One of the inconveniences of a New York City apartment is the noise.
Say, for instance, you live on the North side of the street, with your window facing an apartment complex that’s filled with 23-year olds, fresh out of college, living the dream.
Say there’s a courtyard separating both buildings, and that like all people in their early 20s, these young adults like to party.
Say these parties happen in the teensy gardens of their ground floor apartments, and that they happen from the hours of 11PM until 1AM, sometimes later.
It’s annoying, but that’s what headphones are for.
Come 9:30PM or 10PM each night, after reading a chapter or two of my latest book, I retrieve an eye mask from my nightstand, switch my phone to airplane mode, and turn on the soothing sounds of ocean waves.
Rodney, on the other hand, chooses to go naked. Ear naked, not naked naked.
It’s smooth sailing on most nights. But on the evenings when the weather’s warm, the stars are shining, and the 20 somethings are in the mood to knock back some craft beers with their 50 closest friends, we’re in deep.
We had one of those nights recently.
Rodney, at 10PM interrupted me as the ocean waves were kicking in.
“I need your help, it’s getting loud outside. It’s a 2-man job. You need to hold the window screen open while I throw the water. That way I’ll have time to duck back inside without them noticing where it came from.”
Raising my contoured floral eye mask, I asked the obvious. “What are you 90?”
His response seemed to indicate that he is, in fact, 90. “I’m thinking one of those big buckets – the ones that hold a lot of volume. You just lift and I’ll spray. I really need Chris right now.” Chris being our friend in the building who hates the noise as much as Rodney. “Chris would help me throw eggs at them.”
What I wanted to tell my husband is that a chicken somewhere in Upstate New York didn’t give birth to big, beautiful blue-shelled eggs with golden yolks, so that they could end up in a shattered mess, drying against a pair of J Brands.
The only job required of these eggs is to allow me to purchase them at the farmers’ market for whatever full price the farmer is charging, carry them home gingerly in a burlap sac, and make them into breakfast.
Although I didn’t tell him that, I did tell him to knock it off and go to sleep.
But here, I must confess to an even worse egg crime: until this year, I didn’t know how properly cook an egg.
And I’m guessing that many of you are in the same boat. We have a general sense for how to cook eggs, but there’s room for improvement. Even restaurant chefs don’t always get it right. Ask Thomas Keller, who has claimed for years that the real test of a chef isn’t his or her ability to put together an elaborate dish; rather, it’s how you treat something humble, like an egg.
So, to prevent any ongoing egg shame, and the destruction of these gorgeous farm stand eggs, I thought I’d share a few tricks that I’ve learned along the way. I will fully admit that if I were to draw an egg continuum, I’d place myself here:
Total Disaster –––––––X––– Total Master
But still above average with some hard-won wisdom to share, so here we go:
Soft boiled eggs:
Soft boiled eggs were a mystery to me until I learned about the perfect 6-minute egg. My previous technique was a common one that you’ll find online; start the eggs in cold water, bring them to a boil, turn off the heat, and let them sit in the water, covered for 10 minutes. At which point I’d dunk them into ice water, and attempt to peel their shells, which generally removed half of the white in ragged chunks.
This technique has never worked for me. I don’t care what all of the online sources
say about not letting your eggs bounce around in the boiling water. I’d rather have an egg that I can peel properly than one whose white has not been “traumatized” by boiling water. And yes, I’ve tried the peeling tricks- the spoon, the Tim Ferris technique, which I talked about in this post; I even once bought something called The Eggstractor, which I saw on an infomercial. I learned a valuable lesson that with the exception of Snuggies, one should never buy anything from an infomercial.
If you haven’t been doing this to date, and want to achieve the creamy consistency of that perfect ramen egg, try this method – it’s the only thing I’ve found to work.
The technique: Bring your eggs to room temp (about half an hour outside of the fridge before you cook them). Bring your water to a boil, drop the eggs in, and set your timer for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, scoop them out with a strainer, run for a few seconds under cold water, and peel. Boom, perfect egg.
For some reason, (and I’m guessing here) but the agitation in the boiling water seems to crack the shell ever so slightly, which allows the shell to separate from the egg white, making it far easier to peel. And 6 minutes is the lucky number. I’ve never once had it fail.
Want a firmer egg? Check out how much time is needed for each of the following yolk centers…
Over the years, I’ve become much more adept at flipping over easy eggs without breaking the yolks. But even when done correctly, the yolk is always cooked a little more than I’d like it to be. And sunny side up eggs have too much uncooked white on top for my taste.
Although this is by no means revolutionary, the perfect solution came to me years after I’d started to cook. I discovered it while eating some restaurant corned beef & hash with a perfect egg on top and I had to smack myself in the head for not thinking of it. Fried eggs, with a perfectly (slightly) cooked top, and a runny center.
The technique: Add some butter to a pan on medium heat. Crack two eggs into the pan, and at the point where you would normally flip the eggs, simply cover the pan with a lid so that the top of the eggs firm up ever so slightly.
So good topped with salsa too…
And of course you can make yourself a legendary better-than-the-original McMuffin (mine had sautéed onions and blue cheese):
I’ve always been a fan of baked eggs, ordering them in a restaurant any time I see them, but somehow I’ve been reluctant to make them at home. And why? They offer all of the perfection of a creamy, runny eggs, but set within any kind of base you can imagine, from tomato-based sauces to creamy greens. Creamed spinach is always a winner, but you can improvise the flavors like I did just recently, with creamed kale, caramelized onions and Harissa to give it a North African flavor.
The technique: Make your base (as simple as making a quick tomato sauce, or wilting some kale, adding some heavy cream, seasoning & simmering for a few minutes); make indentations for the eggs with a spoon, add your eggs, and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
Poached eggs were always a bit of a flop until I learned about the swirl. I knew about the vinegar trick – a teaspoon or so into your boiling water to make the whites stay together. But I didn’t know about swirling your water to create a whirlpool effect that tightens the whites even more. Some say to keep your water at a simmer, but I’ve had luck with boiling water too.
The technique: Bring a pot of salted water (enough to cover the egg) to a boil, and then add a splash of white vinegar. Crack an egg into a cup. When the water is boiling, swirl the middle with a spoon to create a whirlpool. Add your egg, and cover the pot, removing it from the heat. Let it poach for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, dabbing the underside with a paper towel to eliminate excess water, and serve.
Any technique is a winner, feel free to improvise, but above all, respect the egg.
Thank you for listening to this PSA.