Welcome back to the kitchen. Friends, today I want to take us back to basics. I think too often cooking shows and magazines make too much of a to-do out of extravagance and originality, at the expense of simplicity and actual do-ability. How many times have you flipped though a glossy food magazine full of tantalizing pictures of incredible food and thought, “I will NEVER make this at home!”?
So today we are going to go the opposite route and make something so basic that some of you may scoff. No, we aren’t going to do a show on how to properly boil water, but you aren’t actually that far off.
But first, allow me to give a little background. As a foodie, I am always on the hunt for great sources of local food. Foods grown or produced right here in the valley really do taste much better than industrialized crops that are shipped in to the supermarket. Not only does local food taste better, but those dollars spent locally help to ensure the sustainability of local farming, something I value highly, while also cutting down on greenhouse gas pollution caused by shipping foods. Eating local can be a big win all around.
So my interest was piqued when a friend recently posted on facebook that they had fresh, local, organic eggs for sale, and even better, they would deliver! And for just $4 a dozen, the price seemed more than right. I was excited to open my first carton and see the eggs had several different colors, sizes, and shapes. Real food is not uniform, real food has so-called imperfections that let you know it is not an industrialized commodity, and real food tastes better! Seriously, these eggs are delicious; richer and creamier and with more flavor and texture than conventional eggs.
So now that I have this great local egg source, I’ve been adding this near-perfect protein to lots of dishes. Want to make those stir-fried greens into a complete meal? Just make a space in the middle of your frying pan and scramble a few beaten eggs into your dish. Or start off a Sunday morning right with a sautéed shallot and smoked salmon frittata, an un-flipped omelet that is finished in the oven.
Of course, humans have been eating eggs since, well, probably well before we were humans. They are a great food source, especially the egg whites. The yolks do contain a fair amount of cholesterol, so you may not want to overdo the yolks all the time. But darn it, a farm fresh egg yolk running over a piece of crusty bread is a thing of culinary beauty. What better way to wake up than with that runny little ray of sunshine?
That is why I have recently become obsessed with soft boiled eggs. This classic, humble breakfast classic seems to have really fallen out of favor. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I actually saw anyone eat one outside of old British TV shows. They may not conjure up much salivating or stomach grumbling on your end, at least until you try them for yourself, that is.
Soft boiled eggs have a warm and runny yolk like fried eggs over easy, and the egg white has a deliciously custard-like consistency. The classic method is to soft boil your eggs, cut off the tops, and dip strips of buttered toast in to get out all of that eggy goodness!
Honestly, I cannot for the life of me think of why soft boiled eggs have fallen out of flavor, except that maybe the name does little to inspire the imagination. They take almost no time or effort, yet are totally satisfying and delicious in their simplicity. And when using farm fresh local ingredients, often times simplest is best.
Now, there are two schools of thought when it comes to soft boiling eggs. One method is to start the eggs in cold water, heat it up to a boil, and then immediately remove it from the heat, letting the eggs sit in the hot water for a few minutes before eating them. But I’ve found this method to be a little harder to predict. So I prefer to bring the water up to a boil, then ease it back to a gentle boil or a simmer and gently place the eggs in the water using a slotted spoon to ease them in without burning myself. With this method, set your timer for between 5 and 7 minutes, depending on how soft you want your eggs.
I’ve found myself consistently easing off the time I boil my eggs, because I like them on the runnier side and they are easier to sop up with toast that in they solidify, Honestly, I think 7 minutes will be too much. So start with 6, and see how you feel about the results.
So, here’s what I do start to finish: bring about 3 inches of salted water up to a boil in a small pot (the salting of the water is probably more superstition than flavoring here). Turn the heat down to medium low so the water stays hot but is at just a simmer. Using a slotted spoon, gently ease your eggs in, one at a time so they don’t crack. Immediately set your timer for 6 minutes.
Start two pieces of whole grain toast in the toaster, and they should be ready right about the same time as your eggs. While you are waiting for the soft boiled eggs to soft boil and for the toast to toast, make some fresh coffee (or teas if you are felling particularly British) and slice up some nice fruit like a crisp apple or a ripe melon, so you can have an attractive and tasty accompaniment for your breakfast. Also, get out your egg cups and egg spoons. What?! You don’t have egg cups and egg spoons? I am shocked.
No, I am kidding, there is probably no one among you under the age of 70 who is not British who owns these implements. But they are easy to find and cheap online. The egg cup is just a little cup that holds the boiled eggshell upright so you can dip into it easily. It is a hands free technology that far preceded Bluetooth. The egg spoons are just mini little spoons that will fit in even better than a teaspoon. If you have neither of these implements, never fear, just improvise something. A bottle top might serve as an egg cup, and a butter knife can be used instead of an egg spoon.
Oops, here you’ve got me yakking away and I almost missed the timer. You really don’t want to overdo it, or your yolk will solidify and these will be no fun to eat. So as soon as the 5 or 6 minute mark is reached, pour off the hot water and run the eggs under cold tap water for 30 seconds to a minute, or until they are still warm, but not too hot to the touch.
Butter the toast and cut it into thin strips, about ¾ of an inch or so, small enough to dip into the egg shell. Using a knife or edge of a spoon, crack a ring all the way around the crown of the egg shell, about ¾ of the way up, using little taps to crack the shell. Then cut off the top of the egg through the cracked ring you have just made. The top of the egg and shell should come off in one fairly neat little piece, like a hat.
And look at all that deliciously runny yolk goodness! Sprinkle on a little dash of salt a grind of black pepper if you wish, and dip your buttered toast strips into the soft boiled egg, getting up all that yummy yolk and creamy white. I used to be a bit freaked out by runny eggs, but I think that may be because I didn’t fully trust me eggs or know where they came from. Now that I have this excellent local organic source, I can really get into this soft boiled egg thing!
If you are going for even healthier, skip the butter on the toast. Soft boiled eggs are great, because they are way less of a pain than poached eggs, and serve much the same purpose. I’ve also been quickly sautéing some spinach and piling that on top of a piece of toast, then scooping out a soft boiled egg on top of that to eat with a fork and knife. This would also go great with some crispy bacon strips.
But truly, soft boiled eggs are good with just the plain toast or fresh baked bread. I propose that we rescue this method (we can hardly even call it a complete recipe) from history’s scrap heap. Get yourself some fresh local eggs and enjoy this 10 minute breakfast that will give you great energy all day long.
I’d love to hear your favorite ways to use eggs, and whatever recipes you’ve been working on lately. What are your favorite foods to start off the morning? Send me any questions, comments, or suggestions to Isaac@kohoradio.com
. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.