There’s more than one way to crack an egg, writes Matt Preston as he looks beyond the tried-and-true breakfast favourites.
On the secret to cracking good eggs
IF THE weekend is owned by any one ingredient it has to be the egg,whether it’s a restorative bacon and fried egg roll loaded with your favourite sauce, poached googies with Hollandaise for Sunday brunch, or ever-so-slowly cooked scrambled eggs served all creamy with folds of blushing smoked salmon for a romantic breakfast.
Eggs, however, can be so much more so I turned to my library of dusty cookbooks dating back two centuries to see what tricks we might be missing.
This is a brilliant Victorian trick that ensures no sneeze of albumen is left on top of your fried egg and makes it far neater for a fried egg sandwich if you’re using a round-top loaf. Crack your egg into a hot pan and when the white is just set, lift the widest part and fold it over the yolk to cover as much as you can. Cook for a couple of minutes, then flip it finish. Voila – a fried egg as neat as the best poachie.Tip: rubber-tipped tongs and a blunt-edged knife are ideal when lifting and flipping the white.
EGGS IN BEDGOWNS
Take the tops off six small potatoes baked in their jackets and hollow them out, then add an egg (or two), salt and nutmeg to each and bake them again until the eggs are set to your liking. Fancy things up with herbs, diced fried bacon, crumbled sausage meat such as chorizo or even smoked freshwater eel (because you know that we love this ‘bacon of the pond’,if we can find it).Tip: reserve the hot potato flesh to mix with a little flour to make gnocchi. Spread it out to steam off before using – this will make the flesh drier and therefore require less flour for lighter gnocchi.
EGGS IN CRUSTS
Also known as the bullseye, this is a slightly naff but charming breakfast or light supper. Cut a ring out of the centre of two slices of bread using an egg ring, or sharp-rimmed glass. Fry the slices in foaming butter until golden on one side, then flip them and crack an egg into each hole. Cook until set and flip to seal. Serve bullseyes slathered with sour cream and loads of herbs, or pile on loads of vinaigrette-dressed frisée lettuce and bacon lardons for a take on the salade Lyonnaise, which makes the bullseye seem a lot posher, sort of like a large fancy croûton. Tip: Toast the cutout bread rings to have after loaded with butter and marmalade with a cup of tea and a nice read of the paper.
You’ve probably made a thousand frittatas over the years but how’s about a thick Spanish-ish omelette instead? My favourite is to fry a chunky dice of red capsicum with a finely diced onion and some crushed garlic in a large oven-safe frying pan, then set the mixture aside. Place olive oil and layers of slices of leftover roast potato in the pan, tossing some of the onion and capsicum over each layer. Beat enough eggs to cover the potato with a little water, salt and smoked paprika. Pour the eggs into the pan and cook slowly over a low heat until the base is set, then finish it under the oven grill.When cooked through flip it out onto a flat plate and serve it in wedges with your favourite chilli sauce, or a smooth spicy tomato sauce.
This is a 125-year-old egg idea but made so much easier if you have silicon muffin pans. Oil or butter the pans, then dust each cup with breadcrumbs or sesame seeds. Crack an egg into each and bake until set. Serve with sour cream or Kewpie mayonnaise, mashed avocado, lime juice, sliced spring onion and a little soy sauce.This is the least impressive of these ‘new’ ideas.
This California café (with various outlets) specialises in eggs in brioche buns, but their most interesting dish, the Slut, is an egg cooked and served with a creamy mash that reminds me of something that Milan chef Carlo Cracco once made me. Fill clean and sterilised small Mason jars, Kilner jars or old jam jars to halfway with buttery potato purée (like a mash only with even more butter). Crack in an egg and seal. Place in a bain-marie, then in a hot oven with the very hot water coming up over the level of the eggs (or in a large pan filled with hot water on the stove) and cook until the egg whites set. Eat topped with snipped chives and salt flakes.
BAKED ‘BOILED’ EGGS
This is a great hack from Alton Brown’s TV show Cutthroat Kitchen. Spread a very damp tea towel on an oven rack and nestle uncooked eggs in it (spaced out so they don’t touch) and bake them in at 160°C for 30 minutes. Plunge them in an ice bath and peel them.
POACHED EGG HACK
Fill a mug with half a cup of water. Crack in an egg. Place in the microwave covered and cook for one minute. Drain and serve.
Created by San Fran café Craftsman and Wolves, this delicious muffin, called The Rebel Within, contains the ultimate breakfast surprise – a gooeycentred egg. See Matt’s homage recipe to the egg muffin, the egg McMattin, online at delicious.com.au.