Thursday, June 02, 2011

Eggs Most Excellent: Lessons from Jacques Pepin

The Dean of Special Program’s at the French Culinary Institute, Master Chef Jacques Pépin, recently spent some time with students and alumni in the International Culinary Theater to talk about life’s wonder ingredient: eggs!

Eggs are incredible for a number of reasons—not only are they packed with protein and nutrients, but they can thicken, stabilize, emulsify, and add flavor. Whether hard-boiled, over-easy, scrambled, whipped into a meringue, or the secret to a soufflé, eggs are an essential ingredient every cook should know how to work with.

A master of classical French cooking, Chef Pépin has been working with eggs his entire life and introduced some very helpful tips and simple recipes to the crowd of eager listeners. Here are the highlights:

On boiling eggs:
  • When soft-boiling or hard-boiling an egg, use the tip of a pin to poke a tiny hole in the top of the egg. This allows pressure to release as the egg is cooking, preventing cracking and helping reduce the sulfuric smell and gray lining around the yolk.
  • As soon as your eggs are cooked, place them in a bowl of ice water to shock them for at least 15 minutes. This slows down the cooking process and allows the sulfur inside the egg to escape into the water, again preventing that stinky smell and reducing the chances of getting the gray lining.

On separating whites and yolks:
  • If you separate whites by passing the yolk back and forth in the shell you leave behind 20% of the whites and run the risk of breaking the yolk. If you are working with a recipe calling for whites and don’t get them all, your ratios may be negatively impacted and that soufflé or meringue may not come out right.
  • Instead, separate the whites and yolks while the eggs are cold using your hands (clean of course!), passing the yolk back and forth. This method works well because the cold egg prevents the yolk from breaking as easily and you will drain off almost all the whites.

On mayonnaise:
  • According to Chef Pépin, there is nothing quite like fresh mayonnaise, and I have to agree. Simply place a few yolks into a bowl, add a dash of vinegar, and slowly stream in canola oil while whisking vigorously until a smooth emulsion forms. Season to your tastes with salt and pepper, and serve. Use within a day. Making your own mayonnaise takes a matter of minutes and is leaps and bounds better than that jarred stuff.
Chef Pépin also shared with us a recipe for his mother’s take on deviled eggs—what he calls Eggs Janet. Janet, his mother, is 96 and still a powerful presence in his life. She makes a garlicky filling for the eggs, stuffs them, then sautés them in a little butter to achieve a golden crust. She serves them over a quick mustard sauce for a simple but tasty egg dish.

Eggs Janet
recipe courtesy Jacques Pépin
4 hard-boiled eggs
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
fresh chives
black pepper, freshly ground
unsalted butter
Mustard Sauce (recipe below)
1. Slice the hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks using a small spoon. Place 3 of the yolks in a bowl and reserve the 4th yolk for the mustard sauce.
2. Mash the yolks with the garlic and chives until a smooth paste forms. Season. Pour in milk, a little at a time, until the mixture is creamy. Spoon the filling into the egg whites.
3. Heat some butter in a sauté pan set over medium heat. Add eggs, filling side down, and gently sauté until the surface is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan, and serve over mustard sauce.
Mustard sauce:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
canola oil
fresh herbs (chervil, parsley, and chives work great)
black pepper, freshly ground

Whisk reserved egg yolk with mustard until incorporated. Stream in canola oil and whisk until an emulsion forms. Stir in herbs; season.

Don’t forget to check the events calendar to stay up to date on the exciting demos coming to the International Culinary Theater; students and alumni are invited to taste and learn!

Tara O’Keeffe graduated from the evening Classic Culinary Arts program on March 16, 2011. After an exciting year learning how to make food look and sound good at the Food Network and Food Arts magazine, she has come back to FCI to share and expand her passion for food, working in the Culinary Programming department. She has a blog called Fun Fearless Foodie.

1 comment:

Rich said...

Nice job! A legend in his own time.