Monday, June 19, 2006

I 'poached' an idea from Daniel Patterson...

...for Scrambled Eggs

photograph picture poached scrambled eggs madeby the method described by chef daniel patterson in the new york times

Just before you remove the eggs from the pan

Back in January, Daniel Patterson the San Francisco-based chef who has recently opened Coi, a restaurant which I am dying to try, wrote an article in the New York Times about scrambling eggs. He had been forced to experiment with new cooking methods at his fiancee's insistence he get rid of his beloved teflon pan.

After trying all sorts of things and even consulting food scientist Harold Mcgee who told him, for example, that he needed to let the 'thin white' of the eggs drain away before whisking, Patterson discovered a failsafe method of poaching his scrambled eggs in water.

My sister Beccy and her husband Joules kindly gave me the saucepan of my dreams as a gift recently and I needed a suitably important recipe with which to christen it. Patterson's poached scrambled eggs, which had been waiting patiently as a bookmark for six months, won the assignment hands down.

Patterson has recently written an article for Food & Wine in which he asked Do Recipes Make You a Better Cook? In that article he muses on how much detailed instruction he was required to spell out when he was writing his recipe book. Luckily, I am with Patterson - being one of those cooks who is usually comfortable using a recipe more like a road map, just needing a guideline to get from A to B. Of those people who need a more literal description of how to cook, Patterson says

"...telling someone to cook a piece of fish for exactly five minutes is like saying, "Drive for exactly five minutes and then turn right." Sometimes you'd hit the road, other times the side of a building."

In the light of the Food & Wine article, what's funny about Patterson's scrambled egg recipe, is that it largely goes against the grain of the way both he and I cook by laying out terrifyingly precise instructions. Although I am generally intuitive in the kitchen, I found myself on tenterhooks as I tried to get to grips with this particular cooking method. All my instruments and implements were laid out as if on an operating table. The recipe had been read several times to be sure of the timing. At one point I needed to rest the lid on the pan and count to twenty. This threw me into sheer panic - should I count to twenty slowly or fast? Patterson didn't tell me. Should it be a twenty seconds-ish count to twenty, or a regular type of counting to twenty? [For the record I went for the counting to twenty fairly slowly: one elephant, two elephant...etc, and it seemed to work out ok].

The scrambled eggs were ready in a flash. I served them on buttered wholewheat toast with a dribble of creme fraiche and a shaving of truffle, salt and pepper.

photograph picture poached scrambled eggs made by the method described by chef daniel patterson in the new york times served with creme fraiche and white truffle

Poached scrambled eggs served on toast with creme fraiche and shaved truffle

Sadly, my poached, scrambled egg breakfast disappointed me. In my book, scrambled eggs are the ultimate comfort food. I need salty butter on my toast, I need cream and butter in my eggs, I need the texture to be slightly runny and not quite set. This is what my brain expects when I sit down to a plate of scrambled eggs on toast and Patterson's method didn't deliver my personal preconception of what scrambled eggs should be.

His poached, scrambled eggs are definitely a dish for the egg purist. They are egg, nothing more, nothing less and if you try them you will need to be prepared for the simple, unadulterated taste of egg. Adding cream and butter to them after they are cooked creates a radically different sensation to when these sinful ingredients are actually part of the cooking process.

So would I make them again? For sure. The resulting egg is so fluffy and light, it is quite an incredible method for cooking. But - next time I am not going to try and use them to replace the traditional scrambled eggs that I rely on to comfort me. I can't get the idea of a Mexican-style breakfast out of my head. I think those Poached Pattersons, as I am going to call his scrambled eggs from hereon in, would be really fantastic with some spicy tomato salsa, maybe a tortilla and avocado instead...

PS Looks like they almost got what they wished for.

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Bay Area Resources:
Fresh Happy Farm Eggs | Marin Sun Farms
Bread | by Acme
Creme Fraiche | by Cowgirl Creamery
Truffle | Far West Funghi
Butter | Straus

Others' Musings on Patterson's Eggs:
Eat, Listen to Your Mother
Red Chuck

Daniel Patterson's articles
New York Times | The Way We Eat, Which Came First by Daniel Patterson
Food & Wine | Do Recipes Make you a Better Cook? by Daniel Patterson

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Chive, San Diego

And on this day in 2004: Suppenkuche, San Francisco

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I 'poached' an idea from Daniel Patterson...


  • At 19/6/06 10:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam, I like my scrambled eggs with cream and butter too--which I think, if you've got the heat low enough and a good amount of said yummy, fatty things, make cooking the a good scrambled egg, so that it's still wet, pretty fail-safe.

  • At 19/6/06 11:25, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I tried that method not long after the article in the NYT came out. I felt like I couldn't get enough water out of the eggs after they were done. They weren't bad, but I definitely agree that they are probably best added to something else, like you suggest.

  • At 19/6/06 12:18, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There's a little coffee shop in downtown SLO called Linnaea's, a bohemian hang out for the artists and college students in the area. They scramble their eggs (or steam them?) with one of the espresso frothers (designated for eggs ONLY), and call them "espresso eggs." The eggs come out light and fluffy, then they serve them in an au lait cup topped with chopped scallions, tomatoes, black olives, green chiles, salsa, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. YUM.

  • At 19/6/06 13:26, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm more interested in the pan than the eggs.

  • At 19/6/06 14:14, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Daniel Patterson.

  • At 19/6/06 15:24, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    I have to say...I guess I'm not an egg purist. Those sure do look beautiful though :)

  • At 19/6/06 16:12, Blogger Delphine said…

    Sure, if you need twenty elephants to cook an egg, it's not really an easy recipe to do.

  • At 19/6/06 20:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i agree that scrambled eggs should have butter... it's what elevates the whole dish into an absolute treat.

  • At 19/6/06 23:34, Blogger shuna fish lydon said…

    The best scrambled eggs I have ever had were made by a woman from The South. {the bible belt, not the OC)

    She did something that goes against my very idea of cooking but she changed me.

    Take room temperature eggs and beat them with a fork. Add a little whole milk, s&p.

    Place pan on stove and turn on heat to very very low. Cut a pat of butter and put it in pan, swirling just to melt. Pour scrambled eggs in and push around, stirring and "scraping" off bottom gently with a spatula.

    Continue until eggs are where you want them. Eat with buttered cinnamon-raisin toast, finish with a bit more ground black pepper.

  • At 20/6/06 07:51, Blogger Sam said…

    Shuna - but hey? This is exactly how I make my scrambled eggs anyway (sometimes i use milk, sometimes cream depending on what i have in the fridge). Why does this go against the grain? Of course I would never waste such a glorious egg on cinnamon raisin toast though, just buttered regular toast will suit me fine.

    vanessa - I am glad I am not the only one thinking that way.

    Del - ok you are cracking me up. (cracking me like an egg!)

    WMM - always remember - looks can be decieving and beauty is only skin deep.

    Cookie Crumb. I did not make any allusion to the Daniel Patterson article that would make Bay-Areans snork, now did I?

    Mum - did you see the link to the picture of the beautiful pan?

    Jennasuz - I wish I could try that at home, but dont have the necessary equipment, sounds eggscellent, but no more playin with scrambled eggs for me - i am going to stick with my traditional method from now on!

    Stef - You have a point - yes they were more watery where i want creamy. Water is never a problem on poached eggs, but seemingly so on "Poached Pattersons"

    Tejal - Great minds think alike!

  • At 20/6/06 09:05, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The eggs look good. I have some truffles in a jar I might use for this.

  • At 20/6/06 09:26, Blogger Clare said…

    I'm with you. Low heat, constant stirring, a few bits of cold butter right at the end, on a nice, crusty, buttery piece of toast. The pics looks great, though :)

  • At 20/6/06 19:21, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't believe Patterson won't get himself a cast iron skillet and season it. Or is that just not new-fangled enough?

    I'm with you: creamy, buttery eggs. (I use a Kitchen-Aid ceramic pan.)

    The eggs Shuna describes were "Perfect Scrambled Eggs" as described on the now-defunct "Burke and Wells" website, which was an exceedingly well-written, if strange, blog of two gay men who occasionally lived the high life.

    Aha! Googling pays off: Scroll down to April 1, 2005. I'm copying that right now so I don't lose it, as I've got farm fresh eggs all the time now.

    "Anyone can make these eggs, but you must start with great eggs. Laid yesterday eggs. Farm eggs. Do not attempt this recipe with supermarket eggs no matter how fresh they claim to be. "Organic" does not mean fresh. If you cannot secure truly farm-fresh eggs no more than three days old, have a bowl of cereal."

    : D

  • At 20/6/06 20:19, Blogger Marc said…

    For some reason, all I ever do on Blogger is look at food blogs and recipe sites. I guess there are worse things. As a lover of eggs, this looks like something I need to try at some point. I do worry about the eggs being runny, though! (A big buzzkill for me!)


  • At 21/6/06 10:59, Blogger Sam said…

    franca - i would make it the old fashioned way if you are going to pair it with truffles

    clare - i am so with you

    beccy - my pan is lovely - it has been used a second time since then to help in the first stage ot potatoes gratin - and it worked a treat

    tana - guess i have long since been making perfect scrambled eggs without knowing it, my eggs are always top notch from the market. I dont always do the half an hour method though, depends on how much my tummy is growling, but sometimes i do take it real slow like they suggst and the result is then divine

    marc - i think you have to dispel your fears. Its not about runny so much but as just before set. An overcooked scrambled egg is a pitiful sight!


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