It was inevitable that I would eventually stumble upon a menu item that would entice me to cross many miles to visit the restaurant that serves it.
Actually, I’ve encountered many such menu items, but this is the first of several I encountered yesterday that lured me with eggs. The menu item: The Slut. The restaurant: Eggslut, with locations in downtown Los Angeles, CA; Glendale, CA; Venice, CA; West Los Angeles, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan; London, England; and Kuwait City, Kuwait (which is closed temporarily). What?! A chain restaurant? I’ve been tempted by a chain? It’s true. I cannot explain, other than to say the allure of the menu is stronger than my aversion to the mass market appeal represented by chain restaurants. Oh, the shame.
Eggslut once had a location in Beirut, Lebanon, but I gather that has gone by the wayside. I assume most of the locations are rather new; the article in which the restaurant was mentioned, from October 2018, said it had only three locations. The likelihood that I’ll visit any of the restaurants is highest with respect to visiting one of the Los Angeles area locations. When I get there, I will order the Slut, which the menu describes as “cage-free coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée, poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt and chives, served with slices of baguette.”
During my excursion into coddled eggs as offered by Slut, I encountered another restaurant I want to visit. And I would make the pilgrimage, were the world a more hospitable, welcoming, safer, and more affordable place to be. I would travel to this Tel Aviv, Israel restaurant. Called Shakshukia, the restaurant is dedicated to shakshuka, as one might have guessed. One can get traditional shakshuka at this restaurant, of course, but it also serves shakshuka dressed with a variety of ingredients such a hummus, shawarma, and merguez sausage. I suppose I will have to make multiple trips there, because I will find it necessary to try every one of them.
There were more. I stumbled upon an online article in Travel & Leisure magazine dedicated to restaurants that pay homage to the egg. I instantly became enamored of the idea. And, while reading elsewhere about coddled eggs, I decided I must buy a set of egg coddlers. A recipe I came across intrigued me, as recipes are wont to do. This one was a simple coddled egg, its cap removed, with a dollop of black caviar and a few strands of chives poking out of the egg for taste and appearance. I was hooked the moment I saw it. It looked so incredibly sophisticated, the egg coddler and its cargo sitting on a little plate surrounded by toast soldiers. I could almost taste the English breakfast tea that would absolutely HAVE TO go with it. I rarely drink hot tea for breakfast, but the image of the caviar-dressed coddled egg spoke to me of the impossibility of relying on coffee to complete the atmosphere.
Egg cookery is far more complex and refined than one might think. Consider the orchestration involved in creating eggs Benedict: it requires absolutely, perfectly, crisp bacon, English muffins toasted to a seared-surface perfection, eggs poached to precisely the right consistency, and a creamy warm Hollandaise sauce. This gathering of magnificence must be completed at exactly the same time for the composition to succeed. Poaching the eggs, alone, requires precision and patience rarely matched in the kitchen. And coddling eggs is an art form, requiring not only the right coddlers but the right adornments. I read, yesterday, about coddled eggs served with shredded salmon, capers, and minced onions alongside “points” of warm, pliable strips of pita bread. Almost orgasmic in the pleasure such refined magnificence brings to the palate.
During the exploration of egg fantasy, it occurred to me that an intriguing variation on deviled eggs might also cause me to shudder in delight. I envisioned carefully removing the shells from soft-boiled eggs, halving the eggs with a knife, and then gently scooping the runny yolks into a waiting bowl. I would mix the runny yolks with a little miso paste, some soy sauce, a bit of horseradish, and celery minced so that it retains some crunch but readily mixes with the creamy yolks and other ingredients. I would then fill each egg with the mixture. The experience would be equivalent to gastronomic joy. At least that’s how I envision it.
My investigation of egg eatery continued with an exploration of shirred eggs. I do not know whether I have ever had shirred eggs, but I know now how important it is for me to try them. I will need sufficiently heat-resistant ramekins that can handle both stove-top heat and the fierce heat of the broiler. The idea of shirred eggs appeals to me in much the same way the idea of coddled eggs pleases my imagination. Runny yolks and set whites, for some reason, gratify me. Perfectly-cooked shirred eggs will (or so I read) accomplish that perfect marriage between “rare” and “done.”
The complex simplicity of egg dishes is nowhere more evident than in oeufs en meurette, a Burgundian dish that is said to have originated in east-central France. The dish is made with poached eggs accompanied by a meurette sauce/bourguignon sauce made with Burgundy red wine, bacon, onions, and shallots browned in butter; it is traditionally served with toasted garlic bread. I believe I need this dish if my time of this Earth is ever to be considered a success.
Many years ago, when I was taller and thinner and better-looking, I had Eggs Hussarde at home. I may have had the dish at Brennan’s in New Orleans, where it originated, but I’m not sure about that. I remember, though, the home version. It was an extremely complex dish that involved making Marchands de vin sauce and Hollandaise sauce. Ingredients include Canadian bacon, English muffins, sliced tomatoes, lemon juice, dry mustard, and on and on. It was well-worth the trouble, as I recall. Yet every time I have mentioned it since, the idea is cold-shouldered. I must make it myself. It’s simply a requirement. It must be done.
Baked eggs, too, have their appeal. As do huevos estrellados and, of course, migas and chilaquiles and simple scrambled eggs. Eggs are, without a doubt, the food of the gods. Zeus ate eggs, I believe, though I have no evidence that he did. As did Hera. Neptune did, as well, though he preferred his eggs poached in sea water. Hmm. That might be an interesting deviation from an otherwise rather mundane (but heartbreakingly delicious) dish.
Enough about eggs. I must ready myself for a trip to church, where I will meet other church men in the parking lot, much space between us, to discuss things other than cooking, I suspect.