Saturday, January 18, 2014

M.F.K. Fisher inspired eggs in tomato sauce with wine

One of the best food writers of all time, M.F.K Fisher, wrote one of my favorite sentences in history:

"Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken."

Seriously. This line of type and the chapter it begins was indeed one of the reasons I was inspired to do a "Year of the Egg." It is from her book How To Cook a Wolf written during the Great Depression. The book is part of a volume called The Art Eating , a collection of Fisher's works which I would say is required reading for anyone who loves food. How to Cook a Wolf is fascinating, not only due to Fisher's gorgeous prose, but the subject of eating well on extremely low means. Although it was written decades ago, one can learn a lot from both her practical tips and her general outlook on life.

Here's an excerpt:

 "Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken. 
 Until then you would think its secrets are its own, hidden behind the impassive beautiful curvings of its shell, white or brown or speckled. It emerges full-formed, almost painlessly {The egg may not be bothered, but nine years and two daughters after writing this I wonder somewhat more about the hen. I wrote, perhaps, to glibly.} from the hen. It lies without though in the straw, and unless there is a thunderstorm or a sharp rise in temperature it stays fresh enough to please the human palate for several days."

Throughout the chapter, titled "How Not to Boil an Egg," Fisher shares some of her favorite ways to cook eggs. This one sounded so interesting and romantic to me:
"There are many variations of this recipe, even in my own mind, to be able to write. On I remember that we used to make, never earlier than two and never later than four in the morning, in a strange modernistic electric kitchen on the wine terraces between Lausanne and Montreux. We put cream and Worcestershire sauce into little casseroles, and heated them into bubbling. Then we broke eggs into them, turned off the current, and waited until the looked done, while we stood around drinking champagne with circles under our eyes and Viennese music in our heads. The we ate the eggs with spoons and went to bed. 
A fair substitute for those far-away delightful shadows is what one young-painter-in-Mexico invented called Eggs Obstaculos with nary a double-entendre in any language. 
-1 tablespoons butter or oil  
-3/4 cup hot tomato sauce (salsa piquante) or 3/4 cup tomato sauce and 8 drops Tabasco sauce
-8 eggs 
-1 cup beer 
-hot toast 
Heat oil and sauce in a shallow dish, rolling it well around the edges. When bubbling, break eggs into it. Heat slowly until the eggs are done, pour the beer over, and serve at once, with hot toast."

I've had eggs baked in tomato sauce before, so it wasn't a new concept to me, except the beer part. I intend to try the recipe as written, but as M.F.K. herself says, there are many variation of it. Staying true to the idea of eating frugally and not wasting anything that is the basis of How To Cook a Wolf, I made this "recipe" with what I had on hand: marinara sauce and red wine. 

You probably get the idea from the book's recipe and my photos, but basically I heated marinara sauce and olive oil in a pie plate in a 400ยบ oven until it started to bubble. I dropped in some eggs (I used 2 because I was eating solo, but you can expand as much as you want to feed more people) and let them cook until the whites were opaque but the yolks still runny. I immediately sprinkled the whole thing with some leftover red wine and ate it hot straight out of the pie plate with some homemade bread and a spoon. It was soul-warming and fortifying on a snowy Saturday morning.

How would you interpret the recipe for Eggs Obstoculos?

No comments: