You may think there are a finite number—say, 6—ways to take your eggs. Breakfast is a multiple choice test, and diner waitresses and short order cooks aren't about to allow a write-in (not to mention busy moms and dads).
This technique—a hybrid of poaching and scrambling—first came to San Francisco chef and writer Daniel Patterson out of necessity. As he explained in the New York Times Magazine in 2006, his then-fiancé made him throw away the Teflon pan he relied upon for scrambling, and he had to get resourceful.
In the manner of the 6-minute egg and its variants, it's not such a stretch to call these 40-second eggs, because other than waiting for your water to boil, that's all the time they take. You barely have time to make toast!
Now pay attention: You beat your eggs while counting to 20, swirl the boiling water, then slip in the eggs, pop on the lid, and wonder what's going on in there.
20 seconds later, de-lidded, you have a poufed cloud of eggs, ready to be drained and seasoned to your liking.
In addition to being faster than many an ad experience on this very site, it's an exceedingly forgiving method:
• As written, Patterson's recipe uses four eggs and serves two, but you can always go with five eggs and invite a hungry friend; or two and dine alone; or one to fold into a killer breakfast sandwich.
• Patterson instructs you to drain away your thin egg whites (see above), lest they go skittering off in the water, but I've skipped this step with relatively fresh eggs and not regretted my laze.
• Depending on how you plan to dress them up, you can salt the water to taste without threatening the integrity of your eggs. Assuming you're serving them minimally, with just a ribbon of olive oil and sprinkle of flaky salt, go ahead and salt the water till it tastes like the sea, as you would for boiling pasta or blanching vegetables.
When Patterson occasionally serves them at his restaurant Coi, it's with vinegary grated radish, seaweed powder, radish flowers, and chicken jus infused with katsuobushi. Too much salt in the water would just get in the way.
But six years after stumbling upon the technique, Patterson most often poach-scrambles eggs at home, both for his buddies (like when René Redzepi and Peter Meehan came over to hang out for this Food & Wine article) and for his two young children (Louise, 16 months, and Julian, 3 1/2—see above!). And no wonder: it's the 40-second breakfast, after all.
It's as wondrous to kids as it is to adults, which makes it the perfect Mother's Day bonding experience (hint, hint). A grownup might need to handle the boiling water, but the kids can crack and whisk the eggs, butter the toast, and watch the magic unfurl from a safe distance. And, of course, trot it off to mom, with toast and coffee on the side.
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at[email protected].
Photos by James Ransom
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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."