The scrambled egg challenge January 11, 2010Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Chicken, Wolfe recipe.
Scrambled eggs. One of my favourite Sunday morning breakfast foods. Everyone can make scrambled eggs! However, not everyone can make good scrambled eggs. I decided to put three recipes and methods for making scrambled eggs to the test and determine whether Nero Wolfe’s recipe was indeed the best in the world, as he claims.
Choose three scrambled egg methods, cook them as per the recipe, with no additions / toppings added to the eggs – the emphasis was to be on the eggs, not the combination of delicious toppings (not that I don’t love delicious toppings!). The resulting scrambled eggs were to be judged on consistency, lightness – and of course taste. The judges were to be myself and my long-suffering partner H, who gave up his Sunday morning to eat lots and lots of eggs!
I used fresh, free range eggs and all the eggs used for this experiment were from the same carton – I know there was probably variation between each egg but it provided some consistency in terms of egg weight and freshness.
Recipe 1: The “control” recipe: cooked in a frying pan.
This is the recipe I usually use when making scrambled eggs. I saw this method years ago on The Cook and the Chef, a now defunct Australian cooking show. When I went back to try and find the recipe, I wasn’t sure which one it was! I remember it was Simon’s, not Maggie’s (while it may be un-Australian to say so, I am not a huge fan of Maggie Beer and much preferred Simon’s recipes on this show), and it would have been quite early on in the show. Looking through their recipe files, I found this recipe for scrambled eggs and truffles and thought that this is the one I’ve been following – without the addition of truffles or caviar!
I beat the eggs together in a bowl with a bit of cream to begin with – I didn’t add salt and pepper at this stage.
I added some butter to the frying pan and turned the heat up. When the butter was melted and bubbling, I added the eggs to the pan. The trick to this method is to have the pan hot when the eggs are added, and then turn it down very low after a couple of seconds. This allows the eggs at the bottom of the pan to start to coagulate, while still controlling the rate at which they cook.
After turning the heat down, I gently pushed the eggs around with a spoon, scraping them from the bottom of the pan. It wasn’t as forceful as stirring. It did not take long for the eggs to begin to congeal.
After a few more minutes of pushing the eggs around the pan, the eggs were done. The other tip I took away from that early episode of The Cook and the Chef was to take eggs off the heat just before they were done cooking – the eggs would continue to cook and it was better to take them off before they were done than risk over cooked, rubbery eggs! I removed the eggs while they were still soft, and served them immediately.
Time spent: About 10 minutes, from cracking the eggs into a bowl to serving them.
The end result: I added salt and pepper to the eggs, and served it with a small amount of spinach on the side.
The verdict: Very nicely made eggs! Comforting, because this is the recipe we were used to, and we have both decided this is the way we prefer our eggs. They were fluffy, and smooth and creamy. They mostly had the same consistency all the way through; however, the bottom parts were a little moist. 7.5/10.
Recipe 2: The newfangled way of scrambling: steamed in a coffee machine.
I had been interested in trying this method of scrambling eggs since I had seen it mentioned on The Amateur Gourmet, and the link provided to the Food Mayhem site gave step by step instructions on how to steam the eggs. You start by getting a porcelain jar, and beating together the eggs, softened butter, and salt. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a pretty porcelain jar like the one shown on Food Mayhem, so I ended up using the (porcelain) milk jug from our incredibly fashionable 1970s Beswick coffee set (as an aside, I know for lots of people Beswick porcelain is highly collectable…but I somehow don’t think our coffee set is what people have in mind when they think of Beswick porcelain!).
Next, I heated up the water in our coffee machine to get a good amount of steam. Then, following the instructions, I dipped the steaming wand into the eggs and swirled them around and around. Here’s an action shot of the process of swirling:
It was a little strange cooking eggs this way. Some parts of the eggs congealed quite quickly, while the rest remained runny. I’m not sure if part of the issue was the size of the container I was using – it was quite short compared to the one in the photo on the Food Mayhem site – but the eggs did not cook evenly. I also wasn’t sure how much steam to use or how long it would take, so I was more hesitant than I probably should have been. Just to make it fun for me, the steaming wand got clogged with cooked eggs about halfway through! Again this was probably due to the length of both the steaming wand and the container…but it did make things rather difficult. When it looked like most of the eggs were done, I tipped them out onto a plate and served them.
Time spent: Around 20 minutes, from preparing the coffee machine to serving the eggs. 10 additional minutes to get all of the clogged egg out of the steamer!
The end result: I added pepper to the eggs (salt was added prior to cooking), and served it with some pancetta and olive oil.
The verdict: Yeah…not my finest effort. As you can see from the photo, parts of the eggs were still quite liquid-y when I served them – but some parts had been cooked for a while already. I do completely blame this outcome on my steamer, porcelain container and overall technique, rather than the method! There are plenty of examples of this method working successfully so obviously it was something I did. Unfortunately the lightness and fluffiness that is a hallmark of this method were not as apparent as I was hoping and the eggs were not of an even consistency. This was the only recipe to not use any cream or milk, and these were also the least creamy of the 3 recipes tried. I’m not sure if this can be seen as a direct link but I certainly noticed the difference. 5/10.
Recipe 3: Nero Wolfe’s recipe: cooked in a double boiler.
In The Mother Hunt, Nero Wolfe claims that it is necessary to set 45 minutes aside to make proper scrambled eggs – although he does concede that most American housewives do not have 45 minutes available to cook eggs. Well, it didn’t quite take that long – but it was the most time consuming recipe of the three.
The first step was to briskly whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper together in a bowl. While I was doing that, I was bringing the water to the boil for the double boiler.
When the water in the double boiler came to a boil, I turned down the heat as low as possible so the water was just simmering. I added butter to the top part of the double boiler, and when that had melted, added the eggs. The recipe instructed to cook the eggs for 15 minutes with the lid on, without disturbing them – and ensuring that the water in the lower portion of the double boiler remained at a simmer, and did not come to a boil.
I set the timer for 15 minutes, and set about making the sauce to accompany the eggs.
After 15 minutes, the recipe instructed to uncover the eggs and stir them with a wooden spoon until they reached the desired consistency. The first thing I noticed when stirring them was that they were about halfway cooked and that they looked very smooth.
Following instructions, I continued to stir the eggs while they cooked and it did not take much longer for all the eggs to be cooked. As with the other recipes, I served them as soon as they were cooked.
Time spent: About 30 minutes – 15 minutes covered and 15 minutes continuously stirring with a wooden spoon.
The end result: I made a sauce using clarified butter and vinegar and spooned it over the eggs.
The verdict: OK, Nero Wolfe was right. These were the best scrambled eggs I’d ever had! They were light and fluffy, and a very even consistency. They were not as rich as the eggs cooked in the frying pan and were very delicate. The sauce also matched very well and I will keep it in mind when making other egg dishes. The eggs in the photo below look a little watery but this was not noticable when eating the eggs. It should be noted that it appears there are more eggs in this photo than in the previous recipes – this must have been due to the cooking method and the additional “fluffiness” that these eggs had, as I used the same number of eggs in each recipe.
Interestingly, it was most noticable with these eggs that we were lacking side dishes for them. I think this was due to the delicate nature of the eggs – they’d definitely complement anything you wanted to put with them – but their delicacy also meant the lack of extras was more noticable than the other recipes. 9/10.
The first result? Goodness gracious did we eat a lot of eggs! While I’ve now learned how to cook better eggs, it might be a while until I actually want to eat scrambled eggs again!
Second, on taste, consistency and texture, Nero Wolfe’s scrambled eggs did come out on top. They would go well with a variety of toppings and extras, and were very delicate. The accompanying sauce was also delicious and would make a good generic sauce for eggs.
However, while Nero Wolfe’s eggs were superior, they did also take the longest time to cook – about 30 minutes. My “control” recipe – the one made in a frying pan – created quite good eggs in 10 minutes. I would say that the first recipe used provides a quick substitute to Nero Wolfe’s recipe.
The eggs made using the steamer in our coffee machine is something I would like to try again as I can hardly call my first effort a big success! I think a longer container is needed to better swirl the eggs around, which would hopefully provide a greater consistency in the cooked eggs. Getting the steamer clogged with eggs is probably unavoidable using this technique, but it did add to the overall (bad) experience of using this method.
In this case at least, I can now agree with Nero Wolfe in using his method of scrambling eggs – they were the best! They do take more time – but the results are worth it.