I feel guilty when I separate an egg. I like to think my guilt springs from a lofty, sacred place involving that which shall not be torn asunder… it’s just not the way the egg was designed to be used! Some recent self analysis into my psyche shows that the problem goes even deeper.
Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mind doing it. My mother taught me how to separate a yolk from the white when I was a youngster. Crack the egg, pour the contents back and forth over a bowl, allowing the white to drip out, retaining the yolk in the shell. “But why would you do it in the first place?” I wondered. After all, eggs are perfect as they are, the yin of the yolk and the yang of the white. No, after carefully pondering my issue with egg separation I have discovered that I suffer from multiple layers of guilt, stemming from shame and waste.
After separating four yolks from their white birthmates I watched in horror as my mom dumped the yolks into the disposal – gahh! Why would anyone do such a thing? I continued to watch her keenly now, unsure of what nefarious action she might take next. Sure enough, it was kitchen alchemy. Out came the whisk — whip whip whip – meringue! My guilt was temporarily assuaged as I ate my lemon pie.
As a fledgling cook I rarely made recipes that required the separation of white and yolk for no other reason than I really didn’t bake much – many of the “doomed-egg” recipes are for baked goods. The recipes I enjoyed always seemed to call for whole eggs, eggs that felt good about who they were and how they were made. On the rare occasion I saw a recipe requiring me to separate the components I usually moved on, convincing myself that I did so because of the difficulty of the dish, but deep down I knew better. I had once or twice saved the unused “you’re not good enough for this recipe” component in the fridge, knowing I would soon use it in another recipe. Then the awful truth would come to bear, and two weeks later I would be required to ceremoniously discard the poor thing. “Goodbye yolk; you were a good egg once”.
It certainly isn’t the cost of the eggs that jangles my nerves, I just really like eggs the way they are. I haven’t checked yet to see if there is a support group for my affliction. Are there others like me? Can we congregate in some culinary school basement, place stickers on our lapels and share our secrets over Styrofoam cups of coffee? Is there a cure I’m unaware of? My shame convinces me that I simply don’t have time to find out right now, I’m quite busy. I’ll get around to addressing the problem soon, promise. Meanwhile – here’s a recipe that you can use to practice separating your eggs, yet still use the whole egg. The egg that is loved, just as it is.
This recipe is adapted from the FLUFFY OMELET recipe in the March/April 2013 issue of COOK’S ILLUSTRATED magazine. I recommend this magazine to anyone who wants to improve their own culinary skills.
4 large eggs, separated
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 additional tbsp butter
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Whisk egg yolks, melted butter and salt together. Place egg whites in a second bowl and sprinkle cream of tartar evenly on surface. Whisk egg whites slowly for 2 minutes, then increase whipping speed (you can use an electric mixer if you wish). Whip until stiff peaks form. Fold egg yolk mixture carefully into egg whites until no streaks remain.
Melt 1 tbsp butter in a 12 inch ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat, coating the pan. When butter foams add the egg mixture spreading it evenly with a spatula. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle cheese over the omelet. Transfer to the hot oven and cook until omelet springs back when lightly pressed, 4-5 minutes.
Run a clean spatula around the omelet to loosen. Turn out the omelet and let it rest for for 30 seconds. Fold omelet in half and serve.