08-01-09 - Eggs

Two techniques for cooking eggs :

Oeufs au Miroir : this is just the best way to make a fried egg with a soft yolk. It's far easier to control and hit the perfect doneness level than with the traditional technique, and the white is more set. (with a normal fried egg you have the dilemma that you want the yolk just barely cooked, but undercooked white is disgusting, so you have to flip the egg just briefly and try not to break the yolk and be careful not to overcook it).

The technique is very simple : heat a nonstick pan to medium high as you would for a fried egg. Put butter in pan and let it get very hot but not browning. Gently crack in eggs. Immediately put a lid on the pan and turn it down to medium - medium low. The carryover heat in the pan should brown the bottom of the eggs well, you should hear it crackling. Do not take off the lid if at all possible - you need the steam in the enclosure to stay trapped inside. You want to judge doneness with your ears. When the crackling slows and the eggs become quiet, they're probably done. The top of the egg should be glassy and smooth (hence the "miroir") the yolk should be just starting to gel like a creme anglaise. If you like you can flip the egg over when serving so it looks like a fried egg (one side is fried, one side is steamed).

The traditional French technique for Oeufs au Miroir calls for adding a few drops of water to the pan when you crack them in, to aid in the steaming. I find that our shitty over-large eggs are so full of water that this isn't necessary and don't usually bother.

Scrambled eggs : most Americans make disgusting overcooked rubbery scrambled eggs; the traditional French technique for scrambled eggs calls for cooking them very low and slow with added dairy, which makes them almost a soup, which I also find disgusting. I think the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, I want them cooked through, no raw or runny bits, but just barely set.

The hard thing about cooking eggs is that they cook very fast, so they quickly go from "just right" to "overcooked". This is why so many professionals are terrified of cooking eggs. Part of the difficulty is that if you plate them hot, they will carryover so even if they were perfect in the pan, they are overcooked when you eat them.

I actually think both of these things can be addressed pretty easily with the application of reason and logic. The way you solve the difficulty of eggs flying so fast past the target doneness is just to cook them slower. Similarly the way you solve the difficulty of carryover is just to plate them at closer to room temperature. Hence we have a very slight modification to traditional scrambled egg technique that I think makes it much easier to do well :

Heat a pan to medium high and butter, just like for a fried egg. Crack eggs into pan, they will be crackling and cooking very fast at this point. Immediately turn the pan *OFF*. We are going to scramble them entirely with the residual heat in the pan and let it cool down. Stir the eggs a bit gently, the pan should still be very hot at this point and cooking fast, but also cooling fast. You can control the amount of cooking a bit by the amount of stirring - more stirring = less cooking. The eggs will be done in about a minute; as they get close to done the pan should be coming down to lukewarm, so you don't have so much risk of flying past doneness. Plate and again stir vigorously so they don't trap too much heat as they sit on the plate.

Breakfast scrambled eggs I like just plain. For dinner scrambled eggs, add a tiny dash of cream and a tablespoon of grated parm part way through cooking. Parmesan is an operator which converts eggs into dinner. Top with chives or parsley.


castano said...

Hmm... the way we do fried eggs in Spain is by cooking them in abundant olive oil, enough to almost cover the white, but not the yolk. We prevent the white from being undercooked by simply pouring some of the oil over the egg with a spatula while it's being cooked. I like it when the oil is very hot, and the borders of the egg become crispy, but the yolk still remains creamy.

It's usually accompanied with chorizo and poor folk's potatoes fried in the same oil.

MH said...

Heather makes these amazing eggs just by putting them in little round metal egg things, then putting the eggs on english muffins. Awesome.

Oh, and great scrambled eggs, just the right amount of cheese and milk.

Though, now I really want to try Castono's eggs.

Ivan-Assen said...

What is "poor folk's potatoes" ?

Otherwise, we do as the Spaniards do, with the exception of using the plain jane sunflower oil instead of olive oil (which IMHO has a strong aroma which is NOT welcome in every dish, and doesn't seem to live through heating well. Maybe I've only had experience with crappy olive oil.)

I like to drop a slice or two of white cheese while the eggs are setting - it's something like what you know as Feta cheese, but with less fat in it, and with a drier substance.

cbloom said...

Yeah I wouldn't want to do the olive oil without the chorizo and potato. It makes a whole different flavor profile that goes together well. It's like a spanish tortilla.

Ginzo said...


mix desired # of eggs in a cup or bowl with milk, add salt; add mixture to greased pan. It's similar to the method you're suggesting but requires far less culinary dexterity - you just grease the pan, apply medium-high heat, and stir. plus, you can stir like hell in a bowl with an egg beater or whatever.

cbloom said...

Ginzo, that's exactly the standard method and exactly what I'm saying is not a good way.

Also milk in eggs = yuck.

Marc B. Reynolds said...

When I'm not too lazy I cook in a bain-marie for very moist (to down-right runny) results.

Sebastian Sylvan said...

I do my scrambled eggs like this, it's awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU_B3QNu_Ks

cbloom said...

Dear lord those Gordon Ramsay eggs look quite revolting. They're roughly in the "French custard" style that I was talking about before that I just find so unappealing, they're all soupy and so undercooked, with too much dairy; look how pale they are! Scrambled eggs should be yellow, not white.

I do like the tomato and mushroom sides though. I used to eat tomato+mushroom+sausage on bread a lot.

brian said...

Problem with slow-cooking eggs is they stick to the pan. Frying with liquid yolk or cooking a French-style omelet is great because there's no cleanup. I LOVE custardy soft scrambled eggs made with heavy cream (or coconut cream and snipped chives, mmm) but scouring the fucking saucepan is a pain in the ass.

old rants