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Food Porn: Confessions of an egg hacktivist

The author's "Healthy McMuffin," with turkey, egg, Sriracha and avocado. Eat that, clown.

The author's "Healthy McMuffin," with turkey, egg, Sriracha and avocado. Eat that, clown.

The time has come once again, my friends, to discuss that perfect, beautiful, indispensible food without which life would be naught but shallow, melancholy grayness: the egg.

Ah, the egg. I've discussed this Platonic ideal of a foodstuff herein during past Food Porn sessions, writing ever so longingly about how just about any meal can be made better by throwing a fried egg on top of it, from burgers to bokumbap, even pizza. Today, however, I'd like to turn my attention to actually cooking the things. Along with boiling pasta and throwing some sauce out of a jar on it, a basic plate of scrambled eggs is one of the first things most of us learn how to prepare without royally mucking up. It's simple like that. On the other hand, if you want to make your scramble absolutely perfect and not just something you can shovel into your face-hole for essential sustenance, it's going to require a fair bit of time and effort.

Recently, I became aware of what is known as the "slow scramble." For most of my life, a scramble involved little more than seasoned, beaten eggs, butter, a hot skillet, and a minute or two. This is great if you're on the go, but if you have a little more time on your hand, I highly recommend giving the slow scramble a go. It's not easy to get right, but the results are worth the effort, resulting in creamy eggs with a custard-like consistency that has more in common with polenta than any scramble you'd encounter at a greasy spoon.  These are eggs you can justifiably eat for dinner, or even serve for dinner. Here's the trick: Season and beat your eggs, per usual (Tony Chacherie's is indispensable in my kitchen, like any good South Louisiana boy). I also like to stir in a pinch of shredded Parmesan cheese and finely diced chives, though this isn't absolutely necessary. The trick is to pour your egg mixture into a cold pan (yes, cold), add a couple of pats of butter, and turn the heat to medium-low.

Then wait.

When the eggs begin to heat into curds, start stirring them in the pan with a rubber spatula, and don't stop, continuing to scrape and stir as though you're making a roux. Keep stirring until the eggs are cooked through but still soft, removing from the direct heat if they're cooking too quickly, until they finally achieve that glorious consistency noted above. The whole process takes about 10 minutes, which seems like a lot for scrambled eggs, but believe me, it's seriously worth it. Once you get them just right, you'll never want to go back.

But let's also say that you don't have 10 minutes to get your scramble to that ideal creamy texture. Maybe you're in a rush, or perhaps you're just an impatient person. Maybe that donated kidney is started to get a little warm in the cooler and you need to get to the hospital's transplant wing ASAP. I get it. I feel like that sometimes, too. But this doesn't mean that you can't have your eggs and eat them, too.

Enter the egg hack.

The idea of "life-hacking" is not a new one, nor is the notion of "hacking" everyday chores to make them faster or easier. Hell, making things fast and easy is essentially what America is all about. So, how do you hack your eggs? Well, that depends on what kind of eggs you're craving. Personally, I have something of a love affair with the Egg McMuffin. It's hard to believe that there was once a United States in which the McMuffin did not exist, especially now that McDonald's has gone "all-day" with its breakfast menu. Yes, you can now have a McMuffin for dinner if you want. America! What's even more baffling is that the McMuffin wasn't exactly (eggs-actly? Ha.) an easy sell when it was first invented in 1972. But then the numbers spoke for themselves, and today we have that genius combo of Canadian bacon, egg and American cheese on an English muffin to show for it, and thank goodness for that.

The key to the Egg McMuffin is, naturally, the egg. At Mickey D's, they use a ring-shaped mold to cook their eggs on a plancha (a flat-top griddle) to corral them into that flat, cylindrical shape that fits perfectly on an English muffin. You can buy one of these yourself pretty readily these days, if you want, but I have a way to achieve the same results that's faster, easier, and doesn't even involve dirtying a frying pan. The hack? Use your microwave.

Now, I know that the thought of microwaved eggs might put some people off their breakfast altogether, but stick with me. Here's what you do: Take a standard issue coffee cup, preferably ceramic with a uniform shape and flat bottom. Spritz the inside with non-stick cooking spray. Then crack your egg into the mug, making sure to break the yolk. Season, then cover the top with cling wrap and poke a few holes in it to let steam escape. Then microwave for about 50 seconds, depending on the power of your oven, pausing for a short spell at the 30 second mark to let the eggs relax and not explode. When you're done, the result -- a perfectly cylindrical egg the precise shape of an English muffin -- slides right out of the cup, and cleanup is a breeze. Place it on your toasted muffin with some Canadian bacon or sliced ham, throw a slice of American cheese on top, and boom: Suck it, Ronald! Better still, you can experiment with other ingredients to switch things up. I like adding smoked turkey, avocado and Sriracha for a guilt-free, protein-packed start to the day.

And what of poached eggs? There can't possibly be a simple hack to make the trickiest of egg preparations less painful, could there? As a matter of fact, there is, mon ami.  For a quintessential poach, I have to go with the Thomas Keller method, which I've discussed here previously, and which requires a vinegar bath, a bubbling, swirling vortex, and absolutely crack timing. Don't feel like messing with that? Try this: Line a small bowl or ramekin with Saran wrap. (Yes, again with the cling wrap! They should be paying me for this.) Crack in your egg, and fold up the sides, tying them into a knot, which should give you a little plastic "egg pouch." Drop the pouch into boiling water for exactly five minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Cut away the cling wrap, et voila: A lovely poached egg, firm on the outside with a beautifully runny yolk, in all of five minutes.

Who would have thought microwaves and cling wrap could make cooking eggs so simple? The future is now, my friends. Enjoy it. Preferably with a healthy dash of Tony's.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.