“I thought eggs were going to be greasy and slimy, but it tastes like cheese sauce. Yum.” Julie Powell, “Julie and Julia”
(Becky, the Mama.)
The short list of foods my husband Greg can cook are: hamburger patties, grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes. So it may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, that Greg is the one who taught me to poach a perfect egg. His mother taught him as boy, and he taught me as a newlywed, and I have to say that when I cooked one correctly: whites firm, yolk thick but still with plenty of liquid gold, it was something of a revelation.
I’ve never been a fan of eggs. And I have no clue why poaching an egg in boiling water, rather than scrambling, boiling or frying (without benefit of bacon fat or butter!) transforms the lowly egg into something exquisite, but it does. To Julie Powell it tasted like cheese sauce; to me, with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt, a poached egg tastes like melted butter.
Last week I had a little left-over homemade green pork chili, along with some left-over homemade refried beans, and decided to make Huevos Rancheros. It was so good, hitting all the right flavor notes, I proceeded to have it every day for breakfast and lunch for the next three days. There was just something comforting and delicious about the combination of the flavors of warm corn, earthy beans and tangy green chilis topped with one perfect, buttery poached egg. Where had this dish been all my life? And why had I not made it before?
Green Chili Huevos Rancheros
Serves 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are!
2 large eggs
2 t. vinegar
Sea salt & pepper
Water – to fill about 2 inches depth in a small skillet
2 corn tortillas
½ cup refried beans, warmed
½ cup *pork green chili, warmed. Or if you prefer, any kind of salsa you like
Optional: garnish with slice of fresh jalepano
Fill a small skillet 2/3 full with hot water. Add 2 t. white vinegar. Bring to boil. Carefully crack at egg into a small heat-proof bowl. Slip it carefully into the boiling water. Repeat with other egg.
Some of the white will float away, like foamy clouds. That’s okay. You can capture them later with a slotted spoon and eat them or ignore then and toss them away with the “bath water.” Cook about a minute, but this is not an exact time. (I like to cover the pan with a lid for a few seconds to insure a film forms over the yolks.)
When you see the whites are firm and yolk is still soft and gooey, remove carefully with a slotted spoon and let drain on a couple of folded paper towels. Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and pepper while still hot.
Wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave about 15 seconds until they are hot and soft. Immediately put them on a plate and put ¼ cup warm refried beans on each tortilla and spread just to edges. Next, carefully set a poached egg on top. Finally ladle all with ½ cup of warm green pork chili or salsa. Garnish with slice of fresh jalepano if desired.
*You can find green chili of all varieties in the Hispanic food aisle of most grocery stores. I made my own quick green pork chili by blending 1 cup chicken broth with ¼ cup mild canned green chilis and 1 clove garlic in a blender. Then I mixed 1 1/2 T. flour with 1 T. olive oil and 2 t. butter until it made a smooth paste in a hot skillet. Then I slowly added the contents of the blender plus another cup chicken broth and ¼ cup more green chilis – whisking all the while until it was a desired thickness. (You can add more broth if needed. It should be the consistency of a good stew broth.) Finally I added about 2/3 cup of cubed leftover pork loin, a pinch of sugar (to balance tang of green chilis), then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. You can use veggie or miso broth and omit the pork and make this a filling and delicious vegetarian meal.
For those of you who have seen the HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers,” you may recall the choking-back-tears comment from Don Malarkey as he described his comrades of the 101st Airborne, many decades after WW2. “Brave, so brave… it was unbelievable.” Greg and I had the privilege of a lifetime 4 years ago, when we got to spend 2 weeks in Europe with Buck Compton and Don Malarkey, two of the paratroopers portrayed in Band of Brothers.
We stood at the sea of white crosses in Normandy as a friend played taps. Don, Irish and emotional, wept openly as Buck wiped away a tear and swallowed. We walked with these old soldiers through the Bastogne forest where they once nearly froze and starved in foxholes to protect our freedom in the Battle of the Bulge. They remember their dear friends whose legs were blown off in this lovely green forest, once white with snow and red with blood and lit up with terrible fire and noise of war. I gathered pine cones on that misty summer day, to give to my children and grandchildren. To help me remember the sacrifice so many made to secure our freedom.
We visited with a family whose parents/grandparents were liberated from their own home by Easy Company soldiers. The family showed us a room with a red stain on the floor. It was were a Nazi was shot and killed. They looked at Don and Buck with such admiration and gratitude.
Everywhere we went these two vets were instantly surrounded when people heard that there were American paratroopers among us. They are rock stars in Europe where children grew up hearing of the “angels coming out of the sky” in parachutes to save them from the German soldiers.
They are rock stars to me.
Greg and I had lunch with Don this year as he was passing through town with a friend. He’s had to give up his beloved nightly nip of Johnny Walker for his health now that he is 90. His hearing is going, but he seemed awfully pleased when I kissed him on the cheek.
Buck, dear Buck, that gentle brilliant kind soul passed away in January. (Click here to read one of many tributes to this brave, humble man who eventually became a judge. )
I doubt there will ever be a Memorial Day when I don’t think of that trip and those heart-tugging experiences, and of these men.
Thank you to Don & Buck for sharing your stories*, and for risking your lives for our freedom.
Since Don can’t toast Memorial Day with a glass of scotch anymore, I’m dedicating this Bourbon Pork Loin recipe to him and all the Easy Company men. (The recipe is also “easy for company.”) Since the alcohol burns off, it’s safe to serve to the whole family. It is one of Greg’s absolute favorite meals, and every man I’ve served it to looks heavenward with joy after they take a bite.
“Band of Brothers” Bourbon Pork Loin
Call of Duty by Buck Compton http://tinyurl.com/m6ld3t
http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/(Marcus is the collaborator and has fabulous video/pictures relating to Buck’s book)
Recently Marcus Brotherton interviewed and collected stories from the 101st airborne (Easy Company) into a book called: We Who Are Alive and Remain:Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers by Marcus Brotherton.
http://www.bandofbrothersbooks.com/(website with video)