Monday, October 24, 2011

Nostalgia about French Eggs

In last week's rain, I was walking along talking to Kevin with Mrs Dog.   As conversations will, this drifted on a wild tangent and ended up in France.

Specifically on the Isle of Mont St Michel just off the Normandy Coast.

I had the good fortune to go to Mont St Michel when I went with the French Club on a tour of France.  Near the Abbey there, there is a small restaurant.  As Sr. Stanislaus, my French teacher told me, this restaurant had been there for generations and they had a very special way that they made their eggs. 

In this stone walled room there is a giant copper vessel.  It was a bowl in the shape of a wok that was bright copper color from being constantly used, I remember absolutely no tarnish.  Next to the vessel there stood the epitome of a French Chef in crisp white uniform and hat, using an over-sized whisk.  Inside of the vessel was a large pile of foam.  

The foam was their very own special recipe of eggs that was being used to make omelettes.   The idea was that they would whisk this egg mixture as tall as they could get it so it would be light and fluffy and then cook it on top of a buttered skillet.   When served, the outside would be crispy, the inside would be light and fluffy with a light meringue texture of the egg and air froth on the top.

I had never experienced anything quite so light and airy.   With the naivete of a teenager in a one of a kind location in another culture and another country, I enjoyed the meal with big eyes.  After all I was ensured that I would never have it again.

Until Saturday.

You see, I found that in typical American style, I applied Technology to the problem of how to reproduce the recipe and it was not difficult at all.

I put two raw eggs into a tall iced tea glass with about 1 to 2 ounces of milk.   There was nothing special about this.  The milk was 2% milk that had been laying in the refrigerator and just about past the sell-by date, and the eggs were "mass market" that I got from the GFS warehouse store down the block. 

The elbow grease was the important thing.   Actually, the LACK of elbow grease was the important thing.

I have an almost 30 year old hand mixer.  Its one of those things that you can plug into the wall and it is shaped like a wand.  It typically is used to make drinks or to emulsify mixes.  This isn't mine, but it certainly is the same kind of mixer. 

Now you have your eggs and milk in the tall iced tea glass, plunge the mixer into the eggs and mix.   The glass was 22 ounces and I was able to completely aerate the eggs to a full glass of foam. 

Typically when I cook eggs, I use a slow skillet.  It's an electric stove, it goes from LO and 1 through 8 and HI.  Eggs, I put the skillet on the stove and typically I'll cook at 3 so I can get a custardy egg. 

Low and slow, right?   Not with this recipe.

I boosted the heat up to medium at 5 and put a pat of butter on a half of a roll, and put it face down on the skillet.  Repeated that with the second half of the roll.  The French wouldn't approve, but the eggs would be eaten on a roll.  I rubbed the butter onto the skillet to get it greased up, but the byproduct was that I got a nice crispy toasted buttered roll.

Once the roll was done, I gave the egg mixture another shot to pump the air back into it and managed to get 22 ounces of foam.

The trick was that I needed to get the eggs to crust so I poured it all on the hot skillet.  Once it cooked so the bottom of the mix was crusted, I folded it back over itself to get a half moon shape.  The inside would cook completely. 

The results?  I ended up with a Souffle effect.  Exactly like I remembered from that restaurant in St Malo so many years ago.

It's all about the mixer in this case.  I managed to get better than double the volume once it was done.  The inside settled down a little bit as I expected but it all turned out great.  Beyond easy... but if you need the recipe as a recipe:

2 eggs
2 ounces or less milk

That's it.  Cook and good luck!

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