While advertisements for the incredible, edible egg aren't as prevalent as they once were, eggs are an essential part of any bakery and restaurant--from pancakes and muffins, custard tarts and quiches, cakes and cookies, to soups, salads, and sandwiches. But no chef has celebrated the humble egg as much as Rose Carrarini who has recently published the book How to Boil an Egg with Phaidon. I recently visited Rose at the original location of her eponymous Anglo-French bakery and restaurant to discuss the book. Below is recipe from the book that's perfect for a cold night.
Louise McCready Hart: Why did you choose illustrations?
Rose Carrarini: The recipes are very simple so I wanted more than just photographs. I also didn't want photographs because every cookbook is recipe, photograph, recipe, photograph. Illustrations and graphics wouldn't have worked either because recipe readers want to see what the food will actually look like, and the only way to do that is to get an image to be so realistic it's almost a photograph. The only artists who do that type of painting are the botanical painters who paint flowers and vegetables with such detail. When I saw how realistic Fiona [Strickland]'s work is, I was happy. Otherwise, I would've gone back to photography.
LMH: Is she based in Paris?
RC: No, she's in Scotland. I didn't know her. Phaidon found her for me. They had a whole selection of botanical painters. We went through them all, and she was the best for me.
LMH: How long have you been working on this book?
RC: I finished maybe two and a half years ago, but it took so long for the paintings, which started as photographs.
LMH: Do you have a favorite recipe in the book? Or a way to cook eggs?
RC: I think my favorite recipes would have to be the salads and the sandwiches because they're light and fresh and because that's how I eat them at home. I think the illustrations of the cakes are the best because Fiona's really captured the beauty of the cakes.
LMH: Perfectly scrambled eggs are reportedly one of the most difficult dishes to prepare. What do you think is the most challenging?
RC: I think poached eggs are the most challenging, and I think everyone can agree on that. It's hard to get that right. I think you cannot be anal about it. You need to just relax a bit. You have to let it go.
LMH: Part of the appeal of your restaurants and bakeries is your focus on organic and natural foods. I think in Europe, in general, that attitude is appreciated and emphasized. Can you speak to that?
RC: What is surprising to me is the one person who influenced me right at the beginning was Alice Waters, twenty, twenty-five years ago. I was living in England at the time, and she opened up a whole new world to me. England caught up really quickly to Alice Waters and was way ahead. When I arrived in Paris ten years ago, it was behind. There was nothing remotely organic in restaurants, and we didn't have a proper organic restaurant. Within those ten years, within the last five years actually, Paris is doing a lot with this idea. I thought London was a little bit ahead of Paris in terms of local markets and everything, but we're getting there in Paris slowly. Good healthy and organic food is not always cheap.
LMH: That is true. Last, but not least, any favorite restaurants in Paris?
RC: Yam'tcha. It's been open about three years now and I couldn't get in, but we went for my birthday lunch recently. I was just bowled over. It's the type of food I like to cook and really appreciate. It's exquisite. It's simple. I always go to Toraya on Rue St. Florent, by Concord, on my day off. It's the loveliest place for lunch.
Hot Tofu Pot
Note: This great restorative one-pot dish is a good way to use up extra vegetables.
4 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 leek, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/1 head spring cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 baby turnips, cut into bite-sized pieces
11 ounces firm tofu, cut into large bite-sized pieces
dash of shoyu
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
salt and ground black pepper
hot chili sauce or Dijon mustard, to serve
Pour the stock into a pan and bring to a simmer.
Add the onion, leek, celery and carrot and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage and turnips and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until just tender but not overcooked, then add the tofu and warm through.
Season to taste with shoyu and salt and pepper, if necessary, and add the chives.
The eggs may be fried in olive oil or butter or added to the pan and poached.
Transfer the eggs to 4 individual bowls, ladle in the stew and serve immediately with a hot chili sauce, Japanese chili powder, or Dijon mustard.