Home > Cooking school > Knives and Fire XIV (Week 4)

Knives and Fire XIV (Week 4)

Eggs!

Today was Day One of two days of Breakfast cookery, which is probably one of the hardest things – eggs are relatively simple, but they’re also simple to mess up.

First we discussed eggs – yolk (fat and protein and most of the vitamins), whites (transparent when raw, opaque white when cooked, high in protein), shells. There were also more words about sanitation first (as I dug through my purse looking for the pens that were, actually, in my chef’s jacket arm pocket. Ooops.) We needed to use more soap and more sidetowels (okay, we all called them schmattas) and less paper towels. Fine by me – the schmattas worked better.

Eggs are vital to cookery – there isn’t a single station that doesn’t use them, and breakfast and brunch are pretty much based on them. Yesterday (Hors d’oeurve and canap&eactute; day) used a lot eggs – chopped eggs, hardcooked eggs for the deviled eggs and, of course, the mayonnaise. And that’s without eggs as the focus.

We also had a brief discussion of kashrut, and the checking for bloodspots, which our resident rabbi says isn’t a factor anymore, since eggs aren’t fertilized, but I know I found at least one today.

And then we cooked. First, just plain egg cookery – scrambled eggs. Basic scrambled eggs. There was the adjustment for a fleishig kitchen – coffee creamer and margarine. But the margarine was clarified, as butter should be for this. (Clarifying butter or margarine is simple – melt it. On top of the stove, gently, or in the microwave. And let it separate. Remove the scum on top, and the stuff on the bottom is impurities or water, and the golden fat in the center is what you want. VERY high smoke point.) The biggest thing – don’t let the pan get too hot. Medium heat, not high heat. It makes a huge difference.

So. Two eggs. A little creamer. A little salt and white pepper. A touch of melted clarified margarine in a teflon sauteuse (a slope-sided frying pan.) Teflon is a gift to egg cookery. Add the eggs. And keep stirring over medium heat until the eggs are at the desired doneness. You don’t want color and you don’t want them tough (the creamer helps with that) but different customers want different dryness. Plate it, decorate the plate, done.

Unless you get fancy – like baking a pastry shell, and sweating some spinach. Put the spinach in the shell and top with the eggs.

Then frying eggs – first sunnyside up. Break the eggs into a bowl. Again, just a touch of margarine. Slip the eggs into the pan, which is on medium heat. Cook carefully so that the edges don’t get too brown before the whites in near the yolks get opague. Then carefully slip them onto a plate. (Mine came out NICE, btw.)

Then over easy. That was a bit trickier. Cook the sunnyside eggs until they’re about done, loosen them with a a spatula (rubber, please) and then flip them. By flipping the pan, not with a spatula. And if a yolk breaks – do it again. If not, slide them carefully onto a plate immediately. Over medium? A few seconds longer. Over hard (and there are those who want that), a few more seconds.

Next, omelets. Now, between watching demos and cooking perfect sunny-side up eggs, I was prepping mushrooms – floating them in three waters, the first with veggie wash (this stuff works beautifully, btw.) We had discussion about cleaning mushrooms – the chef does not believe that washing mushrooms hurts them, or that they absorb that much water. Since Alton Brown proved that, too, I was happy to clean them properly. I removed the stems from the fresh shiitakes, and sliced them and the white mushrooms into thick slices. He cooked the white mushrooms with onions until they browned (and yes, they carmelized.)

Omelets come in two varieties – American and French. Both take hotter pans and more “butter” than other egg dishes. French omelets stay wet in the center and one has to take care to not have the eggs color. American omelets get color and are flipped to ensure both sides are cooked.

Pour the eggs (three eggs, mixed with salt, pepper and creamer) into the pan and immediately start stirring and scrambling, using the sides of the pan, too, until they start to pull away from the sides. At this point, a French omelet is done. Bang the pan so that it moves to the side opposite the handle. Point the pan to yourself as if you were stabbing yourself and position the pan over a plate, so that you create a tri fold. Put a bit of butter on top to make it shiny, and maybe cut a slit in the top to show it’s still wet.

For an American omelet, at the point the French is done, *flip* the omelet. Bang the pan, and put whatever filling on one third. Then plate it as the French, cutting a slit in top to reveal the filling, and maybe garnishing with more.

To be perfectly honest – my French omelets all got too much color. *Sigh*. Pans were just too hot.

This was followed with an egg white omelet (which MUST be made with grease in the pan) and then hollandaise sauce. (And we poached eggs, too – slip egg into simmering water with salt and vinegar. When all white, remove *carefully*.)

Hollandaise sauce. I made hollandaise sauce. Start with a reduction of white wine, white vinegar and crushed white peppercorns (crush peppercorns with the bottom of a sauteuse.) Let reduce by half. Can be made in large quantities. Beat egg yolks with a whisk (and use a soft one) until they’re pale and double in size, and then add about an ounce of strained reduction per yolk. Beat the mixture on and off a pot of boiling water – you want the mixture warm but not scrambled and you want it nappé – thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. When the mixture is warm and thick enough, started adding the melted butter (margarine in our case, unfortunately) by 2oz ladlefuls, whisking until each ladleful is incorporated. Add lemon juice, salt, white pepper and cayenne. Done. Chef poached a couple of eggs, and had G toast a couple of rounds of bread. He put spinach on the rounds, and then the eggs (one, oddly, missing a yolk) and draped the hollandaise over it. It had a lot of flavor, but the margarine was all too, well, there.

My own needed an extra egg yolk, and also an extra ladle of margarine, and I had to change to a softer whisk, but it came out NICE. Hollandaise is not easy, but I did it. YAY.

Tomorrow, we pretend to be a diner and cook breakfast on the line.

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