leave your inhibitions at the door
Age and location have caught up to me.
In November I recently turned forty-cough-cough-cough and it also marked the 10-year anniversary of us moving to the flaming liberal, pinko, hippie college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. That combination has resulted in me doing something I always vowed I wouldn’t do.
I listen to NPR.
We’re talking full-on, memorized schedule, two radio presets, NPR listener. But – and may Ira Glass strike me down if I’m lying – I still haven’t gotten so bad as to listen to “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Sorry, Garrison. Maybe in about 40 more years I’ll come to appreciate your brand of “entertainment.” Maybe.
Not too long ago, I tuned in to hear an interview with the great chef John Besh. For those of you unfamiliar with him, he’s a former Marine who owns several top restaurants in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana. Probably more remarkable is the charitable work he’s done to help the city, area farmers, and aspiring chefs.
Even better? Check out the glorious hair…
He was talking about his method of making fried eggs. Simple enough, but the way he was talking about using good quality eggs and making them in the purest form possible to highlight the flavors and textures made me pull the car over and start gnawing on the steering wheel.
I had to try it.
I usually make fried eggs the same way that 99.99% of the cooking population not named “John Besh” does – heat up a pan, throw in some butter or oil, crack the egg. Sometimes I add a little water and cover the pan so the steam cooks the tops. Mostly, with a flick of the wrist I flip them for over-easy. Whichever way you do it is fine and is convenient as all heck. But you gotta try his method.
About the eggs…
Before we get into the cooking technique, a word about the eggs. In the interview, Besh was raving about eggs that were from a local farm. He knew the breeds of chickens used and the resulting flavor profiles of the eggs. I usually try to get mine from the Amish dudes at the Farmers Market and those guys creep me out too much for me to ask about the breeds. I do know that their eggs are super fresh, have a lot of flavor, and have robust yolks.
Even better than those are the ones our hippie cleaning lady gives us. She has a bunch of chickens and the eggs just came out of said chickens earlier that morning. Now THAT’S fresh. She doesn’t wash the eggs and says they can be stored at room temperature for weeks. Once they’re washed, however, they need to go in the fridge. I really don’t understand the logic behind it, because those shells are covered with all kinds of nasty fluids and dirt and can’t imagine how they keep the egg fresh.
See what I mean? I’m also unsure about her claim that they can sit at room temperature for weeks. I shudder at the thought of those caked-up shells on my counter for that long. Of course, it probably doest matter as eggs don’t go uneaten around here for more than a day or two.
Chances are you don’t have a hippie or Amish dude to hook you up with fresh eggs. No worries, I’ve tried his method with regular eggs and it still works.
On to the technique…
Contrary to what you hear about using a warmed pan and melted butter, it’s important that the pan should NOT be preheated. He starts with a cool non-stick pan (I use my trusty cast iron skillets) and spreads some cold butter on it. Then add the egg and season with a pinch of sea salt.
Start off by turning on the heat to medium-low.
From there the goal is to cook the egg as gently and slowly as possible to prevent caramelizing the egg. He said that the browning that results from regular frying distracts from the pure flavor of the egg. OK, Besh, I’m all in.
As the pan heats up, the whites start to turn opaque and the yolk may get a little bubble or two inside of it.
Once it starts to set, turn the heat all the way down to the lowest setting and continue to cook until the yolk is warmed through.
He wasn’t really clear on how you can tell when the egg is done – he just said the yolk would be warmer to the touch. I suppose this could be problematic as every restaurant menu I’ve seen has a warning about undercooked eggs. I’m sure the government has our best interests in mind, but undercooked eggs personally do not bother me. After decades of shady burrito abuse, my stomach can take handle anything.
Let’s just say “whenever you think the egg is done,” slide it on to a plate and enjoy.
While I actually like the caramelized parts of normal fried eggs, I can really appreciate the creaminess of the egg whites here. But it’s the yolks that really benefit from this method – so velvety and rich. They were otherworldly.
This has become my go-to method when I have the time for it. The whole process can take close to ten minutes, so patience is the word of the day.
So worth it.
How do you like your eggs?