LESSON two: EGGS

So you’ve you survived making pancakes….now you want eggs to go with them. Did you put eggs in them or were they already there?

Eggs are so versatile they can be used as an entree or as just one single ingredient. As an ingredient it serves as many rolls…..including fresh baked rolls and bread. There are cookbooks out there that include over 300 eggs recipes alone! That’s not this cookbook but I will include a few over the next years’ worth of recipes. So let’s start with the basics, eggs as the main course for breakfast.

Eggs come in many colors, shades and sizes. The most common is the large size, white chicken egg. Chicken eggs also come in other sizes including:

  • Small: (about 1.5 ounce per egg)
  • Medium: (about 1.75 ounce per egg)
  • Large: (about 2 ounces per egg)
  • Extra-Large: (about 2.25 ounces per egg)
  • Jumbo:  (about 2.5 ounces per egg)

Although I never see small eggs and rarely see medium eggs in the supermarket. Large eggs are by default the ones used in a recipe when it does not specify size.

      So how do you want your eggs? Its breakfast therefore, we can narrow it down to hard boiled, soft boiled, pouched, fried as in sunny side up, over easy, over hard, yoke broken or not broken. If we are going to break a few yokes, should we scramble them? If we leave them whole, should pouch them for eggs Benedict? That would involve making Hollandaise sauce. Have patience and we will get to sauces but no today. If we scramble them, do we make an omelet? What kind of omelet do we make?

WAIT I HAVE IT! We need a flow chart! Okay, Okay, I will relax on the flow chart for now but it will be helpful in the future. As you can see there are many, many choices when it comes to making eggs and that is just for breakfast. You should really try them all. Today’s list includes: fried (sunny side up yoke intact {not my favorite}, over easy yoke not broken {one of my favorites}, over hard broken yoke and cooked all the way through. There is also hard-boiled which is cooked in the shell until the yoke is cooked firm or soft boiled eggs in which the yoke is still runny. Soft boiled eggs are perfect for dipping thin strips of bread or toast into. I’ve often used white toast or rye bread that was buttered and cut into one inch strips so I could dip it into the yoke. I remember eating these on the weekends as a kid. I would make them myself at young age on a beautiful spring day. Like a Sunday morning when you know there is big meal that night and just want to eat light! Eggs are easy and a quick thing to make and eat. They can be enhanced with many sides including but not limited to: Bacon, ham, sausage, toast of all kinds, grits, home fries (aka seasoned potatoes) and even pancakes.

      Lessons to learn:

                  1) How do you buy eggs and what makes them different? 2) How do you store eggs? 3) How do you know an egg is bad?  4) How do you cook eggs all those different ways!?

Let us start by buying the eggs we need for breakfast. I usually buy large white eggs and jumbo eggs. I use large eggs for baking as most if not all recipes use this as the standard size. Then for breakfast and hardboiled eggs I use JUMBO white eggs. Eggs also come in brown and/or organic. The fresher the egg, the better it tastes. It bothers me that we need organic ANYTHING in this country, but apparently, we do. Plus, we have to pay through the nose for the privilege of eating well too I guess. Okay I won’t get started on an organic food rant, this morning.

      Back to is there a difference in the eggs you ask? Hell YES!  The difference is taste! Like whole milk, eggs can have subtle changes to taste or texture based simply on age alone not to mention what kind of chicken they came from and how they are treated or what they eat.  However, for the most part, standard MEGA supermarket eggs all taste the same. Just like their tomatoes. It’s only when you seek out and buy farm fresh eggs or organically grown ones and eat them straight from the frying pan will you really notice a difference. As far as eggs in a baked dish….you will notice even less of a difference. If you are trying to impress a special guest or have company over and you are going to make them breakfast by all means go the extra mile and get good farm fresh eggs. You will be glad you did, even if it is just to try them for yourself. 

      So how do you know an egg is bad? Simple, start by filling a bowl with water. Place in the eggs carefully, don’t just drop them in because they should sink to the bottom. If they float up to the top, then throw them away. If they “stand” on the skinny end or tip, they are an older egg but not bad today.

      Why does this happen? Well for that answer you need a short lesson on the chicken egg. That is just what I’m here to do, teach it. The egg has a few parts to it. Not Just the white and the yoke. Not only do they taste different but they cook up differently and are used by cooks for different reasons because they react differently to heat differently. They can also be whipped or beaten either separately or together. The yoke has many times more protein molecules in it then the white. The white is mostly made up of water molecules.  Egg yolks are so sticky and they even use them in tempura paint going back far before the Renaissance. I believe tempura paint dates back to before humankind could even write but I’m no history professor. I had a hard time staying awake in social studies. Yokes are sticky stuff, so that’s why it’s so good at keeping the bread crumbs on chicken. They help in making shuffles to rise and wonderful cakes to bake correctly! Bread is a completely different lesson in itself with all its complex chemical reactions and physics at work. Where were we? Oh yes, egg parts or the parts of an egg – there is the thin inner membrane that sticks to the shell and can make peeling a hardboiled egg impossible.   

                  So why is all this important? For starters remember the white of the egg? Well in a really fresh egg that is very thick and sticky. When you crack the egg into the pan, it should hardly run or spreads away from the yoke but as the egg gets older the proteins in the albumin break down and the white gets thinner and spreads more across the pan. Why is this important? You just want to eat, don’t you? I’ll tell you why, because if you’re trying to make a poached egg in boiling water it’s the difference between a really nice looking egg and egg drop soup.

      Since pouched eggs can be difficult and frustrating to cook let’s try starting with fried eggs, as they are a delicious and easy way to cook an egg to go along with your pancakes. Begin by preheating a small nonstick pan (we will have a whole lesson in cookware don’t worry) on medium heat that you have added a “tab” of butter to (tab = 1tbls.). {trivia} Tab with a capital “T” was a popular 1970’s diet soft drink. As the butter melts you will know the proper time to add the egg. It is just as the butter starts to sizzle and bubble. If you wait too long the butter will brown, ewe. Don’t cook your breakfast eggs in the brown butter. If that happens CAREFULLY, wipe the pan clean with a wad of paper towels and a pair of tongs so you don’t burn yourself (see first aid tips for Scouts coming soon). When the butter sizzles, crack the egg open carefully over the pan (not on the counter, not on the bottom of the pan) but with the side of a metal fork or backside of butter knife. DO NOT eat with the fork that has raw egg on it or use the knife now for butter, again ewe. Wash any cooking utensils they contain raw egg to prevent cross contamination (we need food safety lesson I here too).

      Watch as the egg cooks in the butter in the pan. The clear albumin will begin to turn white almost immediately. Now is the time to break the yoke if you don’t what it runny.  If you want them sunny side up or over easy up just leave them alone. Now if you don’t flip the egg over the white will be runny and the yoke cold. However, you could cover the pan and let the steam cook the white completely however it also begins to cook the yoke. I prefer to flip my eggs over easy using a spatula. Although, through the years I have learned not use a spatula anymore and can manage to flip it gently right in the pan without spattering out butter all over my hand (don’t try this yet as hot butter hurts and will make you curse like a trucker right in front of the scouts who will all laugh their ass off a you for being a dumb ass). I digress. Cook the second side less than the first. Perhaps 60 seconds to a minute and a half depending on how runny you want your yoke. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper and KaPOW serve with your pancakes!

      Okay that’s how to cook a fried egg. How about a boiled egg? Simple – fill medium pot ¾ with H2O (water) and bring to a boil. YES! Boil the water first! Why? If you start with cold water the egg will sometimes if not always to me, sticks to the shell and becomes almost impossible to peel! Why? Remember that thin membrane on the inside of the egg next to the shell?  It actually consists of two membranes and when heated slowly i.e. as the cold  water warms up and becomes hot the proteins from these membranes and the egg white form a bond  (more often than not) that adheres the shell to egg the egg white. However, when the egg is heated rapidly by steam or placed carefully into a boiling pot water (Just like Marcy did in a Charley Brown Easter. Just don’t crack them open!) this bond never gets a chance to form and the egg releases from the shell easily. 

CAREFULLY add the eggs to rapidly boiling water using a long handle slotted spoon. Do not over crowd the pot with cold eggs (remember they are coming from the cold fridge). Adding too many eggs to a small pot of water will lower the temperature of the water too much.

If you are making a dozen eggs, use a much larger pot of water.  Watch the pot of water return to a boil! When the water boils again, reduce the heat to a simmer! You do not really want those eggs bouncing on the bottom on the pot!  After boiling large eggs for twelve to fifteen minutes, eighteen minutes for the Jumbo ones, I immediately remove them with the same slotted spoon and move them to an ice bath (a large bowl of ice water). This is so A) I could cool them down to eat them quickly but it stops the eggs from over cooking (over cooked hard boiled eggs creates the bitter green ring around the yoke). Then B) the ice water also makes them easier to peel because letting the eggs slowly cool will also give the egg a chance to form that stubborn molecular bond.

Let see what we have covered so far. We have done fried eggs, hard and soft-boiled eggs, therefore logically next step would be to make scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs are easy to make. Crack one or two eggs into a bowl. I prefer using two eggs and a tablespoon of whole milk. The fats in the milk is what separates the bonds between the proteins and makes the eggs cook up softer. It also increases the amount of the eggs by one tablespoon! YUM! Next add a little tabasco. Just three or four drops. Trust me, yummy. Then whisk them up with either a wire whisk or fork.

Now lets cook them by preheating a small nonstick pan (remember we still have a whole lesson in cookware coming up) on medium heat that you have added a “tab” aka tablespoon of butter too. As the butter melts you will know the proper time to add the eggs is just as the butter starts to sizzle and bubble. NOW ADD THE EGGS! HURRY! As the eggs cook….scramble them in the pan by slowly stirring them with a fork or spatula or something. Cook the eggs just a bit then stir, cook then stir…you get the idea. Cook until firm but try not to brown or burn them, again ewe. I like my scrambled eggs firm at least cook through. Some people prefect them “looser” or soft. God how quickly this cooking thing can get complicated…hard, soft, loose, firm?! People are fussy eaters but you are leaning how to make them all happy and that is what life is all about! That and if your lucky enough to have them a mimosa! Be Happy and enjoy your food! You made it yourself and it always tastes better that way doesn’t it?!

Now those eggs can now go right next to those pancakes (if there not cold by now)!

We will save omelets for another day or morning as it were.

Enjoy Life, Be Well and HAVE FUN today!

(Insert basic first aid for minor burns here one day too)

The Drunken Chef

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing,2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s