Michael Ruhlman extolls the virtues of the egg

Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman is an award winning writer whose cookbooks cover numerous subjects ranging from charcuterie to the importance of ratios. While the chicken (more precisely the chicken fat) may have come before the egg in his writing, he gives the egg its due with his latest work, simply titled Egg. Ruhlman graciously took time from his book tour to answer several questions posed by EYB.

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EYB: Do you have a view on which of the many variables of eggs – organic, free-range, cage-free, Omega-3, pasteurized, etc – are the best for eating (and kindness to animals)?

I’m wary of all health claims beyond this one: eggs are nutritious and delicious food. My intuition is that eggs from chickens raised by a local farmer, chickens allowed to forage on fertile clean pasture, will be the most nutritious and delicious of all. If you care about the welfare of the chicken, same goes, though you do have the option of seeking out cartons that are labeled certified humane. Omega 3 eggs apparently may have more omega 3 fatty acids, supposed to be good for you. Are they? Your guess is as good as any nutritionist’s. As a rule all eggs are going to be fairly similar from a nutrition standpoint, with small variations.

Do you have any idea how many eggs you used while developing the recipes in this book?

No! Cartons and cartons of them. And with very little waste.

What new ways of using eggs are readers of this book likely to discover?

There are no new ways of using eggs, which have been around well, for some time now. (The chicken came first, by the way, but a very, very long time ago.) Unless you include that weird egg extruder demonstrated by Stephen Colbert [on The Colbert Report]. What readers of this book will find, to their astonishment, I hope, is the amazing variety of ways this single and singular object can be put to use, whether as the focal point of a dish or a mechanical tool for some unforeseen effect (the egg whites capacity for clarifying a stock for consommé for instance).

Egg by Michael RuhlmanHow much do you explain about the science of cooking with eggs?

Only insofar as it teaches a technique or helps us to understand why a preparation works as it does. Why the amount of water in a yolk-emulsified sauce is more critical to the sauces stability than the amount of yolk, for example. Any areas where the a student reader wants more, I direct them to McGee’s unparalleled On Food and Cooking.

What are your personal favorite and least favorite methods of cooking eggs?

My favorite ways of cooking eggs is using gentle heat on a whole egg, or a whole egg blended–poached, scrambled fried over easy, and the like: ways that feature the egg. I can think of no ways I don’t like cooking eggs. I don’t like being on the receiving end of a thrown raw egg in its shell.

We know from your blog that you love cocktails – are there any cocktails using egg whites in the book?
Yes! I’ve included a Clover Club cocktail in the book, a sweet and sour gin-based concoction that gets its body from egg whites. I also couldn’t resist three very different eggnog preparations.

Your last book was Schmaltz, about chicken fat.  Now we have Egg.  What’s next?

A series of short single subject cookbooks focusing on a specific technique–roast and then braise are slated for next fall and the following spring, respectively.

Believe it or not, there are some people who don’t like eating eggs – what recipes in the book are likely to change their minds?

I like to think that if I personally scrambled eggs for such a human, I could change their mind. If that didn’t work, I’d make them a Clover Club.

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