Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Egg

Tonight was one of those nights in culinary terms, that many will be familiar with.  After a hectic day at work and a rumbling stomach by 5pm,  I try to recall the odds and ends idling in the fridge on the way home to see if my mind can conjure a concoction of substance before I reach the front door.

Whilst the vast chambers of the fridge are mostly vacant this evening, there are some glimmers of light. The things of note are leek, pancetta, some taleggio that’s been hanging about.  Along with a box of eggs.

The humble egg.  One of the key vertebrae along the backbone of fundamental ingredients in the culinary world.  Possibly the single most versatile food item that has ever existed.

Almost ubiquitous in its occupation - you’ll find them hiding in cakes, pastries, desserts, breads, quiches and sauces.  Then there are the dishes that proudly shout about their presence – omelettes, egg and soldiers, scotch eggs, hollandaise, carbonara, egg fried rice, egg and chips to name a small few. They’re used for binding such as in meatballs or burgers.  As raising agents in Yorkshire puddings or souffl├ęs. They’re used as a wash to give colour to biscuits and pastry. 

The various ways in which eggs can be cooked all have one thing in common – they are quick.  Try them baked with spinach and anchovies; fried sunny side up sitting proud upon a tower of crispy rashers; scrambled with smoked salmon, dill and a squeeze of lemon on rye; soft boiled with asparagus spear soldiers; hard boiled, quartered and scattered alongside large crunchy croutons over little gem with an anchovy olive oil sauce; poached, pierced and gently cascading like sunshine lava over a fresh and toasted muffin.

A promise of such wonder encased within a thin and fragile cocoon. When digesting the full and ranging repertoire of the egg, it’s easy to forget that this exquisitely simple yet intricately complex unit is made up of just two components – the yolk, and the white.

The whites are whisked to add structure and stability, producing miraculous meringues and marshmallows. The yolks add moisturising fat which help to emulsify, giving baked goods a smooth and creamy texture and are essential for custards and mayonnaise.

I cracked open three of these wonders, gently whisked with a little milk, added to sweated leaks and crispy pancetta, sliced the tallegio and flipped one half over the other.  Et voila -  an omelette.  Your fridge’s way of mopping up the remnants within and presenting you with something of note. The weary cook’s ultimate and often leaned on fail-safe. 

All hail the wondrous egg.

Alfiyet olsun.

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