There are few things in this cruel world not improved by the inclusion of a well-cooked egg. Over medium, with a very yellow yolk that runs, but viscously. Obviously, there are instances when a fried egg is inappropriate. A soft yolk on a scoop of chocolate ice cream or a big bowl of berries is gross and inadvisable. But if you pause and think of your favorite foods – not the idealized, scrubbed and telegenic lies you tell coworkers about curly kale and Kashi – but your truly, madly, deeply comforting desert-island, last supper repasts, all are enhanced by the delicate egg.
Once, on a high school field trip to France, I was served a pizza outside of Poitiers, embellished with a single, shimmering egg. In this moment everything changed. It is a point on which much of my memory pivots and a time when the world opened up. Why is it so many experiences are remembered in this way? On that first journey to the Old World I saw masterpieces in the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay, Parisiens both sexy and serious studying at the Sorbonne, famous gardens and rivers and chateaus. But the memory of meals made of ham on buttered baguette taken as a picnic in the Place de Vosges, crab salad in an avocado half for Easter brunch, and this almost-elicit midnight pizza, unlike anything I’d seen, make me feel so nostalgic and connected to my past.
Another thing you should know about me, before this essay soldiers on, is my strong conviction regarding any pairing of chicken and eggs. I don’t know which came first, but I can tell you who will be first in line at the vomitorium if chicken meat e.g., legs or breasts, and chicken’s discarded spawn sac end of mingling on my plate or in my belly. It’s me. Somehow, somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind, the union of chicken and egg in, say, a chicken omelet, for example, corresponds to the fetus in fetu, one of the human race’s most disgusting medical mysteries. Possibly I was flipping between a cooking show and a special on Discovery Health or more likely, the blatant similarity of these two horrific events has traumatized my mind. So when I exhort you to put an egg on it, I in no way mean “chicken” when I say “it”. That would be putrid and wrong, and frankly, against nature.
But! I digress! Eggs are lovely. And good for you! And easy to cook, once you get the hang of it. You should absolutely slide a fried egg on top of your next hamburger, increasing cholesterol intake to unholy proportions. An egg makes a lady out of your plain old grilled ham and cheese; and if you’ve never elegantly balanced a poached egg on top of a crop of roasted asparagus, you have not lived, sir. It is so wonderful to be in a world of seasons, especially spring, in which the humble egg is elevated to the status it deserves, painted like a whore, hidden by a man-sized bunny, and hunted by children in frilly costumes. This concludes my exhaultation of eggs. I would like to end with a poem. Kidding! I leave you with a recipe ripped from the pages of Food and Wine and performed recently in my kitchen.
Eggs en Cocotte
adapted from Food & Wine
- 1 egg
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- toasted sourdough bread (rustic boule from the Standard Baking Company!)
Rub a ramekin lightly with olive oil and into it crack an egg. Put a dab or three of butter on top of the egg, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the ramekin in a baking dish half full of boiling water. Bake at 375 for 15 mintutes. Top with basil and serve on toast.