"Everything's better with a crispy fried egg on top" Bon Appétit
It being Easter yesterday we had a Zoom session with our family, in the course of which everyone had to contribute a picture of an Easter egg for a wall of pictures my son's partner was assembling - some of them came from all over the world. This was my oldest grandson's contribution - so original. Don't you love the toast (and possibly bacon) just waiting for the egg? And the knobs on the cook top, let alone the way the hand curls round the handle of the frypan. He's my grandson so I loved it. And yes I know, I'm biased. So I'm talking about fried eggs today.
Growing up in Essex I had a cooked breakfast every morning because that is what my mother firmly believed we should have. Alas not for me. I'm not a breakfast person, so it led to huge rows almost every morning. But now I look back with nostalgia at those fried eggs, the fried bread and bacon. But I look back with even more fondness to the dinners of egg and chips that we had at least once a week. Yes both of these dishes are not very healthy but they didn't really know about vitamins and fresh vegetable back then, and besides, with respect to the egg and chips dinners, you can't get much cheaper than that can you - and we often had little money for food I suspect. I now find that it is a typical British Friday meal - and yes I think we did often have it on Fridays. And if you want to do it in a cheffy way then Heston Blumenthal will tell you how. Alas I cannot find a picture of his version. The chips are very complicated.
When we ate them we would dip the chips into the yolk and eventually mix the remains together. I also vaguely remember breaking yolks over fried potatoes, or was it even mash? But alas those days are long gone, partly because it's just not healthy - I never cook chips these days - but also because David doesn't like eggs other than in an omelette.
So how do you cook the perfect fried egg? Well everyone has the perfect recipe of course. So I turned to Felicity Cloake who does her usual good job on this, but a couple of things became clear to me as I read through her article. First - how I like my fried eggs is not necessarily the same as you - or her. Here are just three versions of the perfect fried egg, and they don't include the versions which flip them over, or the ones that have you basting the egg with the fat in the pan whilst you cook.
The other differences range from the fat you use to cook it in, the pan you cook it in, the type of egg. Felicity Cloake seems to think that the Cook's Illustrated version was the best, that's the one on the left above - but the whites are a bit too runny for me I think. The other two show varying degrees of crispness. And then you can cook them in an egg ring and make them look neat, though nobody really seems to recommend this.
But here's how you do Felicity Cloake's favourite (Cook's Illustrated) version - the 'different' thing being the covering of the pan. We never did that.
"the egg should be fried "over the lowest possible heat ... the butter is allowed to foam rather than simply melt. They then cover the pan for the duration of the cooking to help speed up the process, which results in an almost perfectly cooked egg – a soft, but firm white, and a gorgeously runny yolk." Felicity Cloake
And I just had to include this version that she found - it takes well over an hour! Talk about cheffy!
"[Nathan] Myrhvold explains that cooking the perfect fried egg poses an inherent problem as the yolks and whites reach their ideal states at different temperatures. To counter this, he cooks whole eggs in a 67C water bath for 40 minutes, until the yolks are "jammy", and discards the soupy whites. Ten fresh whites (for 4 yolks!) are whisked together with double cream and salt, and then baked, covered, in an 160C oven for 12 minutes. Once they're just set, the yolks are plopped on top and it's ready to serve, a mere one-and-a-quarter hours after I started. Despite my scepticism, it's all delicious: the whites tender and creamy, the yolks sticky and rich (although I wish I'd noticed his instruction to cook the yolks at 62C for the runny centres I like) – but it doesn't taste like a fried egg, for all my efforts. More a dinner party dish than a breakfast staple." Felicity Cloake
A slightly less complicated 'fancy' thing to do is the bull's eye or popeye egg, described by Matt Preston thus:
"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 will find lots of suggestions out there for what to do with fried eggs, but they are mostly basically putting an egg on top of stuff or inside something, and this seems to be the majority view, in spite of the following from a lady called Ali Slagle from a website called Extra Crispy:
"While some ideas suggest putting an egg on a thing, most suggest doing a thing to the egg. That’s because even before the egg leaves the skillet, you’re got so many possibilities."
Unfortunately it was hard to tell whether her ideas were good or not because all of the pictures would not show. But she did mention one which sounded interesting and simple with breadcrumbs, which I later found on a different website. It's called Zuni Café's fried eggs in breadcrumbs. The other good thing about this particular recipe is that it's a sort of starting point for other ideas. Basically you fry some breadcrumbs first and then fry the egg on top, so obviously you could think of all sorts of things that would be a substitute for the breadcrumbs.
If you are putting them on things, there is this one, although I guess it's technically not a fried egg - you put the egg in an avocado and then cook it in the oven. No that's cheating, but still here it is for all you avocado fans out there. It's from Greatist.
Then there's the putting fried eggs in things, like this very fancy burger kind of thing - a
Bacon and egg Lyonnaise sandwich. Probably a bit messy to eat.
And finally as I was searching for inspiration I found two variations on spaghetti carbonara - and having seen Jamie do his thing with the traditional one in his current TV series, I thought I would include them here.
Spaghetti with frisée and fried egg was from the Martha Steward website and Parmesan fried egg carbonara is from Donna Hay. They are slightly different in the approaches they take. Just shows you can deconstruct almost anything.
So there you go - fried eggs. Go and cook one.
"The unmistakable crack of shell meeting countertop. The waves-crashing-on-sand rumble of egg slipping into hot olive oil. The rolling rat-a-tat sputter of white and yolk dancing ecstatically in the pan. Making a perfect fried egg—crisp, rippling edges; warm, molten yolk—should make your heart race a little. And so should eating one, whether you’re fork-and-knifing it 'au naturel' with salt and hot sauce or enjoying it on top of a more elaborate creation." Basically/Bon Appétit
I suspect this egg may be raw, but it's a beautiful piece of styling and it is reminiscent of fried eggs.
A long way from my grandson's drawing though.