Saturday, June 10, 2017

Week 21 - Presentation

Around the time that I started looking for something to do for the presentation challenge (one which I was not really looking forward to as I'm not really great at plating and most food I make for dinner doesn't lend itself well to good plating), the buzz about cloud eggs started heating up. These eggs have been around for a while with recipes going back years, but apparently there was an Instagram craze at the time. The Washington Post even did a piece on cloud eggs. What would be better for presentation than making something that was really all about how it looked? I decided to pair the eggs with corned beef hash and some roasted potatoes, sort of a "breakfast for dinner," until I saw something about the Pinterest popularity of a recipe for Southwestern roasted potato salad. Might as well make it an on-trend presentation challenge meal and just incorporate that too.

Roasted Potato Salad

I went with the recipe for the Southwestern roasted potato salad as a starting point and inspiration, and used the following ingredients:

- about 1.5 lbs of small red potatoes ($1.79)
- 2 green bell peppers ($1.78)
- 1 red bell pepper ($0.99)
- 1 large onion ($0.50)
- olive oil ($0.50)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- cumin ($0.10)
- dried dill weed ($0.10)
- chili powder ($0.15)
- 1 can of corn ($0.70)
- 1/2 batch of scallions ($0.65)

The steps for the potatoes were pretty easy:

- prep (scrub and chop potatoes into quarters, chop peppers, chop onion)
- grease 2 baking sheets (was going to use one but ran out of space) and put potatoes and vegetables on the sheets
- cover in olive oil, salt, pepper, dill, cumin, chili powder and mix well with hands
- bake in 400 degree oven for 50 minutes, stirring once in the middle, until potatoes are fork tender (these are basically all the same steps I would done for the roasted potatoes anyway)
- remove potatoes to a bowl and add the corn and chopped scallions
- mix together well and season to taste (didn't really do much seasoning as the bowl was a little too small for easy mixing)

Considering all the ingredients that went into the potatoes, they weren't amazingly flavorful. With chili powder, cumin, dill, we just thought there would be more to them, but after they came out of the oven, they mostly just tasted like lightly seasoned potatoes. You couldn't really detect the chili powder or the cumin in the flavor even though I used a fair amount. They were fine, since we like the taste of potatoes, but no different from normal. In general, this really just seemed like a roasted potato dish like we would normally make for the most part. The only thing that differentiated it and "freshened it up" a little bit was the addition of the crisp corn and the scallions. That was nice for making the dish a little less heavy. It was good overall and the flavor grew on us after a bit, and it was also a good accompaniment for the rest of dinner. Just don't know that I would call this a salad. I do like the idea of adding in the corn and scallions to lighten the flavors though.

Corned Beef Hash

Not much to say here, as we basically just emptied the can into a skillet and let it brown, but it added another $2.09 to the total and lots of flavor.

Cloud Eggs

For the "main event," the cloud eggs, we separated 4 eggs. The yolks all went into separate bowls, and then all the egg whites together in one bigger bowl. Adding the 4 eggs to all the other components of dinner, the total was about $9.80. Not bad considering how much food there was.

Making the cloud eggs was easy in theory. Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, scoop out in four "clouds" with little nests for the yolks, bake at 425 degrees for about 3 minutes, add the yolks, and then bake at 400 degrees for another 3 minutes or so. It sounded easy but whipping the egg whites by hand took forever. We both took a turn at it and did about half the work. It did look hard in that mise en place challenge on Top Chef where they did this, but definitely not as hard as it felt for us amateurs.

The eggs were interesting. The texture of the egg whites when baked was light and fluffy, kind of cloud-like, also a little spongy. The yolks were still runny after the 3 minutes of baking, except the one that broke when it was going into the oven and spilled over like an egg volcano. The eggs generally were fine, but taste-wise, nothing special. Kind of amusing to look at, although questionable whether it's worth the work if you do the egg whites by hand.

Since it was a presentation challenge, I tried to make a landscape design on my plate and have it look nice, but it didn't really work. At least the cloud eggs still were presentation-worthy.

I'm not sure we would make the cloud eggs again. It was fun to try, even if just for the novelty of it, and they were pretty healthy as there wasn't really any oil or grease involved in cooking them, but they're a lot of work.

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