Wait a minute!! What’s THAT?! Yes, there, on page 50. Is that an egg? How did they do that? We’ve GOT to try it.
And so, as you can see, we did.
Alas, the morning was not without its tantrums. Oh my no.
I decided that we should try making green onion cakes again to go with the eggs. And first thing, I mixed and kneaded the dough. No tantrums there. That went very smoothly.
Until it got to putting on the sesame oil. I knew I’d be in big trouble if I put on too much sesame oil. I knew I’d be in big trouble if I didn’t put on enough oil.
We had recently read about ‘oily scallion cakes (congyou bing)’ in “Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook” by Ellen Schrecker. For these, the dough is made simply with flour and boiling water. The dough contains no oil and after kneading is left to rest in an un-oiled bowl. After rolling out the dough, Mrs. Chiang calls for sprinkling on coarse salt then slathering with lard before putting on a relatively small amount of sesame oil. (She calls for the same thing with her flower steam buns and when I made those, I used butter instead of lard.) We talked about it. And decided to use vegetable oil instead of lard (not that there’s anything wrong with lard, we just didn’t want to slather the cakes with it).
And so we proceeded, pulling away from the precipice, still tantrum free.
Slice. Slice. Chop chop chop chop. The rather large fat green onions were perfectly chopped. Not too big. Not too small.
Still tantrum free.
And T started to make the tea eggs, following the SAVEUR recipe to the letter. Or so he claimed. The eggs were ready and resting in the tea marinade. It was time to make the bread.
Still tantrum free.
Roll roll roll roll. Beautiful smooth dough. Elastic. Like silk.
Still tantrum free.
And then I poured some sunflower oil followed by a little sesame oil on the rolled out dough.
he: What are you doing?! You’re supposed to use the brush to brush the oil on!
me: I AM using the brush!
he: No!! You’re supposed to dip the brush into a little bowl of oil, not slosh the oil on and then swoosh it around!! There’s oil everywhere now!
me: Mrs. Chiang says to slather it with lard….
And with storm clouds pushed to the edge of the horizon (barely), we proceeded to cook the green onion cakes. They turned out pretty well. Actually, they were great.
They didn’t have quite enough sesame oil for my taste, but it was decreed that the total amount of oil was exactly right.
We put the onion cakes into the toaster oven to keep warm while we quickly peeled the eggs.
me: These aren’t done!
he: They must be! I followed the recipe exactly. Against my better judgement.
me: You did what? We KNOW that Saveur recipes can be on the iffy side. [riffling the pages to the recipe and skimming] “Place eggs […] cover […] with cold water […] bring to a boil […] remove from heat […] about 5 minutes.” [screeching] Five minutes?? There’s NO way that they’ll be soft boiled in five minutes if they’re not boiling!! [muttering] (I HATE soft boiled eggs! They’re disgusting) [spewing] How long did you cook them afterwards?
he: I followed the recipe exactly. Five minutes. [growling] This egg is just getting torn to shreds. It’s not working at all. And the white’s not even done.
me: [shrieking louder] The white’s not done?! I can’t eat that! Let me see.
he: No. Don’t look. It’s revolting. I’m not letting you see. But THIS egg seems done. You try peeling this one.
And carefully carefully carefully, I started pulling bits of shell off of the insanely soft (muttering “this is soft-boiled” all the while.) T left me to it and stomped into the dining room. A few moments later, I stomped in with my breakfast. And choked a little down.
But we could see that this SHOULD work. So we quickly HARD-boiled one more egg in the tea. And I carefully carefully carefully removed the shell to reveal this stunningly beautiful egg that, of course, couldn’t be eaten because the egg was still covered in membrane.
I carefully carefully carefully removed the membrane to see…
And the flavour? Just a delicate hint of salt from the soy sauce. Next time (hmmmm, will there ever be a next time?) I’d add more spices to the mixture – we used their mixture, adding some dried chilies and cardamom.
Now I wonder if it might not be a good idea to boil the egg in the tea marinade for the whole time, removing it half way through to gently break the shell….
So. As you may have gathered (if you’re still here with all this dirty laundry hanging out), the SAVEUR recipe didn’t work at all as written.
The eggs have to be boiled (rather than left sitting) for 5 minutes until the whites are really firm. Otherwise it’s impossible to remove the shells without destroying the pattern – yes, we managed to make egg salad the first time.
On the second try, we boiled one egg for 5 minutes then rolled them to crack the shells and moved them into the marinade to boil for 7 minutes more, making sure there was lots of liquid and lots of tea. Then we plunged the egg into cold water and carefully removed the shells and served it warm with a green onion cake. Everything was beautiful. And delicious.
No more tantrums.