The Incredible, Edible Egg
Eggs have long been, for me, the most magical of all the ingredients. I can’t think of a single other ingredient that lends so much to so many dishes. Not only does their chemistry make many sauces and foams possible but also their simple presence can transform a light dish to a meal.
This has mostly to do with the dichotomy of its structure—yolk next to white.
· 1/3 egg’s weight
· Contains 75% of the egg’s calories and most of the vitamins
· Suspends Fats in its smaller protein structure to create emulsifications
· 2/3 of egg’s shelled weight—90% of which is water
· Full of Protein—that’s what feeds the yolk to become a chicken after all
· That Protein is able to suspend air bubbles to make foams like meringues. Those foams stay stable when heated because the protein coagulates around the bubbles into a solid structure.
The egg is a living and changing thing as soon as it is laid. The shell is semipermeable. As the egg ages water evaporates from the white, which decreases its volume. This is why older eggs peel more easily when boiled. There is more space between the egg and its shell, and so as the proteins in the whites contract there is a cleaner divide between the egg and its shell. The proteins also begin to break down after it is laid. The protein structure of the white will is more lax. To see the age of an egg, crack it on a plate. If the white is tall and tight around the yolk, you have a fresh egg. If it is liquidy and slopes away from the egg, the egg is older.
Hens want to lay a clutch of eggs before sitting on them—more bang for their buck; why hatch 1 chick when you can get 10! Because of this, an egg is designed to be stable at room temperature. When it is warmed (ideally by a broody hen’s bottom) the yolk begins to activate and develop a chick.
For this reason, once an egg is cooled it must be kept cool. If eggs are never cooled, they will hold at room temperature for weeks on end.
Moral of the story: if you buy cold eggs, keep them cold. If you have eggs that have never been cooled they can be kept on the counter with no fear of spoilage.
Standard Egg Sizes
Jumbo—Greater than 2.5 oz
Extra Large—Greater than 2.25 oz
Large—Greater than 2 oz
Medium—Greater than 1.75 oz
Small—Greater than 1.5 oz
These recipes are based on Large or Extra Large eggs. If substituting saved egg whites to replace fresh-cracked, assume 1.5 oz egg white per egg.
How to Boil an Egg
There is more than one way to skin a cat, but this is how I boil an egg.
· Gently tap the blunt end of the egg to lightly crack the shell, but not pierce the inner membrane of the egg.
· Place it in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
· Bring the water to a boil, remove from the heat and cover.
· Allow to sit in the hot water, covered for the following amount of time to achieve the desired level of softness.
o Soft Boiled—5 min
o Medium—7 min
o Hard—10 min
· Drain the hot water and run under cold water to stop the cooking process for 1 min
How to Poach an Egg
The ideal poached egg has a fully set white and a completely runny yolk. There’s no reason to be afraid of poaching an egg. Once you do it a couple of times you’ll see that you can be a bit rough with the eggs without the yolk breaking and a splash of acid (lemon, vinegar or wine) in the pot of water will help set the whites in a flash. If you don’t like the taste of the acid in the cooking water, simply draining off the loosest part of the white before cooking will give you a tail-free finished egg. You can get ahead on poached eggs for a party, by poaching them ahead of time, storing them in water and then simply reheating to serve.
· Bring a pot of water with a splash of acid in it to a simmer.
· With a spoon or whisk make a whirlpool in the water.
· Crack the egg into the whirlpool (or a cup or bowl if you’re worried about loosing the pool). The motion of the swirl will wrap the white around itself making a compact, ovular finished product.
· Let the egg cook in the water until the white is set but the yolk is still soft. The best way to tell is to simply feel it with your finger.
· Lift the egg from the water with a slotted spoon, test for doneness, season with salt and pepper and serve.
Poached Eggs with Ramp Hollandaise, Smoked Whitefish and Spring Greens
4 eggs (for poaching)
1 bag salad greens, washed
4oz smoked whitefish, picked
croutons or toast (optional)
2 ramp bulbs, thinly sliced
1 T water
1 T lemon juice
3 egg yolks
6-8 oz whole butter, softened
salt to taste
· Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer, adding a good pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon (or splash of vinegar)
· In another saucepan, combine ramp bulbs, water and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until ramp bulbs are soft but not at all brown
· Remove the ramp mixture from the heat and vigorously whisk in the egg yolks
· Return pan to the heat and whisk while slowly adding in the butter a lump at a time
· Continue adding in the butter until the sauce is light and frothy
· Remove the sauce from the heat and store in a warm, but not hot part of the kitchen
· Poach the eggs in the simmering water
· Scatter the greens on the serving plate and dot with the smoked whitefish, adding the toast or croutons if using. (Don’t dress the greens because the Hollandaise and the runny yolk will provide enough seasoning and flavor.)
· Lift the egg from the water, drain any extra
· Place the egg on the salad greens and drizzle generously with Hollandaise
Coco Nib Meringues with Sherry Sabayon
For the Meringues
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
¼ tsp cream of tarter
¾ C sugar
3 T coco nibs
1 tsp vanilla
· Preheat oven to 275F
· With a mixer beat the egg whites until foamy and add the salt and cream of tarter
· Continue beating until soft peaks
· Add the sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks
· Fold into the coco nibs and vanilla
· Line a cookie sheet with parchment or tinfoil
· Dollop the meringue onto the cookie sheets and bake until the outside is firm but the inside is still marshmallow-y (about an hour)
3 egg yolks
½ C sherry
¼ C sugar
pinch of salt
½ lemon (optional)
· Bring a medium sauce pan of water to a boil
· In a large bowl, whisk yolks, sherry and sugar
· Place over the boiling water, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water
· Whisk with a large balloon whisk until the egg mixture has tripled in volume.
· The mixture should never be so hot that you cannot easily touch it, and whisk the bottom of the bowl regularly to keep the eggs from scrambling
· Taste and adjust the flavor with the lemon juice and extra sugar as desired
· Place a meringue into a serving bowl, add fruit if desired and drizzle heavily with sabayon