Daily foods done well
This morning, I made my daughter a really, really good scrambled egg. I know because I tasted it. (Yes, I sneak bites of my kids’ food when they aren’t looking. My husband suffers from this habit of mine, too).
It was hot, soft, perfectly cooked — not runny, not too hard (and boy, have I cooked a lot of eggs until they’re too hard. It turns out that overcooking things is a culinary pitfall of many once-and-future health inspectors). Just the right amount of salt, just a hint of pepper, and a creamy buttery-ness that slipped down my throat like custard. Delightful.
She loved them, too.
While I was nibbling that bit of her egg, I realized the value of daily things done well. I think that a daily dish cooked well is more important to our domestic happiness than an occasional dish done well, for the simple fact that we benefit from the daily dish, well, daily.
I know. Almost too obvious, right?
A lot of the cookbooks and magazine articles I read tout their recipes as a wonderful “special-occasion” or “company” or “holiday” supper, a chance to wow guests and visitors. Far fewer recipes talk about the benefits of a simple dish cooked well and regularly. Yet when I think about my comfort foods, only one or two of them are special occasion foods (tempura shrimp and California rolls). Most of my comfort foods are the daily meals that were passed down to me by the cooks of my youth and that were on the family table regularly.
There is pleasure in a well-cooked egg, toast made just the way you like it, a fruit salad where all the pieces of fruit are cut just so (my sister-in-law is particularly good at this), a salad generously tossed, a traditional family casserole, the type of bread you like. This morning’s egg reminded me that it’s the daily food that feeds our bodies, and that learning to prepare simple foods well can bring a predictable pleasure to our day in a way that few other things can.
Another great, unsung benefit of regular comfort foods: They’re often relatively quick to prepare. I can have the perfect scrambled egg, toast and fruit on my plate (or my kids’ plates) in ten minutes or less, proving that there’s no reason to not have at least one really well-prepared meal daily.
If you can sneak it from your kids, that is.
My perfect scrambled egg:
1 generous pinch sea salt
1 generous pinch freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon butter
2 teaspoons 1/2 & 1/2
Melt the butter in a small skillet (I use a 6-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat.
Whisk the egg, salt, pepper, and half-and-half together. When the butter is melted and the foaming has stopped, pour the egg into the pan. Let sit until the bottom of the egg has just set, about 30 seconds. With a rubber spatula, gently stir the egg, scraping the bottom of the pan and folding raw egg down onto the hot skillet. When the egg is nearly all cooked, but not quite, turn off the heat and stir once more, letting the residual heat just cook through the remaining egg. Serve immediately, because they’re best when hot.