taste: adam gopnik’s scrambled eggs

Food for a day like this

I know that sounds like a bit of a joke. I am halfway through Gopnik’s lovely meandering cultural history of cooking and eating, The Table Comes First, and in the soft quiet of the first snow of the year, I made his scrambled eggs. It’s not a recipe, exactly, but it’s perfect, and reminds me of the way I was taught to make scrambled eggs, on a stool by the stove with my mother hovering, patiently stirring until the first scrapings emerged from the liquid. I don’t know how this gets so bright yellow and creamy when hurried, lazy scrambled eggs in a frying pan end up pallid and dry. Too good to wait to photograph, Gopnik’s description will have to do. They’re in France, of course—near Reims, ‘up in the champagne country’ in a restaurant called Les Crayères, presided over by Gérard Boyer:

… then at lunch, the one thing we saw on the menu for my son, Luke, all of eighteen months old, was scrambled eggs and caviar, and we asked, as courteously as we could, if he might have just the scrambled eggs. Of course, the waiter said. And he brought back, twenty minutes later, a plate of scrambled eggs so creamy and bright yellow and gleaming that Luke devoured them in three minutes, the first plate of grown-up food that he had ever eaten—and perhaps to this day has ever eaten—without caution and doubt inflecting his bites  …  When Boyer came to make his rounds, as chefs once did, at the end of lunch, I told Luke that that was the cook who had made his eggs, and he rose in his high chair and applauded. I asked Boyer how he had made the eggs and he told me, and I have made them ever since. All you do is place a big noisette of butter in a pan—Boyer did them in a bain-marie, a double boiler, but I have found this not necessary if you work carefully on a low heat—and let the butter dissolve, and then mix in three well-beaten eggs. You stir and stir, relentlesly but lightly, until they begin to form into curds, custardy curds, not fluffy American ones, and then, at just the right moment, when they are still just too wet to eat, you put another noisette of butter on top to polish and veneer them. Then you sprinkle gray sea salt, if you have it—that was Boyer’s grave, noncaviar touch—and any salt you have if you don’t. With brioche toast, they’re wonderful. From that day to this it is Luke’s default dish, the one thing he will eat when he’s tired or out late or worn out by life. “Can you make me French eggs, Dad?” he says, and I do. 

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