Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't cross me today!

oeufs Francis Picabia
I apologize for the disgusting spam that's been popping up in the comments lately. It should stop now and if it doesn't I will take further measures.

A couple of weeks ago I decided I needed to read The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, so I stretched out on the sofa and read it cover to cover. There were a few clever lines, a few recipes I wanted to try, and lots of complaints about servants. Gertrude Stein really bugs me. She was so toweringly smug and with good reason, but still: smug. I'm boycotting Gertrude Stein going forward. That'll take her down a peg. I'm glad I read the book because now I don't feel like I need to anymore.

Anyway, one recipe that fascinated me was oeufs Francis Picabia. I don't eat scrambled eggs, but Owen does and this morning I decided to give him these fancy, buttery eggs, which are named after the painter who provided Toklas with the recipe. According to the recipe, you cook 8 eggs very slowly in a saucepan and whisk in 1/2 pound of butter -- "not a speck less, rather more if you an bring yourself to it." The cooking should take half an hour and the eggs should have a "suave consistency."

I used 2 eggs and cut the butter back proportionately, but could not stretch the cooking process past 21 minutes on our stove. At first the eggs absorbed all the butter and appeared velvety, like custard. I should have taken them off the heat at that point, I suppose, because then they firmed up, curdled, and began to expel the butter. Butter was seeping out of the eggs when I scooped them onto the plate, as you can see if you look closely at the unappetizing photograph. Owen gamely ate about half the eggs and said they were gritty, "like cornmeal." I was thinking I might try again tomorrow, but I just looked up Francis Picabia so I could explain who he was in this post and I dislike his quotations so much that I'm adding him to my boycott list. I'm a regular crank today.

My in-laws were here for the last couple of weeks which was lovely -- truly lovely! -- but I lost my cooking rhythm. Also, I've been in a strange mood for the last month. Just not myself. I did make a few more Smitten Kitchen dishes: The gnocchi in tomato broth was delicious; everyone loved the butterscotch banana tarte tatin; the pork chops with cider and horseradish were dry. That's always a risk with pork chops and I don't blame Smitten. I think I will make her lemon bars today or tomorrow, but am otherwise done with her book and now owe you write-ups of both that and the Homesick Texan.

I'm sticking with my one-dish dinner strategy going forward and the next book I'm going to cook from is Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book


  1. Sorry you are feeling off. It happens, and it can be quite confounding. I am looking forward to your reviews, and I look forward to your opinion of Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book. Those eggs sound really rich! No apologies for the spam, please.

  2. I lost all use for Toklas and Stein when I learned that they spent WWII in Vichey France collaborating with the Vichey govenment. Stein even campaigned in 1941 to get Hitler the Nobel Peach Prize, and considered the whole World War rather a bore by the time it was all done. How utterly self-absorbed can you get?

  3. Francis Picabia is the crank! Nice to hear you had a good visit with your in-laws. And thanks for your frank wit and honest chat about your current state of mind. I hope you get to feeling more yourself; it happens to everyone from time to time-don't worry!

  4. I took the same path down Alice B Tolkas, via Francis Picabia, Mary Reynolds and ended up at Lee Miller. Her recipes (there are a few at the back of Burke's biography) are really truly worth it (marshmallow and coke ice cream, sounds hideous but isn't)

  5. just a tick past suave=gross, probably applies to more than eggs :) Very interested to hear about a sandwich cookbook! We have adopted your one dish strategy btw...down with the triangle!

  6. Francis Picabia sounds like an insufferable bore who is in love with his own contrariness.

  7. Of all the blogs I subscribe to yours is always the one that I read first. I enjoy your recipe reviews as well as what is going on in your life. Keep up the good work.

  8. Gertrude Stein is famous for being famous, nothing else. Didn't know about the Vichy thing-- more reason to delete her.
    Hope you're feeling better soon. I miss you when you're not posting but always glad when you're taking care of yourself.

  9. Forget about Toklas and Picabia. Julia Child recommends cooking scrambled eggs in a similar way, but I don't think she gives you a strict time frame. You just stir the eggs in a saucepan, heat slowly, and add plenty of butter near the end. They are very creamy and buttery, but not gritty.

  10. Good luck with the sandwich book. I found it terribly fussy. You shouldn't need to clean so many dishes to make a sandwich.

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