Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How do you like your eggs?

If you go to any restaurant that has breakfast items with an ambiguous side of "egg", you will be asked this question. For such a common question, there are so many different possibilities for an answer. Some simple, while others are complex and take a little time.

What do I mean? Aren't your choices just fried (over easy or medium) or scrambled (maybe with cheese if they're nice)? At restaurants, maybe. But in your kitchen, absolutely not.  

Something I liked to cook for breakfast (or sometimes dinner) a lot while I was in college are egg scrambles--and they're not just scrambled eggs. It's very versatile--if red peppers aren't on sale, get green; if you're not a mushroom type of person, add another meat like hamburger or sausage; if you don't like spicy food, add mild salsa; and the list could go on and on. Here's a staple recipe I developed (shown for 4 people): 

8 eggs
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 C of sliced mushrooms
1 C of sharp cheddar cheese
1 pack of Italian sausage
1 C of salsa (your choice of spiciness) 
Salt and pepper 

Crack and beat the eggs as you normally would when making scrambled eggs. Put them in a greased pan on low to medium-low eat. With eggs, you don't want them to cook fast. Salt and pepper now. Meanwhile, take your sausage and roll into small balls, the size of a half dollar coin. Place in a fry pan and cook. As your eggs begin to cook, don't smash up into teeny-tiny pieces. When your eggs are no longer runny, but not completely done either, add your veggies and salsa and cooked Italian sausage. Stir together until cooked. As your eggs are done and you take them off the burner, add in your cheese and stir. Measurements of salsa and cheese can be altered to your liking.

If you don't typically like your eggs scrambled, you may be a fried eggs kind of person. For some people, frying an egg can be quite a frustrating task. My dad has a method that seems to be successful. He gets the oil in the pan pipping hot before he cracks the egg into the pan. As it is frying, he tilts the pan up and uses his spatula to spread oil over the top of the egg. Why does he do this? So a small layer cooks on the top, so when it comes time for the flip, the yolk doesn't and spill in the oil. If that happens, the result is (oily) scrambled eggs and many curse words filling the kitchen--in most cases. If you don't want to deal with the flipping of the eggs, you can always cheat. Yeulp, no one is keeping tabs with the methods in which you cook in your own kitchen. They make these handy little egg fryer pans to make breakfast stress free: Joie de Vivre 50162 Mini Fry Egg Pan with Nonstick Surface.

If you enjoy a challenge, and a velvety version of the edible egg, poached eggs are you for. Chef Julia Child once said, "Poached eggs…are to my mind the purest and loveliest of ways to cook eggs." A popular and elegant way to enjoy a poached egg is in Eggs Benedict. However, today, I enjoyed only a (not so) perfectly poached egg with some wheat toast. My adventure? Yes, I documented it. It was only appropriate that I had Julia & Julia playing on my laptop as I slaved in the kitchen this morning. Of course the poached egg scene always make me giggle, but after today, I sympathize with Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). So here is how my breakfast went down...

I, of course, followed Julia Child's recipe she published in her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you don't have this cookbook, you should get it. I refer to it often, and it really should be a staple to anyone's cookbook collection. Here's Julia's recipe and commentary of what happened when I followed it:  
Pour 2 inches of water into the pan or skillet (8 to 10 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep) and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water. Bring to the simmer. 
Break one of the 4 very fresh eggs, and, holding it as closely over the water as possible, let it fall in. Immediately and gently push the white over the yolk with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 seconds. This is the most crucial step in the process. My first egg was not so successful:
 My second and third eggs were, thank goodness. Maintain the water at the barest simmer and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.
After 4 minutes, remove the first egg with the skimmer and test with your finger. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. 
Place the egg in the cold water; this washes off the vinegar and stops the cooking. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done, and poach the others in the same water if you are doing more. (***The eggs may remain for several hours in cold water, or may be drained and refrigerated***)
To reheat the eggs, trim off any trailing bits of white with a knife. (And man, do they look a lot more appetizing after you do this.) Place them in hot salted water for about half a minute to heat them through. Remove one at a time with a slotted spoon. Holding a folded towel under the spoon, roll the egg back and forth for a second to drain it, and it is ready to serve.

This is the type of egg that is most difficult to master. I think many share my opinion, which is why many kitchen products are available to make poaching eggs easier. For example, my mom has this awesome (and ancient) model of a 4-piece egg poacher set that you use on the oven top. The model looks similar to this: Fagor 4-Piece Egg Poacher Set. This method of poaching an egg is most simplest, you just add hot water into the pan and crack the eggs directly into the inserts. However, if you have several pans and want an option that doesn't clutter up your cabinets, you may consider a more inventive option, poach pods: Fusionbrands Poach Pods, Set of 2, Green These may look odd, but also do the trick. They float, so any pot will work well with these little wonders. Best thing about these? They're super affordable! If you want a super, super easy and fast way to poach an egg, you can microwave it. What?! Yes. Progressive International Microwavable Four Egg Poacher. I don't really suggest this method, because when you cook eggs fast they don't taste nearly as good. Burned eggs are never as satisfying as the cooked low and slow eggs. 

If you are on a diet, maybe you don't want the fats a yolk offers. So what recipes are good for just egg whites? Well, a classic that I really enjoy is the Egg White Omelet. Similar to the egg scrambles, you can mix and match ingredients to make the omelet to fit your mood or to the ingredients currently in season. However, with an omelet, it is important to let the eggs cook a bit in the skillet before making the flip. Quick and simple.

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