Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Aarti Cooks: The Perfect Eggs!

Once you begin to ponder the egg, it's hard to stop wondering at this happy little creation.

So pleasing to the eye: the sensual round, generous bottom, the delicate taper to a cute, nubby nose. A tiny rugby ball, it reminds me of a woman's belly in those last days before birth, so swollen, so ready to explode a new life into the world! The purity of the white ones, the warmth of the brown ones, the quaint speckles here and there reminding you that every egg, like every snowflake, like every baby in the womb, is unique.

Say it... "egg". Notice how your tongue curls in such a way as to mimic the way an egg would nestle tenderly against your palm, against the side of a carefully constructed nest, against the warm feathery belly of its mother or father. Fragile enough to smash, but strong enough to withstand a gentle squeeze that relieves even my worst anxiety.

And don't get me started on its mystery. Had we not interrupted its intended purpose, how does that egg birth a chick? What's it like for that little baby bird inside its sanctuary? Is it quiet? Is it loud? Is it dark? Is it constantly changing? I can't say it better than this chick (pun, sadly, intended):

Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.
-M.F.K. Fisher

Cute, huh?

And isn't the egg flexible? Once you can get over the macabre notion that we've ended a life in order to sustain our own (hang on... yup, I'm over it), the egg functions as breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's the glue that holds pastries and pasta together, the agent responsible for fluffy pancakes, muffins and cupcakes, the custard that batters french toast and deep-fried Twinkies.

Yeah, I said it. Deep-fried Twinkies.

Attention: tangent approaching. Here it comes: Isn't it funny how fried is only one letter away from friend? Think about it.


Ok, back to the egg. A cheap, easy source of protein, you can eat eggs hard-boiled, soft-boiled (yum!), coddled, scrambled, over-easy, sunny-side up, poached, baked, as an omelet, a frittata... it goes on and on.

And yet, how easy it is to screw it up! I'm not sure what's worse: an over-cooked or an undercooked-egg.

By far, the most daunting option for me is the poached egg. I learned how to make them in cooking school, and it involved large pots of water, a chopstick to swirl the water at just the right pace, and a perfectly executed drop. Being a less-than-delicate cook, I messed these up a lot, and decided then and there never to make 'em again.

But, a couple of weeks ago, I HAD to make one (for a super-secret project that I'll describe as soon as I'm allowed to!), and as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a great technique that I knew I had to share with you! Eggs benedict, here you come!

It also reminded me that I had figured out a way to make the perfect sunny-side up eggs too. No more will your yolks be splattered across your pan as you flip 'em over (unless you like them that way)! No! Now you too can have picture perfect yellow circles greeting your noggin every morning!

And so, let us begin with the poaching technique since that's the one I'm most excited about.

Ok, first, grab a small skillet, fill it with water, bung a lid on it and bring the water to a boil.

Meanwhile, break you egg into a small bowl. I like this little rice bowl.

Then, when the water is boiling, add a tablespoon of white wine vinegar -- this coagulates the egg white quickly.

It doesn't add much flavour, but if you think it does, you can always dunk the cooked egg into a bowl of clean water before you eat it. Also add a sprinkle of salt. This not only flavours your egg, but brings the water temperature up a bit so that egg cooks even quicker.

Now listen up all your perfectionist Polly's. This extra step is a pain, but I like it because the egg turns out neater. I forgot to take a photo, but it's pretty simple. Ladle some of that boiling vinegary-water into your little bowl that has the egg in it. Swirl it a little and wait 20 seconds.

Then gently pour it back into the skillet. Turn the heat off, put the lid on, and let it sit for about 4 minutes for a runny yolk.

I like to drain it on a piece of bread, but you don't have to.
I also cut off the tissue-y excess, so that it would look nice in the photo, but ordinarily, I wouldn't bother. Don't want to waste any of that yumminess!
You can throw that piece of watery bread into the toaster now if you like.

Sprinkle with pepper and serve! Ain't she a beaut?!

Ok, now onto the fried, I mean, friend version, sunny-side up.

Grab your nonstick skillet again.
Warm it over low heat for about 3 minutes so its good and warm.
Break your eggs into a little bowl.
Once the pan is warm, add a pad of butter.
It should sizzle sassily as soon as it hits the pan.
Move the butter around the pan too, so it's evenly distributed. If it turns into brown butter, that's ok too. Oh, it's more than ok, who am I kidding?

Once the butter has melted, pour your eggs in.
If your stove sits on a slanting floor as mine does, your yolks will fall to the bottom of the pan like a pair of old boobs.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. And garam masala, if you're Brendan.

Ok, now this is a weird step, for those in search of PERFECT eggs. If you don't care that much, then you can skip it.
Grab a piece of paper towel and line the inside of the lid to your skillet, taping down the ends on the outside of the lid.
I know, it's weird, but the paper towel absorbs all the moisture that's going to accumulate in your pan, which would otherwise fall back onto your eggs resulting in... soggy eggs.
No. Thankyou.

Now, take your altered skillet lid and throw it on top of your eggs, as soon as you've poured them into your pan. Set your timer for 3 minutes (for medium eggs).

Serve, decorating with a slice of tomato to indicate your mood that day, and make your husband take absurd photos with said eggs.

Enjoy your new-found egg-cellency. (Sorry, I had to do it).




bodaat said...

sunny side up next please! also - i loved how you wrote about the egg. your writing was beautiful and it kinda made me realize how dynamic eggs truely are!

sarah said...

We literally go through about 1.5 dozen eggs a week in our house. Sometimes more. As you know, I am married to the world's greatest egg enthusiast. We have egg-related art in our house. Maybe you too could have an "egg-off"...if there is such a thing. The sunny side up eggs look really good. I'm huge a fan of poached too. What about coddled?

aartilla the fun said...

thanks kuv!! i'm inspired again! whoopee!

sarah -- yes he is the biggest egg enthusiast. eggs are amazing! both to the eye and to the tastebud. hmm, coddled -- i think kuv used to have coddled eggs as a kid, and they kinda grossed me out a bit, but i suspect that they weren't cooked right. i want a coddler!

mandi said...

fried is also one letter away from fred. Oh, and I think most of the eggs we eat are unfertilized. So you don't have to feel sad!

Rosesq said...

In India they call the unfertilized eggs, wait for it, - vegetarian eggs:))))

The mind boggles.

But the article itself was wonderful Aarth.Excellent technique, one I will adapt myself. Oh, you should show the world how to make the Indian version of the omelet.

BTW we had egg curry last night, even though it was not lent:) yummy!!

sarah said...

Indian version of the omelet you say????My curiosity is peaked.

mandi said...

yum! I love curry eggs!

PetalsYoga said...

Thanks for adding to my "eggducation". Seriously, I've always been too scared to try poaching eggs but you've inspired me to try.

Thanks for the wonderful writing too!


Karen said...

i'd take an extra toe for those times i wrestle and hurt one, I'd have an extry one:)

Sara said...

Sorry that I am a little late in saying so, but I LOVE your blog and read it every day over lunch. Yours is the only one of all the blogs I have bookmarked that I read regularly. So don't stop writing!! :)

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