“Un oeuf” is French for an egg, in case you don’t know. My husband’s favorite joke while we were visiting Paris a few years ago ended with the punch line that “one egg is an oeuf.” He still pulls this out more often than you would think possible, and it still makes me laugh despite how corny it is. But the idea that one egg could ever be enough is laughable in our house. He loves eggs. I think his favorite words are “breakfast served all day.” I like eggs, but I am not nearly as crazy for them. However, they are a very versatile ingredient, whether we are talking about their various uses in other dishes, or in the many ways you can cook the eggs themselves as a dish.
Scrambled eggs is the most forgiving cooking method. Anytime you don’t need to concern yourself with breaking the yolks takes some stress out of cooking eggs. Some people like to add milk or cream to their eggs when scrambling, and I think this is okay. I don’t, however, think it is necessary to get light and fluffy scrambled eggs. The trick to light and fluffy scrambled eggs, in my ever-so-humble opinion, is patience. I like to cook them low and slow and wait until the bottom layer as almost completely cooked (but not brown if you keep the heat low) and I have nice bubbling before starting any stirring action. Some people like them still slightly runny, some very dry (which I consider total destruction). The sweet spot is just to the point where there’s no watery substance, but they still have some brightness. To add to their simplicity, you can use basically any fat, though I prefer butter, and they have so many uses including just plain scrambled, adding in a variety of meats, cheeses or vegetables, and putting into burritos, just to name a few.
Fried eggs are only slightly more difficult than scrambled. With frying, the main concern is getting the whites and the yokes both just to the desired level of doneness. I’m an over-medium fan. I like my whites fully done all the way to the edge of the yolk but my yolks still runny. But please, don’t burn the edges. Turn that heat down and flip as soon as the bottom white is just set. Some like sunny-side up eggs (you don’t flip them, so the yolk is all up top), but besides looking like eyeballs staring at me, I don’t feel like the whites ever get done enough near the center. I cannot handle overeasy eggs where the whites are not fully cooked. And an over-hard egg has just lost all it’s flavor.
Boiled eggs can be hard or soft boiled. I like hard boiled eggs once you devil them or maybe in a salad. I cannot say I have eaten a lot of soft boiled eggs, but I can see the appeal to that ooey-gooey yolk for dipping toast. I find the most complicated part of boiled eggs is peeling them, so the soft boiled service style eliminates that step.
Poached eggs are healthier than fried until I start adding holindaise (another great use for eggs) sauce and canadian bacon. Poached eggs should be distinguished from coddled eggs. Poaching involves the egg going directly into the liquid, usually water, and generally being finished by spooning the hot liquid on top until you reach the desired doneness. I have some of those “poaching pans” you can purchase in the kitchen aisle, and these will cook your egg to the same doneness while keeping more consistent shape. But this method is actually coddling, as the water does not touch the egg, and they are basically steamed.
Baked or shired eggs are something I have only recently started experimenting with, but it seems pretty easy. I bake eggs on my galettes with various combinations of meat and cheese under them, or with mushrooms for a vegetarian option. You can, apparently, use a muffin pan to just bake plain eggs. And obviously, there is no end to fritata and quiche recipes that turn scrambled eggs into a casserole dish.
Aside from eating eggs as a dish themselves, there are so many ways to use eggs. Until my Katie was around 5 years old, she was allergic to eggs, and I often cook for a vegan, so I can tell you, life is very different when you cannot use them. Eggs function as a binder in so many savory dishes like meatloaf, meatballs, ravioli, etc. I recently made my first souffle, which is more of an egg dish than anything else. Almost any cake, many breads and tons of dessert recipes call for eggs. Most pies you buy at the grocery store have an eggwash on top. And let’s not forget my beloved hollindaise sauce or bernaise sauces. There are so many ways to use eggs in sauces and dressings. (For my vegan readers, I have found that in most cases, I can find ways to substitute for eggs and still come out with a great dish, though, as with all substitutions, you won’t have the exact same result.)
Okay, after saying I don’t share my husband’s love of eggs, I went on for six paragraphs and barely scratched the surface of the many ways to enjoy and use them in cooking. I will attribute this to my love of cooking so as not to give my husband the satisfaction of thinking I admitted how awesome eggs are, in and of themselves.