Saturday, January 07, 2006

Egg off

These are the eggs with onions and cheese at Bagel World restaurant, on Wilson west of Bathurst in Toronto (click to make frighteningly large).

And these are the eggs with onions and cheese I made a couple of days later at my parents' house.

Aside from the scale, they look pretty much the same, right? Well. I doubt the BW eggs were cooked in butter. Mine weren't made with processed cheese (the stuff I called cheesy-weezy as a little kid) but with actual cheddar. Mine weren't stirred with a plastic fork, apparently the BW secret. I remembered that detail only too late. I stirred with a plastic pancake turner and I don't think the dish suffered a bit. I didn't serve mine with two slices of decorative tomato. When you eat at BW you have the pleasure of eating in a blue Formica booth amidst unique charms like a handwritten chalkboard menu (abbreviations like K. CHEESE, K for Kraft) and a giant mural of a bagel with cream cheese on the wall.

The biggest reason BW eggs are better: my onions never get quite as brown and delicious as the pros get theirs. Part of me wants to duplicate this feat of slow cooking but the other part prefers to let them have their mystique. And I definitely don't want to know if they use some kind of nefarious shortcut, brown sugar or worse.

Eggs with Onions and Cheese alla Bagel World

8 eggs
3 or 4 medium onions
6 oz (approx) cheddar cheese, in half-inch cubes
butter, at least a tbs, more=better
salt and pepper

Chop up the onions, heat the butter in a medium pan, and cook the onions over medium-low heat until nicely caramelized, at least half an hour, stirring frequently.

Beat the eggs well with a few pinches of salt and when the onions are ready for them, stir the eggs in and scramble over medium heat until they're almost ready. Stir in the cheese, some more butter wouldn't hurt either, and check for seasoning. If eating in winter, please don't put any shitty excuses for a fresh vegetable on your plate.


Blogger Barbara Fisher said...

Now, dear--you can learn to brown onions. And it doesn't have to be a slow process, either.

You just have to be patient, and the higher the heat you use, the more diligent you must be, but unless you learn to brown your onions deeply, you will have issues making good Indian food, if you should ever decide to try it.

Here is how--it is quite simple.

Heat your oil in a pan. You don't need huge amounts of oil--a couple of tablespoons will do. Use an oil that will go with whatever dish you are working on. If you use whole, unclarified butter, do not try to cook this at super-high heat--you will burn the butter and that is not a good flavor.

Cut your onions in as thin slices as possible. OR thin dices. I like for you to be able to see through them. When you cut them that thin, I find that slices are better than dices, as they will shrink incredibly as they cook, and dices often will shrivel into nothingness, which is not what you want to have happen after you have spent the time to thinly cut your onions.

Spread the oil over the surface of the pan, and then lay the onions in a single layer on the bottom. Spread them out nicely--a single layer. If you have too many onions, do them in two batches.

They will start sizzling immediately. This is great.

Sprinkle about a half teaspoon of salt over the top of the onions. This serves two purposes--one, it seasons the onions so that when the sugar caramelizes, the salt will offset the sweetness and deepen it. Two, it helps the onions release the large amount of water trapped in thier tissues, which dilutes their flavor, and makes them take a lot longer to brown.


Stir a lot.

Keep an eye on the onions, and you will notice that they will start turning brown on the edges. When they are golden colored, flip them over, and keep stirring. If they seem to be browning to fast for you to keep up, lower your heat, or move the pan off the heat. If they are taking forever, turn the heat up.

Allow them to deepen in color as much as you like. For your eggy purposes (And they look quite tasty to me), I would cook them just past the golden stage into the nearly crisp medium brown stage.

For Indian food, you continue cooking until they are a lovely reddish mahogany brown and are dry and nearly crisp, and the cooking oil is redolent with toasted onion flavor.

It really is simple. There is no mystique to it. Try it. I know that you can do it.

2:44 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

Barbara: if you say I can do it, I can do it. Thanks for believing and for all the advice.

10:33 PM  
Blogger the chocolate doctor מרת שאקאלאד said...

Four onions for eight eggs? Wow. That's a lot of onions. Thanks to this post I cooked one small bunch of greens with four carmelized onions. It's a little bit of all right.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was finally overcome by the urge to try this, this afternoon, and I've lived to tell the story (2-egg version for one). I must confess to having added two slices of buttered toast to the menu, the happy marriage of eggs and toast being one of several things which convince me that the universe is a hospitable place.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A tip from a restaurant cook: heat the pan up BEFORE you swirl in the oil and the chopped onions. They will start to brown immediately if you get the pan hot enough. Heat the pan while you prepare the onions. A large, heavy pan helps: more surface area for browning, and more surface area to promote evaporation. If you don't want the onions to get too sweet, cook them hot and fast (stirring often). Long cooking promotes sweetness. This kind of dish will profit from duck or goose fat instead of oil or butter.

7:59 PM  

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