The humble egg spends most of its time playing a small supporting role in our lives—an ingredient in the mayo we swipe on a sandwich, the loyal sidekick to our chef salad. Sometimes it’s given the lead, but in mundane projects like plain old scrambled eggs. But ask the world’s most talented chefs—like the four we feature on these pages—and they’ll tell you that the egg is one of the true stars of the kitchen universe: so versatile and tasty that adding one atop pretty much any dish takes the meal from forgettable fare to memorable feast, and so healthy (it has a near-perfect protein/fat/calorie ratio and, we now know, doesn’t wreak havoc with cholesterol) that the Mayo Clinic advises eating up to seven eggs a week to prevent strokes. So take these simple recipes (and our handy egg-buying, -prepping, and -cooking tips) and start whipping up your own egg-crowned masterpieces. Time to get cracking!
How to buy the perfect egg
Sebastien Archambault, the former chef at New York’s Park Hyatt Hotel, explains the importance of seeking out farm fresh:
“The kind of egg you use is very important. A yolk should always be bright orange, not yellow—yellow means there’s no keratin and that the hen wasn’t eating what it was supposed to.
“And because it matters what the chicken has been eating, I also think you should always buy your eggs from a farmer’s market. For eggs to have true flavor and real nutritional value, chickens need to be free to roam and eat grass, insects, and flowers—yes, believe it or not, the richness and flavor of the yolk when chickens can eat flowers is amazing.”
2 of 5
1. Aussie Burger
First things first: All you need to pull off the comfort-food staple that is an egg-topped burger is a great cut of beef and a bun that’s not too sweet. Then grill or fry your burger and top it off with a fried egg and a funky cheese.
“I think the gooeyness of Gruyère is a solid match for a runny yolk,” says Ken Addington, executive chef at Brooklyn’s Five Leaves restaurant. But for a truly authentic dish, try Addington’s Five Leaves Burger, an Aussie-style version (after all, the Australians launched the egg-on-burger craze in the first place).
“The Aussies call it a burger with ‘the lot,’ which includes beet, pineapple, a fried egg, and sweet chili sauce,” says Addington, who likes his egg sunny-side up—the runnier the yolk, the better.
When people think of ramen, they imagine a steaming bowl of soup. But in the warmer months of the year, noodle shops all over Japan feature this delicious, cold, brothless version known as hiyashi chuka, or ramen salad—which, like the soup, usually comes topped with an egg.
“You’ll find the runny ‘hard-boiled’ egg at all ramen shops in Japan,” explains Ivan Orkin, an American who moved to Japan in the ’90s and somehow managed to open one of the country’s most revered ramen restaurants. Today he runs ramen mecca Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in New York City.
Summer ramen actually features two cooked eggs: one semi-hard-boiled, and the other omelet-style, which is very thin and sliced up along with the rest of the ingredients. Egg yolk is the perfect creamy counterpart to the tangy, soy-based dressing, says Orkin: “When the yolk breaks over the noodles, it adds a whole other sauce.”
But what really makes any ramen unique—whether it’s a soup or a summer salad—is the noodles. Unlike buckwheat, or soba, noodles, those found in ramen are springier.
For British chef Yotam Ottolenghi, the egg is the perfect finishing touch—the key to completing a dish that is “almost there.” One of his favorite egg dishes is the Tunisian staple shakshuka, which, with its chopped garlic, peppers, fiery harissa, and baked egg, he describes as “drama in the mouth.”
Ottolenghi suggests this as an ideal brunch: “It’s a really informal dish—you can do all the work beforehand, then all you need is some crusty white bread to mop up the juices. It also has magical hangover-clearing properties.”
Pairing a poached egg with salad is one of the oldest culinary traditions in the world; one that can transform a starter into a satisfying light lunch.
But the process can be harder than it looks, as the egg—and the “sauce” it creates—has to be done just right. “It’s all about chemistry,” says Sebastien Archambault, executive chef at New York’s The Back Room at One57. And that means you need to poach it correctly.
For this recipe, Archambault offers his take on the classic Caesar salad, in which he swaps out traditional romaine for the more nutrient-rich kale and adds a breaded poached egg to amp up a Caesar’s creamy but crunchy texture.
“When you bread the poached egg, you have the crispiness of the bread and the creaminess of the yolk all in one,” he says.
Poaching eggs is notoriously difficult—many chefs actually use thermometers to help them. But the truth is, you just need a little practice—and to follow these steps:
1) Fill a small pot with water, lightly salt it, and add a cup of vinegar; heat. When it boils, drop the heat to a simmer.
2) Break a fresh egg into a small bowl; over the sink, pour the egg onto a slotted spoon just long enough for any extra water to drain off, then immediately pour it back into the bowl (this step eliminates flyaway strands of egg white).
3) Turn off the flame completely and begin stirring the water to create a “whirlpool.” Hold the egg just above the water, then slide it into the center of that vortex—this is the trick to making sure the egg holds its form.