This week in class at L’Academie de Cuisine, it was all about eggs. I have never eaten so many eggs in such a short time frame.
Eggs are kind of a big deal in the culinary world. There all the eggy favorites like eggs benedict, french toast, omelettes, and on and on. There are also meringues, emulsions with egg including mayonnaise, baked goods, sauces, etc. The egg is used both as the star of the show, and also for it’s binding properties in countless preparations.
Chef Patterson made it clear in class that he is a firm believer that farm-fresh organic, free range, and even predator-friendly eggs are worth the extra money. These eggs taste better and it is my understanding that chickens raised in more natural conditions with room to graze and move about outside are not subject to many of the health issues which are common in factory-farmed chickens. I am lucky enough to live in a county where we have access to farm fresh eggs. I have even taken my kids to a local farm in Purcellville called Chicama Run where they have fed the chickens and plucked freshly laid eggs from the chicken coop. I am in agreement with the Chef, that these eggs are worth the extra money.
In class, we learned all about the structure of eggs, and what to expect from a fresh egg. Fresh eggs will have a yolk which “sits up”, a firmer white, and not a lot of watery stuff floating around the white when cracked open.
Have you ever wondered whether to use an egg which has those little red dots in it? The verdict is- it’s nothing to worry about. Also, that white stringy thing in the egg (that freaks some people out) is just a protein structure which helps to hold the yolk in place. It is safe to eat as well.
Although super fresh eggs are great, you don’t want to hard-boil them. You need a little air between the shell and membrane which develops after a little time. This helps you to peel a hard-boiled egg without marking the egg up while doing so.
Another thing to note- most recipes are based on large size eggs. The cooking times we learned are also based on a large sized egg, and would differ if you purchased super-dooper jumbo size eggs. Do yourself a favor, and just get in the habit of always buying large eggs. I am guessing it will make your food turn out better.
So, what did we learn to cook with the “incredible edible” egg?
The best scrambled eggs take at least 20 minutes to cook, with CONSTANT stirring. These aren’t your Momma’s scrambled eggs! These eggs are closer in texture to custard. They are cooked in a bowl placed over gently simmering water (a bain-marie). Careful attention is payed to constantly stirring these eggs, and making sure they do not get too hot, too quickly. It takes a long time, but finally some curds begin to form in the eggs, and after about 20 minutes your eggs will be done. These eggs do not need any cream or butter to make them creamy; the cooking process makes them that way. All they need is salt and pepper.
Omelettes are cooked much quicker than scrambled eggs. In fact, the whole process is so quick, that it is especially important to have all of your ingredients ready (remember- mise en place?). If you will be using any fillings in your omelette such as mushrooms you will want them not only ready, but warmed. For omelettes you want to use a nonstick pan or omelette pan.
First, you will want to preheat your broiler. Whisk your eggs and then strain them so that you have a uniform texture. If you want to add herbs to your omelette (basil, thyme, chervil, chives, etc.) they can be finely chopped and added to the strained egg. You can also add a pinch of salt.
Heat some clarified butter in your pan over medium to medium-high heat. The reason for using clarified butter versus regular butter is that as regular butter cooks, the milk solids brown and will leave little brown flecks on your omelette. In clarified butter, these milk solids have been skimmed off, so you should end up with an omelette of uniform color.
When the butter is fairly hot, you can add your egg. Be ready to stir the omelette with a heat-proof spatula. Keep gently stirring the egg on the bottom of the pan in circles, while at the same time moving the pan back and forth. The egg should start to form curds, and set quickly. Keep the spatula and pan moving until much of the egg has set. If any holes are created in the base of the omelette, just tip the pan so that wet egg fills the whole. or gently use your spatula to cover them with the wet egg. When the bottom of the omelette is set, and the top still has some wetness to it, you want to add your toppings. Sprinkle your toppings along the middle of the omelette, and then quickly put your omelette in the oven, on a top shelf under the broiler. You want to watch this baby like a hawk, and can leave the oven door ajar just slightly so that you can really watch it closely. You want the top of the omelette to be just set. When set, remove the pan from the oven. Grab the pan “like a dagger”. Tilt the pan downwards slightly towards your plate, allowing the top edge of the omelette to fold over halfway on itself. Next, fold the omelette over on itself onto your plate, so that the resulting omelette is a “log” shape.
The whole process is very very quick. The goal is to get a uniformly light yellow colored omelette. If you want to be extra fancy, you can split it lengthwise, and top with a little dab of butter.
Hard-boiled/ Deviled Eggs
I’m sure you are thinking- how can I mess up a hard-boiled egg? Well, it can be done. Have you ever had those hard-boiled eggs that look blue. Not pretty.
The proper way we learned to boil an egg (a large sized egg), is to start with a pot of boiling water. Once the water is at a full boil, get another bowl ready with ice water.
Gently lower your eggs into the boiling water with a slotted spoon. Once the water has returned to a bowl- check the clock. Your eggs need to cook exactly 12 minutes. Remove the eggs from the boiling water with the slotted spoon and submerse in the bowl of ice water.
To peel your eggs, peel them under the ice water or running water. As the water gets between the shell and egg, it will make your peeling easier, and that will keep your egg from getting marked as you peel it.
For deviled eggs, you can mix the yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, capers, cornichons, etc.- go crazy! Don’t forget to taste for salt and pepper. Pipe the egg mixture back into the halved egg whites with a pastry bag or plastic bag with the tip snipped off.
We also learned traditional Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine. I am hoping to make both of these and report back with pictures sometime soon.
A couple egg links for you:
Korean-style Steamed Eggs from The Kitchn
Perfect Sunny-Side Up Eggs from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (I used this technique to make the eggs in the photograph above)
Mayonnaise recipe from Alton Brown