Wine Trail - Cook's Edition

Eggs Cuban Style (and Bonus: Huevos Rancheros)

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. 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. We've also included another recipe using the same techniques. You'll see why, down below, with Huevos Rancheros.

Are Runny Eggs Safe to Eat?

For some people it is recommended not to eat runny eggs. For more information check out recommendations from the CDC. For those who have concerns, you may have greater safety by purchasing pasteurized eggs. Not being egg 'specialists' we're quoting what we've read. It is said that since eggs can be pasteurized at a temperature lower than what will set the yolk (i.e., make it hard and not runny),  you should be able to still have your runny egg with additional protection. You'll definitely 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.

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 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 with a little bit of oil and a glass lid (they don't have to have come together as a set, find something that works!). For a single egg, crack it into the pan on medium heat, 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 (and as we'll show below) the trick works for something like huevos 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 stainless steel 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 magazine that we have enjoyed over the years (they try to combine science with cooking to find 'the best' recipes). When we went to buy such a pan we found that what we wanted 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 Matfer Bourgeat 11 7/8" 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 11 7/8" 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 ripen. 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. The ones we've gotten recently actually have a sticker that says "RIPE" in huge dark letters and "when soft" in small pale print. We like Haas and look for ones that have turned black and slightly soft to the touch. Too soft and they are likely too far gone. They'll ripen at home. As a matter of fact, avocados do not ripen on the tree! We put them in a paper bag with an 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 a lot of bright red 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. Though not the preferred solution, we have been successful at freezing avocado. Puree it with salt and lime juice. Wrap tightly to prevent freezer burn (or use a vacuum sealer if you have one). Works perfectly well for making smooth guacamole down the line.

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 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--we know). For this recipe we like the very watery, vinegary habanero salsa. We're not even sure if the bottle we're showing you contained that. It might have, 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

4-6 fresh eggs (we like 6 jumbo)
1/3 lb pineapple give or take, to your liking
Oil (we use olive)
1/2 head of garlic, give or take, peeled, chopped fine (or smashed)
2 very soft, preferably now black, plantains
Ripe avocado, sliced
Approx. 3-4 TB Italian parsley, chopped
Habenero sauce (the vinegary type, optional)
White rice, cooked

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 sauté 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.

Eggs 1

Sauté 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 sauté 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).

Eggs 2

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 about carbon steel), heat 2 TB of oil and sauté 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.

Eggs 3

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.

Eggs 3a
Eggs 4


(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 Rosé made by wine maker Lane Tanner some  years ago. We don't drink all that much rosé 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 rosé with it. As it turns out, Nalle made a Pinot Rosé and the 2015 Nalle Hopkins Ranch Rosé of Pinot Noir is what we drank when we made this recipe. Of course, it was really good. Not available at the moment, but they have just released their brand new 2020 Zin Rosé and it would be a fine choice!
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 treat this as a breakfast dish, we love it for dinner.

Weeknight Huevos Rancheros (for 2 hungry people)

1 large can (28oz) of fire roasted tomatoes
1 white onion, peeled and diced
2 serrano chiles (more or less to taste), finely chopped
1 chipotle chile in adobo, finely chopped (optional)
2 TB lime juice (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
6 eggs cracked into bowls (see Cuban Eggs recipe above)
Oil, optional

Beans, refried beans or other starch of choice
4 corn tortillas, heated

Cholula or other hot sauce (optional)

We often get Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes.  You can also find them in 12oz cans at Trader Joe's under their own brand. Drain the liquid (we reserve it to make Bloody (or Virgin) Marys. 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 its 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 or the like (or something made out of wood or plastic if using a non-stick pan) 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.

Without breaking the eggs, carefully remove the eggs and sauce to heated plates.

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, rosé or even sparkling! Or, with margaritas.

After digging in:

   Get just the recipes in .pdf format here