Friday, May 22, 2015

The Fried Egg

When I was beginning to learn how to cook, my favorite thing to eat was eggs. It was my favorite thing to eat because I couldn't cook much else. Well, what really inspired me to start experimenting with my food was the omelette. There is an art to it. Making an omelette teaches certain skills, involves a decent amount of prep-work, and has nearly infinite possibilities for experimentation.

I'm not going to show you omelette art now, though. What is more important is knowing how to fry eggs, scramble eggs, and sauté stuff. Making an omelette (with more fixings than cheese) is somewhere in between all three of those techniques. 

Fried eggs
Frying two eggs starts with melting a half tablespoon of butter or olive oil over medium-low heat in a nonstick frying pan. The butter should only just sizzle when you drop it in the hot pan. Stir the butter around so it coats the surface and wait a few moments while it sets. You'll develop a feel for temperature as you progress. It's almost like sautéing, but sautéed eggs sounds kinda strange. After you do that, you should:
  1. Crack an egg (gently!) on a flat surface. Don't crack it on the side of the pan. It can push egg shell bits into the part of the egg you're about to eat.
  2. Try to drop the eggs into the pan so that they're touching. They should sizzle nicely, like the butter. If they pop and crackle and seem all angry-like, turn down the heat.
  3. While the eggs are still runny, you can cut the thicker parts of the whites around the yolk so everything cooks evenly.
  4. The eggs will tell you when they're done. Ideally, the edges will be the slightest bit browned, and the whites will look opaque and firm. If there are still translucent parts, turn down the heat and place a lid over the pan for about a minute. The steam will cook the rest. Don't let those yolks get firm though! 
  5. Season the eggs with salt and pepper. I also like Old Bay seasoning on mine. 
  6. Pry them loose with a spatula. It should be painless if your pan's in good shape. Or, if you're feeling lucky, (and have a nice non-stick pan) lose the spatula and give the pan a shimmy. Then, dump 'em out on to a plate and serve with toast and/or fresh fruit.
Scrambled Eggs
Scrambling eggs is one of the simplest things you can do to eggs. For one person, it starts with cracking three eggs in a bowl and whisking them together; you can add salt and pepper too. Don't go overboard with the whisking. After that, the process is mostly the same as frying eggs:

  1. Melt a half tablespoon of butter or olive oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-low-low heat. Scrambled eggs are all about texture, so it's a good idea to have the pan at a slightly lower temperature than for frying eggs. You'll want to cook them more slowly to better monitor their doneness.
  2. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Wait for them to set up the slightest bit before you go stirring them.
  3. Using a spatula, push the edges into the center, continually rotating around the pan. They'll start to bulk up as they cook. Don't let them stay put for too long! Keep 'em moving.
  4. When they are still a tad bit "goopy," but almost done, this is the time to add grated cheese (mmmmm), if you like. Cook them until the cheese is melted, or until the eggs lose the goopiness quality and become just firm.
  5. Serve them like fried eggs and you've got a solid breakfast.
Some notes about nonstick pans:
  • Always use butter or oil, never nonstick cooking spray. The effects of the nonstick cooking spray won't stack with the nonstick pan! Even sprays that claim they are just "olive oil" or "olive oil based" contain certain chemicals that when used over time weaken the special coating on nonstick cookware. 
  • Always use plastic or wooden utensils. They are gentler than metal utensils. You want to make the most of your money and keep your nonstick pans around for as long as possible!
  • Never heat them too high. Medium heat or slightly above it is probably a safe limit. Again, too much heat can make the coating more susceptible to damage.

Now, technically you didn't have to know how to sauté anything to make the pasta e fagioli I showed you before. If you did, following the recipe was probably slightly easier for you. Sautéing involves heating a small amount of butter or oil over medium heat to lightly fry things like vegetables or chicken. Like I said, omelettes are better with fixin's, and one of my favorites is peppers and onions. It's simple, all you need to do is dice an onion (red onions are nice, but yellow onions work too), and a bell pepper (green, red, orange, or yellow). Make one cut with the knife to chop the top of the pepper off, once you've rinsed it. It's easier to start from there. Once you have your veggies prepared,

  1. Get that same nonstick pan, or a stainless steel one you have that's the same size. Heat a tablespoon of butter or tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Depending on how much "stuff" you're going to cook, there should only be a light coating of butter or oil on the pan. Sauté is translated to "frying quickly with a little fat."
  2. Use your senses to determine temperature; if the oil starts to spatter, the butter starts to turn brown, or if you smell a kind of unpleasant oily smell, the pan is too hot.
  3. Dump your veggies in. You should hear them sizzle.
  4. Stir them occasionally. You should be able to feel them get softer with the stirring spoon or spatula. Don't let them get too soft, though - they should still have some bite. You can even do a taste test. 
  5. What I would do from here is either store the veggies in a Ziploc container to use in an omelette later, or set the veggies aside on a plate, turn the heat down a bit, add a bit more butter to the pan, and make an omelette right away.
You can even add those sautéed veggies to scrambled eggs (at step 4, when you would add the cheese). Feel free to experiment with veggies. Spinach is nice too. Making an omelette will be a separate entry, but the process I just described to you is universal. Sautéed veggies can go into pasta, stir fry, or can simply be a side dish by themselves.

That's three techniques in one entry! Now you can make some bomb-ass breakfasts. Happy egg-ing.

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