Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Eggs in ABQ

The government tells me that I should be careful about how I cook my food at this high altitude (Albuquerque is officially at 5,312 feet, which is just over 1 mile) because things are just different here.

Water boils faster, at a lower temperature. Which means pasta takes longer to cook, annoying me greatly. However, it also means that I can get my coffee fix just a bit sooner. There are pros and cons to this, but I think the cons outweigh the pros by far.

Everything takes longer to cook up here, and with more moisture (I am struggling against adding more oil or butter to everything, and trying valiantly to add more water or stock or whatever). This is irritating to me, as I like to cook fast, simple, and with as few pans and pots as possible.

I have a weird sort of paranoia about bacteria and germs in my food, so a few years ago, I bought a Thermapen, an instant-read thermometer for the most OCD people out there. I use it almost daily, depending on what I'm cooking (other than those blissfully simple days when I'm just having rice, kimchi, and gim). Anytime I am cooking meat of any kind, I break out the thermometer and make absolutely sure that the meat is done. I don't need diseases from my food, thank you very much.

All this is just a long-winded way for me to explain this annoyance that I am currently having when trying to cook my lunch. I love eggrolls. No, not those eggrolls that are wrapped and fried. Eggrolls that are literally eggs, rolled while cooked, with or without being filled. Some people (mostly of the Japanese or bento-minded variety) call these tamagoyaki, while I grew up calling these 계란 쌈 (pronounced 'gye-ran ssam,' literally meaning egg (gye-ran) wrap (ssam)). These are the Korean version of tamagoyaki, with one significant change: savory, rather than sweet.

Tamagoyaki, as I discovered the first time I tried it, are sweetened eggs. That was an unpleasant surprise, let me tell you. I love eggs- scrambled, fried, rolled, in omelets and frittatas- but I do not like them sweet. Unless they're an ingredient in desserts, in which case, bring on the sugar.

Gye-ran ssam, on the other hand, are a very similar concept but savory, much more my speed. I love these wrapped eggs for lunch. They're as close to a perfect packed lunch as I can imagine.

Another weird thing about me: when I pack my lunch, I hate to refrigerate it and microwave it before eating. Yes, that's right. I'm on the cusp of being a germaphobe but I hate two of the major components that would kill germs. I never said I was without quirks.

So when I do pack lunches, I have to pack things that will stay good out of the fridge and that will taste good at room temperature. Gye-ran ssam are perfect for this, provided the eggs were completely cooked and there's nothing in the roll that needs refrigeration.

The ssam above (taken with my phone, at my desk) is filled with sopressata, red bell pepper, and kale. Under the egg roll is a layer of rice (long-grain rice with some wild rice, which gives an overall purple hue) with some peas thrown on top, because I love peas.

Very nearly the perfect lunch to pack and eat at work.

Too bad Albuquerque is trying to ruin it by making it take a few extra minutes to cook my eggs.