Reserved Bacon Fat|
|Then we're going to whisk in three tablespoons of red wine vinegar, one teaspoon of sugar, half a teaspoon of our Dijon mustard. Not only will that add flavor, but it'll be a nice emulsifying agent. A good bit of heat is just going to come up the sides. That's good. We're going to use that heat. I'm going to add a little bit of salt, a few grinds of pepper.||
3 Tbs. Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Sugar
½ tsp. Dijon Mustard
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground
Black Pepper To Taste
|Go ahead and kill the heat. There's enough heat up in the side of the bowl now. And when that starts to look creamy, we'll add the spinach just in handfuls. And the onion on top, and the mushrooms.||
1 Small Red Onion, Thinly
4 Large White Mushrooms,
Hold everything else out and just grab your tongs and flip. Basically, what we're doing is, we're coating, but we're also trying to move the heat from the sides of the bowl into the spinach, wilting it ever so slightly. Just keep turning, keep turning. Keep it moving, or some of the leaves will over-wilt. There, that looks good.
|Now, plate up. And we'll add, at the last moment, some of the eggs. I like them right on top. And the bacon. And the only thing missing, a fork.||
Hard Cooked Eggs
The major spinach growing states are California and Texas, where spinach grows best during mild winter months.
Mmm, mmm, I gotta tell you, this is delicious. But I think the real question is, is spinach really good for you? I don't think there's any real way to ... ummbh ..... ackahaaa .......... ahhhhhh! [AB jerks around and falls to the floor behind the counter, he emerges hopping over the counter with bulging arms, sailor outfit and corncob pipe, a la Popeye The Sailor Man]
POPEYE: Ahh, shiver me timbers. Check out all these musculls. I yam what I
yam, and what I yam is ripped in a kind of... from a distance, you can't see,
anyway. And I owe it all to me spinaches, which are packed with iron and
calcium, and oxalic acid, which slows the body's absorption of iron and calcium,
which kind of... [his arms "pop"] It's
humiliating. I've had all I can stand, and I can't stands no more!
Luckily, spinach is still an excellent sources of vitamins A and K, potassiums and magnesiums and coppers and riboflavins, some of the niacins, vitamins B6 and calciums and phosphorus and zincs, and a little bit of some proteins, too. So kids, you gots to eat your spinach!
[takes a pipe out of his
mouth. speaking normally] And don't smoke! [throws pipe away]
Now I do feel that we have cracked the code for warm spinach salad. But what if you wanted something a little creamier. Something cooler. Something that might, I don't know, stand up to a couple of hours on the buffet? Well, you could use the same ingredients, in the same amounts, only with a different technique.
We begin with the egg yolks which we have harvested from our hard-cooked eggs. Those will go into a mixing bowl and just mash them up with a fork. So, what's with the egg yolks? Well, they're going to provide body, for one thing, and they're also going to act as an emulsifying agent keeping this dressing together so it won't separate for a few hours.
And now, the vinegar. There. Now when it starts looking nice and creamy, switch to a whisk and we'll add the sugar. And add the mustard, the bacon fat. Uh, you may have to warm this up in the microwave a little bit just to make sure it's liquidous. And go ahead and add a little bit of salt, a few grinds of pepper. There we go. And fold in the spinach. Then the onions and the mushrooms, just as before. But this time, I'm going to use my hands, because it's not burning hot! Toss thoroughly, and serve, topped with the bacon and the egg whites.
[AB is once again standing in front of an American flag] Well food fans, I hope that you have found our first "American Classics" episode to be a tasty one. As for our next episode, well, we'll just have to wait and see what issues forth from the Great Spinning Cage of Culinary Chaos. Whatever it is, rest assured it will be good eats.
*Not really. They filmed this portion and the mushroom scene in Georgia
Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger
Last Edited on 08/27/2010