“Eggs have two advantages over all other foods. First, they are procurable nearly everywhere; second, the most dainty person is sure when eating eggs that they have not been handled.”
‘A Book for A Cook’, The Pillsbury Co. (1905)
It’s not called the incredible edible for nothing. I always start with teaching eggs, and I do it for a good reason. They are amazingly nutritious, extremely affordable and super simple to cook. They can serve as a standalone dish, be dressed up and accessorized, or used as the base for some terrific recipes. I’ve heard that many novices in classic kitchens under the apprentice system are asked to audition by preparing an omelet. The reasoning behind this is simple – eggs are fundamental in the kitchen, and yet many people never learn how to handle them correctly. Not that eggs are fussy – they’re far from fussy or difficult. But think of an egg as the perfect little black dress. Treat it well, care for it, accessorize it to your hearts’ content and it will serve you beautifully and take you many places with style. Treat it badly – throw it in the washing machine, top it with too much, or worst, wear it with white tights – and you’ll hope forever that no one remembers or took pictures.
Eggs are beautifully simple. They are a nearly perfect source of protein – the white being pure protein. They contain all the amino acids necessary for human nutrition, and they are relatively low in calories. A large egg contains about 75 calories, 60 of those in the yolk. I’m not a nutritionist, and you’ll have to go to one for more details on the chemical makeup, but they do contain significant amounts of vitamin A, the B’s, vitamin D, iron, calcium and potassium. And while there is some fat and cholesterol in the yolk, the fat is not terribly significant, and the cholesterol (in recent studies) seems to be unused by the human body. For more information on the nutritional breakdown of eggs, check out the article Good Eggs, For Nutrition They’re Hard To Beat by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD.
Eggs are also delicious – even with nothing but a bit of salt and pepper, a couple of eggs can be a nutritious, luscious meal that is ready within minutes. Two eggs come in at 150 calories, and in my neck of the woods cost less than $.25. That’s Bombshell no matter how you look at it. So we’re going to start with the absolute most basic dish I know – scrambled eggs. And on a side note – I’m not going to tell you the only ‘right’ way to do things. What I will do is explain how to get the result YOU want. Which I suppose really is the only right way to do things!
“I have had, in my time, memorable meals of scrambled eggs with fresh truffles, scrambled eggs with caviar and other glamorous things, but to me, there are few things as magnificent as scrambled eggs, pure and simple, perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned.”
James Beard, ‘On Food’ (1974)
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper
Butter, cooking spray or olive oil (your choice)
Medium mixing bowl
Small (8-inch) non-stick skillet
Soft (rubber) spatula or wooden spoon
- Crack your eggs into the mixing bowl, add about a tablespoon of water (you can also use milk, half and half or cream if you wish) and whisk well. Don’t skimp the whisking. You’re adding air into the eggs, which will result in a fluffier, creamier texture. You’re also making sure that your eggs are really homogenous – fully blended, and you won’t have streaks of coagulated egg white in the finished product.
- Heat your pan over medium low heat. If the pan is nonstick, you really don’t need to add butter or oil or cooking spray – the pan does the work for you. If you don’t have a nonstick pan, then you’ll HAVE to add a bit of oil. Not a bad thing – butter and olive oil are both great conveyers of flavor. And you can use either – whatever your preference. At my house it’s usually butter.
- Pour the whisked eggs into the hot skillet, turn the heat down to low and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. And stir. Stir some more. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt (kosher salt really DOES taste better) and black pepper. To get the creamiest texture and smallest curds, keep the eggs in motion constantly. The eggs will begin to set immediately. Just keep stirring until you’ve gotten just a touch under the doneness you like. The eggs will continue cooking for a minute after you’ve removed them from the heat. I’ll admit, learning the exact look takes a bit of practice, but that’s what we’re here for.
- If your eggs ‘weep’ (what my Granny called it) or seep liquid, it’s a sign of overcooking. Honestly? We don’t care much at my house, but I’m more careful with guests.
That’s it! You’ve completed your first dish! Next we’ll talk about some variations on scrambled eggs.
“Eggs are very much like small boys. If you overheat them, or overbeat them, they will turn on you, and no amount of future love will right the wrong.”