Sunday, January 13, 2008

"What Can You Tell Me About The Egg?"

There I was.
Standing at the stainless steel food prep table, cracking a case and a half eggs - (that's 270 eggs to you and me) - cracking them two at a time into a giant Cambro container, when one of the cooks I admire walks over, picks up an egg, and asks...

"So, what can you tell me about the egg?"

I look up and see him holding the little white egg, index finger on the top, thumb on the bottom, shaking it slightly for effect, and just barley holding it up to the light.

All he needed was a German accent.

Or, French.
Yeah, it would be French in the movie.

Now, this guy has a rocking sense of humor, but you have to earn the right to hear it.

He speaks little.
Listens much.

And, when he does utter something it's either very important and well thought-out...or it's the best pun you've heard all week.

And, there he was.
Holding the egg up to the light.

"So, what can you tell me about the egg?"

I smile.
Alton Brown has prepared me for this moment.
I can name 5 parts to an egg.
The shell, which is porous.
The albumin.
The yolk.
The membranes.
And, the chalaze, this stringy part.

"More?" I ask while I cracking the eggs.
"Continue," he says.

I know of 3 grades of eggs.

Grade AA are the freshest, they have perky yolks with a tight membrane around them.

Grade A are a bit older.

Grade B eggs have yolks that will likely burst when they hit the pan, so they are bad for fried eggs.

I look up.
He's just smiling.

If you want a very smooth scramble, you can strain out the chalaze.

And, if you give me a raw egg and a hard boiled one, I can tell you which one is which, by spinning them on a table, then stopping them and removing my hands. The one that continues spinning is the raw egg.

Again, I look up.
He's listening, and waiting, wiggling the egg from side to side.

We now have a bit of an audience.
Someone is standing behind him,
And the person to my right stops chopping fruit to listen.

But...judging by the way you are holding that egg...

What you REALLY want to hear is...

It is virtually impossible to crack an egg by pressing only on the top and bottom of the egg - without cheating a little and applying a bit of pressure to the sides of the shell.

He smiles.
And, gently returns the egg to the case beside me.

Later he passes by.
I'm still cracking eggs.
(A case and a half is a lot of eggs.)

"Anything else?" I ask.

"An ostrich egg, how do you open that?"
He yells from across the prep area.

"Across the middle, the equator, usually with a hacksaw,"
I respond, mumbling a quiet 'thank you' to to the creators of Iron Chef America and Masaharu Morimoto who I have seen open plenty of ostrich eggs.

Later, he walks up to me for one last question.
"Why is the shell porous?"

"Because the little chicky needs oxygen," I tease.

He smiles. (Did I see a slight nod?)
Satisfied, he walks away.

I laughed, out loud just a bit - much more on the inside - because I knew I could have waxed poetic for at least 5 minutes more on the Incredible Edible Egg.

Why...I hadn't yet mentioned that...
Heat is extremely important in cooking eggs. Low and slow for fluffy scrambled and higher for fried.

The egg is an great emulsifier. The yolk is fat and the white is protein.

It's a "complete protein."

The average hen, gallus domesticus, can produce one egg a day every day of the year.

And, that's just a the wonders of the egg.

So, thank you, Alton Brown.
For the egg education I have received over the years.
For helping me make good eats.

And, for making the cook smile... and, not break an egg in my face.

While looking for a picture of Alton with an egg...
I found this video.
I hope you enjoy it.

BTW, yes, after cracking all those eggs,
your fingers do get pruney.

Now, "Go wash those chickeny hands!"
And, enjoy the video below.
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