I mentioned “The List” of basic recipes that everyone’s got up their sleeve, and everyone’s got their own spin on in my post about Mapo Tofu. Good scrambled eggs should top that list, worldwide. We’ve made these a Saturday or Sunday morning ritual – perfect antidote to a crappy week or a big night out, and perfect topped off with a home-steamed flat white (or if you live near a cafe, it takes just about the same amount of time to make as sending someone out to buy coffees), a really good OJ, and weekend morning terrible video clips on TV. I miss Rage.
As with anything, good scrambles come down to good ingredients.
- Good Bread. Crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside. In Australia we use fresh Italian ciabatta. In France, we’re using Baguettes Traditions. We toast it by rubbing the cut surface with butter, and either pressing it in something like a George Foreman grill (that link is seriously worth clicking) or in an open frypan.
- Good eggs. Free range at worst, organic & bio-dynamic at best.
- Cheese. A nice, pliable melting cheese is the goods. In Australia, we grate in Mozzarella. In France, we’re using Emmental. I’ve had some success with Parmesan in the past, but it’s a bit stronger in flavour.
- Milk, or cream. This depends on how decadent and arterially murderous you want your eggs to be. Cream is amazing, but it will kill you. I find that full cream milk is a good compromise, and hi-lo/half-cream/demi-écremé still turns out delicious eggs.
- Nice butter. We use the half-salt or unsalted kind. Save the margarine for the kids’ lunches, this is cooking.
With that collection in hand, you’re on to technique. Grab a small-medium saucepan, and a wooden or plastic spoon. I used to use a regular metal saucepan, but we picked up a non-stick one here. It’s changed my life. If you have a non-stick saucepan, use it for this. If you don’t have a non-stick saucepan and you plan to make this, consider the investment.
Cooking this dish is all about temperature control and movement. Keep the heat low, the eggs moving CONSTANTLY, and take a second to tilt the saucepan from side to side regularly, just to make sure it’s all free on the bottom.
Start by dropping a knob of butter (about as big as you’d scrape up to butter a piece of bread per egg) into the cold saucepan while it’s still heating up, and immediately follow it with as many eggs as you need. Crack ’em straight into the pan – beating them over the gentle heat with a dull stirrer and some butter greasing the wheels is a bit kinder to them. I imagine it’s more like receiving a beating from a pillowcase full of oranges, as opposed to a sock full of batteries. Once they’re in, start stirring. Go pretty aggressively to begin with, in a big circle around the edge of the pot. You want to break the yolks and get them all nicely mixed up with the butter as the heat gently rises and the butter melts. The idea here is to turn it from a liquid to a solid fairly evenly. If it starts cooking on the bottom too quickly, you can move it off the heat while you stir it through and free it up. It does take time.
Once it’s starting to take some shape, you can start adding your other ingredients. While it’s still mostly liquid, but starting to get some substance to it, add your cheese. Add it to taste, but not too much. I generally add enough to lightly cover the whole surface of the egg, then furiously continue stirring. The idea behind adding it on low heat while the egg is still liquid is twofold. Firstly, it moves through the eggs a lot more easily if the eggs are putting up less of a fight. Secondly, the extra cooking time allows the casein network in the cheese to break down and lose any elasticity. The idea is for the cheese to be subtle and add flavour, but not affect the texture. In short, the cheese needs time to fully combine with the eggs.
Adding the milk is a delicate art. I pour in a decent splash – a swirl, if you will. I’m deliberately not talking in measurements because it’s not how I think or cook. As far as timing goes, it’s better earlier than later. Too late, and your eggs will be cooked, with watery milk around them. Unpleasant. If you add it too early, it can interfere with the cheese process. My rule is that once I can’t see the cheese at all anymore, once it’s done stretching and writhing around, and before the egg becomes solid and turnable, it’s a good time to add milk. Use the colour of the eggs in the photo as an idea of what to aim for.
The last question is that of “doneness.” Good scrambles should be wet, but not exactly solid. If you’ve been stirring constantly it won’t be in big pieces either, you’ll be able to spoon it out onto plates, which is great for portion division. I’ll leave the question of “on the bread or next to the bread” to you.