For Mr A&N's birthday breakfast, he requested my special scrambled eggs with a bit of smoked salmon. Poor man, his birthday is two days before Christmas (Christmas Adam, as I've grown to refer to it - the day before Christmas Eve) and it's very easy for his birthday to become subsumed into the regular holiday runnings around. It was only this breakfast when he received his presents, and that night while laying in bed that either of us really realized it was his birthday, and it's like that most years. Anyone with birthdays around Christmas really do have my sympathy. I was only too happy to oblige him with these eggs, to make him feel the day had any aura of luxury about it.
I read about these scrambled eggs in the New York Times about ten years ago. I don't recall any of the details other than they were recommended by a French chef and promised to make the most glorious eggs ever. Although my memory for the details is lost, I've had no problem remembering the technique since the claim, I found, was correct. It produces eggs that aren't so much scrambled as an emulsion - moist, creamy, smooth, and free of the horrible lumps and runniness that scrambled eggs can produce. I love eating these on some nice crumpets, their butteriness seeping through the pock-marks of the bread. Since having them, neither Mr A&N nor I can go back to ordinary scrambled eggs.
Since this recipe concerns technique more than ingredients, I won't dwell on what should go into the eggs. I tend to make mine with 2 eggs per person, topped up with a bit of milk and a lump of butter; they reduce down quite a bit so don't be surprised if it looks like you're getting a smaller plate-full than usual. The important things to remember about the process is as follows:
- You must, must, must keep stirring the eggs at all times; it will take a bit longer than normal eggs and therefore take a bit more work, but this is essential.
- When stirring the eggs away from the heat, you want to see a fair amount of steam come off them before returning them to the heat. You should keep them off the burner for at least a minute each time, until the eggs have stopped cooking off the heat of the pan.
- Don't over-cook the eggs. When they're done, they'll still look a bit moist (though not runny) - don't be tempted to cook until dry.
- Any extra ingredients (like smoked salmon, in this instance) are added into the scramble when they are very nearly done cooking.
- It is easy to become a bit obsessed about taking the eggs off the heat at the first signs of the them coming together. Understandable, but this will mean the whole process can take quite a long time. For the first couple of times, I usually take the egg beginning to coat the bottom or sides of the pan as a sign to remove it from the heat.
Special Scrambled Eggs
- Allow 2 eggs per person, recommended with a lump of butter and dollop of milk in with the eggs (or whatever your preferred method of creating scrambled eggs is)
- Crack the eggs into a good saucepan or skillet - one that has good, even heat distribution.
- Place the pan onto a burner with a medium heat (if using a cast-iron pan like a Le Crueset pan, you'll want to turn the heat toward medium-low once the cooking gets started). Start stirring the egg mixture as you place it over the heat.
- Continually stir the eggs. Remove from the heat when the first signs of coagulation start in the pan.
- Stir the eggs while off the heat, so that all the coagulated bits get mixed in and absorbed into the egg mixutre. The eggs should be off the heat for a good minute, being stirred throughout; they should give off great puffs of steam when first pulled off.
- Return the eggs to the heat, still stirring throughout. Again, remove from the heat when the eggs start to solidify at the bottoms and sides of the pan.
- Stir away from heat until all the solid bits are well incorporated.
- Continue alternating between stirring on and off the heat, pulling away from the heat when the eggs start showing signs of solidifying in the pan.
- When approaching done-ness, the eggs will look to come together in something of a mass - they should still look quite moist (if adding extra ingredients, throw them in when the eggs begin coming together). Remove from heat when the eggs are still a little wet and finish them off while stirring off the heat.
- Serve as quickly as possible.