Cookbook author Michael Ruhlman seeks to demystify the egg

04/15/2014 3:34 PM

04/15/2014 3:40 PM

Food writer Michael Ruhlman wants every home cook to better understand what he considers the most versatile ingredient: the egg.

As Ruhlman writes in the introduction of his latest cookbook, Food Network star Alton Brown said it best: “The egg is the Rosetta stone of the kitchen.”

If you understand all the things that can be done with the egg, you can become a better cook and more successfully navigate the kitchen. That’s the premise of Ruhlman’s latest cookbook: “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient.”

Earlier this month, Ruhlman visited Fearrington Village near Pittsboro for a book event. He sat down to talk about his book and what each of us wants to know this time of year – the best way to make a hard-boiled egg and what to do with all of them that the Easter bunny will be hiding for your children to find.

First, a little background on Ruhlman: He’s the type of cookbook author who gets in the kitchen with a stopwatch. He brings such precision to his work that it’s no wonder he has co-authored a number of cookbooks with the most exacting of chefs, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry. Ruhlman is well known for his book “The Making of a Chef,” an exhaustive look at training at the Culinary Institute of America that is often required reading for culinary students. His best-selling cookbook, “Charcuterie,” is anecdotally known as one of the most-stolen cookbooks. (Ruhlman said he’s heard from several chefs who have had to replace their copies repeatedly after they were pilfered by poor line cooks. One man tweeted a photo of his car’s broken window and reported that the only thing taken was Ruhlman’s book.)

He was working on “Ruhlman’s Twenty,” a book featuring 20 cooking techniques, when he was stopped cold thinking about all that could be done with the egg. With his wife’s help, he created a 5-foot-long flowchart on parchment paper showing all the ways an egg can be cooked: in its shell, out of its shell, separated, yolk only, white only and so on. That became his book proposal, and a flowchart is included with his new book.

Ruhlman even learned something new about hard-cooking eggs: You can make them in a pressure cooker. Why go to the trouble? Pressure cooking, Ruhlman promises, makes eggs easier to peel.

The general wisdom when it comes to hard-cooked eggs is this: The fresher the egg, the harder it is to peel. That’s because with fresh eggs there is little air between the shell and the egg white. So peeling can leave you with ugly, pockmarked eggs. Pressure cooking, Ruhlman writes, creates a moisture barrier between the shell and egg white, which makes peeling easier, resulting in whites that are more likely to be pristine for deviled eggs.

“If you have to do a lot of them, there’s no better way,” he says.

Ruhlman also offers a foolproof stovetop method for hard-cooking eggs.

For the bounty the Easter bunny brings, we also offer his classic recipe for egg salad with tarragon and chive and a modern egg salad with curry mayonnaise (homemade or storebought) and our favorite deviled egg recipes from local cookbook authors Debbie Moose and Sheri Castle.

Happy Easter!

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