The Perfect O
My tormenting yet bittersweet affair with eggs has been nothing short of a Hollywood love story. It began as mutual loath in early years, but turned into a passionate obsession overnight in adulthood. Then six month ago at the height of our oblivious happiness, we were torn apart and forbidden by authorities without warning or mercy… cold turkey style. If I’m sounding overly dramatic, I’m not. I believe it’s fair to say that I consumed on average, 3 eggs per day for the past decade. Some days 4 to 5 if we were feeling naughty. A disgusted horror by any cardiologists’ standard.
But to fully understand my ups-and-downs with eggs, I need to start from the beginning. Starting WAY before I remember things, for years my mom would pan-fry an egg with soy sauce and sesame oil for me as breakfast, . It was always shoved down my helpless throat despite my struggling and totally gave me a phobia that seriously, for the LONGEST time, a pan fried egg was sort of on the top of my GAG list. But then something changed. Something…turned around… Perhaps it was that stormy college night in the middle of Jersey City when I saw nothing but a carton of eggs sitting in the fridge with all its lonesome. Something happened. Something came over me. In a whirlwind daze, I scrambled them in a pan and inhaled them all… ALL NINE of them. And they… didn’t gag me. They were… comforting. The previous existence of a childhood horror had suddenly converted itself to the other side of the brain and became NOSTALGIA instead.
It was an explosive, new-found love, and perhaps I have dived too deep… Because from then on, my answer to the question of, “what to eat for breakfast or lunch or dinner when I’m alone” is 3 eggs cooked any style. Soft-boiled w/ sea salt, hard boiled in ragu, scrambled w/ butter, sunny-side-up w/ cheese or poached with avocado. Really. Put an egg on top and I’ll eat it.
Maybe “true love never runs smooth”… This affair came to a screeching halt when 6 months ago, a blood test came to me as I sat in a hospital chair with cold sweat, declaring that I’m unmistakably “egg intolerant”. Level three, the worst to be exact. I was sentenced to at least 9 months without any trace of egg in my diet (does anyone realize that EVERYTHING has eggs in them), and even after such, a monitored visit periodically is what awaits.
Well… “WTF IN THE WORLD is egg intolerant?!!” is what I’m hearing.
It means my body hates it, OK. I touch’em. I suffer. But WHAT could have steered me into giving up eggs-my-beloved? What horrific reactions could happen if I were to indulge? Throat closing up and leaving me gasping for air on the icy kitchen floor? Bulging hives storming through my body, driving me to scratch till I bleed out? Or perhaps a grand mal seizure that renders me down to a twitching zombie foaming with blood from my bitten tongue?
I get pimples. Yeah… Ummm, nope. Just pimples… In my defense if I may! It’s quite a lot of pimples. I know I know…WTF. They’re just pimples. But HEY, don’t ever underestimate the influence of the epic battle between vanity and gluttony in the world of all female (come to think of it… at least one of them works against the other). Try telling men that it’s just hair.
So here I am. I hope my twisted love story hasn’t turn off anyone’s appetite. Because if I could only enjoy the warm embrace from one of my most beloved food once in a long while, it better be a DAMN perfect one. And this, my friend, is egg in ART FORM. An egg softly poached in its shell in a constant, painstakingly monitored temperature so its entirety is cooked to the same curdling consistency that when it cracks, it slides out of its shell as a whole, soft, shiny jewel. I figured I deserve nothing less. Oh, and there’s also the potato puree and mushroom jus, just honored to be one of the eggs’ entourage.
Serving: appetizer-size for 4 people, OR for 2 if nobody’s suffering from egg-related illness
Hot Spring Eggs:
- 4 REALLY GOOD QUALITY farm eggs with ORANGE YOLKS
- kitchen thermometer
- 3 Yukon gold or Idaho potatoes
- 90 g of unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp of heavy cream
- sea salt
- 20 g of dried shitake mushrooms
- 1 cup of water
- 1 japanese dashi stock tea bag
- 1 shallot
- 1 tbsp of heavy cream
- a nub of butter
- sea salt and black pepper
I believe I have mentioned the “really good quality eggs in BJ” in my previous stories. Here it is. It is called “Lan Huang” eggs. A Shanghai company adopting Japanese technology, that produces high-quality eggs that can be eaten raw. It’s needless for me to tell, but the Japanese are REALLY good at growing
shit stuff. Almost all Japanese-related produces and dairy products deliver annoyingly premium quality such as this one, a perfect orange-yolk egg. And I’ll say this again that you’ve never had an egg until you’ve had an orange one. Pure, incredible eggy-ness. It can be found in groceries such as Jenny Lou’s or online. Other high-quality Japanese eggs can be found in groceries like April’s Gourmet, or little Japanese eateries such as 牛玄庵.
To cook the eggs:
Fill a cast-iron pot (which retains heat better) with water (the amount of water MUST BE AT LEAST 4~5 times the volume of the number of eggs you’re cooking), and insert a heat-thermometer in the center of the pot. Bring the temperature of the water to 167F / 75C, then turn the heat down to THE LOWEST your stove can manage (a whiff of flame only). Carefully lower ROOM-TEMPERATURE eggs into the water, which is going to lower the temperature of the water to approximately 158ºF / 70ºC. Now you MUST maintain the temperature of the water at 158ºF / 70ºC for the entire duration (fluctuation between a couple of degrees is acceptable). If the temperature drops, turn up the flame ever-so-slightly, and if it increases, add some cold water to bring it down (you’ll get the hang of it quickly). The SECOND you lower the eggs into the water, set the timer:
The cooking-time = the weight of the eggs in GRAMS x 0.38 minute. Therefore:
- Medium-size eggs (50 ~ 57 grams) will need 19 ~ 21:30 minutes
- Large-size eggs (57 ~ 64 grams) will need 21:30 ~ 24 minutes
- Extra-large-size eggs (64 ~ 71 grams) will need 24:30 ~ 26 minutes
Once the timer goes off, immediately transfer all the eggs into COLD water until COMPLETELY COOLED DOWN. You can refrigerate the eggs until needed, and bring it back to warm-temperature by submerging it in hot tap-water for a few minutes.
To prepare for potato puree and mushroom jus:
What’s the difference between mashed potatoes and potato puree? Well, in short, mashed potato is potatoes flavored with butter. Potato puree is butter flavored with potatoes, OK? So peel and cut potatoes in chunks, and submerge them in a pot of cold water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until a fork can be easily inserted into the potato without resistance, about 15 to 20 min. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot to let any remaining liquid evaporate. Press them through a ricer such as this one. Return to medium heat. Add 90 g of cubed, unsalted butter and 2 tbsp of heavy cream. Stir with a fork until everything is melted. Season with sea salt.
Soak the dried shitake in 1 cup of hot water for 20 min. Add a bag of Japanese dashi stock tea bag (if not available, use 1 tbsp of bonito flakes), 1 chopped shallot and 1 pinch of black pepper, then bring everything to a boil and reduce the liquid by 1/3. Strain everything through a very FINE sieve because the mushrooms may contain some dirt and sand. Add the heavy cream and return to the heat. Reduce by 1/2 and remove from the heat. Add a nub of butter and season with sea salt.
Warm up the egg by soaking in a small glass of hot water (NOT boiling) for 2 min. Rinse a cup with hot water then dry it with a clean towel. Lay some potato puree in the bottom of the cup, then CAREFULLY crack the egg on top. Spoon over some mushroom jus and sprinkle with chives.
Oh, love. It’s been awhile. We have plenty to catch up on…
LilianMay 26, 2012 at 8:20 PM
I , too, love eggs in any shape or form. I can understand your egg nostalgia. My mom used to feed me scrambled eggs mixed with basil and 桂圓 for my heavy period, some remedy that she leaned from her mom, I guess. It didn’t really help me and I din’t care for the taste either. Now twenty something years went by, I actually long for the taste since I left Taiwan so many years ago. That taste reminds me of HOME. But i digress. Where can I get orange yolk eggs in NY? Last year i went to a local farm by where I live and purchased some farm eggs that the farm owner claimed they were freshly collected that very morning. I quickly went home and made myself few soft boiled eggs but wasn’t impressed by the outcome. The yolk was ordinary looking and the taste wasn’t nearly as I expected. I had much better eggs in lake Como last year from a small village grocery store than any place here in NY, free range or organic. And you are right on about the orange yolk. Those egg yolks I had in lake Como, they were bright orange. Ohhhhh, how I l miss that deliciousness. Well, with all the egg talks is making me hungrey, going to make myself some eggs now :) lilian
Mandy L.May 26, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Hey Lilian, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never found an orange yolk in NY… But I suspect that IF it does exist anywhere in NY, it would be in a Japanese supermarket.. There’s a big Japanese supermarket in New Jersey called “Mitsuwa”. They have a pretty extensive collection of Japanese groceries. I’ve never purchased eggs there but I think it’s a possibility. There are also several small Japanese markets scattered around in the city. Maybe give those a try as well. Hope you have the best of luck with that. I totally understand.. the difference between “orange” and “yellow”….haaaaaaaaa.
Lilian DiMarzioMay 28, 2012 at 1:18 PM
Love mitsuwa. Will check it out next time. Thanks, Mandy.
SophieAugust 28, 2013 at 2:49 AM
What I have gathered (no pun intended) from growing up around laying hens re: those orangey egg yolks is that is has evverything to do with the hen’s diet. “Free range” eggs are kind of a blanket term that may not mean the chicken is really roaming freely at all but simply “has access to the outside”. The hens my mother raises are truly free-roaming, and they are also omnivores, as chickens should be. They are given table scraps including meat and bones, and their free range of the farm gives them access to insects and other proteins, and a variety of vegetation, which ultimately determines the deep orange-iness of their egg yolks. I think it’s fascinating, and I was totally spoiled on these eggs my whole childhood and remain, to this day, an egg slut. As for nutritional value differing from supermarket eggs, I am not well-educated on that, but the flavor is indeed superb as described by Mandy and yourself.
Boy. I could go for an egg or two right now!
KimJune 23, 2016 at 1:43 PM
Would you believe me if I told you that I held off on making this until I found nice plastic lidded bowls because I loved your presentation so much? I couldn’t find gaiwans like yours (surprisingly difficult to find any gaiwans here in SoCal) but I did pick up some nice Japanese soup bowls today and made this tonight.
It was a rousing success! Except my onsen tamago didn’t really. . . onsen. . . Luckily, I have a little bit of potato purée and mushroom jus left so I’ll be trying again tomorrow for lunch. Crappy oven and undercooked egg aside (I’ll be more vigilant next time) the flavors were marvelous. My favorite part was the mushroom jus, and that’s coming from a shiitake disliker! The combination of everything was so comforting and satisfying. I’m going to get this right even if it kills me.