And Other Scary Eggy Options
There’s something about an egg which demands attention. First, if you are a thinker, you puzzle why we’re not yet warned to wash each egg, salmonella, you know! Chicken embryos are also amazing! They thicken a sauce! They whip to peaks! They make cakes and pancakes light! They bind! They turn into a salad! They cook up in ever-so-many ways!
Next, there is that thing about how to open an egg correctly. I think the correct way is how your mother did it, as is the direction toilet paper unrolls. My mother broke eggs in two with the side of the bowl, quick and simple. The Barefoot Contessa feels we should crack, not break, eggs against the countertop with a glancing miniblow to the shell, sparing its illusive membrane. Then force the halves apart. For the beginner, this can be a very drooling mess, not as difficult as for the one-handed egg jock. You’ve seen these jocks. With one hand only, they crack the egg on the bowl edge, separate the two halves in the one hand then allow the egg’s contents to drop into a bowl. It’s a neat egg performance.
Cooking an egg is a whole world of knowledge, itself:
Omelets: Do you add water or milk to scrambled eggs? Cook on high heat, medium or low? How do you get the treat in the middle?
Scrambled eggs: Egg(s), no water, no milk, into pan, break yolk immediately and stir? Let undisturbed egg rest on the heat a little, then break it around?
Fried egg: Yolk whole or broken? Yolk runny or solid? Up or over?
Poached egg: Drop into a self-generated whirlpool of water lightly laced with white vinegar? Or lower it into still water, scoop water over yolk? Done when light orange? Done when pale pink?
Soft-boiled egg: Puncture the wide end of the egg with a pin? Want the yolk to be runny? Solid and shiny orange/yellow yolk? Place into boiling water? With salt? Start with cold water? Start timing when? How long to time? Do you want to use an egg cup like the Brits? Do you want to invest in an “egg end cutter” or an egg cup? Want to prepare an Egg Spice of salt, pepper, dry mustard and cumin?
Hard-boiled egg: All of the above, but for a longer period of time, especially if you want a light, non-shiny yellow yolk. Goal—no gray halo around yolk?
What I find most troublesome is peeling a hard-boiled egg. Deviled eggs need to be smooth and shiny. Is it the age of the egg? Why is it some days, even under a running faucet, a hard-boiled egg won’t peel well? It appears to be a membrane thing. A hen’s egg doesn’t want to peel “shell away from membrane!” Rather, after cracking the boiled egg on the countertop, roll it so it cracks all around. Now. Break into the shell and NIP THE MEMBRANE, get it under a slow, cool faucet and ease the side of your peeling thumb along the cooked egg itself, and you should get a smooth, shiny, peeled, boiled egg! Surely you devil yours with dry mustard and room-temp unsalted butter?
Another scary egg moment is separating the yolk of an egg from its liquid white. The performer’s way is to crack it as you please, hopefully in near equal halves, hold them high and proceed to pour the yolk and less and less of its white from shell to shell until the yolk is clearly alone, then plunk it separately. The more secure, chicken way, is to crack the whole thing into a bowl, then fish the yolk out with a tablespoon.
Now that those egg whites are free of their yolks, they are free to do more things! Once stiffly whipped, they add new dimensions to high cakes or impressive meringues. Do they need to be at room temperature? Bowl needs to be squeaky clean? A chilled copper bowl is best? Do I add Cream of Tartar? When do I put the vanilla and sugar in?
Eggs are a handy protein; they’re also demanding!