By Kristina Sepetys
Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories
by Fanny Singer, forward by Alice Waters
Fanny Singer is a writer and cofounder of the design brand Permanent Collection. Always Home is her very personal culinary memoir about growing up as the daughter of revered chef/restaurateur Alice Waters. Singer shares dozens of vignettes from life with her family, together with 60 recipes for some of the defining dishes of her life.
Excerpted from Always Home by Fanny Singer. Copyright © 2020 Fanny Singer, photography copyright © 2018 by Brigitte Lacombe. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
EGG FRIED IN A SPOON IN THE FIREPLACE
MY MOM FIRST DECIDED TO TRY HER HAND at a ﬁre-cooked egg after reading about it in The Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking: One Hundred Recipes for the Fireplace or Campﬁre, William Rubel’s 2004 compendium of hearth-based recipes. She begged her Sicilian blacksmith friend, Angelo Garro, to fashion her a spoon after an illustration of a 17th-century French implement featured in Rubel’s pages. Angelo consented and later even furnished her with a double-cup version (in an endearing heart shape) so that she could cook two eggs at once. The egg spoon was such a beloved implement that I even started a small design company that, among other things, produces a new version made by a female blacksmith in the Bay Area. If you can ﬁnd a blacksmith or have a handy friend who makes such things, it’s worth trying to twist his or her arm into producing something suitable. I’ve also searched antique shops far and wide, and while it’s not impossible to ﬁnd a cast-iron spoon, their handles are often too short and their cups a little too deep. Still, I always keep an eye out.
IN PREPARATION, light a ﬁre. Any type of ﬁreplace will do: living room, potbellied stove, campﬁre, possibly even a barbecue grill, provided its basin is generous enough to allow for some maneuvering. Wash and dry a big handful of lettuce leaves. Then use a mandoline to shave a bit of fennel and radish ﬁnely to toss with them. In the summer, add a few halved cherry tomatoes. Make a vinaigrette by pounding a small clove of garlic with a pinch of sea salt, adding some good red wine vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Let the garlic-vinegar brew sit a few minutes to macerate; then whisk in some extra virgin olive oil to taste. Keep it on the bright, acidic side so that it will balance the richness of the egg.
CRACK YOUR EGG into a little bowl and season with a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and a sprinkle of Marash pepper or cayenne. Arrange the logs and coals to create something like a little “salamander” oven (coals spread across the ﬂoor, with smoldering logs at either side and across the top, and a log in ﬂames at the back) so that heat comes from all directions—this will encourage the egg to puff up. Dress your salad and put a slice of bread in the toaster or on the grill. When the toast is ready, rub it lightly with a clove of garlic and drizzle it with olive oil. Grease your shallow, long-handled iron spoon with olive oil and warm it brieﬂy in the ﬁre. Pour in the egg and return it very carefully to the “oven” for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until the egg puffs up a bit and browns along the edges. Use a spoon or knife to gently loosen the egg and slide it onto the toast and serve the dressed leaves alongside. We’ve recently discovered that an egg spoon can also be successfully used over a gas stove top; it behaves something like a small, hypermobile cast-iron pan. You don’t get the same infusion of woodsmoke ﬂavor, but the egg still puffs up and cooks in a way unique to the spoon, and this method is somewhat less daunting for those uninitiated in ﬁre cooking.