Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Best Scrambled Egg Recipe in the World

I know at least some of you are expecting me to tear someone's recipe for scrambled eggs to pieces. Well, I hate to disappoint those of you who enjoy reading me take down cooks who cook the way circus clowns drive, yet somehow feel empowered to write cook books with boastful titles or prance around on Food TV like bonobos drunk on fermented bananas. But I like the method described by Bridget, the author of this simple, technique driven recipe for scrambled eggs. Her method suggests that she understands what happens inside the egg as it cooks which, I believe, is a prerequisite to saying that you know how to cook an egg. I don't like the idea of adding cream, but that's a point of taste that I'm not willing to fuss about here.

 Rather, the reason why I've chosen to bring this recipe to your attention has to do with the kind of eggs specified and, more generally, a trend in the world of recipe writing to include instructions that ask readers to use products that have characteristics not always related to the product's intrinsic quality and, by extension,  the intrinsic quality of the final product.

I'll get back to the scrambled egg recipe after a few words about what I mean when I refer to intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics of ingredients and how I value them. 

There are lots of ways to evaluate anything you can name, and what measures you use depend as much on what you think is important to know, as they depend on the nature of the thing being evaluated and its intended use.

As a chef-craftsman who is concerned with creating food that 1) has pleasure inducing taste, aroma, texture and temperature 2) doesn't hurt the people who eat it 3) can be sold at a profit, I tend to evaluate ingredients primarily in terms of their intrinsic (what's packed inside) characteristics, and don't pay all that much attention to applied or extrinsic measures.

In other words, I focus more on the physical composition and organoleptic characteristics of foods and what they cost, than I pay attention to what I or you  think about where the food came from, who made it and what value system guided its production. I suppose it's necessary to point out that I don't neglect to consider the source of the food and other extrinsic factors related to its production. I just don't worry about that stuff as much as I worry about  how the ingredients look, taste and interact with other ingredients and the effects they produce in the people who eat them.

Why I act this way has a very simple explanation: I believe that no matter how skilled one is, the best tasting, healthiest food is not possible without the best tasting,  healthiest (free from contamination by dangerous levels of toxins and pathogenic organisms) ingredients. Anyone who takes cooking seriously knows or ought to know that when you begin to value applied/extrinsic characteristics like brand names or claims of purity over what an ingredient looks like and how it tastes, you are setting the stage for the demise of your cuisine.

Ok then; back to the scrambled egg post that inspired this latest outburst of my over-weaned need to prove to the world that only I know what everyone else should be doing in the kitchen. 

In the recipe for scrambled eggs, the author tells us to use 3 large organic free range eggs. 

Now, I don't know anything about the state of agriculture where Bridget hangs her toque (Australia) but as an American writing for an American audience,  I would never specify free range eggs without adding to make sure the eggs are from birds that actually run around in pasture. Here at the epicenter of industrial food production, there is no reason to presume that commercially produced free range eggs are actually from birds that forage for bugs and other foods that might contribute to a producing a great-tasting egg. Nor is there any reason to believe that commercially produced free range eggs have a greater protein to water ratio or any other characteristic that would cause them to perform differently from other eggs. It kind of pisses me off a little, that by recommending that people buying something they believe is better, well meaning people like Bridget end up promoting an industry that produces something of fictitious higher value.

I might specify organic, because foods that raised in conformance to what the USDA requires before they can be labeled organic, tend to be free of pesticides and heavy metals as so are less toxic. But since commercially produced organic eggs are no more nutritious, taste no different and perform the same way as eggs from chickens who eat feed that contains pesticides and other toxins, the only logical reason to suggest organic eggs would be to encourage people not to eat and serve stuff that might punch holes in their internal organs. I suppose that's reason enough to recommend them. However,  if I had to choose between eating a three week old egg from a chicken raised on organic feed and a three minute old egg from a hen fed nothing but genetically modified corn and ground up cattle parts, I would not have to think about what to do for more than a nanosecond.

For me it's taste first, worry about the peripheral stuff later.

The Best Scrambled Egg Recipe in the World. Truly.


Scotty said...

Bob, don't hate me. I agree again with your thesis. I agree that freshness is most important - except for hard-boiled.

I love omelets and scrambled eggs. I do the scrambleds low and slow, sometimes using Julia's double boiler method. But, we buy a monthly fix of eggs from a co-worker of my wife (the fee is just to help with her feed costs). They are by any definition free range (her backyard) and fresh, fresh, fresh!. I would never scramble them.

Sunny-side up, just a bit of water to set the yolks. Leftover baguette toasted to mop up the yolk. Heaven!

Natasha said...

...aaaaaaand this is why I am going to get my own chickens this Spring.

Kevin said...

Over the years I finally settled on Scotty's technique for scrambled eggs: low and slow. A gentle coagulation of proteins, halted while still a bit runny as they'l finish cooking between skillet and table.

And I've seen the chickens I get my eggs from. (They live in school bus that can he dragged by tractor from pasture to pasture.)

Zalbar said...

I get my eggs from a local farmers market. I don't know if they're actually organic or not, but they're definetly fresher than what's available at the grocer. The white has very little runny bits.

Depending on my mood I'll do slow if I want a really creamy set of eggs, but I much prefer large curd, higher heat, a lot of gentle scraping to the center of the pan and violent shaking back and forth between that. Almost like making a classic french omelette.

Lou said...

I fly my eggs up to 30,000 feet, so they are lighter than air. I then crack them into a bakelite bowl (formerly a telephone), and whisk them with an Australian ostrich feather. I then cook them over medium heat in yak butter until rock hard. That's how you cook scrambled eggs.

Keith said...

Here in Ireland - and this also holds true for the UK free range labels do not necessarily guarantee that the chicken has reasonable outdoor acess. In the UK, the mandated density is 1 acre per thousand birds.

Typically - though this isproving hard to find out at the mo - minimum organic welfare standards are higher than conventional counterparts. Stocking densities per square metre, and maximum birds per house are better, or far better in UK and Irish organic certification than with free range certification.

There is also some suggestion that inspection standards for organic certification are higher - though that may be apocryphal.

Organic standards mandate a vegetated run, maintained as such, with regular switching between runs.

I'm not a fan of the Soil Association here this side of the pond. They have with, to my mind, some bad grace, tried to obfuscate, declarify and generally muddy the scientific debate on conventional vs organic nutrtional content. But, here in Europe, it's generally accepted that specifying organic means specifying the highest animal welfare available in industrial production. For most of us, without access to niche suppliers, and with no face to face on farm relationship with our producers - and that's gotta be the vast majority - specifying organic is specifying relatively high minimum standards.

Tags said...

Even more germane to this discussion than "extrinsic" is the word "attached," which evokes an image of the manipulation that is taking place.

Sorry, Bob, all these TED videos are putting me into cogitational spasms.