Wine Trail - Cook's Edition

Eggs Cuban Style (and more)

Eggs are a wonder. From mayonnaise to omelet, meringue to ice cream, there is so much you can do with eggs. A runny yolk on all sorts of dishes drives aficionados wild. We are huge fans of eggs 'sunny side' up and there is a really easy way of pretty much getting them perfect.

Are Runny Eggs Safe to Eat?

Sadly, we can't answer yes or no. The safest thing to say is never eat a runny or lightly cooked egg (or raw egg for that matter). A properly cooked egg isn't likely to have any salmonella (the major problem). The CDC say 1 in 6 people per year will get sick from Salmonella, though that includes from all sources. Some people are more susceptible. Turn to the CDC for tips on how to avoid problems. That being said you'll find people who say they've eaten raw cookie dough all their life without problems. We're not here to tell you to eat something that might hurt you, but if you do decide to cook an egg sunny side up, we can tell you how we do it.

We call this 'Cuban Style' because the initial recipe came from a Cuban Cookbook. However we've changed it all around to suit our tastes.

The Perfect Sunny Side Up

Though you might have been cooking for a long time, certain tips come up you've never heard. This happened to us fairly recently when we heard long-time National Public Radio commentator & correspondent Linda Wertheimer explain how she makes the perfect sunny side up. Simply put, you need a pan and a glass lid (they don't have to have come together). For a single egg, crack it into the pan, add some water (she says half an egg shell's worth) and put the lid on. Watch until the yolk starts to glaze over with whiteness. How much whiteness is up to your tastes. Serve the egg. That's it. No guessing on doneness once you've decided how much doneness you like. As she points out the trick works for something like heuvos rancheros.  Put salsa into the pan, add the eggs ( extra water is not needed) and cook the same way.

Carbon Steel Frying Pan

The Perfect Pan 

Cast iron is often cited as the perfect pan. It is heavy and conducts heat wonderfully. And it stays hot. And it is cheap. But, they can be really heavy and have to be 'seasoned'. Fancy pans like All-Clad have a great reputation, don't have to be seasoned, but can be hugely expensive. There's something in between: carbon steel pans. We heard about them from Cook's Illustrated, a very useful magazine. When we went to buy one they cost hundreds of dollars on Amazon, all because of the demand from the magazine article. We waited...and waited...and waited. But eventually the price came down. We got a 12" pan for about $50 (tip: prices vary on Amazon, if you're willing to wait, you can get a better price.) These pans are often used in restaurants. They are heavier than All Clad but not nearly as heavy as cast iron. Like cast iron they have to be seasoned. Seasoning protects them from rusting, but what we have found is that when properly seasoned (it wasn't hard), these pans start to act like non-stick pans without any chemical coatings! The picture above is our 12" carbon steel pan with a glass lid from some other large (but not as big as the frying pan) pot. Perfect for these eggs which slid right out.


First, plantains. We know some people who hate bananas but love plantains. Plantains are in the banana family and depending at what stage of ripeness can be starchier. But when very ripe and fried up they can be candy-like in sweetness. That's the way we like them for this recipe. You'll want to plan ahead since getting them in that condition isn't always assured. We get ours at a local carniceria that also has produce. Sometimes the plantains are very black--perfect for tonight. Sometimes they are yellow or yellow with a little blackening. Those have to ripened. Fortunately they do. On a very hot day they may ripen pretty quickly. Also fortunately, you can put them in the refrigerator where they can stay at least a day. The ones in the picture below were wonderful.

Pineapple. It can be canned and drained, but fresh is very nice. Again, some planning. Supermarket ads almost always say things like RIPE PINEAPPLE.  They almost never are. Look for one that is starting to get golden, but not so far as to have started to ferment. They also say that if you can easily pull out one of the central leaves, that is a sign of ripeness. If you plan ahead you can buy it and let it ripen at home, then cut it up and refrigerate it.

Avocados. Another one where the ads always say RIPE. Usually not. We like Haas and look for ones that have turned black. But, the real trick is this: Slightly squeeze or push the larger round bottom of the avocado. If it is soft it is ripe. That's because the avocado ripens from the stem to the bottom, so if the bottom is soft, the entire fruit is ripe. However,  too soft anywhere on the fruit and there is a good chance it is likely too far gone. Never fun to open it up to gray or black mush...

Avocados will ripen at home. We put them in a paper bag with apple if we have one. The apple gives off ethylene gas which ripens the avocados. It can also help turn green tomatoes red, which does nothing to improve the taste. Ever wonder why store bought tomatoes have no flavor? When ripe, avocados can also be stored in the a point. Too long and they get hard and weird.

Parsley. We like flat leaf (also known as Italian) parsley. We had an interesting parsley (and cilantro) keeper. A plastic and metal contraption that kept the stems in water.  It worked pretty well. Until we dropped it and it shattered. Since then we found that you can take a small jar (see the picture), put the stems in, fill with water and cover with a thin plastic bag that you get when buy fruit at the market. Cut a few holes in it. (For something more sturdy and longer term, use a zip-loc bag, also with holes cut in it.) Store in the refrigerator. We have found it works as well as the thing we broke.

Garlic. We use a whole head of garlic in this recipe. We make camarones al mojo de ajo (shrimp with garlic) a lot and end up using 3 or 4 heads of garlic. We've seen a lot of tricks for how to peel all of it easily. None have worked particularly well for us (including the one where you shake unpeeled garlic cloves vigorously in a a pot). But we have found a great way for 'chopping' garlic. Using a Chinese cleaver on a cutting board, smash the garlic with the flat side of the cleaver while simultaneously sliding hard to the side. You pretty much pulverize it in an instant. The best video we've seen on it is from Martin Yan ("Yan Can Cook"). If you want to skip part of it, start around the 2 minute mark. He shows peeling the garlic, then smashing. Also for ginger. We have a pretty cheap cleaver. We use it a lot.


Habanero Sauce

Habaneros (or you can use Scotch Bonnets) are extraordinarily hot peppers. They also have a very fruity quality. When working with them we implore you to use gloves. The residue stays on your hands and you will sincerely regret it when touching your eyes or other sensitive parts of your body (it happens). For this recipe we like the very watery, vinegary habanero salsa. We're not even sure if the bottle we're showing you contains that. It might and you can probably find it. But what's in that bottle is what we made ourselves.  Get some habaneros (they are often expensive but you don't need many so it is way cheaper than buying a bottle of salsa). Boil them in enough liquid to cover -  50% white vinegar, 50% water and 1 TB salt per 2 cups of liquid. (Basically you are pickling them). Let cool, process the peppers and the liquid in a blender, and put in a bottle like that one if you have it (since it makes it easier to not use too much, though getting it in there is a little tricky). Store in the refrigerator. We can't tell you for how long. Ours has been there forever.

Habanero Sauce

The Recipe (serves 2)

Sunny Side Up Eggs Cuban Style
Carefully crack the eggs into a shallow bowl. We like to do 3 eggs per bowl. TIP: Crack them by hitting them straight down on a counter. There is less chance of getting shell fragments this way. If you want to be VERY careful, crack the eggs into a small bowl one at a time.  If you break the yolk set it aside for other uses and get another egg.  Carefully put the single egg into your larger bowls. (Like we said, we do 3 per bowl.)

Peel the plantains and slice diagonally into long strips (see the pictures).

Cut the pineapple into strips and saute it until lightly browned in a frying pan with some oil or butter. We use a large non-stick pan for this as we're going to use it again in a minute. Remove the pineapple and set aside.

Saute the plantains in the frying pan until lightly browned. Don't leave them alone too long. What makes them sweet (the sugar) burns quickly. Turn over and saute the other side. At that point shake in the habanero sauce to taste (we probably use more than most people. Be careful. But it does add a nice flavor (and a lot of heat if you aren't careful).

Put the pineapple back in with the plantains and keep warm.

Heat your serving plates. Hot plates are a really important part of a good hot meal. But remember to be careful. Warn diners that plates are hot and definitely use a potholder to deliver them to the table. And, of course, don't do it with children.

In another medium frying pan, something non-stick is best (see above), heat 2 TB of oil and saute the garlic until it just starts to turn brown.  At this point you have a choice. Most recipes would remove the garlic. We like it and leave it in. Carefully slide the eggs into the frying pan. Add several TB of water and put your glass lid on top. As described above, cook until the yolks start to or completely film over with white (less white means less cooked, pick your desired level of runniness). You can see some good pictures of what we mean in our bonus recipe, Huevos Rancheros, below.

When the eggs are done, carefully divide onto two hot plates. Place the plantains/pineapples on part of the plate. Place sliced avocados on another part of the plate. Place hot cooked white rice on another part of the plate. Salt the avocado and eggs to taste. Scatter the parsley across the eggs and rice.


(You can probably plate this better than we did. Tastes awfully good, though.)

Wine Pairing

Nalle Hopkins Pinot RoseNalle Winery
Normally we decide on a meal and then pair wine with it. This dish came about because we were given a Pinot Rose made by winemaker Lane Tanner some  years ago. We don't drink all that much rose and we tried to think of something to go with it. So eggs need a lighter wine, right? We don't know but we went looking for an egg dish and ended up with something similar to what you see here today. This is the way we've been making it for years and we always have a rose with it. As it turns out, Nalle Winery made a Pinot Rose and the 2015 Nalle Hopkins Ranch Rose of Pinot Noir is what we drank when we made this recipe. Of course, it was really good.
Nalle Winery Squirrels
We like to serve this wine well-chilled.  


Bonus Recipe

After staring at the Cuban Style Eggs recipe all day, we sort of got a craving for eggs. That dish was prepared a few weeks ago. Eggs are so useful that you can throw together a very quick dinner in no time. In this case a weeknight version of Huevos Rancheros. And it gave us a chance to get some more pictures to show the cooking technique. While some may think this a breakfast dish, we love it for dinner.

Weeknight Huevos Rancheros (for 2 hungry people)

We often get Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes.  You an also find them in 12oz cans at Trader Joes under their own brand. Drain the liquid (we reserve it to make Bloody (or Virgin) Mary's. If the tomatoes aren't chopped, go ahead and do so. Combine and mix all the ingredients except the eggs in a bowl. TIP: You might think of using a food processor to get all that stuff chopped and mixed. We do it when in a hurry, but we find it gets mushy and prefer cutting by hand.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. If it is non-stick you probably can get away with no oil. Remember that fat adds flavor to a dish due to it's ability to disperse the other ingredients in your mouth. Put the tomato mixture in the pan then carefully put the eggs on top of the tomato mixture. Depending on how you like your eggs cooked, you can then take a butter knife and poke through the whites down to the bottom of the pan so that they can heat more quickly.  This all depends on the size of your pan.  You want the whites to cook but if you like your yolks runny you probably will have to do the knife trick so the whites have more contact with the bottom of the pan and cook more quickly. Put your glass lid on top and cook according to the instructions in the Cuban Eggs recipe above.

Serve with the beans and tortillas. We also find that Cholula Hot Sauce (which uses pequin and arbol chiles) goes really well with these eggs and douse them liberally.

Great with one of the Nalle zinfandels or with margaritas.

Here are
summaries of the recipes in a .pdf you can print