There is an old story about the origin of the pleated folds in our chef hats, or Toques, that claims the 100 pleats represent the 100 ways to cook an egg. Be that true or not, I still think that all ways of utilizing eggs are worth studying and celebrating!
Perfect Over-Easy Eggs
Tools: A non-stick pan (6”-8”) and a rubber spatula.
I love runny eggs. The key to cooking over-easy (over-medium, whatever) is the right amount of heat applied to the pan (a nonstick pan is a must for beginners), the right amount of fat in the pan, and enough confidence to flip the egg successfully. Only cook the eggs one or two at a time. Use enough oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan in a thin coat. Remember, oil expands with heat, so start conservatively and add oil if needed once the pan heats up. Too much oil makes a greasy mess on your plate.
Heat the pan over medium heat for a minute before adding the egg. If you are worried about breaking the yolk right off the bat, crack the egg first into a small bowl to make sure the yolk is intact, then gently slip the egg from the bowl into the warm pan. Don’t shake the pan right away. Allow the egg to begin to set (if the whites spread to far it’s okay to corral them with your rubber spatula. You will know right away if the heat is right. If the egg white stays clear when it hits the pan, its not hot enough. If the egg starts to bubble and audibly sizzle you are using too much heat. The whites should turn opaque immediately but cook silently. If the whites start to bubble and sizzle just take the pan off the heat for 15 to 30 seconds and lower the flame/burner. Sprinkle the egg with salt and pepper. Once the white is starting to set, turn up the heat to help the egg slide freely and give it a decisive flip (to practice this motion we used half an English muffin in school!). Once the egg is flipped, cook it on that side for 15-30 seconds (2-3 times longer for over-medium eggs, or until the yolk is totally firm for over-hard). Flip it back (or don’t) and slide it onto a plate!
Tip 1: If you find that you have too much oil in the pan once the egg is flipped, wad up a paper towel, touch it to the surface of the saute pan and tilt the pan so that the oil flows to the towel and gets absorbed.
Tip 2: For those who don’t fear a little over-indulgence, and who saved the bacon fat in the refrigerator from last weekend, you can now use it in place of butter or oil to saute your eggs.
Perfect Poached Eggs
Tools: A wide, short pot and a large, slotted spoon
I also really enjoy poached eggs; not only at breakfast, but placed on top of a savory dish where they add luscious texture and flavor. A perfectly poached egg takes a little bit of finesse but is really no more difficult than most things that we all do on a regular basis (taxes, tying shoe laces, navigating the subway, etc.).
Start by letting your eggs come towards room temperature, they will cook better and won’t lower the temperature of the poaching water when added. Fill a wide, short pot with 3”-4” of water. Ideally, you want your water around 180F (this looks like the water is “trembling”. Very few bubbles actually appear but you can definitely tell that the water is hot!). Don’t let the water boil while poaching (it creates rubbery whites and often breaks the delicate egg apart). When the water reaches this “trembling” point, add 1 tablespoon of plain white vinegar and teaspoon of salt for each quart of water being used. Give the water a stir and wait 30 seconds for the temperature to come back up. Now you can crack your eggs into the water (if worried about breaking the yolk, crack the egg into a small plate first, then slip it into the water).
The purpose of the vinegar and salt in the water is to aid in the coagulation of the egg white proteins. Quick coagulation results in a tight concentration of the whites. Without the acid of the vinegar the egg white most likely will spread in the water and come out ragged and loose. It’s okay to “corral” the egg whites with your spoon at first to help form a nice shape. Sometimes the egg will stick to the bottom of the pot when first added to the water. Very gently release it with your slotted spoon. After this first time the egg should float and no longer stick.
The egg is perfect poached when the whites no longer feel wobbly but the yolk is clearly still liquid. Around 8 minutes is a good starting point, but the best way to tell is to gently lift the egg from the water and give it a cautious poke. If you want the eggs firmer, just cook them longer. When finished, lift the egg from the water, gently blotted it dry by touching the spoon to a paper towel, them plate the egg and enjoy. Break the yolk with the first bite for the velvety “sauce” that it creates.
Tip: If you are poaching a lot of egg for a group, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water once they are finished cooking. When all the eggs are in the ice water (it stops them from over cooking), you are now able to serve them at any time. You could even poach the eggs an hour before your friends arrive! Right before serving the eggs, warm them in hot water for about a minute, blot, and serve!
Perfect Home Fries
Home fries, in my opinion, are very hit or miss in the breakfast world. Short of using a deep fryer, it is a little challenging to get nice, crispy home fries. But, don’t worry! You can make it happen.
Start by cutting the potatoes into bite-sized pieces of equal size (this is important. as potato pieces of different sizes will not cook evenly and you will be stuck with a mix of over-cooked and under-cooked spuds on the plate). While cutting the potatoes (I like the small, red potatoes personally), place the pieces into a pot of cold water to keep them from oxidizing (turning dark). Once you have cut enough potatoes for your meal, sprinkle a decent amount of salt into the water and set it to boil. When the water reaches a boil reduce it to a simmer and cook until biting a pieces of potato yields just the slightest crunch (you will finish cooking them in a saute pan). Drain the potatoes and lay them on a paper towel-lined plate or tray.
Heat up a saute pan that is large enough to fit all the potatoes without crowing them. If you need to, cook the potatoes in batches, keeping the cooked ones warm in your oven set to the lowest setting. Once the pan is hot you could add sliced onions, peppers, garlic, or whatever you want. Then, add the potatoes and season with salt, pepper, and whatever else you want (chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, etc.). Cook the potatoes on high heat stirring occasionally in order to allow the potatoes to become crisp. Once they are crisp and fully cook (soft inside but not mushy), serve and enjoy!
With these basic breakfast recipes and techniques you can create countless combinations:
-Poaches eggs on top of an english muffin and spinach sauteed with a touch of cream
-Over-easy eggs on top of bacon, sauteed veggies and toast, sprinkled with cheese and melted in the broiler/oven/toaster oven to create an open-faced breakfast sandwich.
–Brunch salad with bitter greens (I like frisée), simple dressing, bacon chunks and a poached egg on top
-Brunch burgers topped with an over-easy egg
-Home fries in scrambled eggs with cheese, wrapped in a tortilla for a breakfast burrito
The possibilities are endless!