It’s hard to think of a dish as elemental as scrambled eggs. The only requirements for the original two-ingredient recipe (if you don’t count seasoning) are fat for cooking and eggs. Though plenty of ways exist to make them more ambitious, with fancy ingredients and elegant presentations, it seems impossible to think of a way to change them beyond the three-step process of cracking, whisking, and pouring into a hot pan.
But Daniel Patterson has figured it out. The San Francisco-based chef has earned Michelin stars and a James Beard award for his fine-dining restaurant, Coi. Patterson is on a mission to give home cooks a point of view in their own cooking. In a cookbook just out this month, The Art of Flavor (Riverhead Books, R387 on Loot.co.za), he has teamed up with perfumer Mandy Aftel to teach readers to be confident in their flavour combinations, rather than blindly relying on recipes.
In the book’s final chapter, “The Seven Dials,” Patterson highlights the seven kinds of flavour adjustments (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, umami, fat, and heat) you can make to a dish.
It was this kind of experimentation that led Patterson to his most trailblazing recipe, a transformation of scrambled eggs.
Patterson had a “eureka” moment: Why not try cooking the beaten eggs in boiling water? Eggs are poached all the time; these would just be beaten first. Experimentation taught him that eggs wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan if you add them to a mini-whirlpool of simmering water.
In the meantime, the intense heat of the water bath would cause the air bubbles in the eggs to expand, while simultaneously setting the protein. The resulting eggs are terrifically light, fluffy, and tender, like an expertly made omelet.
Boiled Scrambled Eggs ( Serves 2)
4 large eggs, as fresh as possible
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a bowl, beat the eggs until well-blended, about 30 seconds. (Tester’s Note: For lighter scrambled eggs, crack each egg into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl; a little bit of the watery egg white will drip out. Discard it, rinse the strainer, and set over your sink.)
In a medium pot of water, heat four or more inches of water to a low boil over medium heat. Add a few large pinches of salt.
Stir the water to create a whirlpool, then pour in the eggs.
Cover and count to 20. Uncover: The eggs should be floating on the surface in ribbons.
Carefully pour the eggs into the strainer and let drain, gently tapping the strainer against the side to shake off any extra water.
Divide the eggs between plates. (Tester’s note: Blot off any excess water from the plate with a paper towel.)
Season the eggs with salt and pepper and a hunk of butter and serve with toast.