Genius Recipes

This Genius Trick Will Change How You Fry Eggs

And potatoes, and apples, and ... maybe everything?

October  9, 2019

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.


Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

I’ve promised a number of times to revolutionize the way you make eggs—soft-scrambling in 15 seconds, spiking your frying oil with smoky spices, pouring beaten eggs into boiling water and ending up with a fluffy omelet and not egg confetti.

But for the first time, I’m here to tell you about an egg recipe that’s changed both the way I think about cooking eggs and just about everything else, too. It’s changing how I grocery shop and the pans I reach for; it’s opening up secret rooms in the dusty mansion of my brain to meals that are ethereally, almost unknowably delicious. All with one simple, genius little idea.

So I hope you’ll excuse me if I wax a little hyperbolic here.

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Top Comment:
“However, I did make my vegetables (mixed onion, mushrooms, squash, and Brussels spouts) using only heavy cream. It’s kinda amazing. You don’t know anything is really happening, and then bam! It starts to separate and finish cooking. I had salmon and these vegetables. The vegetables were amazing. I will start to experiment with other vegetables and some meat. My gosh, thank you so much for this cooking tip.”
Comment

I first stumbled on this technique on Ideas in Food, the pioneering experimental food blog from Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot (aka Aki and Alex), when I was there to look up … well, I’m actually not sure what. (I saw “Caramelized Cream Eggs” and immediately pulled over and forgot what I was doing.)

Because—instead of frying eggs in butter or oil or any other fat that we’re comfortable with—they were frying eggs in cream. And only cream.

“Cream is sort of like liquid butter,” Talbot later explained to me over the phone. More specifically, “Cream is fat, water, some solids—it’s just nicely homogenized. All we’re doing is destroying it.”

Over a little direct heat, cream will quickly separate into butterfat and buttermilk (an outcome we used to think of as a problem—breaking, curdling—but no more!). The buttermilk steams off to gently cook the eggs (or carrots, or potatoes, or insert-other-ingredient-here) while the butterfat bubbles in the pan, milk solids toasting and racing toward browned butter.

Aside from the Whoaaa, you can do that? factor, there are a number of benefits to cooking in cream over traditional sautéing or frying:

  • For ingredients that we’re often told to blanch, then sauté in butter (like carrots, green beans, brussels sprouts); this lets you skip the pot of boiling water and ice bath and all that business. Two-stage cooking all in one pan, with one ingredient.

  • There’s less spattering than when searing in straight butter or oil. “I hate mess!” Talbot told me.

  • It’s a gentler introduction to cooking for the ingredients—the steam does most of the work for you, then conveniently disappears. Or, as Talbot said, it's “like fat with training wheels.”

  • Cream is as easy to keep in the fridge as butter, and even easier to dole out—you just pour a little straight from the carton. (I now keep cream in the fridge all the time, instead of just when I need it for a specific recipe.)

You’ll notice the recipe doesn’t list exact amounts for any ingredient, just suggestions. This is because the pan, the heat level, the type and thickness of the ingredient, and your own mood will all affect how much cream you’ll need.

But the technique is very flexible if you realize you've eyeballed wrong: If the pan is looking dry before everything’s cooked through, just add more cream, or even water or stock. If it’s looking too sloshy, pour off some cream or turn up the heat. And no matter what, it will be good. Because whatever you’re left with at the end of the process—cream, butter, brown butter—is all delicious. (Just don’t burn it.)

After you try the eggs, you'll of course want to cook more things in cream, and flavor the cream. I’ve tried the carrots and—oh my word—the smashed potatoes from their blog, but also kale (stems first) and a few baby eggplants I didn’t know what else to do with. Soft-creamy and brown-buttery-crispy every time.

As we chatted, Talbot rattled off still more ideas for ingredients to cream-caramelize than I could write down—everything from meats (a lot of them: pork chops seared in smoked paprika cream, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, ragus, dumpling fillings) to fish (with mustard, soy sauce, or miso) to fruits (apples with—“holy cow,” he said—star anise and cinnamon).

Talbot says he thinks of this as less of a recipe and more of a: “Hey, why don’t you start walking down this path? You may mess things up, but you may come across greatness.” I'll add that, as long as you heed my note about burning, you really can’t mess it up too much.

So in your future, I see nothing but greatness.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


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Comment
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."

60 Comments

adrienne October 21, 2019
I have tried this cooking style three times now. Breakfast fried eggs and later button mushrooms. It worked so well and tasted wonderful.
 
Theresa L. October 21, 2019
Mind BLOWN! I live anew, my heart lighter and more full of purpose and delight than before I saw this video. Bravo!
 
[email protected] October 20, 2019
OMG!!! I have not made this with eggs, but I will soon. However, I did make my vegetables (mixed onion, mushrooms, squash, and Brussels spouts) using only heavy cream. It’s kinda amazing. You don’t know anything is really happening, and then bam! It starts to separate and finish cooking. I had salmon and these vegetables. The vegetables were amazing. I will start to experiment with other vegetables and some meat. My gosh, thank you so much for this cooking tip.
 
KS October 20, 2019
Yum. Did you cook the salmon as well? Seems like that would work. Also, did you make the sprouts very thin, or start them earlier that the other veg? And was it watery summer squash or firmer winter squash?
 
[email protected] October 22, 2019
No I didn’t cook the Salmon in whipped cream, only because did not know if I could still get the crispy skin. I cooked the summer squash et. al. in the cream. I Cook the vegetables in the cream first and then cooked the salmon. I would have no problem going Ford and trying to cook the salmon and cream but I don’t wanna over cook such a tender fish. I guess I could use less whip cream. Truly, it’s addition to watch because you thinking nothings going to happen then all of a sudden it starts to happen and it just kind of disappears into whatever you’re cooking and it’s so delicious. Thank you for your gracious question.
 
Kjetil V. October 20, 2019
Wow, I just tried this, and its one of the most delicious things I ever tasted! I opted for flipping the eggs half way through. By that point, the cream was still cream. As the eggs fried on the other side, the cream seperated; the fat stuck to the pan, and the milky bits stuck to the eggs and got caramelized to them.
 
Lindsie G. October 20, 2019
Game changer. I never thought I’d say this but cooking eggs in butter just seems boring now.
 
Peggy S. October 13, 2019
Oh my good heavens! Deliciously decadent. My Sunday mornings thank you!
 
BJ M. October 11, 2019
I use this technique to slow cook the onions for French Onion Soup. Place 6 cups thinly sliced onions it a large flat skillet on medium/medium high depending on stove. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. sea salt. Pour heavy cream over top and toss. Cook, stirring until the cream has reduced to its solids and the onions are tender. Then add dry white wine, 1/2 cup at a time, letting sit for 6-8 minutes to caramelize the onions. Stir, scrapping up the brown bits, add another 1/2 cup of white wine, repeat until all the wine is gone (total 2 cups). This is the base for the soup. Amazing scent and the onions are beautifully golden brown. Add this base to 2 qts chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Check salt level.
 
Blair October 10, 2019
Didn’t want to waste the leftover heavy whipping cream and the few little egg bits, so we used that as a base for quite delicious egg nog.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
So smart!
 
Sherrie A. October 11, 2019
Great idea. A little cinnamon and that would be so delicious
 
Deb October 10, 2019
Reminds me of how I cook eggs in salsa verde. I also sprinkle cheddar or whatever cheese I have on hand, then top a tostada with the egg and the salsa. The tostada generally has refried beans and chopped greens with pickled jalepenos.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Yum!
 
Cindy October 10, 2019
Looks good, but I cannot eat eggs that are not WELL DONE. Just can’t do it. Turns my stomach. ☹️
 
Lisa S. October 10, 2019
You can absolutely cook these to well done. It helps if you baste the yolks with the cream as the eggs are cooking. They don't come out as pretty, but I'm with you, I generally prefer a firm yolk.
Lisa
Fresh Eggs Daily
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
I agree with you, Lisa—these can be as done as you like them (and the cream will take good care of them).
 
Sherrie A. October 11, 2019
Me too, I can not eat runny eggs.
 
judy October 10, 2019
"Today's Top Story" buried at the bottom of the page. I'm sorry, but Food52 seems to have sold out to merchandisers. The few cooking items I have purchased that have been endorsed by Food52 have simply not been any where near the quality they promoted in the write-ups. I still came for the recipes and food news. Now they are all about selling products. And the food news and recipes are far more about tricks and effects than about the food. I am sad about the sell-out to big investors. I guess I get it, but I think a better balance could have been stuck.
 
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Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Hi Judy, I'm sorry to hear this but I'm glad you found what you were looking for. Our shop is a critical part of our business to be able to share recipes and stories for free, and our team works hard to make products with community input—I hope you'll share your feedback on the products you've bought with [email protected] so that we can keep making improvements.
 
Rosemary October 9, 2019
I just fixed these eggs, served over steamed spinach. Wonderful.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Spinach sounds perfect here, Rosemary.
 
shilpaiyereats October 9, 2019
Oh, I can't wait to try this. I used a similar method in thai cooking when I learnt how to make green curry, where instead of oil used to fry the spice paste, you'd use coconut milk. Over time, that coconut milk will separate into coconut oil. So good!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Love this! Thank you for sharing.
 
Allison October 9, 2019
can you use half and half? lactose-free half and half is readily available, but lactose-free cream is not.
 
KS October 9, 2019
I would guess not, because of the high volume of water to fat. I think by the time all the water steamed off, the egg would be overdone. But try it and report back, okay?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Allison, I'm not sure but KS brings up a good point. Please do let us know if you try it! Worst case, it's not as delicious, but I bet it would still taste great on toast.
 
Nancy M. October 9, 2019
I’m eating these right now. So delicious!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Woo-hoo!
 
Thomas B. October 9, 2019
This is along the same lines as a Bengali shrimp recipe I used long ago
You cooked the onions etc in yogurt until it carmelized everything. Then added the spices then the shrimp and finally some coconut cream
Delicious
 
Thomas B. October 9, 2019
got it backwards
you start everything in coconut cream and cook it until it separates and carmelizes everything. Then the shrimp and spices, then the yogurt
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Thank you for sharing this! So glad to know about it.
 
SandraH October 9, 2019
I tried this method today and the egg whites were just unctuous! Almost creamy tasting but cooked with a lovely browned underside. Usually the yolks are the star of a fried egg but I have to say the whites have top billing here! Thanks for this delicious egg frying tip!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Vindication for egg whites! Thanks so much for reporting back.
 
Lisa S. October 9, 2019
Just when I thought I knew every way to cook eggs... this comes along! I'll be trying this in the morning! Thanks for the heads up... also LOVING those blue eggshells and super orange yolks! Those are eggs from happy chickens!
Lisa Steele
Fresh Eggs Daily
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Oh yes, our food stylist Anna Billingskog knows how to find the good eggs!
 
KS October 9, 2019
I just watched this video, and I had to try it immediately. Literally immediately. I used a little pan made for tomagoyaki. It's heavy for its size, heats up fast, and stays quite hot. I put the cream in cold, broke the egg in, and turned on the heat to see what would happen. Could it be as good as you said? Slowly, the cream began to split and the edges to sizzle a bit. I remembered I had some cold root vegetable slices in the fridge, and slid them into the curved end of the pan. Then I stood back to watch. Despite the heat, the water in the cream kept the pan from burning, as the volume began to slowly reduce. I was patient--something I tend not to be--and when the steam started to slow down and the edges of the puddle to look a bit brown, I first slid the root veg onto the plate, and then topped them with the egg, the yolk now quite smooth and thick, not runny but not hard. It was lovely. I can't find a word lovely enough to say how lovely it was. And the texture of the egg was unusual as well, not fluffy, not bouncy, not easily describable. I'd say, creamy, but that would sound dumb. I now want to cook everything I eat in a cream-puddle. There you go, your next cookbook, Cream-Puddle Cooking.
 
AngiePanda October 9, 2019
Lovely Cream-Puddle Cooking...sounds delightful! Mmmmmmmm cream-puddle.......
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
This comment could have just been the column, KS. Thank you for sharing your experience and tasting notes with us, and your #creampuddlecooking branding—I love it!
 
KS October 10, 2019
My pleasure. No, really. I tried a chicken cutlet and some shredded brussels sprouts last night. I seasoned it with basil from my garden, a hit of Penzey's Mignonette Pepper, which has cardamom, and a small splash of dry sherry. I nearly fainted. And that was just from the fragrance.
 
Jrmcafee October 11, 2019
That pepper sounds wonderful!
 
becca October 9, 2019
solves so many egg frying problems! except...are there some similar but lactose-free options??
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2019
Others in this thread have mentioned coconut cream/milk too, which is brilliant!