Fernand Point, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound father of modern French cuisine, had a morning routine. At 4:30 a.m. he would wake up to call the central market of Paris to secure ingredients for his restaurant in Vienne roughly 650 miles away. While purveyors shipped their deliveries, Point would have his sous chef prepare him a grand breakfast, after which he would drink a magnum of champagne while being shaved by his barber on the garden-terrace of his hotel room in Vienne.
When chefs came to Point looking for a station in his kitchen, he gave them one task: frying an egg. Point went on train legendary chefs like the Roux brothers and Marco Pierre White, who mentored celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Gordon Ramsay. Thus through the decades, chefs treated a common ingredient with uncommon respect. Many extended the test to omelettes and scrambled eggs.
But is it really that difficult to cook an egg?
It is, says Chef Chris Hall of Local Three, a Southern farm-to-table Bill Addison hailed as a “template for success in Atlanta’s culinary circles” in April 2011. Hall’s lunch menu features a “Mother and Child Reunion,” which pairs a fried farm egg with roasted chicken thighs and crispy Brussels sprouts.
“It appears as one of those simple things everyone can do,” Hall says, “but most people can’t really cook eggs.”
Within three minutes, Hall says he can assess a cook’s culinary skill level with the egg test. How familiar the chef is with the stove, how hot the pan is, whether the chef uses butter or oil or adds milks, how the chef cracks the egg (“Anybody who can crack an egg one-handed has spent a long time in the kitchen”) — these decisions reflect a particular culinary foundation.
As for why Point might have picked the egg, Hall points to the egg’s versatility.
“We aren’t just talking about fried or scramble. Do you know how to make quiche, a custard, a meringue — from a versatility standpoint, it’s so interesting how much you can do with an egg,” he says. “And who doesn’t like crème brûlée…[or] ice cream?”
I tried Hall’s approach to eggs, and while I doubt they would land me a job in a top kitchen, they could be a shortcut to the altar: my friend proposed to me — twice — after one bite.
Prep & Cooking Time: 3 minutes
1 tablespoon of water
1 tablespoon of butter
Salt & Pepper
- Crack two eggs into a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water. Whip vigorously with a fork. Hall says more whipping means more air, which translates to fluffier eggs, but he warns against adding milk. “It’s not right, chemically,” Hall says, noting that adding protein on protein will make the eggs tougher.
- Put 1 tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan over high heat. If the pan becomes too hot, control the heat by removing it from the stove. When the butter melts and starts to sizzle but isn’t browning, add the eggs. If the pan is too cold, the eggs will become a “sticky mess,” too hot and the yolks will break.
- Using your spatula, keep the eggs moving; season with salt and pepper. Be sure to scrape the bottom consistently. If you let the eggs sit, they become an omelette.
- When the liquid starts to congeal, but isn’t hardened all the way, turn the burner off and continue stirring off the stove. There is enough residual heat in the pan to finish the process.