Egg Magic

The most desirable egg in the gastronomic world can’t be bought. It can usually only be tasted when sent as a gift from the chef. L’oeuf (The Egg) is an amuse-bouche created by Parisian chef Alain Passard at his Michelin-three-starred restaurant, L’Arpège.

It looks out of place in an establishment where last year’s 20th-anniversary dinner cost €420 (about $560) per person, without a single drink—more like something you might enjoy at home on Sunday morning. It appears at the table as an ordinary, brown-shelled, soft-cooked egg. Yes, it’s served in a fine porcelain egg cup and the top of the shell has been precisely sliced off, but none of those niceties hints at the subtly surprising interplay of tastes, textures, and temperatures within its delicate shell. Spoon down deeply to discover a warm, soft yolk, bright chives, fleeting fleur de sel, and cool crème fraîche, perfumed with quatre épices, a touch of aged sherry vinegar, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

It’s made by cutting off the top of an egg, pouring out the white, then simply soft-cooking the yolk in the shell and garnishing it with the remaining ingredients.

Chef David Kinch offers his version of The Egg at the extraordinary restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, an hour south of San Francisco. Kinch uses gorgeous eggs from hens raised in the restaurant’s garden.

You can make your own Egg, or fill your shell with other things, like a Nutella pot de crème. The best way to cut off the top of the eggshell is with a special tool called an egg topper. This Easter you may also want to try sucking the insides of eggs out of their shells to create fancy dyed eggs. You’ll need a different contraption for this. You might consider checking out a new silicone mold for poaching eggs, too.

Egg Blower
By Johannes Zemlin, $5.95

If you were like me as a kid, every Easter you tried to empty raw eggs by following the directions on the back of the PAAS egg dye box. You dug into your mom’s sewing kit, found a big needle, wiggled it into both ends of an egg’s shell, then desperately tried to blow out the raw innards. After a few failed, dizzying attempts, you resigned yourself to yet another year of less cool colored, hard-cooked eggs.

While you were pitifully blowing away, the Ukrainians, masters of the ancient art of pysanky—elaborately decorated museum-quality Easter eggs—were using a generations-old tool called a Blas-Fix egg blower.

It’s a simple yet ingenious yellow plastic hand pump with a long, hollow syringe attached. It also comes with a small manual drill. First you insert the drill into the eggshell and make a neat hole at one end of the egg. Next you insert the syringe into the hole and break the yolk so it’ll flow out. Now squeeze the pump, which blows air through the syringe, displacing the raw egg. It drips out around the sides of the syringe, through the hole.

Poach Pod
By fusionbrands, $6.99 (set of two)

Invariably, poaching is the most heatedly debated way to cook an egg. Stockpot or sauté pan? Do you swirl the water to create a vortex in a deep pot in order to give the egg a nice round shape? Or do you add a little vinegar in a sauté pan to get the egg to hold together? The bottom line is that as with most culinary techniques, there’s more than one way to do things.

The poach pod is a new weapon in the poaching wars. It’s a small, flexible silicone bowl with a domed bottom and three rounded corners that extend up so the pod can be plucked from a pot of boiling water. It was designed to cradle a single cracked egg, then float like a lily pad while cooking. When your egg is done to your liking, you are supposed to flex the bowl out to release a perfectly poached egg.

Not quite. Because the silicone is heat-resistant up to 675 degrees Fahrenheit, the pods actually insulate the eggs a little too well. Covering the pot allows you to steam-cook them. And the pods are stick-resistant at best. A wipe of butter or oil helps, but the fat changes the expected texture. The eggs also don’t come out the wobbly ovoid shape of a classic poached egg. However, novices we knew who tested the pods said they produced a better result than their usual efforts, which typically ended in egg drop soup.

The poach pods are dishwasher safe.

Egg Topper
By ETS L. Tellier, $54.95

The French-made egg topper is the essential tool used to create the clean-cut eggshells for the signature amuse-bouches at both L’Arpège and Manresa.

It looks more like an office supply than something for your kitchen. To use it, hold the egg topper’s cup firmly over one end of your egg, pull up the black ball on top (you’ll feel resistance from a spring, like on a pinball machine), then let go. A hammer inside the shaft strikes a small plate above the cup. The sharp surface around the inside edge of the cup smacks against the shell, creating a hairline score.

The technique does require practice. Pull too hard and you’ll smash your shell. Pull too lightly and you risk making a messy network of fractures. When you get the touch just right, you’ll score the shell all the way around. Use the tip of a small, very sharp knife to slice through the interior membrane, then lift off the eggshell cap.

The biggest advantage of using this topper over scissor-style toppers is that it will not crush shell bits into your own signature version of The Egg.