Poached eggs, Aperol spritzes...

And other foods, drinks and links we've been loving.

The beauty of poached eggs…

Nearly every weekday morning, before sitting down at my desk to work, I put my ear pods in, listen to The Writer’s Almanac, make a second pot of coffee and poach an egg.

It’s the perfect way to begin the day. The egg is nutritious and delicious, a pleasure to behold and to eat. I even wrote a book about the egg. With half an English muffin, the breakfast is 100 calories and keeps me sated all morning and through a midday bike ride. I never tire of the poached egg, or of breaking into a perfectly cooked yolk.

And I also enjoy the routine, the thoughtlessness of it. There’s pleasure in doing the same thing over and over in a kitchen.

And when I post pictures on social media, somebody invariably comments that they wished they could make poached eggs that well. But there’s really nothing to it! Just keep the water at a not too high temperature, below a simmer for the 3 minutes they take to cook.

It’s so simple I did a video during lockdown of two poached eggs on toast:

Of course, every couple of weeks, there is an epic fail on the part of the egg. The white is all fly-away, or the yolk separates from the white completely. That’s not your fault! Blame the egg! This egg will not be beautiful to behold but it will still be nutritious.

Best dishes of the week…

I’ve loved artichokes since forever, but I’d never had them stuffed, Genoa-style until Ann made them for a dinner party. A mixture of sautéed mushrooms and prosciutto is stuffed between the leaves. This stuffing, along with simmering them in white wine, gives the artichoke extraordinary flavor. The artichoke is like a sponge for flavors. And the sautéed prosciutto/mushrooms stuffed between the leaves adds a powerful umami kick. Ann used a recipe from Giada and the Cooking Channel. It’s a bit of an effort to force the leaves of the raw artichoke open but it’s worth it.

Ann also made a polpettone, a monsterous meatloaf stuffed with provolone, prosciutto and spinach. A great preparation for feeding a lot of people. Recipe and process shots here.

But the single best dish we ate was at Jimmy Bradley’s house in Charlestown, RI. As chef-owner for many years of the erstwhile Red Cat in Manhattan, he was struggling with a fried provolone appetizer that was simply taking too long and was too much trouble. Frustrated, he chucked some fontina cheese in a pan with some thyme and garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and put it in a hot oven.

When it was molten and browned, he sent it out to staff with some bread and they lapped it up. A staple dish was born, one we were lucky to have on a cool spring evening.

The recipe is in Jimmy’s book, The Red Cat Cookbook. David Leite published the recipe on his site.

What we’re drinking…

For the Friday cocktail hour week before last, we decided to make an Aperol spritz. It had been a couple years since the drink had gotten slammed in the pages of The New York Times as being just not very good. People were outraged and nearly broke the internet. But with bright and sunny weather upon us, and finding ourselves in possession of a good bottle of very dry prosecco (thank you Chris and Marianne!), we decided to give it a reevaluation.

Because we LOVE an Aperol spritz. It’s a great and gorgeous low-alcohol refresher. But the writer of the Times piece, Rebekah Peppler, was persuasive. Aperol, the bitter aperitif, is cheap and syrupy. I tasted it on its own. She’s right! She also said an Aperol spritz was too often substandard because of bad prosecco. Can’t argue with her there.

So we made two different spritzes (IGTV video here), one with Aperol, and one with one of our new favorite amaroi, Cynar (pronounced CHEE-nar), which is much better than bitter, syrupy Aperol. The proportions are pretty standard—3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, 1 part soda water. We tasted, and yes, indeed, the amaro spritz using Cynar was more complex and interesting.

But: when I asked Ann if she would like another, she requested, instead, a good old-fashioned Aperol spritz. The verdict was thus rendered.

And last night, we tested variations on a cocktail known as The Star a test.

What we’re reading…

I don’t know why but out of nowhere came a desire for the clean precise prose of Edward St. Aubyn and the Patrick Melrose novels. I’d read and admired the first, Never Mind, several years ago. And so moved on to Bad News, in which the protagonist flies to New York to collect the remains of his cruel and sadistic father. Let’s just say he has Daddy issues. A brutal read of perpetual drug use, but again, somehow the steely prose and arch narrator carry you along effortlessly.

Ann remains in England with Barbara Pym’s Quartet in Autumn. Pym was a successful novelist of the 50s and 60s who fell out of publisher’s favors. She could not be published for 15 years, until this book was published in 1977, a few years before her death. Many consider it her master work.

Ann said, “Autumn Quartet broke my heart over and over and then at the magnificent ending put it back together!”

What we’ve been watching…

Very little of late! I think because we’ve been entertaining and being entertained, unmasked! With dear friends! Hallaluja! But we continue to mete out episodes of The Durrells of Corfu and, when the young one is with us, we turn to the ridiculous but compulsively watchable How To Get Away with Murder and the always amazing Viola Davis. (We have it on very good authority that the books on which the former are based, My Family and Other Animals, by Gerry Durrell, are splendid and will soon be on our reading list.)

Links we’re liking…

How to launch a new product? In 1921, 100 years ago, a company in Dayton, OH, created the Cheez-It. But no one knew what a Cheez-It was. So instead they called it “baked rarebit,” that lovely sauce made with cheddar and bear, then a popular breakfast item. Everyone knew what that was. And so we continue to devour them. Though I’m not sure I trust food with an 11-month shelf life. (From The Smithsonian, via Sam Sifton.)

The pandemic and the need for creative solutions, chefs have been rethinking the TV dinner. (Via Eater.) Frozen TV dinners were invented in the forties to serve the airline industry, but they proved perfect for 1950s households, which increasingly included a television set. I know I grew up on in the 60s and 70s, often eating them in the den on a collapsible “TV table” kept beside the TV.

We’ve really been liking amari and vermouths, the bitter sweet aromatized spirits and wines used so well in cocktails, often featured on The Friday Cocktail Hour, such as Cynar and Punt e Mes. Here’s an overview of several of them from Conde Nast Traveler.

In 1985, when I was a senior at Duke, I saw a guy with wild flowing red hair and a terrible complexion, dressed entirely in black leather. At a cafeteria I asked him if he were into The Doors. He said, “Not really, no,” in a British accent. The following spring, this theater major, Jared Harris, son of the actor Richard Harris, announced he was casting for a movie he’d written and was directing, called “Blackmore” or maybe “Darkmore.” I tried out for the lead, using a monolgue I’d written based on a Sherwood Anderson story. I was excellent. I knew Jared’s beautiful girlfriend, Helena, argued on my behalf. Jared went instead with a pal, and my film career was over. Harris left North Carolina and studied theater in London. This is a fabulous profile of the man who has become one of the preeminent television actors of his generation. I’m eager to see the new one. If you haven’t watched Chernobyl, it’s brilliant (see below).

Obit of the week: Katherine Barber, who created a dictionary of Canadian English, with words like “chesterfield” (sofa), “Molsen muscle” (beer belly), and “jambuster” (jelly doughnut).

This cellist has been helping tens of thousands get through the pandemic with outdoor performances in scenic western Ireland.

Arguably, the worst smelling plant on the planet, called, apparently appropriately, the corpse flower.

And here is The NYTimes review of Manhattan’s newest park, Little Island, and a fascinating overview of the section of waterfront of the Meatpacking district. We’re heading there tomorrow and can’t wait to see it.

And finally…

I leave you with the trailer for Chernobyl, and Jared Harris’s haunted voice: