Cooking For Others: Fun-Employment Brunch
EVENT: “Welcome to Fun-Employment” Seminar
VENUE: Phoebe’s Apartment, Flatiron
PARTY SIZE: 2
TYPE: Working Weekday Lunch
MENU: “Eggs in Pipérade” Pizzas with Crispy Prosciutto; Deli Coffee (Mark)
Since quitting my job in August, it’s been a little bit difficult to find ways of creating structure in my daily life, especially when all I ever want to do at any given time is cook. But I’ve found that to maximize productivity, and to minimize my guilt for not being in a dark cubical like the rest of my friends, I must stay away from my apartment during daylight hours at all costs. Still, I find it hard not to indulge from time to time, especially when my stomach starts growling at the coffee shop (where a panini costs $8), and I realize that I have half a loaf of ciabatta and some pipérade sauce in a Tupperware container from the night before that are just begging to be part of my lunch.
My friend Mark, the guest at this particular workweek brunch, explained that this daily debate is a distinct sign that I am still in Phase 2 of unemployment. Phase 2 is a stage that begins with denial (my long vacation on Martha’s Vineyard) and slowly transforms into a constant, disorienting feeling of guilt.
Mark has been unemployed for over a year now, and he explained to me over breakfast pizzas just how his emotional battle with daytime freedom unfolded.
Mark’s Urban Leisure Stage began in DC, right after being let go from his job in real estate development. The free time inspired him to make the most of his city and tackle his To-Do list of weekend activities that once had required too much energy—museums, monuments, obscure restaurants, and lots and lots of reading on benches. There is a feeling of urgency in this stage, he explained, which makes it inherently short-lived.
As his severance package dwindled, Mark decided to lead a less wasteful life by moving back to his hometown of Kansas City and into his parent’s house. Thus began the Guilt Phase, which was only heightened by the environment, his childhood bedroom. Job hopelessness and the onset of Midwestern claustrophobia led to The Escapism Phase—Mark’s fleeing for South America. I met Mark right before he left for this epic adventure, and I had never before encountered a more well-adjusted unemployed soul.
Fast forward six months and four phases, and Mark has taken a risk and moved to New York to pursue, intensely, Phase 7: The I-Really-Really-Need-to-Get-a-Job Phase. To hear about the latest developments in his job prospects and get advice about my new life without any, I invited Mark over to sample the latest product of my cooking urges: “Eggs in Pipérade” Pizzas. While we ate, we embraced our stereotype by watching daytime television and discussing which cartoons could make a good Broadway production, should Mark ever move onto Phase 8, The Independent Creative Phase, since his idea to write Home Alone: The Musical was foiled back during the Leisure Phase.
I have faith that Mark will soon be among the ranks of Midtown Manhattan drones, and I will have to find a new well-adjusted unemployed soul to share my guilt-ridden weekday creations with. But if not, you just might end up seeing Dora The Explorer: The Musical coming soon to a theater near you.
From my kitchen, where unemployment produces workweek pizzas, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
“Eggs in Pipérade” is a breakfast classic from Basque country—a smoky tomato and red pepper sauce baked together in the oven with sunny side-up eggs. For me, brunch is not a complete meal without some form of melted cheese, and toast with which to eat it. This recipe combines all of my favorite breakfast ingredients—eggs, bacon, cheese, and crusty bread—and transforms them into a brunch version of my favorite dish: pizza. The hot paprika in the pipérade adds another flavor twist to classic pizza sauce, and lightly pan-frying the prosciutto creates a new type of upscale, elegant breakfast meat. Most importantly, baking the eggs in the tomato mixture allows the yoke to remain runny, while the whites set right into the sauce, much like they would atop a round brick-oven pizza in Italy.
For the Pipérade (adapted from Gourmet):
1 large onion, diced
2 red bell peppers, finely diced
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp basil, julienned
For the pizzas:
3-4 large eggs
¼ cup Parmesan shavings
1 loaf ciabatta
1 clove garlic
1/2 lb fontina (or other mild melting cheese like Bel Paese, un-aged Manchego, or Monterey Jack), thinly sliced
3 slices prosciutto
1 tbsp basil, julienned (optional)
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion and red pepper in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, garlic, and cook for another 2 minutes, until the mixture is very fragrant. Season generously with salt and pepper, and carefully stir in the tomatoes. Simmer until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables are very tender, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and taste again for seasoning.
(optional) In a food processor, puree half of the mixture. Combine with the remaining sauce and the basil and set aside. This can be made up to a week in advance.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Spread the piperade in a shallow baking or gratin dish. With the back of a spoon, create holes for the eggs (as spaced out as possible). Crack each egg into one of the holes. Place dish in the oven and cook until the whites have almost set, 7 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with half of the parmesan shavings. Return to the oven for another minute for the parmesan to melt. Set aside.
While the eggs are cooking, cut the ciabatta in half length-wise. Brush the bottom half with olive oil and save the top for another use. Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Remove the crusty bread and rub it with the garlic clove. Arrange the fontina slices on the bread and return to the oven. Bake until the cheese has melted, about 2 minutes.
For the prosciutto, heat a thin layer of olive oil in a non-stick skillet. When the oil is hot, add the prosciutto slices in one layer. Fry on both sides until each slice has become paper thin and crispy. Set aside to drain on a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, crumble into rustic pieces.
To serve, spoon the egg and tomato mixture on the ciabatta so that the eggs are arranged in one neat line. Garnish with the remaining Parmesan shavings, crispy prosciutto, and basil. Cut into two pieces and serve immediately.