Author Archives: Karl T. Ulrich
Edit the post here.
Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
I haven’t posted in forever, but I was inspired this evening to just document what I have found to be the best approach for perfect hard-boiled eggs. What do I mean by perfect hardboiled eggs? Two things: (1) the yolk is cooked to the hardness I like, and (2) the shell peels off easily without that annoying sticking of egg white to the shell. (For the food nerds out there, my understanding, via an explanation I read in Cooks Illustrated, is that by dropping the eggs into boiling water you cause the membrane surrounding the egg white to bond to the shell allowing for easy peeling. Whereas if you bring cold eggs and water to a boil together, the membrane bonds to the egg white and the shell causing that annoying pocking of the egg white– or something like that.)
Total time from start to finish is about 20 minutes — with only about 2 minutes of actual work time, the rest waiting for water to boil and eggs to cook. We all should have a carton of HBs in the fridge all the time. No excuses not to.
Here’s what you do. Follow exactly. The only deviation that I have found to be discretionary is cooking time. If you prefer softer eggs, use less than 14 minutes. If you are cooking at high altitude, you’ll need longer.
1. Prick the top of each egg with a fat tack while the eggs are in the carton. Make sure the tack goes all the way through the shell.
2. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. The water is about 2 inches (50mm) deep here. Must be at a boil.
3. Using a pair of tongs, hold the egg vertically and slowly lower it into the water (maybe 3 seconds duration of immersion process). You’ll see in the second image that one egg has that annoying white eruption of egg white. I did that on purpose to demonstrate the importance of vertical immersion. If you drop the egg in with the hole down or to the side, the small air gap inside the egg shell will expand and extrude that egg white out the hole. That’s why you grab the egg with the tongs and lower it into the water over a period of about 3 seconds with the hole at the top. The air expansion happens nicely in this case, and you’ll see bubbles coming out of the hole and no egg white spilling out. It seems that as long as the air bubbles get started out the top it doesn’t matter if the egg then rolls over to the side.
4. After all eggs are immersed, start 14:00 minute timer. (This will end up averaging about 14:30 cook time, given the time required to lower the eggs into the water before you start the timer.) Note that this time will be invariant of the number of eggs so long as you have plenty of water and keep the heat high initially. The point is to keep the water at 212F/100C, in which case the cook time should not depend on the number of eggs you cook.
5. At 14 minutes, pour off most of the water and dump a big pile of ice into the pan.
6. Let the eggs cool for a few minutes. This allegedly further causes the membrane to do the right thing, but I think the more important effect is to stop the cooking process at a precise time. If you’re going to eat some eggs immediately and like them warm, I pull them after a couple of minutes so they are at perfect eating temperature. If I’ll be storing the eggs in the fridge, I let them chill.
7. Store or eat. (Cut the top off the egg carton and store the eggs that way — you won’t forget they are hard boiled eggs and you’ll be reminded you’ve got a nice inventory of nature’s perfect food ready to eat.)
You’ll get perfect eggs every time.
Polishing Grazed Eyeglasses
One day my eyeglasses (Warby Parker brand) mysteriously developed a grazing on both lenses. My theory is that it resulted from wearing them under ski goggles on a very cold day on the slopes in Utah and then quickly removing the goggles, causing a rapid temperature change in the plastic lens. I believe it’s possible that the relative difference in thermal expansion between a coating on the lens and the lens itself causes the coating to develop micro cracks across the surface. Whatever the reason, I ended up with glasses that I could barely see through. I have quite poor eyesight, so really need my glasses for pretty much everything. What to do?
My first attempt at correction was to go into the Warby Parker store and ask if they could polish my lenses. (I assumed this was a standard procedure. It’s not.) The store said they would replace the lenses under warranty if less than a year old. (Mine were three years old.) They said they’d replace the lenses at modest cost (maybe $50?) but that this would take a couple of weeks. I was traveling, couldn’t do without the glasses and didn’t have a spare pair. I was then planning to order a new pair, but needed a new eye exam, etc. etc.Continue reading
Sous Vide Cooking “as is” Vacuum-Packed Meat
I’m always looking for short cuts in cooking. I recently bought a Nomiku consumer sous-vide immersion heater. I have been pretty happy with the low-cost Ziploc-brand vacuum bags and manual pump. I don’t really see a compelling reason to buy a $150 vacuum sealer.
However, a lot of cuts of meat come already vacuum packed in a low-density polyethylene (LDPE) wrapper. Can you just cook the meat as-is in that wrapper as it comes from the store. That would sure make things easy. The short answer is yes. I have now done this a dozen or so times with skirt steak, flat-iron steak, and today with a leg of lamb (for Easter).
Cleaning the Facade
One of my questions about this project was how they were going to treat the facade, particularly the signage that had been painted on the brick at the corner of Arch and 2nd Street.
Today, I noticed a masonry restoration contractor pressure washing and manually scrubbing the facade. You have to be careful with brick, as you can erode the hard protective layer of the brick if you use too much pressure or use an abrasive. My guess is that they will re-point at least some of the brick — the really tedious and expensive process of replacing the mortar between bricks on the outer surface of the wall. We’ll see. I’m also very curious to see how they handle the windows — my guess is we’ll just see entirely new windows.
Putting On the Roof
Wow. Roofers can be amazing. This condo project comprises seven formerly distinct buildings. The first step of the project was to put on a new roof over the entire set of buildings. The theory is that you don’t want to start doing new work inside until you have a nice tight roof to prevent water from entering. A crew of about a dozen roofers stripped the entire original roof (many layers of nasty asphalt roofing material), did deck repairs, and put down a continuous membrane over the whole thing, all in about a week. It was a marvel to behold. Here’s the finished roof.
Furthermore, they did this on a tight city street seven stories up. The trick is to set up a chute from the roof top to a dumpster below and to have 2-3 people dedicated to moving the debris off the roof into the dumpster(s).
This type of roof is sometimes called a “rubber roof.” The material is made of a synthetic rubber (EPDM, usually) and comes in a roll. It can be seamed reliably by overlapping layers and using an adhesive that essentially fuses the material. Think of this as a continuous rubber membrane draped over the entire seven buildings.
Of course one tricky problem is how you get the water off the roof. In city settings like this, you can’t just run it off onto the ground. You also have to get it off the middle of the roof, not the edges, because of the way the roof pitches work. As a result, there are central drains on the roof sections, with cages over them to prevent debris from entering. These must be plumbed into the city storm water drainage system. We’re shouting distance from the Delaware River, so my guess is that the drain runs into the river quite nearby.
Condo Project in Old City Philadelphia
First of all, this is not my project; I’m just an observer. I now live in a contemporary high rise in Old City Philadelphia. I look out my window onto a collection of historic buildings on the first block of Arch Street. A project is underway to convert seven of these buildings into 43 housing units.
This blog has a pretty good description of what we know about the project so far.
Trenton China Pottery was founded in 1927 and was one of a collection of restaurant supply companies that operated in Old City for a hundred years. Many are still in the neighborhood. Walking north on 2nd Street from Market Street you’ll encounter an eclectic mix of galleries, shops, restaurants, and restaurant supply companies.Continue reading
For some time, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of painted on whiteboard surfaces. I have a shop/office in a commercial loft in Philadelphia with plain white drywall partitions. When I was in Home Depot I saw this Rust-Oleum paint. It’s about $20. I thought I’d give it a try.Continue reading
Baltic Birch Media Shelf Unit – CNC Routed Parts
In the Park City house, we have three bedrooms that all are set up nearly identically with wall-mounted TVs. We fed the wires through the wall, but then have the pesky cable box to contend with. I wanted a shallow media shelf of some kind that would accommodate a cable box and a DVD player, but be relatively small and unobtrusive. The main problem with some of the products on the market is that they are too deep. I really wanted something about 11 inches deep, which is plenty for the items to be stored. So, I designed a shelving unit that could be assembled from tubing and flat shelves. Here’s what I ended up with. It’s 32″ W x 11″ D x 21-1/2″ H.
I originally wanted to do it in MDF with PVC pipe or galvanized pipe, but my wife thought it was too raw. Here’s the prototype I whipped up of that concept using about $15 worth of Home Depot parts. (I used white “Sharkbite” PET tubing and particleboard shelving, with plumbing strapping on the diagonal in back for stiffening.) I kind of like it as is, and in fact, used it for a year in the house with no complaints.Continue reading