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The Suburbanite
  • Saimi Bergmann: The perfectly soft-boiled egg

  • Turns out, the perfect soft-boiled egg isn’t boiled. It’s steamed.

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  • When a recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated featured a three-page story on how to make a soft-boiled egg, I thought, “Well, it’s finally happened. After 32 years in business, they’ve run out of story ideas.”
    Boy, was I wrong.
    Turns out, the perfect soft-boiled egg isn’t boiled. It’s steamed.
    I’ve long sought a reliable method for producing a delicious soft-cooked egg, trying to recapture a childhood memory. My mother served us eggs in painted eggcups she carried with her when she moved here from Sweden — the same eggcups that launched my collection.
    Unfortunately, my soft boiled eggs have always been hit or miss. Some mornings — ah, perfect. Others — oops, runny whites or gummy yolks.
    At the Cook’s Illustrated test kitchen near Boston, they cooked 1,000 eggs to find a foolproof method. I didn’t need 1,000 — I was convinced after just 26 eggs.  
    Bring a half-inch of water to a boil. Put eggs in and cover with lid. Simmer for 61⁄2 minutes. The result — a hot, but still liquid yolk enrobed in a tender, not rubbery, white.
    I found the 61⁄2 minutes works equally well with large and extra large eggs, and with one egg or four in the pot. A bonus — a half-inch of water comes to a boil in about 90 seconds, so making breakfast is streamlined.  
    Somewhere around egg number 18, I found myself wearying of egg in an eggcup, and cast about for other serving suggestions.
    Cook’s Illustrated suggested serving it on top of salad greens with vinaigrette. A browse through cookbooks and websites revealed suggestions to serve the eggs, split open, on top of hash browns, a bed of spinach, or pasta.
    My favorite so far is an adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe for a fettuccine with olive oil and ground walnuts, topped with a soft cooked egg. I thought the original was a little colorless, so I added spinach and scallions.
    I also changed the goat cheese to a less pungent feta, for a more general appeal. When the soft boiled egg is mixed into the pasta, the yolk adds a rich creaminess to the garlicky sauce.
    FETTUCCINE WITH WALNUT SAUCE AND EGG
    4 or 5-inch piece of baguette, torn in pieces
    1⁄3 cup walnuts
    3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
    3 garlic cloves, pressed
    1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    12 ounces fettuccine or medium egg noodles  
    3 scallions, chopped
    1 cup fresh spinach, arugula, or kale, thinly sliced
    1⁄3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
    4 large soft-cooked eggs
    Grind bread in food processor into medium to fine crumbs. You should get about 1 cup. Process walnuts until fine to medium grind. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add olive oil, swirling to coat pan. Add garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add breadcrumbs and nuts, salt, and pepper to pan, sauté for 3-5 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently.
    Page 2 of 2 - Meanwhile, cook fettucine according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1⁄2 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta to the breadcrumb mixture; toss to combine. Add spinach, scallions and a little of the cooking water, tossing again. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 shallow bowls, and top each serving with an egg and feta. Serve immediately.