[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Soup and Eggs
7 June 2012
[Eggs en cocotte]

I do not, as a rule, read cookbooks. Recipe collections are thin on plot and the characters are not very well fleshed out. When I dip into a cookbook, a modern cookbook at least, I'm usually looking for a specific thing, often a sanity check on something I'm about to cook. (Medieval cookbooks are a whole different animal, of course.) All of which is to say that I view modern cookbooks primarily as reference material, and while there are people who will sit down with a good dictionary and read it happily, I am not one of them.

There are exceptions to my general rule. If someone has a pleasant writing style, weak subject matter can be overcome. This is as true of cookbooks as it is of Wodehouse, Pratchett and Gilbert & Sullivan. (Lest anyone take umbrage, or even two umbrages, for they are rather small, I hasten to point out that I love the abovementioned persons dearly. They are all brilliant stylists, but Wodehouse's plots are as thin as a young Patsy Stone, Pratchett gets so carried away with the footnotes that everything else becomes secondary - the main text is merely the chip to get the footnote salsa to your mouth, and G&S, well, basically all they do is change hats and call it a new play. And I'm really, really good with all that. But I digress.) Fergus Henderson, for instance, has such an engaging way of writing about ingredients and technique that Nose to Tail Eating is readable cover to cover. Likewise, Elizabeth David quite simply writes well. Her three books, collected in Classics, make lovely, light bedtime reading.

It was while noodling around the third book in Classics that a recipe for Sorrel and Lentil soup caught my eye. I like sorrel and I like lentils. My version is below. Her mild and oh-so-polite rant about how eggs often do not get the respect they deserve prompted me to dust off (metaphorically) my ramekins and cocotte me some eggs, as outlined even further below.

Writing well is not easy, writing cookbooks well somewhat less so. These two author-cooks do both things well and I commend them to you.

Lentil and Sorrel Soup

This is a simple and lovely soup. Begin by simmering the lentils in the water for about an hour and a half. Then you have three or four options about the next step. You want to purée them, so you could use an immersion blender. Otherwise, let them cool a bit and run them through a food processor. Naturally, you could also push them through a sieve as Ms. David instructs.

[The soup] Or, if you can plan ahead a day or two, what I have found to work well is this: simmer the lentils as above, let them cool just a bit, and then strain them. Keep both the lentils and the liquid, and let them rest overnight in the fridge. If you do this, what you should end up with (at least, it's what I ended up with) is some very mushy lentils, and a container of liquid in which more lentily goodness has settled to the bottom. Run the lentils through a food processor, if needed.

Rinse and cut your sorrel small. If your lentils have cooled, bring them back up to temperature and add enough of the cooking liquid to make a thin purée. If you followed my path, use the lentils, the extra goodness and as much of the remaining liquid as you need. When the soup is simmering add the sorrel, and cook for another couple of minutes. Taste and add salt to your liking, about a teaspoon was right for me. Then add the cream, stir well and bring back just to a simmer.

If you'd like, serve it with croutons. I recommend doing so, the crunch contrasts nicely with the smooth soup.

Eggs en cocotte with garlic chives

This is simplicity itself, and lovely way to do eggs.

[Eggs Cooking] Melt your butter and divide it amongst some ramekins - you want one ramekin per egg. Gently, ever so gently, crack the eggs and slip them into the ramekins.

Add the cream to the ramekins. You want to disturb the eggs as little as possible, so I suggest placing a spoon just on the surface of the egg white and gently dribbling the cream onto that.

Put a pan of water on the stove and heat it to simmering. The water should be about half the height of your ramekins. When simmering, carefully put the ramekins in the water, then cover the pan. Let the eggs simmer for, say, six or seven minutes, then check on them. You want the white to just be set and the yolk to just be a bit runny. Of course, if you don't want the yolk runny, let it go a bit longer.

Remove from the pan, add a pinch or two of the chives and serve. If you'd like, add some salt. A red salt makes a nice contrast with the very white egg.

© 2012 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite