Scrambled eggs are a no brainer, right? You just stir them a bit in a bowl or a hot pan with some butter and then voila — scrambled eggs! I used to think this was true. I thought that scrambled eggs were all alike and wasn’t really a fan. I always preferred a nice fried egg with a slightly runny yolk, or one poached or soft boiled. And then, about two years ago while reading Julia Child’s autobiography, My Life in France, my relationship with scrambled eggs was changed forever.
Toward the beginning of the book, Julia is attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Instead of the culinary program she eventually joins, she starts out in a layman’s program with a bunch of U.S. GIs. Her teacher, a man who eventually becomes a respected colleague and friend, asks the group how to scramble an egg. Julia, who by this time is in her late 30s and married, thinks the question is a bit silly and steps forward to throw a few eggs in a bowl, add some butter to a hot pan and quickly scramble some eggs. I mean, what could be simpler, right? What she learns, however, is that technique is everything. Those same ingredients, when cooked with more care and thought, go from hard and lumpy to creamy and rich. She realizes that the art of cooking isn’t simply heating food, but cooking it in a way to bring out its essential flavor and texture.
After reading this passage one evening, I put the book down, determined to experiment the next morning with my own scrambled eggs. When I got to the kitchen, however, I modified Julia’s instructions a bit. I just couldn’t bring myself to add that extra pad of butter at the end as it seemed a bit much and went against my mantra of using butter in moderation. The extra butter seemed an indulgence that I might use on Christmas, but not on a regular Saturday.
I then whipped up my eggs. By the time the meal was over, I had gone from being somewhat ambivalent toward the dish to a lover of scrambled egg. I could now see why the French incorporate them into their lunches and dinners instead of treating them as a morning-only meal. I’ve since made them for friends and family and each time I am asked how I make the eggs so creamy and light. Well, here’s my secret (or rather Julia’s discovery). I hope the next time you make this simple meal, you’ll try it!
1 pad of butter
1 Tbsp (or thereabouts) of whole milk or cream
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a medium pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-low heat.
- In a separate bowl, scramble your eggs enough to break the yolks and mix the whites in, but not enough to make the mixture frothy. In other words, don’t over mix.
- When the pan is heated, reduce the heat to low and add the butter. Once the butter melts along the bottom of the pan, add your eggs and let them sit for a bit in the butter. Don’t stir too quickly. You want the heat to permeate the bottom of the eggs and start to cook them.
- When you can see that the bottom of the eggs have begun to heat through, stir the eggs and then add the cream or milk, which will instantly froth a bit. Mix the milk or cream into so it integrates into the eggs and makes them custardy.
- Continue cooking on low heat until the eggs are slightly firm (but not so long that they are actually firm).
- Remove from the pan and serve immediately with salt and pepper to taste.
You can vary this recipe a bit by adding some cheese or chives toward the end (just after you add the milk) or starting out with some bacon or ham in the pan. Better yet, cook some onions in the butter first and then scramble the eggs. Or top with some caviar if you want a luxurious meal. The world is really your oyster when it comes to scrambled eggs. Eat them plain or with your favorite topping, just be sure to cook them with care.