Any rare moments that I happen to steal from an morning otherwise bereft with the hectic slappings-about of a half-awake Neanderthal I consider to be of the most precious variety. The sweet velvety dark of a slumbering house still draped in the swaths of night as my naked feet touch down onto the hardwood floor, the flash of artificial light as the monitor wakes up to my sleep-soaked eyes, that first warm, welcoming splash of spray across my shoulders as I slip into the shower — there are some morning events to which not even I can deny the pleasure.
If you know me, this is saying a lot. Generally speaking, mornings can go shag themselves livid on a sandpaper-wrapped splintered broomstick — does the imagery strike you?
On a rare occasion, my messings-around and screwings-off are subdued to the point where I can sacrifice some minutes to actually cook myself a breakfast instead of slapping something sticky from a jar onto something flat and square from a bag and hoping it won’t get jammed halfway down my throat enroute and cause me to end up blue-faced and dead in a cornfield ditch.
That is — EGGS.
There is a proper way to construct a wonderfully succulent fried egg that will make your nipples curl into corkscrews with glee. I’ve had these twice in the past week and I felt extremely compelled to share because — we all need twisted anatomy, don’t we? I heartily recommend them if you have the time, inclination, and have not made any great enemies with fowl of late.
1. The pan you choose should be as important as the thing you cook in it; nobody makes love in a dumpster, please don’t heat your breakfast in one. This is one of the areas of culinary excellence where a non-stick pan of some pedigree should be chosen, whether that be cancer-causing Teflon, anodized aluminum, or otherwise. A sauté pan is recommended for the curved sides; you’ll need some help in flipping later, and I don’t mean your house. Remember, 30 minutes ago you were under the covers and in the arms of a hot member of the opposite sex eating grapes — don’t overestimate yourself so early in the day.
2. Eggs appear to be a dollar twenty-three a dozen but looks and bulk pricing can be deceiving. When adding to a box pound cake, whether or not your source hen spent her days roaming the hills of Austria or zip-tied and spread-eagled above a stainless-steel hopper probably matters little, but I guarantee you’ll notice the anguish of your mistake when cooking eggs straight up. Chip in for the free-range ones, if not the organic, unless you have a local farmer wherein you can extract said food orbs from directly underneath the warm ass of a clucker, whereupon you know you’ve hit the motherlode. (pun fully intended and appreciated) A good indicator is yolks that are dark yellow, thick, and well-contained upon entering the pan.
3. Unsalted butter is the only acceptable lubricant for this endevour. Margerine is not intended for this sort of cooking (or, really, any cooking), oil is too bland (canola) or uppity (olive), and any other fancy whipped-this or seasoned-that is just a gimmick. Two to three healthy tablespoons will do nicely in a 8″ pan with 2 – 3 eggs.
4. Your attention, please! This is not the time to browse the classifieds or brush the cat; it won’t take you more than 8 minutes or so to cook these, try to hold your enthusiasm for Marmaduke until the end. A watched pot never boils, but an ignored egg will boink your daughter on the living room couch.
5. Put your pan on the burner, bring up the heat, and then drop in your butter. Wait until it is fully dissolved and bubbling merrily before proceeding. If you have too much unmelted butter when the rest has been bubbling and is starting to brown, you have the heat too high. The low side of medium high to medium should be your goal for this, but it truly is a feel-and-test sort of thing.
6. Give each egg a solid whack! on the cooktop to crack it and then split it over the pan. The purists in the audience will note that at this point, I should be first dumping the insides into a bowl to make sure there isn’t anything funny in there, like a lizard or a pair of pantyhose, but I don’t have time for that. In a soufflé or pavlova, yes, but for breakfast? Live a little, people. A note on the egg white at this point — if your heat is correct, it will go opaque almost instantly along the bottom. Any delay and your heat is low or the igloo has a draft.
7. At this time, seasonings should be applied. For this ultimate fried egg recipe, I shy away from anything but tried and true S&P, but with a new twist, because you want to love these eggs, not just like them. Liberal amounts of fresh, ground black pepper in the biggest chunks your grinder will create is essential and you would be hard-pressed to apply too much of it. The pepper has this wonderful property of cutting through the sweetness of the carmelized bits (more on that in a second) and gives a marvelously pungent aroma to the dish. Finish this with the application of some sea salt granules — just enough to taste and not more than you need. This is one area where I feel the so-called, “colored”, sea salts have real application as they are both spice and seasoning, but don’t push your luck.
8. Patience is a virtue as you want to continue to fry the eggs until the surface of the yolks barely start to look dry and you can start to see the very, very edges of the white turn a wonderful brown. The cook time on this side is about 85% of the total time, so don’t be afraid to go a bit long, but you want to prevent from fully cooking the yolk! Yes, I know some of you like yours hard, but you are all strange and odd. A cooked yolk means pasty dryness and an overcooked and rubbery white, so avoid trashing a perfectly good egg. This goes for you, “3 minutes on one side and down the trap” people that prefer it when your food wiggles into your intestines rather than being deposited there. Creepy.
9. Cut the eggs apart with your flipper so you have neat packages to flip and then ease them over gently to prevent breaking the yolk. Remember the admonition to use the sauté pan? This is the reason why, as gently pushing the egg up the side till it flips back onto your instrument is both a turn-on and terribly handy.
10. After flipping, count to 20 and turn the heat off; don’t worry, they’ll finish fine. Let sit for 60 seconds and slide onto a plate. Grab a fork and try to contain yourself to a ten foot radius of thrashing about as you experience the wonderful joy of — an Excellent Egg.
Bon apetit mes ami.