A good egg

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!  I had a suitably Mexi-murrican recipe all lined up for this post, but, well, the day is almost over, and I realized I’ll have an equally beautiful opportunity to share it with you in a couple weeks.  (Cryptic?  What’s that?)

So instead, let me take a moment to pay tribute to my dear friend Kate.  I’ve already mentioned Kate on this blog o’ mine–I put some chickpeas through a blender in her honor.  Kate and I have known each other since middle school, when we bonded over our aching, thrilling, stubborn badge-of-pride outcast status.  We grew from wilting eighth-graders to viciously snarky teens, and then went our separate ways to college and watched each other blossom from across the country.

Kate is allergic to gluten and intolerant of most refined sugar.  But rather than let that stymie her love of food, she’s used it to inform a vibrant, fundamentally conscientious sense of where her food comes from and what it can do for her body.  She has thrown herself wholeheartedly into the study and practice of nutrition and agriculture–she can talk for hours about soil cultivation and the body-fortifying properties of your weekly grocery haul.  And, as if that weren’t enough, she’s a damn good cook.

In fact, she recently taught me how to tame one of my biggest kitchen bugaboos.  It’s a task I’ve attempted many a time, always with the same nearly-inedible result.  Not only was this devilishly frustrating, but it just about convinced me to swear off trying forever.  But then Kate made it look easy.

She helped me scramble an egg.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated scrambled eggs.  That crumbly, gelatinous yellowish mass was the bane of many a hotel breakfast.  I’m sure I can’t be the only one who couldn’t choke down an order of scrambled eggs without first drowning them in an inch-deep swirl of ketchup.  I’ve never tamped down my gag reflex so hard.  (No jokes, please.)

I always thought the problem was intrinsic to the eggs themselves.  I like eggs fine in almost any other form–fried, poached, even the much-hated and easily-overcooked hard-boiled egg.  But somehow, when the white and yolk are furiously beaten together until they meld, the result becomes thoroughly unpleasant.  Just the sight of scrambled eggs in a chafing dish was enough to make me hack.  I figured it might just be easier to swear off the whole shebang.

But then, Kate explained, it’s not the eggs at all.  It’s the way they’re treated.  If you’re rough with them, crank up the heat under their silky-smooth bottoms, shove them roughly around the pan without pause or patience, then of course they’re going to shrink back into themselves.  The curds will seize and toughen, and you’ll be left with a mess of gag-inducing, nose-scrunching, push-your-plate-away proportions.  (I wasn’t kidding about this revulsion of mine.)

But if you lay them out gently in a warm, comfortable space, give them time to settle in, and then rock them gently back and forth, they’ll thank you.  They’ll go soft, downy, almost custardy, collecting in pillowlike curds.  And if you pull them out of the pan when they’re still moist and glossy, letting them coast to the finish on the plate, they’ll be just as delicate and airy as you could possibly dream of.

Turns out I like ’em delicate and airy.

Okay, so the photos are terrible, but the point is: I like scrambled eggs! I like them, Sam I am!

This opens up a whole world of possibilities.  I’m going to start with baby steps–a little cheese, some greenery, a few handfuls of daintily chopped meat or shellfish.  Then I might just be de-traumatized enough to try this omelet thing I keep hearing about.  And from there it’s on to the big kids’ sandbox, where frittatas and tortillas play.

Kate, my dear, I owe you big.

Scrambled Eggs (this is a pattern, not a recipe)

For each person, crack two or three eggs into a bowl.  Add salt and pepper to your liking, plus a splash of cream if you swing that way.  (Kate likes a few dabs of worcestershire sauce in her eggs, which gets two thumbs up from me.)  Heat a small amount of butter or cooking oil–olive for me, coconut for Kate–in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat.  Add the eggs, and–this is important!–let them sit.  Don’t touch them.  Nothing should happen for about 30 seconds.  Then, gently, start to push the eggs around in the pan, allowing for a generous break between drags of your spatula or spoon. You should start to see white, billowy curds forming.  If they come up too fast, turn the heat down.

Once the eggs have started to come together, add any other flavorings and stir a bit more vigorously.  When the eggs are just a little bit wetter than you like them, evacuate them to a plate–the residual heat will finish cooking them.  Serve with your choice of condiments–salsa, syrup, or even, yes, ketchup–and marvel at the thing of simple beauty you’ve created.

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