Thursday, July 19, 2012

13 minute egg

What?  Another perfect egg?  Haven't the last 3 perfect eggs been perfect enough?  Let me quote Thomas Keller: "When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about."

This egg is from Ideas in Food by Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot -- the book I gave a rather unflattering review a month ago.  With this egg, the author's have redeemed themselves.  Saying that it was worth the puny $15 I paid for the book seems silly.  A perfect egg is priceless in my opinion.

Cook a large egg at 167F for 13 minutes.  That's it.  No special equipment, no complicated procedures, no unusual ingredients.  Technically, there is an ice-water bath after cooking and then reheating at 140F.  I skipped these steps since I just needed 2 eggs for my lunch. Although I don't believe that cooking should be quick and easy, some of the best and most elegant ideas are the simplest, just like a good mathematical proof.  I didn't bother with sous-vide supreme; just baby-sat a little pot for 13 minutes.  When I peeled the top of the egg, I noticed how solid it looked compared to 142F sous-vide eggs.   I worried that there was no way it would just pour out, and was expecting real trouble trying to extricate this delicate orb from its shell.  But to my surprise, a few gentle shakes made it slide right out.

I managed to peel and eat the first one before it overcooked.  It was better than any sous-vide egg.  No more snotty white!  This white was exceptionally delicate, but solid -- what a poached egg tries to approach, but never does completely.  The yolk was warm, but completely liquid. By the time I found my camera and took the picture of the second egg, the outside of the yolk has solidified just a bit.  It was still a lovely egg.  But not perfect like the first.  If I was making these for company, the ice water bath would be a must.  Besides, reheating them at 140F would make peeling easier.  Handling a 167F object was a bit painful.  Next time I cook a couple of eggs for myself, I'll try 12 minutes instead of 13.  Since I'll have to give residual heat a chance to finish cooking the eggs, I won't be forced to peel and gobble them up in 1 minute.

I served these eggs with meatballs braised in red wine.  There was no master plan to this.  These meatballs surreptitiously happened to be the only thing in my fridge at the moment.  The combination was reminiscent of the Burgundy classic Oeufs en Meurette (eggs in red wine sauce).

What about 142F eggs that are then peeled and re-poached to firm up the white?  That was the best solution I had until Aki and Alex's recipe, but it was a hack.  Re-poaching firmed up the outside of the egg, but the white texture wasn't even.  The outside formed a firm film while the inside was still jelly like.  It gave the egg a more traditional look, but the texture was not perfect.   Of course, the 13 minute egg might not be the last "perfect" egg on my blog.  There might be a more perfect egg in this universe, but for now this will do.

13 minute eggs

Large eggs (about 57g each)*
Special equipment: Immersion circulator or a Kitchen thermometer

With immersion circulator:
  1. Set up a water bath for 167F.  Prepare an ice-bath.  Add the eggs to 167F water and cook for 13 minutes.
  2. Remove the eggs to the ice-bath for at least 10 minutes.  Can be stored for up to 2 days in the fridge.
  3. When ready to serve, set up a water bath at 140F.  Add the eggs and cook for 10 minutes.  Peel the top of the egg to make an opening slightly bigger than an inch.  Pour the egg out onto a temporary plate.  Carefully pick it up with a large spoon leaving the loose white behind and transfer to the final plate.  Repeat with remaining eggs.  If you are cooking lots of eggs and want to prevent them from getting cold while peeling, return them back to 140F water after making an inch opening in the shell.  Then the procedure of pouring each egg and serving will go a lot faster.
To simulate an immersion circulator with a pot and thermometer: Use a pot that can hold as least 3 times as many eggs as you are actually cooking in a single layer.  For example, if you are cooking 2 eggs, you need a pot that can hold at least 6.  Every 2 minutes, stir the water gently and check the temperature.  If the pot is cooling off, turn on the heat.  If the pot too hot, turn off the heat and add an ice-cube or two.

* July 30 update: Be very careful with egg size here.  I tried this technique on the eggs I got from a farmer's market, and 13 minutes of cooking wasn't nearly enough for the eggs the farmer told me where "Large."  Turned out they were much bigger than a standard Large egg.  A standard large egg weigh 57g in shell and cooks for 13 minutes using this method.  The ones I was cooking were 70g.  For a standard Extra Large Egg (64g), try 14 minutes.  For Jumbo (71g) try 15.


Anonymous said...

Yay! I love your egg posts (like all your posts, but the egg ones are the ones I try most often). I will try this as soon as I can.

Anonymous said...

Do you start the eggs fridge cold, or room temp?

Helen Rennie said...

fabulous question. 40 vs 70F makes a big difference here. I start them at fridge temperature.