Change, or maybe luck, has a funny way of creeping up on you. Maybe you have to feel completely hopeless before it will swoop in to save you, or maybe all it really takes is making other plans before something unexpected magically works out. Whatever it is, it feels like the perversity of the universe at its finest.
A few weeks ago, I randomly decided to click on the legal/paralegal section of the classified ads on Craigslist. There was no rhyme or reason to my decision; I simply felt I didn’t have that much to lose. I was tired of looking at the writing/editing jobs and of seeing the requirement for a California state teaching certification hidden at the bottom of the descriptions of most education jobs. Plus, none of the food or teaching jobs I had applied to–positions I believed I was and am generally qualified for–had come to anything and any admin position I sent in a resume for seemed set on ignoring both me and my current admin experience. It’s not breaking news to say this, but it’s a tough market out there, which is why I started to think I needed to do something to shake things up a little (don’t they say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?). So I sent in both my resume and writing sample to the email connected to the ad and then promptly forgot all about it. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that optimistic, so I instead started thinking about the World Cup, Mexican food, the Greek’s and my upcoming (now past) trip to LA and the trips we would take to Greece and Pennsylvania later this summer. And then the call came.
While this may seem fairly insignificant to most job hunters who get hundreds of interview requests, to me just getting a call seemed like an important step. It was like I was halfway there. It turns out my instincts were spot on, too. To make a long story short, after the requisite panic about what I should wear, I had the interview and was asked for my references; then, after a weekend of simultaneously biting my nails and frolicking in Southern California, I got the job. Let me repeat that with the appropriate enthusiasm and punctuation, I got the job!!!
But now I’m scared–scared of all the change that is coming and worried about work-life balance
and maintaining my creativity, as well as asking myself–with the infamous imposter complex
hard at work whispering in my ear–how I will do at this kind of work. Of course, on the other hand I recognize that I’m just being silly. This is an exciting
and wonderful opportunity (I now know that my obsession with The Good Wife
this past year
was just training for future employment) and I wouldn’t change anything about it (well, except for the fact that I now won’t be going either to Pennsylvania or Greece this summer). It’s only natural that with change comes doubt and worry.
I think the doubt really stems from the fact that I’m finally, after 31 years, entering the world of 9-5 employment. I’ll commute to San Francisco and, like so many in the Financial District, briskly walk with a coffee in my hand and a scarf wrapped around my neck to ward off the chill from the fog. I guess you can say that this is, for a former academic/lifetime student like myself, yet another step into adulthood. Maybe even a definitive step that will push my life in a new direction. I’m sure that I’ll gain and learn a lot–isn’t that, after all, the point of trying something new?–but now that I’ve accepted, I also can’t help but think of all the things I’ll lose.
On weekdays there will be no more long morning walks with the pup or fancy breakfasts of yeasted waffles, eggs or anything else that I might dream up overnight. That’s not to say that I’m not okay with toast or yogurt with granola, but somehow I think the loss of a leisurely and hearty breakfast is the thing I’ll mourn the most in the coming months. It’s funny that I should say that because I really don’t know when I became a “breakfast person,” but there’s something about the meal that has become indispensable to me and my morning routine. Whether savory or sweet, it sets the tone for my day; it’s the quiet time when, fueled by the all-important cup of strong coffee with half-and-half, I mentally sketch out my list of things to do.
The person who has been shaping my mornings recently is April Bloomfield
, the chef and co-owner of New York’s The Spotted Pig
and The Breslin
, as well as San Francisco’s Tosca Cafe
. Given Bloomfield’s focus on using all parts of the
animal in her various kitchens, the food media has deemed her The Queen of Meat
, although something tells me she might lose this title once her second book, A Girl and Her Greens
, comes out. Maybe because I had a memorable brunch at The Spotted Pig a few years ago, when I first got my hands on Bloomfield’s debut cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig
, I immediately turned to the chapter devoted to breakfast. I’ve since found that my memory of that meal was not mistaken. With Bloomfield, simple breakfast staples like eggs and oatmeal become something special and more than a little inspired (her porridge
is remarkable; milk, water, steel cut and rolled oats and a hefty teaspoon of sea salt may be the humblest of ingredients, but Bloomfield turns them into a luscious and textured affair).
As much as I crave her porridge on a grey Bay Area morning, I really have a weakness for her Baked Eggs with Anchovies and Cream. While I know that anchovies are one of those divisive ingredients–you either love them or hate them–the truth is that there’s nothing fishy about these eggs; the anchovies are just a flavor booster, working together with fresh rosemary and lemon zest to make this dish as bright and flavorful as possible (in fact, if you, unlike me, actually take the time to fillet them as Bloomfield suggests, you’ll never even notice they’re there). To soften and balance these ingredients, Bloomfield also uses heavy cream for depth, red pepper flakes for heat and creme fraiche for a hint of tang. While on paper it may not seem like these ingredients should be combined (I felt the same way about the sage, cilantro and tahini in her lentil salad
), they come together in a surprisingly harmonious way. I’m happy to say that although weekday breakfasts will no longer be such a decadent and pitch-perfect Bloomfield-ian affair, these eggs and other breakfast recipes from A Girl and Her Pig
will be waiting for me as a weekend treat.
Baked Eggs with Anchovies and Cream
Yields 4 servings (or 2 for the hungry and gluttonous)
As I mentioned above, I didn’t fillet my anchovies, nor did I use salt-packed ones, which are April’s preference. I usually buy oil-packed anchovies and, considering that the bones are fine, I just leave them in. I also don’t rinse anchovies before I use them since I find that some of the flavor can be lost. But depending on your level of comfort with their flavor and the general presence of bones in fish, you can and should consider both removing the bones and rinsing off the oil and/or salt.
Also, in hindsight, I realize it was a mistake to use two different sets of ramekins, but, ever since one of my smaller ones broke, I’ve had a mismatched set. Because I used two large ramekins and two smaller ones, I should have removed the larger ones first (as the Greek told me, the law of heat transfer says that that heat transfer is proportional to surface area, which, in non-engineer speak means that things in bigger dishes cook more quickly than things in smaller dishes. To me, this seems counter-intuitive, but I suppose this is why I’ve never excelled at science), but I didn’t. To avoid such problems, I would recommend using identical ramekins or dishes, so that everything cooks evenly. You want the yolks to be creamy, rather than tough.
1 large garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 salt- or oil-packed anchovies, rinsed, soaked and filleted (or according to your preference)
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fine lemon zest
4 large eggs
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
flaky sea salt
4 teaspoons creme fraiche (or, if you don’t have this, sour cream or even plain whole-milk yogurt)
-Preheat the oven to 400 F.
-Using 1 tablespoon of the butter, grease 4 ramekins (preferably, they should hold eight ounces) and place in a small- or medium-sized baking dish. Then, set aside until ready to use.
-Chop the garlic with the rosemary until the combination starts to resemble blue cheese.
-Put 1 tablespoon of the butter in a pan (I used a large cast iron skillet) set over medium-high heat and let it start to froth.Then, add the garlic and rosemary and, using a spatula, gently stir.
-Once the garlic starts to brown, after about 1 minute, add the anchovies and stir again. Turn off the heat and keep stirring the anchovies until the break up.
-Pour in the cream and add the lemon zest, then stir. Turn the heat back on and up to medium-high and bring to a boil (it should look like a thin cream of mushroom soup). Remove from heat.
-Split the cream mixture as evenly as possible amongst the 4 ramekins and then crack an egg into each one. Sprinkle on the red pepper flakes and add a dash of the flaky sea salt, as well as a teaspoon of creme fraiche (or sour cream or yogurt), to each ramekin.
-Then, carefully pour water into the baking dish until it is slightly higher than the level of cream in the ramekins.
-Place the baking dish onto the middle rack in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the whites have set completely (depending on your oven, I would start checking the eggs at 18 minutes and anticipate letting them cook for as long as 22 minutes). Just be careful not to overcook the eggs.
-Once the eggs are cooked to your liking, remove the baking dish from the oven and leave the ramekins to sit in it for an additional 2 minutes.
-Use either tongs or a silicon oven mitt to remove the ramekins from the water. Serve immediately and preferably with freshly toasted bread.