Category: Breakfast

Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard Boiled Egg

Hard boiled eggs are arriving at the stores more fresh than ever before, and because of this, you may have noticed that when they are hard boiled (or hard cooked as some say) the membrane in the egg tends to stick to the egg white, making the eggs difficult to peel. While fresh eggs are great, this annoyance can make breakfast (or an egg salad lunch) a distressing event. I have been known to lose half an egg just trying to remove the shell. There are, however two simple techniques that will allow you to easily peel hard boiled eggs in a flash, leaving you with perfect looking eggs. The first method makes peeling hard boiled eggs so unbelievably easy that they have become my staple breakfast, and is an incredible time saver

Method 1:
Add a tablespoon or two of baking soda to the water when you boil the eggs. This will increase the pH of the water, making it more alkaline, which will allow the membrane to slip off the cooked albumen (egg white) easily. You can pull the shell right off, or, if you want to make it interesting, crush both ends of the egg, hold it in your hand and blow. The egg will shoot right out of the shell and across the room.

Method 2:
Hard boil the eggs, remove from the water when cooked, and wait until they are room temperature. Do not put them in the refrigerator, just leave them on the counter. Room temperature cooked eggs are much easier to peel than hot or cold ones.

Personally, I prefer the baking soda method because I can’t wait and I like showing people the magic trick of the egg shooting out of its shell, but how you do it is your choice. Now hard boiled eggs are an easy meal!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade ricotta cheese

Homemade ricotta cheese

Cheese is not something that people often think to make at home, but there is nothing in the world quite like fresh ricotta cheese. Surprisingly easy to make, this staple (in my house) is above and beyond store-bought ricotta. I often use this in our other staple, lasagna, and we even eat it plain in a bowl with a little salt and pepper, as we would eat cottage cheese. Ricotta is one of the easiest cheeses to make at home as it requires no rennet (special enzymes to curdle the milk) nor does it require any aging or care. It is the ‘lazy person’s’ cheese, so to speak, but there is nothing lazy about how fast I eat it.

Ingredients
1 gallon whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 quart buttermilk
4 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons lemon juice

You will also need a thermometer, sieve or colander, and some cheesecloth.

Directions
1. Combine the milk, buttermilk, cream, and salt in a non-reactive pan.

Forming curds

Forming curds

2. Prepare the colander for the draining process by moistening a few sheets of cheesecloth and layering them in the colander. This is where you will be placing the curds to drain excess whey. I place the colander in the sink to drain.

3. Attach the thermometer to the pan so that you may monitor the temperature.

4. Heat the mixture on high, stirring occasionally to prevent any milk from scorching on the bottom of the pan.

5. When the milk has reached about 175 degrees F, add the lemon juice and gently stir it in. You will see curds start to form immediately. Allow a few minutes for more curds to accumulate, stirring very gently on occasion.

Spooning curds

Spooning curds

6. Using a skimmer or sieve, remove curds from the pot and place them in the cheesecloth lined colander. The moisture level of the cheese will be determined by how long you let it drain. I like a moist ricotta, so I let it drain about five to ten minutes, but for a more firm cheese, let the curds drain longer.

7. When the curds have finished draining, remove them and eat immediately for the best ricotta you have ever tasted. The cheese will also last a few days in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar

It may seem odd to add vinegar to berries, but a surprisingly tasty combination is a very simple dish of strawberries with balsamic vinegar. The acidity of the vinegar brings out the sweetness of the berries, and the contrast of flavors allows the intensity of each to come out, enhancing the “berry-ness” of a simple strawberry. This is a great summer dessert when the strawberries are at their peak ripeness, but is a great dish any time of year (and a great way to enjoy so-so strawberries out of season).

There are two ways to make this, the inexpensive way, and the more expensive way. The inexpensive way (relatively speaking) is to add standard balsamic vinegar and sugar to the berries, while the latter method is to use a special type of balsamic vinegar that has been bottled with some of the concentrated must from the wine-making process. Must is what one calls the sweet grape juice prior to fermentation. This particular vinegar is thicker and sweeter than traditional vinegar, and a little goes a long way, but it is an incredible addition to any sweet dessert, and I keep a bottle around always for this very purpose. You will find it in specialty food stores, such as cheese shops and foofy high-end food shops.

Ingredients
1 pint strawberries
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar

If you have the sweetened, reduced balsamic vinegar you can leave out the sugar.

Directions
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve. Really. You don’t need any whipped cream (although you can add it if you wish), this dish is incredible on its own. Also, feel free to increase or reduce the vinegar to your taste. Some people prefer just a hint of vinegar, and some (like me) like soup. In fact, I’m seriously thinking of experimenting with this to make a smoothie, if I can find the proper mix of ingredients (and I will). Expect that post this summer.

Smoked Salmon

smoked salmon

Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon should be one of the wonders of the world. I often refer to this recipe as “salmon bacon” because that is close to what you will be making. Smoky, salty, intensely rich and complex, this salmon doesn’t last long in my house (even my picky children can’t get enough). It may be a little more time consuming that some of the other Gatehouse Gourmet recipes, but it is well worth the effort. I generally make a lot of this at once and eat it over the next few days (it should last 10 days in the refrigerator, or 6 months if frozen).

The Brine
The process begins with creating the brine in which the salmon will marinate for about a day (a minimum of 8 hours, and no longer than two days if you really want, however overnight is usually perfect).

Ingredients for the brine
6 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3  cup kosher salt (kosher salt dissolves much more easily than table salt)
4 bay leaves
1/2 a medium sized onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed (crushed)
1/2 cup fennel, chopped
1 stalk of celery

You will need:
2 lbs salmon fillet(s), pin bones removed

Mix all the above ingredients together and marinate the fish in a non-reactive container (glass, Tupperware, etc) for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator. Overnight seems to work best. The fish will cure in the brine, which will draw out some of the moisture, concentrating the flavor. It will also allow salt to penetrate the meat, which will also enhance the flavor of the fish.

Drying the Fish
Remove the fish from the brine and lay it on a rack in a cool area, allowing air to circulate over the top and bottom if the fish. Allow the fish to dry for 2-3 hours, and the fish will form what is called a ‘pellicle’ on its surface, which is a thin, hard layer of protein that will both seal the fish, and allow the smoky flavor to adhere later.

Smoking the Fish
This dish calls for “hot smoking” which is smoking in a heated environment, rather than a cool one, which will also somewhat cook the fish. In your smoker, feel free to add any type of wood that you prefer, Apple, Oak, Hickory, etc. The fish should be smoked at about 140 degrees for approximately 2 hours, more or less depending on the thickness of the fillets (tail sections may take as little as 1 hour, while the thickest fillets shouldn’t take much longer than 2.5 hours). When the internal temperature of the fish reaches 140 degrees, it is done (a meat thermometer is very handy here). You can also tell it is done by checking to see when the meat flakes easily. The more you do this, the better your instincts will be to determine doneness.

I will often double this recipe and make up to 5 pounds of salmon at a time since I can’t keep it around long enough to enjoy it. My suggestion… Hide it so you don’t have to share.