Tom Fleming, co-owner of Crossroads Diner, is a classically trained chef. He graduated from the prestigious culinary arts program at Kendall College in his hometown of Chicago, where five and a half weeks of the course was devoted to cooking eggs. “Egg cookery is hard. Most people want to do them fast,” Fleming says. “I constantly have to tell my egg cooks to turn down the heat and slow their roll.” To help you sharpen your egg cookery, we asked Fleming to share his
techniques and tips.
“Use a medium-size pot—a 3-quart saucepan, if you have one—and place the eggs on the bottom. Cover them with cold water until the level is an inch above the eggs. Put the pot on a high flame and slow-roll the boil for exactly seven minutes. A rapid boil will cause the eggs to ‘dance’ and bang against each other. If you overcook them, you will see a gray ring around the yolk. Drain the pot and cover the eggs with ice and a little water. Let them chill completely in the ice water for at least 15 to 20 minutes. The shells will pop off without ruining your manicure.”
“When you are cooking eggs, always start with a cold Teflon pan. Scramble two eggs and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream in a bowl for one to two minutes. Melt a little chip of butter in the pan and cook eggs over medium heat. There is real science behind the heat. There is a lot of water in eggs, and if you cook them over high heat, the water will steam out and leave you with dry, brown eggs.”
“Put 3 inches of water and a splash of white wine vinegar in a wide pot. The vinegar helps solidify the whites around the yolk. Bring the water to a simmer. You don’t want any boiling action. Break the eggs into individual small bowls and drop them one by one into the water. Don’t stir. As you see the whites turn whiter, pick the eggs out with a slotted spatula. It’s hard to say how many minutes, because if you start with a cold egg, it will take longer than one at room temperature. I recommend starting with a cold egg, because they set easier and the whites don’t thin.”
“When you are baking an egg for a frittata or custard, you are going to have a higher cream-to-egg ratio. For a frittata, use three eggs and 3 to 4 tablespoons of cream. Preheat the oven to broil. Sauté whatever fillings you plan to use in an oven-proof pan. Turn the heat down. Mix the eggs and cream together and add to the pan with the fillings. Move the mixture around until large curds form. Place the pan on the bottom rack. It cooks in two to three minutes. If you are making a larger frittata, pour it in a baking dish and cook in a 300-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes. One quart of cream mixed with eight eggs makes a nice baked custard. Bake the mixture in a 275- to 300-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. It sets like a brulée.”
“Cooking eggs over medium sounds easy, but it’s one of the hardest egg preparations for the home cook to master. If you want to reduce the ‘ooze factor’ of the yolk, I recommend always cracking your eggs into a small dish before cooking them. This reduces the chance of breaking the yolk or getting shells in the pan. Take a small, cold Teflon pan and brush it lightly with clarified butter. Gently pour the egg in the pan. Once they’re set, turn the heat up to medium and let it go. If you have the flame too hot, the white edges will blister and pock. As the pan heats, the egg will cook from the outside in. Don’t touch the egg for two minutes. Once 30 percent of the white portion has coagulated, swirl the pan and flip the egg. Turn the heat off, and leave the pan over the grate for another two minutes. If you don’t know how to swirl and flip, learn. It’s too easy to ruin an egg by using a spatula. And once you’ve mastered the move, you can impress your friends.”