This week in Haven’s Kitchen Summer School, the conversation is about eggs: that simple but oh-so-adaptable ingredient that we all love a certain, particular way. To dig deeper into the possibilities that eggs have to offer, our Retail Manager Karen Nicoletti takes a lap of Haven’s Kitchen to find out what our staff considers the “perfect egg.”
When we prepare eggs for ourselves and those we love, it’s personal and specific — a ritual we’ve practiced and perfected for much of our lives, finding preparations and combinations that will delight our family, our guests, and our own particular taste. A simple ingredient with the potential to adapt in so many ways, the egg has a chameleon quality that sparks creativity and ingenuity.
Sarah Bode-Clark, who teaches cooking classes at Haven’s Kitchen, told me: “I love how everyone—even those who say they don’t know how to cook!—has at least one egg preparation in their back pocket. It feels like the universal first ‘meal’ we all learn to cook.” (Sarah takes her eggs over easy, so she can dip in her toast.) Sarah’s observation provided a cue for me to ask our team what makes up their go-to egg dishes, as well as what qualities they’re looking for in the perfectly prepared egg.
Our Service Manager, Irit Oren, likes the flexibility of working with eggs, and says that her go-to egg dish depends both on her mood and on what’s in her fridge. She’ll keep it basic with just a fried egg on toast, or add in some bacon, cheese, tomato, or avocado. Her most elaborate venture has been a breakfast pizza: mozzarella, ricotta, prosciutto, and potato on pizza dough, with an egg cracked on top. Once it’s cooked, she’ll top the whole pie with arugula.
There’s also something about eggs that is highly nostalgic, a psychological trigger that makes us recall an earlier time: a Saturday morning at the kitchen table with Dad’s bacon-egg-and-cheese, or breakfast in our first apartment when we turned the stove up too high and watched our sunny-side egg wither and crisp. Eggs have a way of firmly rooting themselves into our memory. And often, those memories are hinged to the people who prepare and share our eggs with us.
Nostalgia certainly plays a roll for me in the way I take my eggs. Growing up with a German mother, the focus at breakfast time was on protein. My mother taught me to eat a soft-boiled egg with a spoon directly from its shell, cradled in a porcelain eggcup. It took practice (and just a little childhood petulance) to scoop only egg and avoid crunching down on tiny chippings of shell. My mom piled a little mixture of salt and pepper onto her plate, touching her spoon to it before each new scoop of egg. We ate them with ham or sliced cured meat and toast with jam. Two decades later, this is still the breakfast I like to make myself on days off.
Sonjia Hyon, our Projects Director, also recalls the eggs of her childhood: “Whenever I think of my platonic ideal egg dish, it’s a fried egg on top of white rice seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce. My mother would make it for us when we were looking for comfort. Sometimes it would be garnished with nori or sesame seeds or chopped scallions. Every time she served it, she would remind us how when she was growing up, eggs were considered a luxury and not a kitchen staple.”
For Kathryn Tam, our Operations Assistant, it comes down to two things: comfort, yes, but also timing. Her favorite memory of eggs is how her mom would cook them when she was little: “scrambled, with two pieces of American cheese placed on top, melting, like being tucked in by little blankets.” But she’s also looking for something quite specific in the timing and softness of her eggs. “I love a soft/medium boiled egg with ramen—the texture, the way it’s slightly gooey, and just the coziness of it.”
In the Eggs chapter of The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School, we explore the ways that time and temperature affect the taste and texture of various egg preparations. Timing, particularly when boiling eggs, is a precise practice if you like your eggs a certain way. The elusive goal is the cozy ooze of a soft-to-medium boiled egg. Consider how to balance these factors when attempting this:
• the size of your eggs
• whether or not you’re tempering them
• whether you add your eggs to the water before or after it comes to a boil
How to achieve that elusive soft-medium custard yolk: 1. Bring a pot of water to a roiling boil. 2. Gently drop your straight-from-the-refrigerator egg into the water. 3. Set the timer for six minutes. 4. Create an ice bath. 5. Drop your six-minute egg into the ice bath for a easier peel.
To achieve the perfect soft-to-medium custardy yolk, we discovered that an untempered egg submerged into already-boiling water for six minutes yielded the best results. When six minutes are up, we recommend shocking the eggs in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further. This also makes them easier to peel.
I found that a few members of our team had specifics to share about how they like their eggs, in terms of timing and texture. Grace, a barista in our café, has tried cooking eggs a few different ways in her favorite dish. She likes Shoyu Tamago, an egg boiled in a mixture of soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar, and scallions. Growing up, her mom’s recipe involved a hard-boiled egg, but when she took on the recipe herself, she played with the timing and found that a soft boil was her favorite.
We like to explore the infinite ways you can dress up an egg for maximum eating pleasure.
Greg Green, a cook on our Retail team, feels so strongly about his eggs over medium that he won’t order them in a restaurant. He knows two people who can prepare eggs the way he likes them: his mom and himself. He fries his bacon first, then cooks his eggs in the bacon fat. Over medium to low heat, he cooks them for three and a half minutes on one side, then two minutes on the other. This achieves his perfect texture: egg whites that are set and a runny yolk. He seasons his eggs with salt and pepper, and eats them with grits, toast, or potatoes to soak up the yolk.
The possibilities are endless. From left to right: Hard-boiled egg salad with herbed mayonnaise; medium-boiled with Haven’s Kitchen Sauces Romesco and tabbouleh; soft-boiled with Haven’s Kitchen Sauces Chimichurri and ricotta.
With as many egg preparations as there are members of our Haven’s Kitchen team, our conversations were a fun way to see the variety that comes from experiment and play, as well as a peek into the people and memories that influence the egg dishes we love.
Follow along as we cook our way this summer through our cookbook, The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School. Find our stories on our blog, Instagram, Facebook or through our hashtags: #havenskitchencookbook, #hknycookbook and #cookwithconfidence.