I love scrambled eggs. Love them. I’ll take them low—simple on a plate with buttered toast on the side. Or high--served with sauteed greens and a top layer of avocado slices and crumbled chevre. So quick to make, so many options.
They’re my lover fantasy food, too. The one dish I want served to me. That’s right. Not paella or cioppino. Not filet mignon. Slighty wet, definitely fluffy scrambled eggs. Delivered to me in bed. On a lazy Saturday. Arriving on a shared plate with butter-drenched crusty toast and a cup of strong Earl Grey tea. Perhaps sections of the paper surround us or only a tangle of sheets. Regardless, the plate gets passed, crumbs escape, tea gets spilled, and I feel full.
Though the women in my family were, of course, my cooking and hosting mentors, it was my grandfather, a first generation Czech immigrant and career cop, who taught me how to make scrambled eggs. My sister and I often spent Saturdays with our father’s parents. Poppy was always in charge of cooking. Though the family women preferred children to stay out of the kitchen, Poppy expected us to be there. And so we would sit, huddled in the breakfast nook, leaning on the sticky plastic-covered tablecloth, absorbing his every move and word.
For a man of that Ellis Island generation, he was comfortable in the kitchen—far more than our father is, even today. The kitchen was his domain as much as the workshop in the basement or the gardens outside. Often these moments in the kitchen, held by a simple recipe, were the only opportunities for my sister and I to hear the family stories. Other spaces in the house did not seem to encourage such loose lips.
Like most meals, the cooking of scrambled eggs is subject to my current mood, my energy level. This morning, knowing that a busy day awaited me, it seemed best to go big—the eggs themselves were straightforward with sea salt, cracked pepper, and a splash of milk as the only other ingedients. But then I raided the fridge and the pantry and found sauteed red chard, an avocado needing to be salvaged, and a new box of Ry-Krisp crackers. That was hours ago, and I am still satisfied.
Though I tend to make the outcome up as I go, I try to use Julia Child’s scrambled eggs recipe as a reference. Embarrassingly, I do not own any of her books. Years ago, I saw the eggs recipe in the newspaper and tore it out.
It has since disappeared, but what follows seems to be close to what I once read:
• 8 eggs (or 7 eggs and 2 egg yolks)
• 2 tablespoons softened butter
• 4 teaspoons water or milk
• 1 1/2-2 tablespoons whipping cream or softened butter
• parsley sprigs
1. Place eggs, salt and pepper, and liquid in a mixing bowl and beat for 20-30 seconds.
2. Smear bottom and sides of pan with butter. Pour in the eggs.
3. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and continuously, reaching all over bottom of pan. Nothing will seem to happen for the first 2-3 minutes. Suddenly the eggs will begin to thicken into a custard. Stir rapidly, moving pan on and off heat, until they have almost thickened to your desired consistency.
4. Remove from heat immediately – the eggs will continue to cook slightly.
5. As soon as they have reached the desired consistency, add the enrichment (butter or cream), which will stop the cooking.Season to taste, arrange on plates and garnish with parsley.
7. Aux Fines Herbes:Beat a tablespoon of minced fresh herbs such as parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon into eggs at the beginning.Sprinkle on more herbs just before serving.
8. Au Fromage:Stir 4-6 T. grated Swiss cheese into eggs along with the enrichment butter at the end.
9. Aux Truffes:Stir 1 or 2 diced truffles into eggs before scrambling.Sprinkle a bit of chopped truffle over eggs before serving.
10. Garnishings: ham, bacon, sausages, broiled or sauteed mushrooms, kidneys, chicken livers, sauteed eggplant or zucchini, broiled tomatoes, piperade, diced sauteed potatoes, buttered peas, asparagus tips, artichoke hearts.
A few weeks ago, I came across this quote from food blogger Molly Wizenberg:
When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone...We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who are we, who we have been, and who we want to be.
How can it be otherwise? Food—even something as basic as scrambled eggs—is my compass.