Carrying with the theme of eggs being brilliant, which of course they are, I am mystified by how people can manage to mess them up so completely. Eggs are delicate and so easy to cook, if someone asked me how I like my eggs, my answer would be, ideally cooked by me.
Ask anyone what goes into an omelette, filling apart, and you can get some surprising answers. The only things that go into an omelette is; 3 eggs, a speck of butter and some elbow grease, anything else and you are cooking something else. The omelette pan is a specific item, and is only used for that purpose. In a bowl beat lightly three eggs, on a high heat, add a speck of butter to the pan and swirl to melt and heat the butter to smoke point, add the beaten egg and immediately with the back of the fork move the egg. This the equivalent of the kids physical conundrum of patting your head whilst rubbing your tummy, it can be done with practise. With the left hand you push the pan backwards and forwards. Whilst using the back of the fork, move it in a circular motion. This action makes all the egg mixture turn over in the pan, setting as it moves, very quickly the egg is set and also slightly liquid on the surface, it’s done. Give the pan a bang on the ring, pick it up and holding the pan at a downward angle, knock on your left hand with your right fist, each knock makes the omelette climb up the outer rim of the pan until it sits in the edge of the pan like a taco, now add your filling, then, use the fork to close the omelette over the filling. Place the pan back on the ring and pick up the pan with your right hand upside down, this allows you to drop the edge of the pan on to the serving plate and lifting the handle turn the pan completely over the omelette. On the plate is a plump, perfectly shaped omelette to be served and eaten immediately. The whole cooking time is about 30 – 40 seconds, convenient, fast, food, Bish Bosh. This is how they teach omelette at Le Cordon Bleu.
The peculiar thing is, the majority of people actually believe that the tough, overcooked curds and whey that slop onto your plate and make the toast sodden, is actually scrambled egg. How sad. Scrambled egg is soft and creamy and golden coloured and tastes divine. What goes into it to make it so? Eggs, and plenty of them, a fat wodge of butter and loads of elbow grease and absolutely nothing else. The egg yolk is an emulsion of mainly fat and protein and it has a capacity to hold more fat in emulsion, a surprising amount, hollandaise and mayonnaise are the base egg sauces and both hold an amazing amount of butter and olive oil respectively. This principle is employed in scrambled egg. Beat about six eggs in a bowl, in a pan melt a matchbox lump of butter, or even more if you wish, now add the eggs. The heat is low; a Bain Marie is better, now stir with a wooden spatula that will clear the pan bottom. Never stop stirring; the mission is to heat the mixture without ever forming curd. A temperature is reached where the albumen breaks down and the whole mixture becomes watery, it homogenises. From this point, the mission is to bring up the temperature of the mixture to the point where it begins to thicken, it should become thick but not set and definitely not split, at this point smoked salmon is an acceptable addition. Not quite so convenient or fast, but it is lovely food and is worth the effort.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Why? Oh why do people murder them? Boiled until they are definitely dead, white, as hard as rubber, yolk, chalky and crumbly. All it takes is to learn how to prick an egg. There is an airspace in the broad end, place your tongue on the egg (I know it’s come out of a hens bum, but you’ll eat a peck of muck before you die) the airspace is warm. With a sharp skewer, push and twist till you just break thro’ any further and you’ll go thro’ into the white. Now, bring a pan of water to the boil and carefully place the eggs in it, the air hole prevents the shells splitting. Boil for eggzactly 6 minutes, then quench under a cold tap. The eggs are shelled when cold, the result is; the white is set but not tough, the yolk is just meltingly thick and creamy and absolutely delicious. For a snack I’ll cook 4 of these, slice in half lengthways and eat them like oysters, delicious.
In a restaurant you order Eggs Benedict, you get a piece of toast topped with a slice of ham a perfectly poached egg and hollandaise poured over, I’m salivating. However the concern here, is that perfectly poached egg, how do they do it? In a restaurant kitchen they can’t faff about, what can be prepped is prepped and service is about reheating and assembly, in fact, as little actual cooking as possible. They prep the eggs in a large shallow pan with 3 parts water 1 part vinegar (the acidity helps set the white). The water is heated to about 95 degrees, not boiling; as the egg is dropped in they waft it with a spatula to fold the white over the yolk, and then allow to cook. Obviously this is a conveyor belt process, and they continue dropping eggs in and lifting them out until they have sufficient for the next service. Eggs cooked like this would be inedible, but as they are lifted out of the hot water they go into a large pan of very cold water, this quenches and stops the cooking and also soaks out the vinegar. When required for your Eggs Benedict, one is lifted out of the cold water and the raggy bits trimmed off, then plunged briefly into hot water, as it is lifted out, the slotted spoon is sat on a (possibly not very clean) cloth to soak up excess water.
We can’t carry on like this at home, if the kids want poached eggs before school. What I do is use a wok, quite a lot of salt, water to a depth of about 1 inch, heat but don’t boil. Drop in the eggs, I can do about six at a go, allow to set a little, the waft them to fold the white over the yolk. When they have set, lift out with a slotted spoon, trim any raggy bits and with a big wodge of kitchen paper in one hand, sit the spoon on it till the egg is more or less dry. Result, a perfect shape, set white and runny yolk, lurverly.