The egg has come back into its own. After near banishment in 1984, when the egg was falsely attributed with raising cholesterol, we are seeing its sunny face on menus from high-end eateries to pizza restaurants.
Monza’s Soft-Boiled Eggs
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Pierce a small hole in the end of each egg with a thumb tack. Add all the eggs being cooked to the boiling water at the same time and return to a boil. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow eggs to sit in water for 2 minutes. Add eggs to a pan of crushed ice to quickly cool them off. Peel the eggs. The interior consistency should be a cooked white and runny yolk. Store in a shallow pan with a paper towel on the bottom to cushion the eggs.
It came to my attention when I first went to Monza Pizzeria, 451 King St., after it first opened in 2007 and was greeted by the egg’s bright center and fluffy exterior on top of brick-oven grilled green asparagus, which already was tossed in oil and Parmigiana Reggiano cheese and sprinkled with breadcrumbs. I already knew asparagus with egg, but as a breakfast served to me in a small room overlooking the courtyard at Michel Guerard’s spa in France. That was in the late 1970s. Then came the egg’s undoing.
The vilification of the egg was such a tragedy, denigrating it as a source of good nutrition for families, that I testified on its behalf after it was misrepresented by a commercial product. Even the pricier free-range chickens proliferating our markets are marvelous sources of inexpensive protein, as well as bringing flavor incomparable to any other.
The ways of fixing eggs are indeed endless. Will Fincher, executive chef of the REV Group, and his team at Monza serve dozens of fresh eggs for lunch and dinner at the restaurant, adding them to pizzas as well as salads.
They primarily serve sunny-side-up eggs with soft white clouds and centers of bright orange and soft-boiled ones atop their wares, and do it to perfection. Their always fresh, free-range eggs help bring forth swoons from diners as the pierced yolk forms a sauce and runs over the asparagus and pizza. (Serving eggs on pizza is very typical in Normandy, France, where I first saw it.)
Soft-boiled eggs go atop the Caesar salad. Restaurants cook a bit differently than home cooks, but some of their tricks are handy indeed. They soft-boil their eggs ahead of time, peel them gently, and hold them refrigerated on ice until it is their moment to shine, and they are cracked open atop the greens.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 11 cookbooks, most recently “Southern Biscuits.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.
How to make sunny-side-up eggs
I don’t expect you to use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the egg, but if you prefer a tender white and set yolk, try to get a sense of the temperatures for cooking them — they are cooked at a much lower temperature than most of us assume. To cook a sunny-side-up egg, crack an egg on the counter and move to a cup, bowl or metal spoon. Heat butter in a frying pan over medium heat until it foams and bubbles. Slide the egg from the cup to the pan. This cools the egg and cools the butter slightly.As the heat slowly rises, the white thickens first, then the yolk. When the white reaches 158 degrees, it is thoroughly set. The yolk should still be fluid for sunny-side-up aficionados. A little practice will get you knowing what is ideal for you. Some cooks cover the pan to speed cooking without raising the heat, or as line cook Ryan Herrmann does at Monza, slide it into the oven for 30-45 seconds at a very high heat.Nathalie Dupree