My tormenting yet bittersweet affair with eggs has been nothing short of a Hollywood love story. It began as mutual loath in early years, but turned into a passionate obsession overnight in adulthood. Then six month ago at the height of our oblivious happiness, we were torn apart and forbidden by authorities without warning or mercy… cold turkey style. If I’m sounding overly dramatic, I’m not. I believe it’s fair to say that I consumed on average, 3 eggs per day for the past decade. Some days 4 to 5 if we were feeling naughty. A disgusted horror by any cardiologists’ standard.
But to fully understand my ups-and-downs with eggs, I need to start from the beginning. Starting WAY before I remember things, for years my mom would pan-fry an egg with soy sauce and sesame oil for me as breakfast, . It was always shoved down my helpless throat despite my struggling and totally gave me a phobia that seriously, for the LONGEST time, a pan fried egg was sort of on the top of my GAG list. But then something changed. Something…turned around… Perhaps it was that stormy college night in the middle of Jersey City when I saw nothing but a carton of eggs sitting in the fridge with all its lonesome. Something happened. Something came over me. In a whirlwind daze, I scrambled them in a pan and inhaled them all… ALL NINE of them. And they… didn’t gag me. They were… comforting. The previous existence of a childhood horror had suddenly converted itself to the other side of the brain and became NOSTALGIA instead.
It was an explosive, new-found love, and perhaps I have dived too deep… Because from then on, my answer to the question of, “what to eat for breakfast or lunch or dinner when I’m alone” is 3 eggs cooked any style. Soft-boiled w/ sea salt, hard boiled in ragu, scrambled w/ butter, sunny-side-up w/ cheese or poached with avocado. Really. Put an egg on top and I’ll eat it.
Maybe “true love never runs smooth”… This affair came to a screeching halt when 6 months ago, a blood test came to me as I sat in a hospital chair with cold sweat, declaring that I’m unmistakably “egg intolerant”. Level three, the worst to be exact. I was sentenced to at least 9 months without any trace of egg in my diet (does anyone realize that EVERYTHING has eggs in them), and even after such, a monitored visit periodically is what awaits.
Well… “WTF IN THE WORLD is egg intolerant?!!” is what I’m hearing.
It means my body hates it, OK. I touch’em. I suffer. But WHAT could have steered me into giving up eggs-my-beloved? What horrific reactions could happen if I were to indulge? Throat closing up and leaving me gasping for air on the icy kitchen floor? Bulging hives storming through my body, driving me to scratch till I bleed out? Or perhaps a grand mal seizure that renders me down to a twitching zombie foaming with blood from my bitten tongue?
I get pimples. Yeah… Ummm, nope. Just pimples… In my defense if I may! It’s quite a lot of pimples. I know I know…WTF. They’re just pimples. But HEY, don’t ever underestimate the influence of the epic battle between vanity and gluttony in the world of all female (come to think of it… at least one of them works against the other). Try telling men that it’s just hair.
So here I am. I hope my twisted love story hasn’t turn off anyone’s appetite. Because if I could only enjoy the warm embrace from one of my most beloved food once in a long while, it better be a DAMN perfect one. And this, my friend, is egg in ART FORM. An egg softly poached in its shell in a constant, painstakingly monitored temperature so its entirety is cooked to the same curdling consistency that when it cracks, it slides out of its shell as a whole, soft, shiny jewel. I figured I deserve nothing less. Oh, and there’s also the potato puree and mushroom jus, just honored to be one of the eggs’ entourage.
Serving: appetizer-size for 4 people, OR for 2 if nobody’s suffering from egg-related illness
Hot Spring Eggs:
- 4 REALLY GOOD QUALITY farm eggs with ORANGE YOLKS
- kitchen thermometer
- 3 Yukon gold or Idaho potatoes
- 90 g of unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp of heavy cream
- sea salt
- 20 g of dried shitake mushrooms
- 1 cup of water
- 1 japanese dashi stock tea bag
- 1 shallot
- 1 tbsp of heavy cream
- a nub of butter
- sea salt and black pepper
I believe I have mentioned the “really good quality eggs in BJ” in my previous stories. Here it is. It is called “Lan Huang” eggs. A Shanghai company adopting Japanese technology, that produces high-quality eggs that can be eaten raw. It’s needless for me to tell, but the Japanese are REALLY good at growing
shit stuff. Almost all Japanese-related produces and dairy products deliver annoyingly premium quality such as this one, a perfect orange-yolk egg. And I’ll say this again that you’ve never had an egg until you’ve had an orange one. Pure, incredible eggy-ness. It can be found in groceries such as Jenny Lou’s or online. Other high-quality Japanese eggs can be found in groceries like April’s Gourmet, or little Japanese eateries such as 牛玄庵.
So, how to poach a “PERFECT O”. I admit that I pride myself as being the few home cooks who knows the secret and didn’t want to share, but I’m going to be the bigger person here. The little secret lies with just 2 magic numbers: 70 and 21. That is 70 °C (160 °F), for 21 minutes cooking time. That is it. If the eggs used are smaller or larger than medium (which is what this is), just minus or add 30 seconds to the cooking time. What’s absolutely crucial and non-negotiable is a thermometer. It HAS to be there. And during the whole 21 minutes of it, I would be standing by, fixed on the thermometer to make sure that little red dial doesn’t move above 1 or 2 increments. Yes. That’s also a MUST.
So put a pot of water with a thermometer on medium-high to bring the temperature up to 70°C, then drop the flame down to “barely-there”. GENTLY submerge 4 eggs into the water in a basket, and set the timer on 21 minutes. Then watch that temperature like a hawk!! If the temperature drops, which it might, turn the heat up ever so so so SLIGHTLY. If the temperature rises, which it WILL, add 1/2 cup of cold water. The temperature needs to be kept at 70°C -/+ 2 degrees for the entire 21 minutes, got it? And 21 minutes is up, IMMEDIATELY move the eggs into a pot of COLD water and just leave them there until they’re needed.
Now what do I want to eat this with? How about some potato puree with mushroom jus?
What’s the difference between mashed potatoes and potato puree? Well, in short, mashed potato is potatoes flavored with butter. Potato puree is butter flavored with potatoes, OK? So peel and cut potatoes in chunks, and submerge them in a pot of cold water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until a fork can be easily inserted into the potato without resistance, about 15 to 20 min. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot to let any remaining liquid evaporate. Press them through a ricer such as this one. Return to medium heat. Add 90 g of cubed, unsalted butter and 2 tbsp of heavy cream. Stir with a fork until everything is melted. Season with sea salt.
Soak the dried shitake in 1 cup of hot water for 20 min. Add a bag of Japanese dashi stock tea bag (if not available, use 1 tbsp of bonito flakes), 1 chopped shallot and 1 pinch of black pepper, then bring everything to a boil and reduce the liquid by 1/3. Strain everything through a very FINE sieve because the mushrooms may contain some dirt and sand. Add the heavy cream and return to the heat. Reduce by 1/2 and remove from the heat. Add a nub of butter and season with sea salt.
Warm up the egg by soaking in a small glass of hot water (NOT boiling) for 2 min. Rinse a cup with hot water then dry it with a clean towel. Lay some potato puree in the bottom of the cup, then CAREFULLY crack the egg on top. Spoon over some mushroom jus and sprinkle with chives.
Oh, love. It’s been awhile. We have plenty to catch up on…