Bye Lucky Peach, hello egg bo­nanza

Check out the fi­nal cook­book by the edi­tors of the pop­u­lar, now-de­funct food mag­a­zine.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By AMY SCATTERGOOD Flaky, crumbly Yank Sing egg tarts, from — Pho­tos: TNS

HIND­SIGHT is a funny thing, loaded with irony and re­gret and a kind of im­pos­si­ble nos­tal­gia, a qual­ity that should, by def­i­ni­tion, re­quire more than a few months to ac­cu­mu­late mean­ing. Think about pol­i­tics, of course. Think about eggs. Eggs? Well, yes, be­cause we’re talk­ing about Lucky Peach, the re­cently shut­tered food mag­a­zine, and All About Eggs, the fourth and fi­nal cook­book by the edi­tors of that pub­li­ca­tion, which came out in April.

So you read this last Lucky Peach cook­book, writ­ten by Rachel Khong with more than 50 an­cil­lary con­trib­u­tors, in a kind of ver­tigo, flip­ping the pages – and some­times the ac­tual eggs – with a heady mix­ture of hunger, amuse­ment and sad­ness.

It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to not find a dou­ble mean­ing spilled through the pages like curry sauce. This, of course, has al­ways been part of the funof Lucky Peach, a pub­li­ca­tion that was known for its mash-up assem­bly of ex­cel­lent and ir­rev­er­ent writ­ing about food, science and cul­ture.

The con­ceit of this cook­book is that it’s a primer about eggs, that most ba­sic of in­gre­di­ents, the dish that many of us first learn to cook — “every­thing we know about the world’s most im­por­tant food,” ac­cord­ing to the sub­ti­tle. And the book de­liv­ers on much of that, pro­vid­ing 88 recipes and many sto­ries, tips and anec­dotes culled from a mul­ti­cul­tural and multi­na­tional ar­ray of great chefs, food writ­ers, food sci­en­tists, tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties, physi­cists, nov­el­ists and more.

“And so we come – al­most! – to the end. Eggs ex­isted be­fore you and me, and eggs will out­live us all. This thought is ei­ther com­fort­ing or ter­ri­fy­ing, de­pend­ing on the sort of day you’re hav­ing,” writes Khong, in the pref­ace to the eighth and last chap­ter of the book: Im­mor­tal Eggs. This is both the tone and con­tent that she set in the first page (“This is a book about eggs. But more than that, it’s a book about mankind – it’s a book about us all.”) and which she has con­tin­ued through­out, as have her fel­low writ­ers. It should come as no sur­prise that Khong, a con­tribut­ing edi­tor who worked at Lucky Peach since its start in 2011, is also a San Francisco-based nov­el­ist; her first novel comes out in July.

That said, All About Eggs can read like a ca­coph­ony at times, as it’s some­times hard to fig­ure out which voice is which, and whose recipe is ex­actly whose. The pho­to­graphs (which along with the play­ful il­lus­tra­tions, are by Ta­mara Shopsin and Ja­son Ful­ford), on a black back­ground and oddly stark, are cor­doned off into one yel­low-edged sec­tion mid­way through the book. This is also where you’ll find the in­dex, sep­a­rate from the list of con­trib­u­tors, which is it­self at the end of the book. All this means that you end up tog­gling back and forth a lot, try­ing to match the bits of prose with their au­thors.

It should also be said that some of the recipes in the book pre­sup­pose a cer­tain ex­per­tise. Daniel Boulud’s fa­mous “per­fect” omelette far­cie, for ex­am­ple, is both daunt­ing on the page and in ex­e­cu­tion, and I found my­self watch­ing the leg­endary French chef demo the dish on YouTube be­fore I got it right. (Even if you’ve al­ready mas­tered the dish, I rec­om­mend do­ing this). And the Hong Kong-style egg tart recipe from San Francisco restau­rant Yank Sing re­quired a few test runs in our Test Kitchen to get the me­chan­ics of home­made puff pas­try just right. Other recipes worked per­fectly on the first go-around. This kind of in­con­sis­tency can be com­fort­ing (leave the omelette to the ex­perts and flip to the bit about egg crys­tals on Mauna Loa Mars) or ter­ri­fy­ing, de­pend­ing on the sort of day you’re hav­ing.

But this also makes Khong’s orig­i­nal point, which is that eggs are harder than they look; there is a rea­son that mak­ing an omelette is the cook’s tra­di­tional, oft-cited rite of pas­sage.

Quite aside from be­ing a use­ful cook­book, it’s an ut­terly marvelous, of­ten hi­lar­i­ous read. Where else can you find a few pages from Harold McGee next to a recipe for Arzak eggs, a lit­er­ary anec­dote about an egg col­lec­tor (“Claude lived alone, a melamine sur­rounded by his arias”) near a bit about what to name your chicken (Bar­bara, or maybe Eldrida) and some­thing called Chick­ens of Port­landia? Writ­ing about a dish called Eggs Ke­jri­wal, yet an­other in the pro­ces­sion of gifted writ­ers notes that one will need “a pro­cessed white cheese that melts like rub­ber and tastes like nos­tal­gia.” Ex­actly. This is a cook’s cook­book, a writer’s cook­book, a reader’s book. RIP LP. — Los An­ge­les Times/ Tri­bune News Ser­vice

YANK SING’S EGG TART

Makes 6 to 12 tarts, de­pend­ing on size 1cup­wa­ter

1/2 cup sugar

4 eggs

1/4 cup evap­o­rated milk 1/2 tsp vanilla ex­tract salt, to taste pre­pared tart shells

In a saucepan, combine the wa­ter and sugar over medium heat and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the sugar dis­solves, 3 to 5 min­utes. Re­move from heat and cool the syrup.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs into the sugar syrup. Stir in the evap­o­rated milk, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Strain the mix­ture through a fine-mesh strainer into a con­tainer with a pour­ing lip. This makes a gen­er­ous 2 cups fill­ing, which will keep up to 3 days. Cover and re­frig­er­ate for sev­eral hours be­fore us­ing, to al­low any air in­cor­po­rated from whisk­ing to dis­si­pate be­fore bak­ing. 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold but­ter, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups all-pur­pose flour, di­vided, more as needed

1 egg

2 tbsp wa­ter egg cus­tard

In a large bowl, use a pas­try knife or fork to mash the but­ter with 3/4 cup of the flour, just enough un­til it will clump to­gether (there will still be bits of but­ter show­ing), to form an “oil dough.” Flat­ten the dough out into a square and re­frig­er­ate un­til well-chilled, at least 20 min­utes.

Mean­while, in a sep­a­rate bowl, mix the egg and wa­ter into the re­main­ing 3/4 cup flour to form a “wa­ter dough.” If the dough is too soft, work in ex­tra flour, a ta­ble­spoon at a time. Knead the dough un­til it is soft but still tacky, then form into a square about the same size as the oil dough. Cover and re­frig­er­ate un­til well-chilled, at least 20 min­utes.

Flour a work sur­face and re­move the wa­ter dough from the re­frig­er­a­tor. Roll the dough out to a rec­tan­gle twice the size of the oil dough.

Take the oil dough out of the re­frig­er­a­tor and spread it out on top of the wa­ter dough, leav­ing a large enough bor­der of the wa­ter dough to be able to fold over the oil dough en­tirely. Fold the sides of the wa­ter dough over the oil dough. If the dough be­gins to warm and soften at any time while fold­ing, re­frig­er­ate or freeze it un­til it is firm and chilled again be­fore pro­ceed­ing.

Roll the en­tire dough out to a large rec­tan­gle about the size of a sheet of A4 pa­per, and mark it into thirds. Fold each outer third over the cen­ter third, as if fold­ing a let­ter, and roll the dough out into a large rec­tan­gle again. If the oil dough pops through at any time, “patch” the hole with flour to seal. Re­peat three more times, chilling the dough as needed to keep it very cold.

On a lightly floured work sur­face, roll the dough out to a 1/2cm thick­ness. Cut out discs us­ing a round cut­ter that are slightly larger than the di­am­e­ter of your tart moulds (for ex­am­ple, cut 10cm rounds if us­ing 7 1/2cm tart shells mea­sured at the base, with 1cm sides).

Lightly grease the in­side of your fluted tart moulds and gen­tly press the pas­try discs into the moulds. Chill for at least 20 min­utes be­fore bak­ing. Mean­while, heat the oven to180°C.

Fill each pre­pared tart shell three-fourths of the way up with egg cus­tard.

Po­si­tion the tarts evenly on a bak­ing sheet and place in the oven. Bake un­til the crust is puffed and lightly colored, and the fill­ing is set (it should barely jig­gle when tapped), 30 to 45 min­utes. Bak­ing times will vary de­pend­ing on the size and depth of the tarts.

Re­move from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 to 10 min­utes, then care­fully tap the moulds to re­move the tarts. — adapted from a recipe in All About Eggs

All About Eggs.

All About Eggs is a cook­book by Rachel Khong and the edi­tors of Lucky Peach. No prizes for guess­ing the sub­ject ...

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