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Author Notes: Soft boiled eggs are hard to do right. The whites of the egg must be fully set while the yolk must remain somewhat free flowing and creamy in texture. Peeling these little terrors can also take a lot of time. Reheating them after the peeling process can also be a gamble. The egg has to be warm enough to flow nicely when cut into, but achieving this without overcooking the center is largely guesswork. Here's a way to cook a large quantity all at once with consistency and quality results. I've adapted this dish from the methods and kitchens of chef Sergio Remolina. The key is an immersion circulator that can produce constant and precise temperatures. Use eggs that have spent a week or two in your refrigerator, if possible. They will be easier to peel. This method may seem lengthy, but most of it is hands-off and can be done well in advance, leaving you time to prep the other components of the dish. —Derek Laughren
Serves: as many as you want.
Flaky Sea Salt or Flavored Kosher Salt
- First, leave your eggs out until they reach room temperature. This step is critical. While you're waiting, fill the largest stock pot or plastic tub you have with water. Fix your immersion circulator to the side of the pot, so that the water is above the minimum fill line on your circulator. Set the circulator to 148 F. Make sure you have enough ice for two rounds of ice bath cooling. Fill your largest rondeau or braiser with water, leaving about a couple inches of space at the top. Bring the water to a rapid boil.
- Set your timer to four minutes, but don't start it. Using a wide, flat-bottomed pasta basket or a spider, gently lower your eggs to the bottom of the pot and start your timer. Prepare an ice bath large enough to fit your pasta basket, or all your eggs if not using one. At exactly four minutes, remove your eggs and place them into the ice water as quickly as possible without damaging any shells. Let them cool completely, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once cool, set your timer to 46 minutes, but don't start it. Using your pasta basket or spider, lower the eggs into your sous vide setup and start the timer. When the time is almost up, prepare a second ice bath or refresh the first with new ice. When the timer goes off, remove the eggs from the circulator and place them into the ice bath as quickly as possible. Once more, let them cool completely.
- Once cold, the eggs are ready to peel. Line a cookie sheet with damp paper towels. Place a small pot or cake pan in your sink and run a stream of cold water into it. Tap each egg all over, gently, with a spoon. Make sure to crack the top and bottom of the egg. Under the stream of water, gently peel the pieces of shell away, taking particular care around the top and bottom of the egg. This is where the flesh is most likely to peel away with the shell. When finished with each egg, place it on the damp paper towels. Cover them with another damp paper towel while you finish the rest of the eggs. Once they are peeled, they can be held for hours until you're ready to serve them.
- Clean your frisee. Wash it well and spin it dry. Using kitchen shears/scissors, trim away any dark green near the top and outer edges of each bunch. Cut off the base of the bunch. If you see any large, white ribs, you can remove them to create a more refined look for your finished plate. Keep the frisee covered cool and covered with a damp towel until ready to use.
- Prepare a vinaigrette that will pair well with the bitterness of the frisee, the creaminess of the egg, and the smoky saltiness of the bacon.
- Cut your bacon width-wise into 1/2 inch (or smaller, if your bacon is on the thinner side) batons. Starting with a cold pan and using med-low heat, cook the bacon until it is crispy and browned, rendering all fat. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Adjust your sous vide circulator to 134 F. At this temperature, the eggs will slowly heat through without further coagulating any of the proteins it contains. When you're ready to fire the dish, set a timer for 8 minutes. Gently lower the peeled eggs into the circulator. While they reheat, put your frisee into a mixing bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then toss with your vinaigrette. Make a small mound of dressed frisee on a plate for each guest. Sprinkle the mound with your cooked bacon pieces. When the timer goes off, remove the eggs from the circulator and let them drain, briefly, on a paper towel lined plate. Using your hands, carefully nestle one egg into each mound of frisee. Top each egg with a small pinch of flaky sea salt and serve. The effort is worth it to watch each guest cut into a perfectly smooth, soft egg and smile with delight as creamy, decadent yolk flows over and into their salad.