Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Coming from a professional background in food, I insist on having a gas stove. After all, who ever blistered peppers, warmed tortillas or seared the pinfeathers off fresh squab on an electric stove top? 

I have a sneaky devil of a friend who once invited me over for dinner and then asked me to cook. And if I was such a darn good cook, why did I burn the tomato sauce? Because even on the lowest setting those spiral heating elements still eluded my control. 

But the downside of cooking with gas here at the farm is when I run out, it's a 23 mile trek to get my bottle filled. Now I know those of you who live in the area are thinking, "There are bottle exchanges closer than that," but I run off a larger 50-pound tank and not the pony bottles for your typical gas grill for flipping burgers. I know my bottle currently holds 8.8 gallons of propane. That's exactly what it takes when I run it empty. However, the local places that fill tanks charge a flat fee of what it would take to fill two smaller bottles, effectively charging me for 1.2 gallons of fuel which I do not receive. 

So when the local Tractor Supply Company put in a propane filling station, I began filling up there. Not only do they charge by the gallon, they are also significantly lower in cost than many of the local places--as much as $13 per tank. Therefore, I've made it a point to coordinate the filling of the cooking fuel with a trip to town or a visit with my parents nearby. 

This week the tell-tale odor of the end of the bottle came Sunday morning. "Please, please make it until Tuesday, I thought," knowing well I'd be traveling to Carlisle that day. Unfortunately, my Monday afternoon mug of tea after mid-day chores consumed the last of the fuel. Just as the kettle began to whistle, it ominously stopped.

While my tea kettle and cast-iron skillet bear the brunt of sizzling my sustenance, armed only with a microwave, a toaster oven (and plenty of salad greens), I knew I could easily mitigate for the preparation of dinner, morning coffee and breakfast.

One of the delicious and easy dishes I like to cook in the toaster oven for breakfast is Shirred Eggs, also known simply as baked eggs. Technically, my breakfast today would be referred to by culinary traditionalists as Eggs en cocotte since they were cooked in a ramekin and not a flat-bottomed dish known as a shirrer or a gratin dish, but all the same, the meal was simple, easy, nutritious and most importantly--delicious!

As with all my recipes, I try to offer a base from which to work with ingredients readily available at your weekly, seasonal farmers markets and CSA shares. Similarly, recipes can often be made with extras left over from larger meals. Instead of cheese, a tablespoon of cream also works well. And for those who don't eat meat, leave it out. Whatever way you decided to prepare shirred eggs, you'll find them a tasty treat. And a bonus idea--shirred eggs prep well for easy entertaining.

Painted Hand Farm Recipe of the Week: Shirred Eggs

2 farm fresh eggs
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon fresh herbs or ribbons of fresh, tender greens
1 tablespoon cooked meat minced, cured meat ribbons or crumbles 
(bacon, prosciutto, anchovies, shellfish, etc.)
1 tablespoon artisan cheese
fresh pepper
Directions: Smear butter in bottom and sides of ramekin. Add meat first, then eggs and top with pepper, herbs and cheese. Bake in toaster oven at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes and then broil for 4 minutes or until top is bubbly and browned. 

As always, Sandra's original recipes are available at her website, and freely available at farmers markets. Don't miss out on her weekly recipes, tips and ideas for cooking not just with Painted Hand Farm products, but the seasonal local ingredients found at farmers markets in the mid-Atlantic region.
Life is too short to eat bad food.