"they are a magical ingredient that can transform a drab dish into something divine and spectacular." Tom Hunt
You might remember that my Christmas dessert was an Ottolenghi thing - Brown sugar meringue roulade with burnt honey apples. I'm not quite sure why I chose it really. It was probably something to do with trying to be sort of Australian and do the pavlova thing. However, I always fail with pavlova and so when I saw this sort of flat pavlova I thought I might perhaps be able to manage that. It was also pretty impressive looking. And people - I made it, and it looked pretty spectacular - see below.
It was actually pretty easy to make and also to make look good. The taste? Well very sweet so I suppose it was good if you like sweet. I should perhaps have served it with a dessert wine. Although by then I had had enough wine I think. Or, better still, coffee. Anyway, yes it was very worth doing though I actually think it might have been better with berries of some kind. The best thing about it was how good it made me feel. Which is really a bit sad.
But here's the rub. It took six egg whites, and so I have six egg yolks sitting in my air-tight container in the fridge. I now see however, that I should have covered them with water to prevent them drying out. Mind you the stricture that you needed to drain off the water when using the yolks, seemed a bit tricky to me. I could just see the whole lot sliding into the sink. And they actually don't look as if they have dried out do they? Will I be able to extract them one by one though. And what on earth am I going to do with them?
Let me start with the trendy because deep in my heart I would love to be trendy. I have never, ever in my life been trendy. I feel I have always been super ordinary, suburban, weedy ... Trendy egg yolks are cured egg yolks. Everyone is doing it.
Well actually - and of course - it seems that in America the high-point of this particular craze was back in 2015. So I am already behind the trend because I have only noticed it in the last year or so through a couple of my books - Use it All by the Cornersmith people and the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen's latest - Extra Good Things. That's the UK and Australia, so maybe both of these countries are behind the trend. But, of course, it's actually ancient.
"It’s nothing new. Salt-cured egg yolks have been used in parts of Asia since the 5th century AD when duck eggs were soaked in brine in China, according to Michelin Guide. They seem to resurface on the internet every few years, leaving new, loyal egg consumers in their wake." Samantha Maxwell - Paste Magazine
However, this is a little bit different as it's a whole egg and it's made by soaking in a brine, not encasing it in salt and sugar - or salt and flour I saw somebody say. Throughout Asia and particularly it seems in China and the Phillipines they are an everyday food. You don't have to make them yourself you just buy them in the local store. Or you buy products infused with salted egg - even KFC and MacDonalds are in on the act it seems, and in Singapore they flavour chips.
"home wasn’t home without a jar of duck eggs preserved the traditional Chinese way, whole and raw in brine. Over the course of weeks, the salt water drew out moisture, concentrating the egg’s rich flavor and rendering the whites creamy and as saline as the brackish water the egg is set in. The yolks hardened into bright orange spheres, the fattiness thick and concentrated, cut through by a whisper of salt." Wei Tchou - Saveur
Tik Tok is apparently full of ideas for what to do with them. "The cured yolk’s bounds are limited only by the human imagination" says Wei Tchou of Saveur. And virtually everyone raves about them - the trendy word 'umami' crops up all the time.
"Even anemic-looking egg yolks are transformed into a near-neon orange color once they’re cured, so they add a shockingly bright pop of color to whatever you’re making. But they also offer a richness and a shock of flavor that’s unsurprising given their electric appearance." Samantha Maxwell - Paste Magazine
I'm not sure whose recipe I shall use though - Ottolenghi or Cornersmith? Same method but different quantities and times. Will check it out and star the process this afternoon. Oh what do you do with them when they are 'done'? Well you grate them over things, and add them into things, just like you would with Parmesan say.
Which leaves me with two egg yolks.
Still with the trendy, nay, innovative - how about this?
"By far the most elegant of solutions when you’ve taken only the whites from a box of eggs is to make confit yolks: it’s the cheffy thing to do. It’s also very easy. You will need intact yolks, so always be sure to separate eggs with care, just in case. Carefully slide the yolks into a roasting pan filled with enough olive oil to cover them completely, then cook in the oven on the lowest heat possible for about an hour. The resultant golden baubles will take any dish usually topped with a poached egg to a whole new level."
The idea is to top things with them - like that poached egg I guess, and break them into whatever you have underneath. And I can't see that appealing to David. Indeed it might well be one of his worst nightmares.
So I turned to the reliable and practical Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who has a long list of things to do with egg yolks - most of which we know about, if only we had remembered. They include: mayonnaise - of course - I had forgotten about mayonnaise- and as Jamie shows here it's ridiculously easy to make. My grandchildren made it very successfully. And there are those other sauces too - Hollandaise and Béarnaise. And while we are still on sauces, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests beating a yolk with a little bit of cream or crème fraïche into any sauce you are making to enrich it. Still on sauces - there's carbonara - which I can never do.
But I saw this Linguine with courgettes, egg and parmesan from Rachel Roddy which is a sort of carbonara and thought I might give that a go sometime - when zucchini comes down in price. Hugh also suggests beating a yolk into a vinaigrette to enrich it which I think is possibly a bit much, but also maybe worth a try if I didn't have a husband who is not an egg fan. You have to hide them.
Tonight we are having a quiche and I can add one of the yolks to the eggs I use to bind the mixture. Which is what eggs do well - bind things together - so put them in hamburger kind of things, stuffings, even pastry, a breadcrumbed coating for things, or enrich mashed potatoes with a bit of cream as well and a bit less butter than you would otherwise use. Anywhere you are using eggs - an omelette perhaps - you can add an extra yolk. It will be richer.
Ok savoury sorted. So what about sweet? Well - almost endless possibilities - custard, crème brulée, crème caramel, ice-cream, zabaglione or saboyan depending on whether you are Italian or French inclined lots of cakes and cookies and so on, and, last but not least by any means - curds. Maybe the time has come to make some lemon curd?
And you know I knew most of these things. I had just forgotten about them all. The short list? Cured eggs - for the novelty value although I'm not quite sure what I'll do with them. Lemon curd, mayonnaise - it's salad season after all and maybe the time has come to finally have a go at carbonara.