Monday, October 08, 2007

I Am the Egg Man, Goo Goo Ga Joob


I am in an egg phase.

As I look back over my 46-year eating career, it’s easy to chart my personal dining tendencies. I’ll get on a barbeque kick for a few weeks, or go for months eating a certain dish from the same restaurant over and over.

I am a compulsive person and prone to obsessive behavior when it comes to food and eating. As with music and authors, when I find something I like, I typically go back to the well until I get burned out and move on to the next ingredient, component, or preparation method.

Eggs are the ingredient of the moment. I have been frequenting a small bagel shop in the historic downtown section of my hometown for whole wheat bagels and scrambled eggs, sometimes opting for a huevos rancheros omelet. I have also been eating egg sandwiches off of the late night menu at my bar. Mostly I’ve been eating cup eggs.

“Cup eggs” is my childhood name for soft-boiled eggs. As a child, the most frequently prepared egg dish in our house was a cup filled with soft-boiled eggs. My mother would boil a few eggs for three minutes, crack them into a coffee cup, scrape the whites from the shell, tear biscuits into bite-sized pieces, and mix it all together.

Soft boiled eggs are a straightforward morning comfort food. I like breakfast casseroles and stratas, but they can be labor intensive and time consuming. Preparing a soft-boiled egg only takes a matter of minutes.

It’s like eating eggs over easy on toast without having to mix the two together. Those who don’t eat runny yolks, will never enjoy cup eggs.

One doesn’t find soft-boiled eggs on restaurant menus anymore. The food police are scared of runny yolks. Some restaurants have stopped preparing eggs that are not fully cooked. The government makes food-service businesses add warning labels to their menus advising customers of the dangers of raw eggs.

I’ve got a lot of things to worry about. Consuming soft-boiled eggs doesn’t even come close to making the list. I always make sure to eat in reputable restaurants that utilize proper food handling and refrigeration and, so far, I have survived.

My mother used “whop biscuits” when preparing cup eggs. Whop biscuits are biscuits that are sold in cardboard tins in the refrigerator section of grocery stores. The tin must be “whopped” on the kitchen counter to be opened. For some strange reason— and I know that I’m going to get a lot of e-mails on this— grocery store whop biscuits taste better than homemade biscuits when making cup eggs. In every other situation I prefer homemade biscuits to the over-the-counter variety, but when making soft-boiled eggs, whop biscuits work best.

Other than cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, cup eggs were the first dish I learned to prepare. I was probably 10-years old when I made my first batch and I made them often during my school years.

Cup eggs are easy to make. All one needs is eggs, boiling water and biscuits. It is a simple dish to teach children to cook and can be a perfect introduction to the kitchen as long as you warn of the dangers of boiling water.

The foods of our youth, no matter how simple or unsophisticated, carry with them countless memories and associations. Every time I make cup eggs, a small part of me is transported to my mother’s kitchen.

Among the harvest gold appliances and avocado-green cookware, stands a 10-year old boy with a passion for food and a culinary curiosity that will never wane. Ahead of him are innumerable gourmet meals prepared using a myriad of exotic ingredients. He leans against the counter holding a coffee cup filled with egg-soaked biscuits. He is unaware of the treats the world has in store for him. He eats slowly, savoring every bite, ignorant to the fact that one of life’s sweetest gastronomic treats— and one that will satisfy him for many years to come— is being held in his hands at that very moment.



Robert’s Cup Eggs

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Using a safety pin, poke a small hole in the top of three eggs. Add the eggs to the boiling water and set a kitchen timer for three minutes.

When three minutes is up, transfer the pot to the sink. Pour out the hot water leaving the eggs in the pot. Fill the pot halfway with cold tap water. Let eggs sit for 15-30 seconds (this allows the eggs to cool slightly, though the water and eggs will still be warm due to heat from the pan). One at a time, crack open the eggs in the normal fashion. Drop the yolk into a small bowl. Using a small spoon, carefully scrape the whites from the sides of the shell and let them drop into the bowl with the yolks. Be careful that no small pieces of egg shell fall into the bowl. Repeat with each egg.

To the egg bowl, add 2-3 biscuits that have been torn into bite-sized pieces until almost all of the yolk has been absorbed into the biscuits (the dish should be slightly moist. Too many biscuits will result in a dry batch of cup eggs). Add salt and pepper.

Lately, I have tweaked the way I prepare and eat Cup Eggs. I will cook two slices of bacon until crispy, chop the bacon into small pieces, and add the bacon to the egg mixture before adding the biscuits. There is no need to add salt if bacon is being used.

1 comment:

Keith Kennedy said...

I thought I was the only one that ever still did this. But I use sourdough bread instead of whop biscuits.

Good call. I know what I'm having for dinner now.