Cook The Book: Try Michael Ruhlman’s Low-and-Slow Method for the Creamiest Scrambled EggsJanuary 16, 2017
In Cook the Book, we test whether iconic recipes, old and new, work well today and with ingredients available locally.
Today I’ll be diving into Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto. Cook, author, and all-around culinary rockstar, Michael Ruhlman describes this as a book about fundamentals and, more importantly, about thinking about food.
Instead of laying out chapters simply by course or ingredient, Ruhlman presents twenty building blocks, including methods and ingredients, which represent the fundamentals of cooking. Through his classification, readers get a thorough grasp of basic cooking principles, and how they can be bent and flexed for their own purposes (after all, they say you must know the rules before you break them).
If you could choose to master a single ingredient, no choice would teach you more about cooking than an egg.
And so I present my pick: Ruhlman’s Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese and Chives. Now I know what you may be thinking: “Scrambled eggs? Anyone can crack open an egg, whisk it to oblivion, and throw it in a pan over fire (celebrity chef antics a la Emeril’s ‘Bam! Bam!’ included)!”
But not so fast.
In chapter six, Ruhlman says, “If you could choose to master a single ingredient, no choice would teach you more about cooking than an egg.” And he’s right: boil ‘em, fry ‘em, use ‘em as a binder or in a custard. The egg is both a means and an end in itself. Moreover, the egg, he says, teaches cooks the value of finesse and delicacy.
“Finesse requires deep thoughtfulness about what you’re cooking and what you’re attempting to achieve,” explains Ruhlman. “Working with the egg teaches you these qualities and helps you strengthen them—in your hands, in your eyes, in your mind.”
For this recipe, Ruhlman takes a page from the classic French method of cooking the eggs low and slow using a double boiler. “The main principle of eggs [is that] it requires gentle heat and gradual temperature change,” he explains. Gradual temperature change means gradual unwinding and rebinding of proteins and minimal water loss, resulting in succulent, velvety eggs. And the art of gradual temperature change, he says, begins with taking the eggs out of the refrigerator (should they have been stored there)—so it helps to do this a couple of hours in advance.
After placing the egg mixture into the butter, it’s a matter of patience as you stir, stir, stir; not vigorously, but constantly and unhurriedly. Easier said than done, for the first few minutes; it might appear as if nothing is happening as the eggs stay mostly liquid. Resist the temptation to raise the heat, or to throw everything in a pan and call it a day; soon you’ll see the first few curds form and build up from there. In my case, it took a good 15-20 minutes of folding and stirring before they really began to set up. But it doesn’t end there.
“Stopping the cooking is part of the cooking,” says Ruhlman. Keep your eyes on the bowl, especially as it approaches proper doneness. You’ll want to serve the eggs while it’s still quite wet—Ruhlman says the egg curds should look “like they’re coated with sauce”. But take one spoonful of the lush, creamy egg mixture and you’ll find that the effort is very well worth it.
Now there is no one “best” version of scrambled eggs out there. Some people (especially in the Philippines or in the US) like it fluffy with big “clouds”, diner-style—and that’s fine. This method, on the other hand, produces whispy curds that meld into a singular savory custard—a refined approach to the breakfast classic. Give these a try. It may just change your mind.
Note: Ruhlman does not specify the number of servings here, instead only giving approximates per person. I will be putting in the approximates for 2 servings.
Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese and Chives
Yield: 2 servings
Time: 25 minutes (20 mins cooking/ 5 mins prep)
- 4 eggs, large
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp goat cheese, separated into little chunks
- fine sea salt, to taste
- black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tsp chives, sliced
- In the bottom of a double boiler, bring a moderate amount of water to a simmer and put the top pan over the water for long enough to get it hot.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until the whites and yolks are completely and uniformly mixed. There should be no clear pools of egg white.
- Put the butter into the pan and let it melt completely.
- Pour the eggs into the pan and stir and fold them continuously with a silicone spatula as they cook.
- When you sense that they are nearly done, add the goat cheese and season the eggs with salt. Give them another stir before serving. Grind some pepper over each serving and finish with a sprinkling of chives.