June 02, 2008

Eggs are a highly personal matter. We know exactly how we like them cooked, and any deviation will not do. What’s perfection to one man is runny and inedible to another.

Texture is the paramount concern. Because while some are fresher than others, an egg tastes like, well, an egg. But the way it’s prepared makes all the difference in its mouthfeel.

Since I don’t like my eggs dry or rubbery (you see how personal bias creeps in?), I prefer the gentle approach. Give me pillowy poached eggs, with their faint tang from the vinegar that keeps them tidy in the water. Sunny-side-up eggs fried so serenely they don’t even flutter in the pan, leaving the whites tender enough to melt on the tongue. Eggs scrambled over a low flame, stirred constantly for the smallest possible curds, then plated at the peak of their creaminess. Eggs soft-boiled for 6 minutes and 30 seconds, producing thick, velvety yolk that flows like golden lava over a buttered English muffin.

And of course, the omelet. Not the browned, dry, diner-style half-moon pregnant with all manner of diced foodstuffs. I’m referring to the classic French rolled omelet. Eggs, butter, salt, pepper. Cooking time: Under two minutes. It’s that simple. And yet its pleasures are complex and multi-layered, largely because of its texture.

Begin as with scrambled eggs, stirring constantly. About halfway toward completion, stop stirring. A smooth skin forms on the bottom, while the top remains moist. The bottom must not brown. Roll it out of the pan. At this point, it has a matte finish. Rub it lightly with a fraction of a teaspoon of butter (use Plugra, it’s worth it) to make it glisten. Then dissect and devour, marveling at how the smooth, firm, thin exterior encases the creamy (not runny), custardy interior.

With an ingredient as perfect as the egg, it’s wise to keep it simple. Let the egg shine, and get out of its way. And remember, dry eggs are nasty. Nothing personal.

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