We’re back in the kitchen and this season we’re bringing you several great series alongside our signature recipes, starting with Kitchen Basics. Before we deglaze, frizzle or flambé, we thought it best to refresh our knowledge of the basics, from simple classic sauces to selecting and safely preparing that perfect cut of beef. To kick things off, let’s start at the beginning. What came first? Well, for our purposes, we’ll go with the egg! Take it away Chef Regina…
Oh, the incredible, edible egg! When I was a child, comfort food for me meant a bowl of fresh cooked, fluffy white rice with a fried egg on top – crisp along the edges with a creamy center that enveloped each grain of rice in a perfect yellow coat. Yummy! Why is it that the simplest things always taste so good? Since we weren’t wealthy, my family learned to be very resourceful. We had a big backyard where my father and grandfather had planted a garden with all kinds of fruit trees, but the part we kids loved best was the chicken coup. Beautiful hens would fill baskets of eggs for us daily!
So let’s talk eggs. Eggs are very valuable nutritionally because they are filled with life-giving protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, Vitamins A, D and B complex. A large egg is approximately 70 calories and contains over six grams of protein, and each is around 4.5 grams of fat, only 7% of your daily recommended amount.
At the grocery store you’ll find eggs in different colors and sizes, from brown or white, medium to jumbo. The only difference between a brown or white shelled egg is in the breed of hen that laid it. It’s really all a matter of personal preference.
- Free Range: hens permitted to roam freely within the farmyard and kept in hen houses or sheds only at night, typically grass fed.
- Organic: hens free of any hormones or antibiotics (except during infectious outbreaks).
- Cage: hens which live solely in hen houses or cages, on floors covered with straw or other material, typically grain fed.
Although in my time eggs were often kept at room temperature because we could collect them daily, today they are best stored in a refrigerator. This keeps them fresh longer. The American Egg Board recommends storing eggs in the original carton on a refrigerator shelf rather than in a compartment in the door to maintain a more balanced temperature.
For cooking purposes, however, it’s often best to let them come to room temperature for about a half hour before use. This helps prevent the shell from cracking, which is key especially when making hard boiled eggs. Egg whites at room temperature also produce more volume when beaten.
Eggs typically last about a month from the date of purchase, but always make sure to double check the expiration date.
Here are four great ways to prepare eggs.
Soft Boiled: Place the egg in a saucepan and cover with cold water, about 1/2 inch above the egg. Bring to a slow boil and then turn off the heat. Cover and let stand for 3-4 minutes. Place in an egg cup, gently crack the top and enjoy with a spoon.
Hard Boiled: Place the egg in a saucepan and cover with cold or lukewarm water, about 1/2 inch above the egg. Bring the water up to simmering and set a timer for 7 minutes. Run the egg under cold water once cooked. I like to leave them in cold water until they’re cool enough to handle.
For me, the best way to peel an egg is under running water from the rounded wide end up. Others also like to tap and roll them on a hard surface.
For a soft and creamy texture, I add a little cream to the egg. For one serving, add 1 tablespoon of whipping cream to 2 large eggs. Whisk until well combined. Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Pour the egg mixture over the butter and stir briskly, making sure to go all around the edge of the pan. Remove the eggs from the pan when they’re almost solid but still creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Carefully break the egg into the pan. Let it settle for about 30 seconds – tilting the pan and gently basting the egg in the hot oil. After a minute the eggs are cooked and slightly crisp along the edges with a runny yolk. Slide the eggs onto a platter to serve and add salt and pepper to taste.
One of my favorite breakfast dishes is Eggs Benedict, which requires this master poaching method. Fill a tall pot with water (at least four quarts) and bring to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt (the acid and salt help the whites cook faster and not spread apart). When the water is at a full boil, crack the egg and gently slip it into the water. Turn the heat down to a medium simmer. The eggs cook very quickly – they’ll go down to the bottom and then float back up. Once they come up they’re almost done depending on your preference, less time for a runny yolk and more for a slightly harder one. Remove the egg from the water with the help of a slotted spoon. Place it on a plate over toast or ham and enjoy!
Stay tuned for some of our favorite egg recipes coming next week, including our version of Ana’s absolute favorite, Croque Madame!