Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Be Jealous: My Perfect Breakfast Eggs and Cheese Grits

October 1st, 2009 · 2 Comments


From my 26 years as the food editor and phone-call taker for confused cooks at The Palm Beach Post, I know that there are four foods that flummox even good cooks: eggs, rice, roasts and Thanksgiving turkey.

I’m pretty good with most all of them, and have talked many cooks down off the ledge who were attempting one of them.

Eggs done right are harder than you might imagine, though – and no matter how much I talked the reader through it, I couldn’t always predict an outcome — too many variables in cookware and stoves, and well, the cook’s abilities to follow instructions.

Eggs are a specialty

Eggs are a problematic food to get right — overcooking is a chief complaint.  So much so, that French apprentices, who wanted to work in a real kitchen years ago would have to demonstrate 101 ways to cook eggs perfectly before being allowed to don the famous “toque blanche” – the chef hat with 101 pleats.

But I love eggs and all the foods that go with them: pancakes, grits, country sausage and of course, bacon or pork chops. (I’ve got a South mouth, remember?) So cooking them is second nature to me.

I’ll eat eggs just about any way you serve them — except overdone. I only like hard-boiled eggs when they’re in egg salad, deviled or used in Thousand Island dressing; otherwise, I want the yolk runny or creamy as in soft-curd scrambled. I prefer them poached — or better still, coddled.

That’s what I did today for my brunch.

eggcoddlerCoddling an English provenance

To coddle an egg, you cook it in its shell in a simmering water bath (called a bain-marie) for about 3 minutes. Americans know these as soft-boiled eggs, but the English have been “coddling” eggs for centuries.

For more frequent egg coddling, I’ll need to get with my buddy Scott Simmons, who writes the Kitchen Kollectibles column here. He can track down for me some unique egg coddlers: heavy china cups that hold an egg in its shell, with a screw cap on top that has a ring on it. The ring is for lifting the cup out of the hot water. (If you’re looking for them online, they’re also called pipkins.)

3 Minutes is Perfect Timing

Not having a coddler, I just use a small pan and drop my eggs into softly bubbling water. I time them exactly from the time I drop them in, cover them, and then pull them out: 3 minutes – no more or less.

I do let them sit in the still water for 1 minute more after I remove them from the fire. This results in the eggs you see in the photo: just-set firm but not rubbery whites, with that beautiful runny yolk.

I made buttered multigrain toasts, and plopped them on them (note: peeling the eggs is a pain, but worth it), and dished up some cheese grits Cheffie had made. Salt and pepper, hot coffee, and I was in bliss!

Mighty picky about grits

Grits are another subject near and dear to my heart. My thinking is that if you don’t like them, you just haven’t had really good ones cooked properly.

noramillsgritsThe best are stone ground, and cooked just right, are tender and chewy like corn kernels — which they are. We buy stone-ground “speckled” grits whenever we go through Georgia. It’s not because my mate is from Georgia that I think they make the best, but most of the good mills are there.

We use this brand: Nora Mill Granary yellow-speckled grits (aka Georgia ice cream). The hull included is why they’re called speckled. Nora Mill, which sits on the Chattahoochee River in upper Georgia, has been stone-grinding corn and other grains  since 1876. They have no preservatives so you must use them up or they’ll get rancid. (I keep them in the freezer to keep them fresh, though we eat them often so it’s not a problem.

You can order them online – or just visit their web site for some fabulous recipes using their products.

Cheffie’s cheesegrits the best

Jimmy cooks them with water for about 30 minutes — these aren’t instant by any means! Then he hits them with a little  half-and-half before adding a fist-full of grated Cabot cheddar cheese  – I like their extra-sharp, but Jimmy prefers the regular. He salts them judiciously — oversalted grits are the worst, but they do need some.

Leftover cheese grits are wonderful formed into “cakes” and sauteed in butter, then served under shrimp with a tasso-laced sauce.  More on that recipe when I get back from New Orleans mid-month.

Tags: Recipes: What's Cooking!

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ksteinhoff // Oct 1, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Sorry. I order grits only when I get far enough up north that I can be sure they don’t have them.

    Y0ur picture IS tempting, though.

  • 2 Merrie Lee Reese // Oct 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Yeah for Grits! Clewiston Inn Sunday Brunch has a fair to middlin’ serving of grits. Most places they are too watery and no taste. Yes, grits have taste!
    My eggs need to be scrambled with a little bit of milk and a dab of butter in the pan. I can do without breakfast meat most of the time, but a fluffy biscuit will do me in everty time — with butter and honey, please!

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