This week’s issue of London’s TimeOut magazine, for their round-up of the top 30 breakfast spots in London, features a giant blown-up picture of a buttery toast-point plunging into a soft-boiled egg. The soft-boiled egg is a national obsession here; a house in England without eggcups would be like a house in Iowa without corn-holders.
I like eggs nearly every way they come, including soft-boiled (although I have managed so far without the aid of eggcups). I have never dared to try a pickled egg from one of those giant glass pickle barrels that you see in dive bars, nor will I ever eat a thousand-year egg, but otherwise I’m a card-carrying member of the egg fan club. Eggs can (and should) be involved in any meal of the day in my book. Because of my egg-love and love of all things breakfast related, I have obsessed for years on the best way to cook eggs. I admit that I’m still fairly hopeless with poached eggs. My last attempt came out quite decent, but using red wine vinegar because we had no white or cider vinegar was an unfortunate move. As you might guess, a pink poached egg is not very appetizing.
My major source of egg cooking pride comes from my total mastery of scrambled eggs. Yes, it is true; I am The Master of Scrambled Eggs. So imagine my unpleasant surprise when I discovered that what they call scrambled eggs in Europe are not the same as what is called scrambled eggs in America.
When we first visited London, our hotel breakfast buffet always included a chafing-dish full of really unpleasantly soupy scrambled eggs that left a pool of water on the plate and made the toast soggy. We thought at the time that this was just the hotel attempting to keep the eggs from drying out. In actuality, scrambled eggs in England and elsewhere in Europe are nearly always soupy. It seems that the desired consistency is something akin to cottage cheese mixed with water.
Let’s analyze a recipe for ‘Luxury’ scrambled eggs from the BBC website to see why (my comments in red):
1. Break the eggs (two eggs per person) into the mixing bowl, taking care not to let any shell slip into the mix. Okay, so far so good.
2. Do not whisk the eggs, but mix them until the eggs are broken into the whites, retaining a streaky white and yellow look. Um, no, this is wrong. Why would you want partially mixed eggs?
3. Add two tablespoons of milk, cream, or water per serving. Too much liquid for my taste.
4. Add a knob of butter. Wait, shouldn’t you add this to the pan?
5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Preferably to your taste. I like the addition of “Preferably to your taste”.
6. Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed pan, put on a very low heat and stir slowly with the wooden spoon. Too much stirring makes scrambled eggs mealy.
7. After a few minutes the mixture will start to thicken; at this stage place in a heat-proof bowl and into a warm oven, or better still the cooler oven in an Aga. Okay, this is where it goes totally wrong. Plus I just had to look up what an Aga is.
8. Leave for five to ten minutes and serve. Ideally, it should be served hot and semi-solid, on hot buttered toast. Mmmm, semi-solid. Delish.
In my world, the eggs need to be whisked, the butter needs to be melted in the pan, and scrambled eggs shouldn’t be left in a warm bowl until they are “semi-solid”.
Andy’s Recipe for Perfect American-Style Scrambled Eggs
1. Break two eggs per person into a mixing bowl.
2. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add a tablespoon of sour cream or crème fraiche per serving (I got this idea from Ralph Cifaretto right before Tony Soprano whacked him).
4. Whisk egg mixture together for a good thirty seconds until well mixed and a little aerated.
5. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan (the smallest that will comfortably fit your eggs) over medium heat.
6. As eggs begin to set on the bottom, stir, folding the set parts into the liquid. Turn down the heat to medium-low for the remainder of the time. Don’t stir continuously - let the bottom start to set, and fold, and repeat, never letting the eggs brown.
7. When nearly done, turn off heat and let sit for 30 seconds, fold one more time and serve.
8. Remember, yours won’t be as good as mine, because I’m The Master of Scrambled Eggs, but they should be pretty darn tasty.
So, naturally, to follow this egg discussion, we have devised a short egg-based survey. The survey is now done - see results in this later post.