Egg

The Crispy Egg Dish I Learned at the Zuni Café

June 15, 2020
Photo by Amanda Widis

As an out-of-work sous chef, my home refrigerator has been stocked more than ever.

Between staff meals (like Wednesday’s fried chicken and “hand-picked” salads gleaned from the line cooks' stations) and always seeking out the latest spots here in San Francisco (like Nari and Verjus), I admit that not much home cooking happened pre–COVID-19. But now, my kitchen has become my escape, my oasis, my space to reflect about my relationship with food—without the structure of a restaurant kitchen.

Until March 16, I worked at Zuni Café full-time. Zuni is a neighborhood restaurant that’s evolved over 42 years to symbolize California cuisine with its simple, seasonal approach. June 1 would have been my 5th anniversary. As a sous chef, my day could involve anything from managing 15 line cooks and shopping the farmers markets to expo-ing service and writing one of the daily changing menus.

Photo by Amanda Widis

Over the past couple months, I've been able to try out different cooking techniques and experiment with recipes not part of the Zuni Café repertoire—like yuzu kosho, gravlax, and lots of sourdough focaccia. But recently, I'm finding that as much as I love the freedom to cook whatever I want every day, I miss the classics.

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Top Comment:
“I used one slice of bread that I ground in my Mini Prep for my bread crumbs, seasoned the bread crumbs as they browned beautifully in my small skillet. I added two eggs and let them cook a few minutes on the stove, then placed the skillet in the hot oven until the eggs were the consistency that I like. Delicious. I did not add the cheese or lemon juice. Will make again. ”
— PM H.
Comment

I miss the Caesar salad with its one inch–cubed croutons, especially when they get that soft-meets-crunchy sweet spot texture. I miss the meringue with grapefruit and chartreuse cream. I miss the ricotta salata pizza with house-cured anchovies and arugula. I miss our citrus salads.

And I miss the eggs fried in bread crumbs. It’s a Zuni staple ingrained into my cooking fabric from years of brunch service. Judy Rodgers created it during her time there, and must’ve known that one day we’d need it, desperately.

Coarse bread crumbs are thrown into hot olive oil. Eggs are cracked on top and fried. The reveal is a golden, complex crust. No need for toast here. Maybe a little splash of vinegar. It’s a truly simple, amazing dish that shows off pantry staples and humble technique.

I adapted my own version from Rodgers’ original work, published in The Zuni Café Cookbook. Adding Parmigiano Reggiano—the real stuff—and pantry staple spices like chile flakes and fennel seeds give the crumbs an almost spicy Italian sausage flavor.

I ask you to fry the bread crumbs on the stove, but finish them and the eggs under the broiler, to crisp them even more. This leaves the crumbs with a wildly complex texture. Think equal amounts of crispy bits and chewy chunks and golden crags, ready to soak up the rich yolks.

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Chef and writer. Columnist at San Francisco Chronicle

25 Comments

Lynette V. June 24, 2020
hello i love to look at all of your recipes but i have never been able to try them for myself as i am very allergic to milk products. any chance they could be adapted to using soy or almond milk? Thank you in advance for your help,
Lynette M Vesely Waller
 
chava June 22, 2020
Tried these on a hot summer morning, with stale end of a local market's wheat bread: what a revelation! My new fave thing! I think it's the unusual breakfast texture as much as the taste. THANK YOU!
 
PM H. June 21, 2020
Loved these eggs! I used butter and organic canola oil because I LOVE butter. I used one slice of bread that I ground in my Mini Prep for my bread crumbs, seasoned the bread crumbs as they browned beautifully in my small skillet. I added two eggs and let them cook a few minutes on the stove, then placed the skillet in the hot oven until the eggs were the consistency that I like. Delicious. I did not add the cheese or lemon juice. Will make again.
 
Teresa June 21, 2020
Wow...everyone is getting “Covirritable”! These are great stories,beautiful photos, a chance to live vicariously....in other words sheer entertainment . None of it is chemotherapy. Get a grip
 
[email protected] June 21, 2020
What a great idea for something different! Thanks!
 
phip June 21, 2020
I thought this was going to be a piece of cake. I even had leftover seasoned breadcrumbs, homemade from delicious stale bread. Off I went to make these babies. Easy? No. Challenging? Yes. To get the eggs just the right “doneness“ with runny yolk and firm whites was not easy. The broiler overcooked the yolks before the whites were firm. Twice I tried and twice I failed. Warning: it’s very easy for the breadcrumbs to tear the yolk which they did. In the end I consulted the original recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. By this time I knew that I had to be careful to not break the yolks. I did not touch them after they hit the hot, crumb filled pan. I turned down the heat and prepared them sunny side up. I knew that flipping them spelled another disaster. I skipped the broiler step. It worked. All I can say is that I wish the amazing Judy Rogers was still alive and that I could taste these eggs the way she made them. Mine were ok. I’m sure hers would have been an epiphany for the palette as were so many delicious meals at the Zuni.
 
jane D. June 22, 2020
the photo shows the eggs sunny side up and the instructions say nothing about flipping them... over easy. lots easier if you don't try to flip them over!

did you flip them because you don't like eggs sunny side up?
if so, it's a valid reason because you're the one eating them!

as for overcooking them under the broiler, you could either turn down the broiler, if your oven offers that option (mine, electric, has "hi" and "lo") or you could drop the rack down a notch...
just some thoughts that rambled through my brain...
 
Mendy June 21, 2020
What a gift to wake up and read this wonderful article on our all time favorite Zuni Cafe. We miss you Zuni and cannot wait until you open post-covid. Thank you Chef Reynoso for the recipe and for the reminder of the delicious food we have had over the years at this wonderful Bay Area restaurant that to this day is one of the few restaurants I can say always serves up delicious perfection. I’m picking up a loaf of acme bread and cannot wait to make this for Father's Day breakfast.
 
DaStevo June 21, 2020
I love this idea. I am in Ireland and we have a 'local' type of bread, brown soda (made simply with coarse wholemeal flour, buttermilk, bread soda and salt (no yeast)) which I think will work really well with this. I am also thinking of adding some chilli spice to the breadcrumbs.
 
Christine June 21, 2020
@Food52 why do you force your audience to scan 5 paragraphs and visit A separate page just to find the actual recipe? Oh, it must have something to do with exposure to advertising! So annoying !
 
Marti June 21, 2020
It’s about the story! 😊
 
JohnnyJS June 21, 2020
No, You’re annoying!!
 
Laura R. June 21, 2020
There's no force in this method of presentation. If you don't want context, a recipe origin story, a little history and charm, just scroll right down to View Recipe & get cooking. Those who want to know where the recipe came from, why it's being recommended, maybe some helpful asides, can read the article. Clicking a separate page doesn't seem onerous to me, as I have a number of print cookbooks that require visiting entirely different chapters to complete a dish.
 
Christine June 21, 2020
Thank you, I get that...We are being assaulted by too many stories for the purpose of making profit...The user experience is bad.
 
Maggie June 21, 2020
I rather enjoy the story. I get being annoyed that the full recipe is on a separate page, but advertisements are the (very small) price we pay for the massive amount of content available on this 100% free-to-you site. If you're looking for content without advertising, I can recommend the Cooks Illustrated multi-site membership, but it's pretty spendy.

 
Tina G. June 22, 2020
Just, wow. This is a site for people who love to cook. For me, that means ALL the stories, ALL the information, whatever Food52 thinks is relevant, and I decide if I agree. Ads are a part of modern life, hon. If you want recipes only, go check out AllRecipes or something. The user experience here is just fine, thank you very much.
 
harelinefracture June 21, 2020
Yeah, it’s not there. I’m assuming you just pulse some bread in the food processor, making sure to not completely pulverize.
 
Brinda A. June 21, 2020
Hi harelinefracture, it's in the second-to-last paragraph of the recipe's headnote (called the author's note): "For the bread crumbs, choose a rustic French style bread, like a country loaf with medium-sized crumb that’s in between dense and holey. Peel the outside crust, tear into small (1- to 2-inch pieces) and pulse, in batches, in a food processor until evenly sized."
 
Jin June 21, 2020
Made this and loved the crunchiness. Served with a smear of Greek yogurt mixed with lemon zest and lots of freshly ground pepper.
 
Candace June 21, 2020
It’s the last paragraph of the article. “I ask you to fry the bread crumbs on the stove, but finish them and the eggs under the broiler, to crisp them even more. This leaves the crumbs with a wildly complex texture. Think equal amounts of crispy bits and chewy chunks and golden crags, ready to soak up the rich yolks.”
 
Jane J. June 21, 2020
As I posted below just now, it may be this: "For the bread crumbs, choose a rustic French style bread, like a country loaf with medium-sized crumb that’s in between dense and holey. Peel the outside crust, tear into small (1- to 2-inch pieces) and pulse, in batches, in a food processor until evenly sized."
 
Jane J. June 21, 2020
The recipe refers to an author's note about the bread crumbs but there isn't one. Thanks.
 
Joy P. June 21, 2020
His notes are in the article on broiling the dish etc...so read the article
 
Jane J. June 21, 2020
Actually, I think it's this from the article: "For the bread crumbs, choose a rustic French style bread, like a country loaf with medium-sized crumb that’s in between dense and holey. Peel the outside crust, tear into small (1- to 2-inch pieces) and pulse, in batches, in a food processor until evenly sized."
 
Brinda A. June 21, 2020
Hi Jane, it's in the second-to-last paragraph of the recipe's headnote (called the author's note): "For the bread crumbs, choose a rustic French style bread, like a country loaf with medium-sized crumb that’s in between dense and holey. Peel the outside crust, tear into small (1- to 2-inch pieces) and pulse, in batches, in a food processor until evenly sized."

Hope this helps!