“You can now say that you’ve cooked an omelette in the middle of B.C. Place. How cool is that?”
Julian Bond is right…that’s a fun item to add to anyone’s list of quirky life experiences. But more importantly, as a guest at a pop-up cooking class at the EAT! Vancouver Food + Cooking Festival at B.C. Place stadium, I picked up some valuable tips from instructor Bond on how to cook eggs—starting with how to crack ’em.
“Always crack an egg on a flat surface,” said Bond, who is the program director and executive chef at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. “There’s a better chance of not getting shell in the egg if you crush the shell rather than crack it.” He then invited the class to think about all the grocery shoppers who may have touched those eggs in your carton, and urged us not to separate eggs by transferring the contents from shell to shell. Instead, he recommends the method of letting the whites sift through your clean hand.
We learned how to crack eggs with one hand by using our fingers to pull back the top, like a claw. They key, he said, is confidence. “It’s about committing to the egg!” the enthusiastic teacher proclaimed. Amazingly, I succeeded with a shell-free egg in just a few tries.
Bond taught the class three ways to cook eggs that would seem simple but actually require specific techniques and well-honed intuition. (He said that a test of a good cook is how well he or she makes an omelette.)
According to Bond, the key to poaching an egg is water held at a low simmer—the bubbles keep the egg from sticking to the bottom of the pan--and lots of vinegar, about two to four tablespoons. He refused to give a number of minutes to time the egg because there are “so many variables”, such as the egg size and its temperature. “Nobody should tell you how long it takes to cook an egg,” he said. Instead, just watch the egg carefully and touch it to feel when it’s set to your liking.
When it’s just done, take the poached egg out of the pan and put it into a bowl of ice water. It can be refrigerated until you’re ready to use it, at which point you can reheat it by plunging it into simmering water (this time without vinegar, but flavoured with wine or herbs if you like) for about 30 seconds.
For scrambled eggs, Bond advised the class to use a small saucepan, rather than a fry pan. Don’t whip the eggs first: just break them into a cold saucepan and add a knob of unsalted butter. Then, over medium heat, agitate the eggs continually with a heatproof spatula. Make sure they cook very slowly, taking them off the heat to rest periodically if it looks like they’re setting too fast. “We want creamy scrambled eggs; we don’t want light, fluffy eggs that are going to bounce all over the floor,” he explained. Once they’re done, take them off the heat and stir in a bit of whipping cream, chives, salt, and white pepper. (Bond always uses subtler white pepper with eggs so they don’t taste like peppercorns.)
For omelettes, Bond starts with a stainless steel or carbon steel pan (not a nonstick Teflon pan). The trick is to heat the pan fully before adding olive oil. Once the oil glistens, turn back the heat and pour in your beaten eggs (unsalted at this point).
“The secret to making a good omelette is a fork, and keep it moving,” he said. Shake the pan with one hand, and move the eggs around vigorously with a fork with the other. When it’s set, lay on your chosen filling, season it with salt and white pepper, and roll it out onto a plate.
This, of course, is easier said than done. My omelette ended up looking like it had rolled off a truck. But my poached egg was near perfect, and the scrambled eggs were fantastically creamy, without a doubt the best I have ever made.
While the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts doesn’t offer this egg class on its roster, there are many other casual cooking classes to choose from. Or check out this advice on how to make perfect boiled eggs. Break some eggs, and have fun!
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