Occasionally, on a Sunday morning, I make a visit to Williams-Sonoma for a free 10:00AM cooking class.
This past week’s agenda focused on how to “poach” and scramble eggs.
The class takes place around the stove-top in the store’s center, and all participants receive a list of recipes with cooking tips. Some bring their own stools and arrive early so that they can get the front row and pull their stools up to the counter. The teacher knows these folks by name. Between 9:30 and 10:00 the early crowd can be found outside chatting about their recent dishes and upcoming dinner parties that they all plan to attend. They’ve become a circle of friends through their common interest of food.
Janet, our teacher, began by introducing us to a pan that would be perfect for hosting a breakfast party featuring Eggs Benedict. By the way, if you ever cook this, please remember to invite me over.
Williams-Sonoma has a pan that allows you to make eggs without actually “poaching” them in water. In this contraption, a metal basket with individual egg holders sits over a layer of water. The one step to success is lightly buttering the egg holders to ensure that the eggs slip easily out. These delicate piles of white are typically placed on a slice of sweet ham layered on half of an English muffin, and then they are topped with a thin custard-like sauce with a hint of lemon. Janet used a Williams-Sonoma recipe to make this Hollandaise sauce. I won’t go into the step-by-step, but I do have several tips! Whatever recipe you use, be sure to follow the steps well. The sauce can be deceivingly difficult to whip up.
Because Hollandaise calls only for yolks, you must first separate out the egg whites. Janet recommended doing this when the eggs are cold and firm because separation is easier. The immersion blender (shown above) is beyond helpful. Knowing my luck, Hollandaise would be nearly impossible to make without this handy gadget because the sauce can be so fussy. Speaking of luck, if you generally don’t have any, I’d recommend using pasteurized eggs (because eggs are not fully cooked in this sauce). These can be difficult to find, but Janet shared that Bristol Farms in La Jolla sells refrigerated pasteurized cartons of eggs. If you are not from San Diego, Google would be your best bet for locating a carton near you.FYI: Butter has to be SLOWLY added (almost by drops) to the egg yolks to keep the mixture from breaking apart.
FYI: Always store the eggs pointed side down to keep the yolk in the center. Otherwise, it will float to the top of the egg and get stuck to the shell.
These eggs were a little overcooked. Janet was kind of disappointed, and many of us refused to eat them. It’s pretty frequent that people will refuse free food made by a professional cook if it isn’t perfect. Um, I hope that you don’t believe that. Yes, they were a little well-done, but they still passed as a mark of near-genius.
Next, Janet worked on scrambled eggs. She used half-and-half, salt, white pepper (for a cleaner effect) and eggs. Good scrambled eggs can sometimes take 30 minutes to make. Mine are a lot quicker. I wonder what they would taste like if I had more patience!
A common characteristic among foodies is knowing what would make a dish “that much better.” One of the students offered Janet some fresh herbs cut from her garden that very morning. This simple act infused the eggs with a colorful addition of parsley and chives.
Even in the shell, eggs can absorb flavor. This is a good reason to store them in their original aerated carton. I hate eating food that tastes like a fridge. In France, it’s common to toss truffles into a basket of fresh eggs, imbuing them with the aroma of the rare fungi.
There were a few close calls amongst folks reaching for plates. My polite manner and generally kind morale were nearly compromised. In the end I left with an empty plate, sticky fingers and an embarrassingly happy smile.