Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs {Recipe}

I’m not sure where I first saw marbled tea eggs, but I’ve wanted to try them for some time. The opportunity finally presented itself just before Easter. I bought 3 dozen eggs for the kids to color (hey, they were on sale for $1.19/dozen). I boiled all the eggs, but the girls started to lose interest around the second dozen. And that’s when I decided to commandeer about a half dozen eggs and try making tea eggs.

As dramatic and, yes, delicious as these eggs are, they are really easy to make. Having already hard-boiled the eggs, it was just a matter of cracking the shells and then simmering the eggs in a spice-tea mixture for a few hours.

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 bags strong, clean-flavored black tea
  • 1/2 cup ponzu sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Directions

  1. Place eggs in medium saucepan and cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Bring the water to a full boil, then turn off burner. Cover the pan and let sit for 7 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan, but don’t dump the water. Allow eggs to cool.
  2. When eggs are cool enough to handle, crack the shells without removing, using the back of a spoon or flat edge of a table knife. Try to get as many small cracks as possible.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the water in the saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Return eggs to the pan and add water to cover eggs by at least 2 inches.
  4. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer eggs for 2-3 hours. The longer they cook, the darker the marbling and stronger the flavor. Add water as needed during cooking to keep eggs fully submerged.
  5. Refrigerate unpeeled eggs in cooking liquid in glass or ceramic container.

Note: If you don’t have ponzu available to you, substitute an equal amount of soy sauce and the zest of 1 lime.

These eggs are as delicious as they are visually stunning. The ponzu and spices give them a great citrusy, spicy, slightly salty flavor. And the tea lends to both the color and taste.

You can serve these eggs warm, cold, or at room temperature; plain, with a little salt, ponzu, or soy sauce; by themselves or cut up and served on rice or noodles. You could even make deviled eggs with them, or slice them in half and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and caviar. The possibilities are almost endless. But, to tell the truth, my favorite way to eat them is with the barest sprinkle of salt.

Now that I’ve finally tried tea eggs, I want to make them again with different spices. Maybe next time I’ll leave out the star anise and add some whole cloves and allspice. Or perhaps Chinese 5-spice powder. One thing’s for sure: I’m not waiting until next Easter to make more of these beauties.

Crème Fraîche {Recipe}

I recently made blini with smoked salmon and crème fraîche from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. And, as always when I make a recipe calling for crème fraîche, I looked at the price of it in the store and decided to make my own. Dorie has a recipe for crème fraîche in her book, and there are lots of recipes available online. My method differs slightly from other recipes I’ve seen and is based on my experience making it numerous times.

I start with 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Most recipes recommend using pasteurized, rather than ultra-pasteurized, whipping cream. But because ultra-pasteurized is the only kind I can regularly find, that’s what I use.

I heat the cream and buttermilk to about 100˚ to 110˚F. I find that heating the ingredients gives the culturing process a jump start.

Next, I cover the container with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for 36 to 48 hours, stirring once or twice per day. 

I let the cream culture until it thickens and gets tangy. It won’t be quite as thick as sour cream, but it will continue to thicken in the refrigerator.

I put a tight-fitting lid on the container and store it in the fridge. It will keep for about 2 weeks and will continue to get tangier during that time.

For my money, homemade crème fraîche is every bit as good as store bought at less than half the price. Once you make it, you’ll find all sorts of things to do with it, like this:

Crème Fraîche

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Directions

  1. Heat cream and buttermilk in a small saucepan to about 110˚F.
  2. Put cream mixture in clean container, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to culture at room temperature for 36 to 48 hours, stirring several times per day, until thickened and tangy.
  3. Cover container tightly and store in refrigerator.

Yields 1 cup. Best used within 2 weeks.

Blini with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche {FFwD}

This dish was the French Fridays with Dorie recipe a few weeks ago. I didn’t make it then, as I thought no one else in the house would eat it. I waited a few weeks until my parents were going to be in town, as I knew at least Dad would appreciate it.

I’ve never made blini before, and I was surprised to find that they were really just little pancakes made with buckwheat flour.

While the blini were cooking, I gathered the remaining ingredients: smoked salmon, caviar, fresh tarragon (the recipe called for dill, but I used what I had), and homemade crème fraîche.

Once the blini were cooked, it was just a matter of assembling everything.

To my great surprise, the girls appeared while the blini were on the griddle and announced that they wanted to try them. A left the caviar off hers, but she and M ate three or four blini each before Dad even made it to the kitchen to try one.

This is a fun, somewhat fancy appetizer. It would be great to serve with cocktails or at the start of a dinner party. It’s impressive, but not as stuffy as you might imagine. Heck, it’s even great for kids!

Cinnamon-crunch Chicken {FFwD}

Chicken, speculoos, crème fraiche, butter, salt, and pepper. That’s the entire ingredients list for this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. And it’s all you need to make a spectacular, creamy, spicy dish that’s sure to be a hit.

Speculoos are spicy, sweet, crispy cookies that are popular in France but available elsewhere. I found them in the international section of the grocery store. The ones I bought were LU Cinnamon Sugar Spice Biscuits. They are also easy to make if you can’t find them in the store, although Dorie notes that she prefers the store-bought ones for this recipe.

I began by stirring crushed speculoos into homemade crème fraiche and seasoning with salt and pepper. Although the cookies are sweet, you don’t use a lot, and the tanginess of the crème fraiche combined with the salt and pepper makes the mixture more savory than sweet.

Next, I sliced chicken breasts into strips and sautéed them in butter until well-colored and almost cooked through. I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper, stirred in the crème fraiche mixture, and cooked everything for a minute or two until the crème fraiche was warmed and the chicken cooked through.

I served the chicken with homemade bread and a salad for a quick and easy weeknight supper. As I was putting the dish together, I remember how my dad used to tease my grandmother for putting a dash of paprika on everything before it went on the table. What Nanny Faye understood and Dad didn’t was that we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouth. 

I must have inherited some of Nan’s genes, as I was worried that the dish would look to blah on the plate. In fact, I was originally going to serve it with creamy rice, but I realized it would be a  nearly monochromatic meal. So I dressed the dish up with a few speculoo crumbs and by serving it on a colorful plate.

If the color was less than impressive, the dish itself was delicious. The slightly sweet, spicy tang of the crème fraiche and speculoos paired so well with the chicken. The cinnamon in the speculoos wasn’t at all cloying or overpowering — it reminded me of savory Indian or Middle Eastern dishes that I’ve had with cinnamon.

Perhaps because of the association with Indian food, I reheated the leftovers and served them over couscous the next day. It was as good reheated as it had been the first day, and it married perfectly with the couscous.

This odd-sounding combination of ingredients made for one of my favorite dishes so far from Around My French Table. And it’s definitely one that I’ll make again.