It’s a good thing eggs are probably THE most versatile food/ingredient on the planet. Besides the obvious hard-boiled, poached, scrambled and other straight-up ways you can cook eggs, you’ll also find they’re an essential ingredient in everything from mayonnaise to chocolate cake.
Eggs are also one of the least-expensive proteins you can buy. While eggs can last for weeks in your fridge, great egg dishes should use the freshest eggs you can lay your hands on.
Whether your preference is white, brown, free range, organic or pasteurized, freshness matters. Look for package dates, and buy your eggs at stores (like Nino’s) that are WELL shopped. This insures the eggs are constantly resupplied and fresh.
If you’re unsure how fresh your eggs are, test them by immersing your egg (still within the shell, of course) in a cup or bowl of water, at least a few inches deep. If the egg lies on its side at the bottom, it should be quite fresh. If it floats? Well, let’s just say I’d recommend you don’t use it.
The reason this test is reliable is because egg shells are porous. The older the egg, the more the interior contents evaporate, leaving an air pocket in their place. Eventually, they become filled with more air and start to float.
Among the most-popular advice I give about eggs (besides freshness) is cooking and cooling them properly.
As it turns out, food really is science, and chemistry is always at work in one way or another. With eggs, it’s the interaction of two elements, sulfur (in the whites) and iron in the yolks. When eggs are overcooked and improperly cooled, these two elements combine to form a green discoloration. This can also happen if there is an abundance of iron in the cooking water.
The best way to reduce or eliminate this unsightly discoloration (which isn’t harmful, by the way) is to cook your eggs only as long as necessary, and then immediately remove them from the hot water and shock them in ice water until completely cold. Depending on how many eggs I have to cook and how quickly I can get the water to boil, I cook my eggs 12 minutes from the boiling point and then immediately chill them.
Regarding scrambled eggs, I do two things. First, I crack the eggs and beat them well. Then, I add approximately 1 tsp of cream per egg and beat that in as well. DO NOT add salt or pepper yet. Salt will toughen the eggs.
Using a non-stick fry pan on medium-low heat, I add a pat of butter to the pan and then pour in the beaten-egg mixture. The eggs should NOT bubble up around the edges. If they do, your pan is too hot.
The real trick is to gently scrape the cooked egg toward the center using a silicone spatula, folding it over the uncooked egg liquid as you do. The slower you cook the egg mixture, the more tender and moist they will be. In the end, the scrambled eggs should have a soft, pillow-like curd appearance.
Cook them to your desired firmness. THAT is the time to add your salt and freshly ground pepper.
The only time I don’t add a bit of cream to my eggs is when I make omelets or a similar item, which I call an “egg wrap.”
For the wrap, I use a newish 6-inch, non-stick, Teflon®-type pan with a handle that can withstand a bit of broiler exposure (most can).
I turn my oven’s broiler on and position a rack about 6 inches lower than the element, leaving the door open.
My “egg wrap” starts by spraying the pan with some vegetable spray. I then add only about ¼ cup of beaten egg to the surface of the pan (no cream added). Cook on low heat until the egg JUST begins to set. Then, place the pan under the broiler until it is fully cooked and set. If you do it right, both the bottom and top of the egg will firm and cook evenly.
I slide the finished egg (pancake) onto a plate or flat surface and allow it to cool to room temperature.
At this point, I use the egg as a wrap and fill it with hash browns, sautéed peppers and onions, cooked breakfast sausage or crisp bacon. These can be made hours ahead of time and placed in a microwave casserole dish for reheating later. This is an especially convenient way to prepare “mini-omelets” for serving all at once to a larger crowd or for family gatherings.
From frittatas to over easy, I love eggs and I’m always looking for new ways to show off their incredible versatility.