It may be the age-old question but for me the answer to ‘Which came first?’ is simple: The Egg. Not that I don’t love chicken. I’m obsessed with chicken, as some of you know. This obsession started early as we ate a lot of chicken when I was a child. Growing up in The South, we ate a lot of fried chicken. Mom made a killer Chicken Tetrazzini I still think of with intense fondness. We had roast chicken occasionally and, in my teen years when we were trying to get my dad to eat healthy, we ate a lot of grilled chicken. But even before my love of chicken there was The Egg.
I always loved eggs. I loved them even before I remember, well, anything. My first actual memory as a child isn’t an egg but is sitting in a movie theatre. This experience lead to my career path as well as to this blog. I remember actually falling in love with movies that day. I sat in the theatre thinking, ‘Yeah, Ok, I get it, that’s amazing, I love this, that’s what I want to do.‘ But I don’t have a moment in my memory where I fell in love with eggs. I simply always was in love with them. An egg has to be one of the first items of real food Mom fed me. We had them for breakfast 4 or 5 times a week … and occasionally for supper, ‘Breakfast for dinner’!… so I fell in love with them even before that first actual memory in the movie theatre.
This is a love affair that has not waned.
At this point I’m beating a dead horse but, my goodness, I love eggs. An egg truly is the perfect food. Not only can you eat one on its own in so many wonderful ways, an egg is remarkably versatile. An egg can do virtually anything or go into virtually anything. Feel free to suggest a food in which you can’t use an egg but I’m hard pressed to think of what. If a dish is savory, at the very least you can top it with a fried egg, a trend that has exploded in restaurants lately. If on the other hand a dish is sweet, chances are you can still beautifully incorporate an egg, for taste, for texture, for plain old wonderful goodness. The Egg is definitely a deserted island food for me. You know the game: If you could only have 5 foods for the rest of your life to eat on a deserted island, what would you choose? The egg is at the top of my list.
I still eat them most mornings. Sunny side up. Side note: I get irritated I have to say ‘Sunny Side Up’. It should be a given. The Default. I don’t understand how people can resist that gorgeous yellow yolk bursting out all over everything on the plate, including the plate. Allow me to be a teen girl for a moment and thinking of that wonderful yolk cry “OMG!” Life doesn’t get much better.
So many eggs are consumed in the house on the hill that the backyard now has four chickens. Here’s one:
She looks fierce but she’s kind of sweet. Here are the eggs from this morning:
While I could continue to wax rhapsodically about the egg, let me instead give you two killer recipes. The second is my own simple way to fry an egg. Sunny Side Up. The Only Way. Even better is the first recipe, one of my favorite recipes of all time, Judy Rodgers’ Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs. Rodgers is the chef/owner of a great restaurant in San Francisco, The Zuni Cafe, which is best known for her Roast Chicken and Bread Salad, a truly divine dish that alone is worth a trip to San Francisco. Luckily, you can make it at home (click previous link).
I have to love a woman who is best known for an amazing roast chicken.
The cookbook for The Zuni Cafe is also justifiably famous. I bought it, having heard much about the roast chicken salad. The book arrived late one afternoon, however, and I didn’t want to run to the store and buy anything. Martinis were probably involved. So I decided to scan the book and find a recipe with ingredients I had on hand. I found the recipe for Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs which sounded strange but I had the ingredients so I gave it a try.
I made the dish, which is extremely easy, took one bite and my love affair with the egg was expounded ten fold. Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs is so good, in fact, when I cleaned my plate, I made the dish a second time. The second time was so good, no kidding, I made a third batch. I’d have kept going but I only had 6 eggs on hand. It is seriously that good. (And, as noted, Martinis were probably involved.) Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs is a dish so simple you can whip it up in just a few minutes. But from that simplicity and this certain combination of great ingredients, something magical is born. (No Progresso or Panko for this one, folks, never ever ever, you must make your own breadcrumbs for this, also ridiculously easy.)
Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs is truly amazing. As amazing as The Egg.
(By the way, if you are interested in backyard chickens, it is a lot easier than you might think. This book, Chickens In Your Backyard, is a great guide to getting and raising your own chickens.)
Judy Rodgers’ FRIED EGGS IN BREADCRUMBS
For 1 serving:
3 T packed, fresh bread crumbs. Make them yourself from a great loaf of crusty bread. Just grate them on a cheese grater or pulse the bread a few times in a food processor. Grate the whole loaf and stick the leftovers in the freezer. These are terrific to have on hand.
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
fresh thyme leaves
1 t red wine or sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
Sprinkle crumbs with salt in a non-stick skillet, then pour over olive oil and mix. Really saturate the crumbs with the oil. Place the skillet over medium heat. (Reserve a few crumbs if you like your eggs over easy… I know there are a few of you out there, hmph. Sprinkle these leftover crumbs over the top just before you ruin, I mean flip your eggs.)
Warm the crumbs through over medium heat and let them begin to dry. They will start to crackle. Stir once or twice as this happens.
As soon as the crumbs begin to brown, add a little more oil, a healthy scattering of thyme, then crack your two eggs right onto the crumbs. Cook until the eggs are as you like them. I like to scrape a few crumbs on top as they cook.
Slide the eggs and all crumbs onto a warm plate. Then add the vinegar to the hot skillet. Swirl it around, then drizzle the vinegar over the eggs. Sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper if desired. Dive in.
Note: you can make a larger batch, but when I make these for more than one person, I like to do a batch at a time. It’s a great dish to eat in the kitchen, one person eating as you continue to cook. A simple, peppery green salad is a terrific accompaniment.
If you want some great pictures of this process, check out this wonderful blog post from Alexandra Cooks.
TOM’S PERFECT FRIED EGGS
salt and pepper
Take a small skillet and very lightly cover with olive oil. I drizzle a little in the skillet, then run it around with my fingers to make sure the entire skillet is covered. Not too much! Just enough.
Crack both eggs into the cold skillet. Place the cold skillet over low heat. Step away from the skillet. Let the eggs slowly cook. Don’t touch the skillet. Let the eggs cook. This takes a little longer than cracking eggs into a hot skillet, but they cook up perfectly, with no black or brown edges. Cook to your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper and enjoy.
This is a not very good picture I made of this morning’s eggs. I need a better camera.