Meditations

How the French Fry Eggs


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Forget everything you were ever told about cooking an egg. This morning I spent almost twenty minutes lovingly preparing mine – French style. In one pan I slowly melted butter on the lowest setting my stove could offer – I mean barely liquid, not sizzling. In a small pot I brought water to a slow boil and placed a saucier on top, melting more butter on it. Onto a separate plate I carefully cracked open two fresh, room temperature eggs and gently slid them on to this bain-marie gone wrong.

As the eggs warmed, ever so slowly, the whites eventually solidified into a snow-white cream and the yolk became hot, but still mostly liquid. After sliding this delightful treat onto a clean plate, I salted just the whites to avoid “unsightly salt speckles” on the yellow, added a little freshly cracked pepper and then finished it off with a generous drizzle of melted butter. Served with crispy bacon and toast…c’est manifique.

Trust me, eggs never tasted so good as when prepared this way. This is the French way – more specifically the method developed by Master French Chef Fernand Point at his 3 Michelin Star rated restaurant La Pyramide in the 1950’s and then later perfected by his legendary understudy Bernard Loiseau of Côte d’Or fame. Does this lengthy procedure sound crazy? Rather excessive? Well it is, but that’s nothing.

Loiseau actually killed himself over food. That’s right, you heard me. Having been downgraded from 19/20 to 17/20 by the GaultMillau guide, and rumoured that he might lose one of his cherished Michelin stars (a false rumour it turns out), Mr. Loiseau turned his shiny new shotgun, a recent gift from his wife ironically, on himself in his kitchen. Perhaps anyone who could obsess over an egg might just kill himself over rumours that his restaurant, hence his culinary relevancy, was fading. So it was for the troubled Bernard Loiseau as chronicled in the fabulous tell all story The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminski.

Now, granted I haven’t finished the book yet, but I can tell you this. It’s a haunting portrait of one of France’s most famous chefs and the history of French gastronomy that served as the backdrop for Loiseau’s meteoric career. In the first chapter, Luxe, Calme et Volupté, Chelminski details how Loiseau’s mentor, the infamous Chef Fernand Point would test visiting chefs with a challenge to show him how they fried a simple egg, declaring that the easiest dishes were often the most difficult to prepare. When, inevitably, the chef insulted the egg with the sizzling hot surface of a frying pan, Point would cry, ‘Stop, unhappy man – you are making a dog’s bed of it!’ And then he would proceed to demonstrate the one and only civilized manner of treating an egg. Very slowly, very gently, and swimming in butter of course.

Here’s a great review of the book, including an actual recipe for this perfect fried egg.

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