How to Cook the Perfect Fried Egg (on Toast, with Coffee)

IMG_1117There are four essential elements to the perfect morning.  The first, obviously, is a cup of good coffee.

The second,  good music.

The third, a fried egg.

It also happens to be, I’ve decided, the best indication of one’s level of cookery.

Something so simply achieved, yet almost even more so easily butchered.  I cringe when I order a breakfast of fried eggs at a cafe, only to be presented with A) a couple of clear, shiny snot-like egg whites and cold liquid yolks or, worse, B) a matte-colored egg white mass surrounding two firm and lifeless powdery yellow globs.  I can only hope that maybe, possibly, an order of “over-medium” will imply that I am hoping for something in between slimy mucus and a yellow brick.  But due to the fact that my egg ordering experiences at various brunch spots has proved to be both inconsistent and unreliable, I’ve taken it upon myself to ensure that when I’m the one cooking, I know how to do it right.

This is something that has taken me quite a long time to master.  My whole life, in fact.

But I do believe I recently broke the code, and like The Sound of Music I want to sing it from the mountain tops with such joy for the world to hear!

There are certain aspects to my surefire recipe for success that are absolutely essential in cooking a fried egg, and these will be noted in bold.  That which isn’t bolded are simply a few personal preferences, little suggestions to kick it up a notch or ten.

You will need:

  • Eggs (2) of very good quality.  Preferably farm eggs, but as always local, organic and cage-free will suffice.  
  • Butter (about one tsp.)
  • A small or medium sauce pan
  • A lid or something that can act as a lid (this can be in the form of a  plate even, anything that will seal the heat into the pan space)
  • Salt, pepper and various other seasonings of your choosing (preferably sea salt, though).  I use fresh cracked pepper, garlic powder and chia seeds.
  • Any other add-ons your would like to include, although absolutely not necessary.  Previously used examples: sliced avocado, sliced tomato, chopped fresh garlic, sauteed onion, sauteed kale, sliced ham, bacon(!)
  • Cheese, again, optional
  • Sliced bread
  • Coffee grinds, preferably of good quality
  • Water
  • A french press
  • Spatula

1.  Turn the oven on to anywhere between 300-350 degrees and place the allotted amount of toast onto the racks (this is, of course, if you don’t have a toaster like myself).

2. Turn the heat of one burner onto a low-medium flame and place the saucepan on top, allowing it to warm up for about 30 seconds.

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3.  Turn another burner onto medium and place a full kettle of water on top, allowing the water to heat while you cook eggs.

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4.  If using a french press, add coffee grinds to your press.

5.  Place butter in the pan and allow it to spread evenly over the pan as it melts.  Note: I use only real, unsalted butter with my eggs, it seems to protect the egg from burring or overcooking on the bottom and it tastes wonderful.  I do not use olive oil (burning or cooking olive oil a)has a lower smoking point and b) denatures the amino acids in the olive oil, negating the nutritional value entirely)

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6.  Exactly at the point the butter has melted, crack two eggs into the pan. IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE THE YOLKS ARE RESTING ON THE PERIMETER OF THE PAN, NOT IN THE CENTER WHERE THE HEAT IS CONCENTRATED.  The whites should immediately start to solidify and whiten upon contact with the pan, but shouldn’t start to sizzle too loudly or bubble.  If the latter occurs, turn the heat down and remove the pan from the heat for about 10 seconds until the eggs calm down.

7.  Season your eggs, minus salt.

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8.  Cover the pan.   Allow to sit for at least one minute, no more than 2 minutes.  If the yolk starts to develop a white film on top, uncover immediately.

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9.  Check the toast.  If only slightly crispy, turn it over and continue cooking.

10.  If kettle water steaming at this point, add your water to the coffee grinds.  Allow to sit while you complete the preparation of your eggs and toast.

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11.  If you would like to add cheese to your egg, this is the time to do so.  Uncover, sprinkle or grate cheese on top, and then re-cover your eggs.  

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12.  Remove from heat but allow eggs to stay covered in the pan until either the yolks are still squishy but white or the cheese has melted.  If yolks are firming up, uncover the pan immediately.

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13. Remove toast from oven.  If toast consistency has reached desired state, remove from heat and onto a plate, spreading butter immediately on the toast.  Turn off your oven (I always seem to forget that part, and then remember after having left the house).

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14.  Using a spatula, carefully place fried eggs on top of toast (or on a plate). 

15.  Press your coffee, then pour into a mug.  Add milk, sugar, or in my case, a spoonful of Oregon Chai powder and stir.

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16.  Salt your eggs lightly.  

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17. Arrange various add-ons to your egg and toast at this time.

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18. Bask in the deliciousness of a firm (but not chewy) egg white and warm yet still runny yolk on a crunchy piece of toast.  

19.  Take a sip of coffee.

20.  Appreciate the moment. 

(And the fourth?  That one I’m still keeping a secret.)

Raspberry Summer Squash Flax Muffins

This past saturday Tim and I took the puppy to the Oregon coast to splash around in the ocean waves.  We drove up through Astoria and drank some local brews at the Fort George Taproom, then headed south and stopped at a few spots along the way, including a delicious dinner and sunset beach stroll at Cannon.  It was quite the lovely adventure, really.

Bittersweet it was though, as this was one of the very, very few times the two three of us have had a day off together since we moved to Portland.  You see, Tim works a relatively normal work week but I, on the other hand, have a work schedule that is far more out of wack.  Sometimes I work days, other times nights, and almost always on the weekends with the lovely Plate & Pitchfork.  

Being by the ocean never fails to offer a welcomed change of perspective for me.  Its vastness is humbling, and the significance of day to day issues and stresses that normally get me just seem to slip away.  There is an impermanence about the ocean that I also take comfort in: the ebb and flow, the way the tide rolls in and out, the waves crashing in at one moment, and then retreating back the next.  

  Photography and film by my aunt Cheryl.

This week marks a welcomed last several days of a disappointing summer serving gig.  It wasn’t right.  It wasn’t even close to what I needed to be doing and this became apparent as my summer was gluttonously swallowed by my the time spent at work.  Here in my world, when it rains, it pours.  I’ve spent the past three weeks without a full day off, and it’s taken its toll on my soul.

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and I did.  I quit without alternative plans except for several remaining events with Plate & Pitchfork, a few suggestions and a hopeful interview for a new restaurant owned by perhaps the most well-respected chef in Portland, Vitaly Paley.

I got the job.  And mostly because I truly meant every word I spoke and wore it all on my sleeve.  It starts at the end of August, and until then I can relax and enjoy the ebb of the final days of my first Portland summer.  But first, to spend a long weekend at one of the most relaxing retreats I could imagine: Tim’s family’s cabin on Like Higgins in Michigan.

But back to our oceanic adventure.

As a sweet end to a beautiful day, we returned home to find this gift bestowed upon our dining room table.  It certainly isn’t a bad thing to have neighbors with a thriving vegetable garden.

So I made some muffins.  Because let’s be honest…who doesn’t love muffins?

Raspberry Summer Squash Flax MuffinsYields 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used the raw Trader Joe’s kind)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large organic summer squash
  • 1 cup raspberries (I used organic frozen, but you can certainly use fresh)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp. flax seeds
  • Non-stick cooking spray for muffin tins (I used vegetable oil to coat the tins, but spray is easier)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grate summer squash using a large cheese grater, and set aside.  Combine sugar, vegetable oil and eggs into a small bowl.  Stir to combine, then set aside.   In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients including flax seeds, and stir to combine.  Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry.  Add grated squash, stir.  Fold in frozen raspberries, being careful not to over-stir at this point (because your batter will become pink and your raspberries will lose their body).  Pour batter to about 3/4 of the way up the tin using a spoon.  Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or metal object placed inside one of the muffins comes out dry.  


Oatmeal Chia Seed Pancakes with Mixed Berry Compote

Many locals claim that Gwyn’s High Alpine (where I work) has the best breakfast in the entire Aspen/Snowmass area.  While this is constantly up for debate, there is no doubt in my mind that it has the best breakfast above 8000 feet, far and wide.  This is partly due to the fact that as one of the very few independently owned restaurants in the area, Gwyn’s does not have to succumb to the quality compromising and culinary short-cuts of the Aspen Ski Co. owned restaurants scattered throughout the mountains.  What I appreciate about Gwyn’s is that most everything served in the restaurant, both during breakfast and lunch service, is made from scratch.  I’d take a from-scratch meal over a pre-prepared and processed meal any day.

One of my favorite parts about the breakfasts at Gwyn’s are the fresh fruit pancakes.  The batter is made in-house daily as are the fruit compotes they serve on top, and they are insanely good!  Isn’t it interesting how something so simple as a home-made pancake batter can make me so excited?  It’s not a novel idea or anything, in fact it’s probably one of the more simple and basic recipes out there.  Why is it that in our culture of pre-made preservative and chemical-filled mixes, we have almost forgotten how to spend a relaxing morning putting time and love into such a traditional breakfast for the joy of ourselves and others?  What would our grandparents or great-grandparents say if they could see us now?

Not much makes me happier than waking up on a leisurely weekend morning to cook a simple breakfast with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, some nice tunes and a little bit of sunshine.  Most of the time it’s two eggs, a piece of toast and maybe some fruit (or bacon if I have it), but a few days ago I decided to make some pancakes from scratch using a few odd ingredients I had lying around the kitchen to spice it up.

Throw away those just add water mixes, people, let’s do this.

Oatmeal Chia Seed Pancakes with a Mixed Berry Compote

Compote:

  • 2 cups mixed berries (blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry.  You can usually find bags of mixed berries in the frozen section of the grocery store)
  • 1 cup water
  • juice/zest of half lemon
  • 1tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon

Mixed berry compote. You can substitute almost any type or combination of fruit or berries to make this compote.

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring.  Turn down heat to low and allow to simmer for about an hour or until all the berries have reduced to create a syrup like texture.  Add more water if needed to prevent burning.  You can create the pancake batter while the syrup is simmering on low.

Pancake Batter:

  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats, ground in a coffee grinder or small blender
  • 1 cup flower
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, you can combine white vinegar and milk by pouring one tbsp. vinegar into a measuring cup and adding milk up to the 1 cup mark, stir and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before adding it to the pancake mixture)
  • Butter, for frying

cage-free organic eggs are best, and look how pretty they are!

Combine all dry ingredients, including chia seeds in a large mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix the eggs and buttermilk (or milk and vinegar mixture) then add to the dry ingredients.  Stir together to combine ingredients, however don’t overmix as it will toughen the texture of the pancakes.  Heat a saute pan or griddle and melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add a few drops of water to the buttered pan, if it sizzles then your pan is hot enough to add the batter.

each chia seed packs an incredible amount of energizing nutrients and also give any recipe an extra crunch

Ladle the pancake mixture in about 1/4 cup amounts into the pan, allow the pancakes to sit for three to four minutes before flipping.  Cook for about two minutes more, or until pancakes are evenly browned on both sides, and adjust heat as necessary to cook the pancakes well without burning.  Melt a new piece of butter in the pan before cooking another round.  Store pancakes in the oven wrapped in some aluminum foil until the batch is complete.

To serve, ladle a generous spoonful of the mixed berry compote on top of two or three pancakes, and as always, ENJOY!

A special note about chia seeds and their liquid gold status:  chia seeds have been prevalent in many culture’s diets throughout history all the way from ancient Mayan civilizations through modern-day tribes such as the Tarahumara from the Copper Canyons in Mexico.  As a primary source of energy in an arid environment these tiny seeds pack quite a punch.  Filled with Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and zinc they give you the proper fuel for your day’s bright start.