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Seriously Scrambled

May 16, 2011

A long time ago I wrote a post about my sliding scale. I will hold to task restaurants that are aspiring to be more than they are. However, a modest diner that produces better than average diner food will be given the highest accolades.

That is not to say that I have low standards for diners, nor that these humble greasy spoons can do no wrong.

In fact, today I’m very grumpy. You may even say that I’m irrationally angry. Some of that is surely due to my head cold. But today my ire is pointed directly at scrambled eggs. Given the level of my overreaction, I am not going to be naming any names. I don’t think it would be productive.

Sometimes, especially when I’m sick, I just need to get a few things off my chest.

Let’s be clear. Scrambled eggs are the easiest freaking thing in the world to make, and to make well. They take virtually no time to cook. And if I can make a stunning version of this dish when I’m just cooking a few scrambled eggs a week, someone is making dozens of them a morning has no excuse for anything less than mastery of the form.

Here’s what I expect in a basic scrambled egg, and I know it’s a lot but we’ll get to that in a moment:

– Crack two eggs in a bowl
– Season with salt and pepper
– Combine the eggs well
– Heat the butter until foam subsides
– Scramble the eggs in the pan
– Turn them out on the plate

Many times your scrambled eggs never even have a chance. They are doomed out of the gate, because instead of using actual eggs fresh from their shell, a kitchen will use an egg product for their scrambles and omelets. If you see the cook ladle your eggs into a pan, you are screwed. The worst-case scenario happens if they mistakenly ladle the wrong pale yellowish mixture into the pan, as recently happened to Leah the Nosher

This is among the reasons why I would recommend sitting at the counter of a diner and biding your time before placing an order. It gives you a chance to scope out the cook and see what looks good coming off the griddle.

But if the cook is cracking eggs to order and doesn’t season them, why even bother?

Bland, bland, bland. C’mon! This is supposed to be a greasy spoon. I was told that means they serve heart attacks on a plate. And to have a coronary event you’ll need a good hit of sodium to spike that blood pressure. But in all seriousness, I’m amazed at how some diner breakfasts are underseasoned. And it’s not just the eggs. Even more shocking is that the potatoes are plated in desperate need of salt. Yes, this can be corrected at the table, but salt on food is not as integrated as salt in food.

Real creamery butter is also a pipe dream. Some places will use it, but far too often there is another ladle of golden liquid, which is the cooking fat. I don’t even want to know what’s in there. At home, for special treats, I’ll scramble eggs in bacon fat. The fat plays such a critical role in the overall flavor and texture of the eggs that it’s a tragedy to see a place use grease instead of butter.

While all of the above are critical flaws one might encounter in any diner across the country, they are all forgivable sins. After all, you don’t have to order scrambled eggs, and for the above reasons I don’t. However, Little Miss Fussy does.

But there is one thing that I see time and time again that is unforgivable and completely drive me mad.

Scrambled eggs are supposed to be SCRAMBLED. Yesterday’s were simply beaten eggs that were hard cooked and folded over into the laziest semicircle I’ve ever seen. Sometimes the cook will at least make some token gesture with the side of his spatula to chop up the eggs after the fact.

The way you scramble eggs is by moving them around the pan as they cook. You can form them into large curds or small curds depending on the speed of your movement and the temperature of the pan. But a scrambled egg must have curds, otherwise it’s not scrambled.

I don’t even know the word for what it is that many places put on a plate under the guise of scrambled eggs. Calling it an omelet is an insult to omelets. It’s most akin to a beaten egg over hard. But who would want that? And would think that’s a suitable replacement for scrambling.

The mind boggles.

Maybe one day, Little Miss Fussy will be so accustomed to the buttery and pillowy-soft scrambled eggs she gets at home that scrambled eggs at the diner will have lost their appeal. Perhaps I’ll convert her to the joys of dipping toast into runny yolks and she’ll abandon her pursuit of scrambled eggs altogether.

But for now, I’ve got to sit and bear both the torment of seeing what passes for scrambled eggs, in addition to the embarrassment of watching my progeny drown them in ketchup and eat the entire plate clean.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. AddiesDad permalink
    May 16, 2011 10:04 am

    I really like Gordon Ramsey’s version:
    -lightly beat two eggs in a bowl and add to a cold pan
    -add a good sized knob of butter, turn on heat
    -stir eggs and butter constantly, as eyes begin to set slide pan off the heat
    -bring pan back to heat only long enough to keep the eggs cooking
    -when eggs are almost done add salt and pepper (Ramsey reasons that adding salt too early in the process will cause the eggs to breakdown and make the dish watery)
    -serve immediately. The whole process should only take about 5 minutes

    This is a weak attempt at reciting the recipe from memory. AddiesMom likes Chevre and scallions, which I add at the end. Ramsey’s version makes t
    Some of the creamiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever made at home.

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    May 16, 2011 10:36 am

    When my “eyes begin to set,” it’s time to go back to bed!

  3. May 16, 2011 10:46 am

    It almost sounds like they’re “scrambling” the eggs in a mircowave.

  4. Kerosena permalink
    May 16, 2011 10:50 am

    Hoo boy. You lost me on this one. I love, love, love diner-style scrambled eggs that have been cooked on a flat grill. I agree that ‘scrambled’ probably isn’t the right word for diner eggs, but whatever you call it, I prefer it to what I make at home. I’ve actually spent quite a few years trying to make diner eggs at home, but I’ve pretty much given up. I know it’s possible, though. My great aunt used to make them that way; one eggy mass, just barely creamy, no curds.

    To each his (or her) own. My mom likes giant curds, cooked until they’re brown and dry. It has always bugged me, but I think I’m just going to let it go.

    • Scott Bakula permalink
      May 16, 2011 12:59 pm

      Danny boy doesn’t believe in “to each their own”; it’s his way or he calls you a moron.

  5. May 16, 2011 10:51 am

    Wow! You are ‘Oscar’ today. But, you are right. A good scrambled egg, like a good man (present company excepted), is hard to find. I probably shouldn’t mention that I had a wonderful egg this morning cooked in bacon fat, should I?
    Feel better!

  6. Stevo permalink
    May 16, 2011 11:26 am

    I’ve watched Robert Irvine’s Restaurant Impossible a few times on the Food Network. I’m constantly amazed at how many restaurant “cooks” have no idea how to cook. Seasoning your food – eggs in this case, with salt and fresh black pepper is cooking 101. There is a reason why salt and pepper is on virtually every single dinner table in America. Any cook that doesn’t understand this basic tenet of good food has no place in a restaurant kitchen except maybe behind a mop bucket.

  7. May 16, 2011 2:36 pm

    Wow, that’s weak as hell — they couldn’t even be arsed to scramble them? Mind you, I’ve given up on ordered scrambled eggs anywhere anyway, ’cause you never know when you’ll get “eggs” (surprisingly, sadly often) instead of eggs. When I order eggs out, I get them over hard (*ducks*), ’cause at least then, I can see that they’re actual eggs. I understand their need for speed, but honestly, couldn’t they just crack a ton of eggs into a big bowl, whip them together and put those into a pitcher instead of the fake stuff?

    (I’m with you on the home fries, too… I’ve given up on “taste before you eat” with those, ’cause they’re inevitably bland.)

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