Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Egg Nests

Taken with Instagram
“Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation-- experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way” ― Paul Theroux, Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents

A while ago I stumbled across a recipe for egg nests. Being the curious person that I am, I followed the recipe to the letter and made an egg for my brother and me. If you remember having eggs in a basket when you were little, this is almost exactly like that. Only instead of using bread for your basket, you whip up the egg whites to create the basket. Since this recipe came from an old french children's cookbook originally, I don't think very many people know about it.  My mindset is if a child could do it, then I can do it. And I know that if I can do it, then other people can do it. I am still a beginner cook after all.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 450. Separate egg yolk and whip egg whites
In my opinion, the hardest part to do is the very first step. You have to separate the egg yolk from the egg white. This requires some hand-eye coordination to do and some patience. As you can see, I separated the egg well, but I wasn't very careful putting the egg yolk in a separate container. It broke and I had a little puddle of yolk instead of a whole yolk like I did the first time.

Whipping the egg isn't very difficult. The difficult part is knowing when to stop. You basically stop when the egg whites get nice and fluffy and you get stiff peaks hanging off of your beaters when you pull them out. It is fun watching the liquid whites turn into clouds. It is also the same technique that you use to make the meringue on top of the lemon meringue pies. I hope to make one of those one day since whipping the egg whites up into clouds is so easy.

Step 2: Fold in 1/4 cup of cheese and put on foil lined baking tray
The second part is where I decided to experiment a little this time. The recipe calls for Parmesan cheese and salt to keep the egg whites a pretty white. I didn't have any Parmesan on hand, so I decided to put in some cheddar cheese. I also ground up some rosemary and a little bit of sage go fold into the egg whites too. It doesn't make it look as pretty, but it was tasty.

The part you have to remember about this step is that you have to press a deep hole in the middle of your cloud. This will let you have an indent to put your yolk in so it won't slide out. The deeper you make this indentation, the more obvious it will be when you go to put the yolk in. The tin foil makes for very easy clean up later. You won't have to clean the baking tray because the egg won't even touch it. If it does stick, it will be on the tin foil. My mom keeps the non-stick tin foil in the house, so I didn't have any trouble with sticking at all.

Step 3: Bake for 3 minutes, pour in yolk, bake for 3 more minutes
The baking step actually takes place in two separate steps. First you bake just the egg whites for three minutes. Then you have to slide the tray out of the oven and carefully pour in the egg yolk.Then you cook the egg whites again with the yolk for another three minutes to get a light browning on the egg whites and to bake the egg yolk.

If you accidentally break the yolk like I did, it will still fit in the egg basket you have made. It will just cook up a little bit harder and won't be as runny as it would be if the entire yolk was in tact. You might want to experiment breaking the yolk on purpose if you are one of the people that doesn't like runny yolks. You could also bake the egg whites until browned and then scramble the egg yolk and put it in the egg white basket. That could also be a very yummy variation if you don't like runny yolks.

There are probably several other ways to take the basic recipe and make it your own. I do recommend following the recipe I linked to one time before branching out and trying different variations. That way you know what it is "supposed" to taste like. I think it tastes like a savory meringue with a very silky yolk.

Of course, half of the fun with cooking is experimenting and you won't learn anything new if you don't try. The one thing that I took away from making the egg nest for the second time is that the taste of sage covers up the taste of rosemary. I probably won't be using those two spices together again. I wouldn't have learned that if I didn't try it in the first place.

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