There's a Hot New Ingredient in Town
By Piet E. Jones
Nope, it’s not some rare plant with an odd sounding name that’s only available on alternate full moons. Nor is it some high end heritage meat with a genetic line that exists only on some remote mountain farm. The hot new ingredient is actually one of the oldest ingredients of all - the egg. Now, it’s not an unusual egg that’s hot. Quail, goose, duck, even ostrich eggs can be found on menus all over but that’s not what the buzz is about. No, it’s your garden variety chicken egg that’s showing up on the hottest dishes in town.
Think About It
Heavy sauces aren’t really in vogue anymore. People want to taste their food. Simple is in. And what is more simple yet tastefully alluring than an egg? Of course, you do need the right preparation for the right dish to really make that egg sing. Scrambled eggs would be kind of silly on top of a burger. But put a fried one on top, so the creamy yolk oozes out over the juicy burger and you suddenly have a winner.
That mixed green salad with lovely sliced radishes and crisp cucumber? Try dressing it with a perfect egg. What is a perfect egg, you ask? Well, set water to a boil and then let it go back down to a low simmer. Add your egg and let it steep for five minutes. Move immediately to an ice bath to stop the cooking process and make it easier to peel. What you have is an egg where the white is firm but still slightly soft and a yolk of creamy, runny perfection. Serve it plain on the salad or roll it lightly in salt and pepper, or other spices and herbs of your choice. No need for dressing, maybe a squirt of citrus or flavored olive oil, when they slice into the egg it will run beautifully onto the greens taking some of the spices with it. Perfection.
There’s No Need to Limit Your Perfect Egg to Salads
That heritage pork chop that you serve with the fat perfectly crisped? Top it with a perfect egg. The small batch stone ground grits that are the platform for the massive shrimp? Top it with a perfect egg. Any number of dishes could benefit from the richness of a creamy yolk oozing out onto it. Sure, you could achieve a similar result with a poached egg but the improved visuals and mouthfeel of the perfect egg really can’t be beat.
Ramen and Asian style noodle dishes are showing up in all manner of restaurant, not just Asian ones. Besides the broth and noodles, often painstakingly made in-house, the star of the dish is often the egg. A perfect egg would go wonderfully on top of the slow braised broth and hand pulled noodles but you could also go another route. Instead of a 5 minute egg, how about a 4 hour one? Initially, the thought of such an egg conjures memories of grey yolks and a lingering sulfur smell. Not so if done correctly. If you’re making your own broth you already have a slowly simmering pot filled with all manner of goodness. Toss a few eggs in. After an hour remove them and slightly crack them, rolling them lightly to crack uniformly around the egg. Then put them back in the braising dish. Under the low heat, the eggs will slowly absorb some of the flavors of the broth (the low heat will also avoid the discoloration and noxious odor). Before serving remove the shell, you should have a gorgeous broken glass pattern all around the egg. You could even mix it up a bit, instead of steeping the eggs in your broth, do it in green or black tea to add a new element of flavor to your noodle dish.
Another creative angle being used is to sous vide the eggs. The precise temperature control really allows chefs to run the gamut from soft to extra firm with precision. A little olive oil in the bag, perhaps infused with herbs, or fine chopped cooked bacon or house made charcuterie can create tiny bites that are sure to please as either an appetizer or as part of a larger dish - almost like a dialed up deviled egg.
Regardless of which method or dish you choose, adding an egg is elegantly on trend, bringing a creaminess and feeling of homey comfort to most any plate. That is it relatively inexpensive and so easy to work with helps make it a winner ingredient behind the line. All around, perhaps the most perfect ingredient.