Local Chef Gil Keay provides ‘REGULAR RECIPES’ for the Gazette Website
This time Gil shares with us his culinary knowledge of eggs
How fresh are your eggs?
Place an egg in a bowl of cold water, if it sits on the bottom in a horizontal position the egg will be fresh, if it lies semi-vertically, it will be ok but not fresh…fresh. If it stands vertically I would classify it as stale.
Break an egg onto a side plate and you will notice immediately. A fresh egg will be rounded and plump and sit proudly with the white having a noticeable inner ring of gel all around the yolk, and an outer circle flattening out toward the edge. A stale egg will present as a flabby yolk and will lose its inner circle of white, it will look quite weak and watery.
I would suggest using eggs within 2 weeks, assuming they were bought fresh, anything over two weeks are best used for cakes or sauces.
I prefer not to keep eggs in the fridge but do store them in a cool place, they do not like extremes of temperature and most recipes call for eggs at room temperature which helps to avoid curdling, they are also less likely to crack during boiling etc.
If you do store in the fridge, use the lowest part which is generally not as cold as the top area. (Unfortunately, manufacturers tend to put the egg trays at the top of the door).
Remember to take eggs out of the fridge a couple of hours before use, and the night before for breakfast use, it really does improve the flavour.
Wherever you store eggs remember these points:
i) Store in a place that is not too hot, not too cold.
ii) Store with thin side down, the air sac is in the thick end.
iii) Store away from strong smells, the shells are porous and will absorb pungent flavours.
I read somewhere that Delia Smith sings three verses of “Onward Christian Soldiers” during the boiling time, to produce the perfect boiled egg, I cannot sing so prefer the following method:
Use a small pan to prevent the eggs dancing around which could crack them, use fresh eggs at room temperature to prevent cracking on contact with hot water.
Bring water to boiling point then turn down the heat to simmering point, lower the eggs into the water using a spoon and leave for one minute, turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan and
leave for a further 4 minutes. This will produce an egg with a just set white and a soft creamy, runny yolk, you can adjust the timing with practice.
If you are lucky enough to have eggs straight from the chicken, that is within 3 days of laying, you will need to increase the cooking time a little, again practice makes perfect.
When I learning, chef told me to whisk the water, then drop in the egg, this would help keep the shape required, he said, put in a good pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of vinegar. I don’t think I ever produced a poached egg which he was happy with and I learned a few French swear words as a result. I can accept that vinegar may help the white to set but I don’t think it is necessary.
The method I use now I picked up later and is as follows:
In small frying pan put water to a depth of 1½ inches, bring to the boil then turn down the heat as much as possible. You want to see the bare minimum of bubbles in the water, do not add salt or vinegar.
Break two eggs (as fresh as you can get) into the water and allow 3 minutes cooking time, spooning water over the top a couple of times.
Remove with a slotted spoon or a fish slice and place on a sheet of kitchen paper (spoon and egg) to remove any excess water. Again, you can adjust the cooking time to suit.
There is only one way to make scrambled eggs in my opinion, and this time my trainer chef was spot on:
Melt a knob of butter, in a small thick-bottomed saucepan, over a gentle heat making sure not to let it go brown, then swirl it around to coat the whole pan.
You will already have beaten 3 eggs and seasoned them to your taste. Add these to the foaming butter stirring as you do, increase the speed of the stirring making sure you get right into the corners to prevent any burning, take the pan from the heat whilst there is still a little liquid left in the eggs, add another knob of butter to melt as the eggs finish cooking in the heat of the pan.
Jazz up you scrambled eggs a little by adding a teaspoon of thick cream along with the second knob of butter.
Everybody has a different idea of the perfect fried egg but, to end up with an egg that is slightly crispy around the edges try this method:
A fresh egg, a medium heat, a knob of butter and an equal amount of oil.
Allow the oil and butter to melt gently and heat through for ½ minute, crack the egg into the pan and allow to settle. Tilt your pan and flick with a fish slice, or with a spoon, the oil over the top of the egg, until it is cooked to your liking.
I would suggest bacon fat instead of oil but most bacon sold in supermarkets produces more water than fat these days, as your local butcher will tell you.
Baked eggs (Eggs en Cocotte):
These are delicious, and can be served with many different accompaniments, cream cheese, asparagus, green beans whatever suits you.
Baked eggs are cooked in dish that resembles a soufflé dish only smaller, about 2½inch diameter, called a ramekin.
Butter the inside of the ramekin well and break an egg into it, season to taste and top with a small knob of butter.
Place the ramekins in a meat-roasting tray and pour water in, up to half the height of the ramekin.
Cook in the oven for 15/20 minutes at 180°C. Serve immediately.
Size matters; a two-egg classic omelette needs a 6inch pan, a four/five egg classic omelette needs a 10inch pan. Too few eggs in a large pan will produce a thin, dry and leathery omelette, too many eggs in a small pan will produce a springy omelette.
Always use a heavy bottomed aluminium or cast-iron frying pan.
For one person, break 2 eggs into a basin and beat them with a fork. Do not over-beat, in fact this process can be done by simply folding yolk into white with a knife, no vigorous beating required.
Next, season to taste and set aside.
Place your pan on a medium heat, no oil or butter at this stage, just get the pan hot.
Add a knob of butter, turn down the heat and swirl it around to coat the whole of the pan. When the butter starts to froth, pour in the eggs and tilt your pan to spread them, take a fork to draw
the edges toward the centre allowing egg liquid to slip into the channels you make. Keep doing this until there is just a little liquid left (Baveuse stage, in French)
Take the handle of the pan in one hand, tilt towards a plate and flip the edge of the omelette over to the centre using a fork or spoon, then let it fold again as it slides onto the plate. A classic omelette.
Alternatively, add another egg at the beating stage and cook as above, at the baveuse stage, put the pan under a hot grill where it will cook the top and fluff up your omelette.
If you are adding something to your omelette, such as cheese, add at the baveuse stage, if you are adding something like herbs, add at the initial beating stage and allow ½ hour to infuse.