MARCH 5, 2018

Cookbook Review: Eggs

For those great chefs who have come to master the fine art of cooking eggs, the rest of us would like to learn their magical secrets. This is the gist of one of the classic articles written by the great food writer Elizabeth David, “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine,” in which she shares with her readers a few of her own secrets found along the way while sampling eateries in France. “Quite a few of these customers subsequently attempted to explain the particular magic which Madame Poulard exercised over her eggs…She mixed water with the eggs, one writer would say, she added cream asserted another, she had a specially made pan said a third, she reared a breed of hens unknown to the rest of France claimed a fourth.”

There are no doubt many secrets to be gained by cooking folklore, but if we are seeking a more thorough examination of these “conjuring tricks,” as David calls them, for creating perfect eggs in all of their various forms, then Michel Roux’s cookbook, Eggs, (Wiley 2005), reads like a much needed definitive guidebook.

Even though Roux is considered one of the most highly acclaimed chefs in the world, “who has held three Michelin stars at The Waterside Inn near Windsor in England for an astonishing 21 years,” the tone of his shared secrets are wonderfully down to earth, drawing on his stated respect for the egg’s “genius in all forms of cooking,” and on his humble farmhouse origins. “At the age of barely three, I would rush outside whenever I heard Julie, our family hen, cackling to announce that she was about to lay. I would gently collect the still warm new-laid egg and hurry to the kitchen with it. My mother collected the eggs in a large bowl, which would be kept full during the summer; in winter Julie laid one or two eggs a week – but we loved her just the same.”

Every chapter of this elegantly photographed cookbook, from the more standard egg recipes of boiled, poached, fried, scrambled, baked, and omelet (Roux had been asked to write a foreward to David’s article), to the more sophisticated crepes, pastas, meringues and dressings, all are warmly revealed by a master technician with a warm heart, “Nowadays, I love making crepes and waffles with my grandchildren. They all help to prepare the batter and join in with the cooking.”  The Pavlova with berries, mango & Passion Fruit…“undoubtedly one of the finest desserts in the world. My Australian wife, Robyn, and Bette, her mother, make the best pavlovas I have ever tasted. The fruits you use must be ripe, very sweet, and full of flavor.”  As for the omelet, Roux prefers his baveuse, runny in the middle, the color very light and golden, “delicate to touch, squidgy and soft.”