With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off for a few months trying to raise a genius newborn, we’re revisiting the column’s Greatest Hits—and hearing from a few special surprise guests—with brand-new videos. Wish her luck! (And keep sending those tips.)
There are so many decisions confronting scrambled egg lovers: Do you loosen the beaten eggs with milk or cream (or water or stock) or is all of that anathema? Which pan, what spatula? And what about cheese?
But the most vexing—and the most likely to draw a wide chasm between what I might gently call scrambled egg snobs and the rest of us—is whether you insist on cooking them low and slow for custardy, creamy eggs, or do something a little more efficient with your morning. You can tell which direction I lean.
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What Mandy @ Lady and pups has done for all of us, especially the impatient types, is speed up the beautifully soft scrambled egg from something like 15 minutes of constant stirring (or upwards of an hour in a double boiler, if you follow Laurie Colwin) to 15 seconds. Not only that, but Mandy has made the whole process more forgiving, too.
How? It involved those pups: After doctoring eggs with cornstarch for her "temporarily anorexic dog-son," she decided to cook and eat some herself. "A thickening agent is the answer to the previously-thought-impossible scrambled eggs fantasy," she writes. "Speed, and creaminess, all together."
But a small amount of cornstarch (or potato starch) is much better than a straight replacement—eggs are delicate, and cooking them too fast and hot results in the proteins seizing up, squeezing out moisture, and the eggs going dry and tough. Cornstarch stands in the way of these protein connections, as I learned from J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats, who likes to add cornstarch to the eggs in egg drop soup to protect them from overcooking and turning rubbery.
This changes everything.
I've had jags of making scrambled eggs and toast every night for dinner for weeks, always aiming for a certain 3-second window of perfection and comfort. I finally got the seasoning down (1/4 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt for 2 eggs), but in my impatience I still tend to overshoot and wind up with spongy eggs more often than I want to admit. Cornstarch saves me. "It's just concealing the fact that you overcooked your eggs," said one disgruntled Lifehacker commenter named Tristan. Yes! The eggs pictured here sat in the pan way too long while they were photographed. We ate them all.
You'll notice that this calls for a lot of butter, so just to be safe I tried the recipe both with and without the cornstarch, to see how much was really just the goodness of butter. Without cornstarch, the eggs were good but stiffer, the butter more free-floating. And I've found that even if you skimp on the butter, the cornstarch has dramatic effects.
Put them in tacos and breakfast burritos, on English muffins or toast (no need to butter!). Add herbs or salty bacon or just eat a big bowlful all by itself. Or, do like Mandy: "This may be weird, but I like soft on soft, so a savory oatmeal topped with this scrambled egg, with anchovy toasted breadcrumbs, would make me real happy."
3 large eggs 1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk (1/2 tablespoon for each egg) 1 3/4 teaspoons cornstarch or potato starch (1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon for each egg) Salt to season 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon for each egg)
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it Kristen's way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by Mark Weinberg
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."