By Sarah Lagrotteria, Photography by Marlene Rounds
“Hope,” said the poet, Emily Dickinson, “is the thing with feathers.” But I think it starts in the shell. Nowhere in the kitchen is there anything more hopeful than an egg. It’s the magic key of ingredients, turning basic blends of flour, salt and baking soda into lofty cakes, adding puff to pancakes, even emulsifying the warring elements of oil and vinegar into one leaf-clinging flavor bomb of vinaigrette. Then there are its star vehicles: the scrambles, the coquettes, the over-easys and the runny toads-in-the-hole. Eggs are my home base, the place where, in my repertoire, hope flies free. Hope is the thing with feathers. Here are my three favorite ways to share it.
How to Poach an Egg
If you’ve poached eggs before, you know that egg whites spill into strands when they hit the water, ruining your oval shape and turning the water into a cloudy, proteinous mess. No more! This straining technique gets rid of the outer layer of egg whites—the loose white—so that you can poach perfectly shaped eggs in multiple batches one after another in the same water.
Caveat: This may take a few tries, but once you get it, you’ll have it forever.
Gently break two eggs into a strainer set over a small bowl.
Let eggs strain for 5 minutes.
While the eggs strain, fill a wide pan with 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, turn the heat down to just below a simmer, meaning no bubbles or only tiny bubbles are visible at the very edge of the water but if you turn the knob ever so slightly, bubbles will rapidly appear. Bubbles break fragile eggs apart and that’s what you’re avoiding.
Working quickly and gently, angle your sieve so the two eggs slip into the water. Set your timer for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, use a slotted spoon to lift your eggs from the water one at a time. Give each a little jiggle to check that the whites are set. If not, dip back in for 30 seconds more. Remove and serve immediately with salt and pepper. Your yolk should run when pierced with a fork. Poach 1 minute longer if you prefer a firm yolk.
Makes ¾ cup
Possibly the greatest French-American merger. A classic sauce of such voluptuous flavor made simple by means of the blender. I prep the ingredients ahead of time and run the blender while the eggs are cooking so the sauce is served fresh.
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1–2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in the jar of a blender. Blend for 15 seconds. With the blender running, slowly pour the hot butter into the blender and blend for 30 seconds, until the sauce is thick. For best results, serve immediately.
Hollandaise can be left at room temp for up to 1 hour. If sauce thickens while it sits, blend in ½ tablespoon hot water until it reaches the desired consistency.
(Greek chicken soup with lemon and rice)
If it’s been decades since you’ve listened to Carole King belt out Chicken Soup with Rice, or its melodramatic sequel, The Ballad of Chicken Soup, I recommend you do so immediately. Up the urgency if you have kids with a dark sense of humor. Then serve up this lemony fresh soup and watch them faux gag and moan as they drink every last drop. The dill ties all the flavors together.
6 cups chicken stock (store bought is fine, but get low sodium so you can flavor it yourself), plus more if needed to thin the soup the next day
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups cooked white rice, divided
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Meat of 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
In a large saucepan, season the stock with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Transfer 1 cup of the hot stock to a blender. You’ll temper the egg yolks here, adding them to the blender with ½ cup of the rice and the lemon juice. Purée until smooth. Stir the purée back into the simmering stock along with the chicken and the remaining 1½ cups of rice. Simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a generous sprinkle of fresh dill.
This soup is even better the next day but may need a top off of more chicken stock as the rice will absorb more liquid as it sits.