30 November 04:30 am
As I rode in the cab, which smelled like a NYC nightclub changing booth, to JFK for the first leg my twenty plus hours of flying to China I could only think: what is the maxim in airports and airplanes? Don’t eat the food! Or at least don’t expect too much except gas afterwards. I had no time for breakfast so I arrived hungry and slightly nauseated. I figured that I would make do with some sort of bad breakfast croissant egg like concoction. I was pleasantly surprised. Terminal 8, American Airlines has a Bobby Vans. My immediate instinct was to order a Bull shot. The bartender in Bridgehampton NY makes an excellent one. For those who do not know, Bobby Vans is a steak house. It isn’t a great steak house, but it is a good one. They have restaurants all over now, and someone in their marketing/sales department had the idea to tackle airports. The first one, I was informed by a slightly solicitous and eager waiter, was in Boston. It went well he said, so New York was next and more to come. They had a solid breakfast menu; I chose bacon and eggs with home fries. The coffee not good, but hey, any caffeine is better than none in preparation for twenty hours of the incessant drone of the plane. Besides, I am not a coffee connoisseur but it should have been better at four dollars a cup. The bacon was crispy, thick, four slices, eggs over easy were perfectly cooked, and very tasty home fries and a multi-grain toast with butter and orange marmalade.
Eggs are funny things. They are misunderstood, often taken for granted, but treated with respect they can, if fresh, be a gift. Take the over easy proposition. It seems simple enough and it is…BUT to make it right takes a little care and love. I grew up cooking and thought I had it down pat, but I was beaten in France one morning for how I prepared them. In a past life I worked in some of the greatest restaurants in France for about five years. I was very lucky to see true masters at the peak of their careers and passion. I miss those days in some romantic ideal, but it was the hardest I have ever worked in my life.
The general idea is to start with a good pan that will not stick. A well seasoned cast iron pan is best. Heat the pan over a medium flame. If you are cursed with an electric stove I cannot help you, sorry. Take a nice pat of good butter for each egg and get it sizzling but do not let it brown. Salt the butter and let it dissolve. This is the key. We do not want salt crystals on our eggs. That was reason one for my beating. I had seasoned the eggs and not the butter. Note: the eggs should be room temperature, or they have a tendency to break on contact with the heat. Once the salt has dissolved crack the eggs gently on a flat surface, never a sharp one – the edge of a bowl is considered sharp – and then into the pan. You can crack them onto a plate and slide it in if it helps. Let the eggs cook on one side, a minute or two, then, with a flat flexible spatula flip them over. The thing about flipping eggs is that almost everyone does it incorrectly. We tend to hold our spatula with the palm on the underside and then flip towards the body in pronation (palm up — turn palm face down). The proper way, according to the chef who meted out my punishment was to have the top of the hand, or palm on top of the spatula and flip it away from your body in supination (palm down — turn face up). He of course was right; it is more efficient. It takes some getting used to like anything you’ve been doing wrong your whole life (don’t get me started on shoe tying), but when you have a lot of things to flip especially delicate things you will be thankful. Pancakes and French Toast are great practice. When the eggs are cooked to your desired hardness, use the same flexible spatula, and one at a time put the eggs onto the plate. Of course, the third reason for my beating and having to sweep the back stairs for a day was even crazier. In this establishment, which shall remain nameless, the specifications were more exact. First you separate the white from the yolk. Then you proceed with the same butter and salt technique. Next, place a small pastry ring about four inches in diameter onto the pan, and inside that, perfectly centered, a second pastry ring an inch in diameter. The goal, you guessed it, was have the yolk perfectly centered in a perfectly round egg white. I kid you not. You also need to tamp the eggs gently after removing the eggs from the pan with a paper towel before plating to remove any extra butter fat eyes. They are unattractive. The reasoning was that the only difference between the two starred Michelin restaurant and the bistro around the corner, I was told or rather yelled at as I was hit on the back of the head repeatedly, was that we cared more and made the extra effort for culinary perfection. Everything matters! I won’t go into the scrambled egg ordeal. You wouldn’t believe it.
FYI: The Bull Shot is a drink for acquired tastes, one that you will either love or hate.
- 1 1/2 oz vodka (I prefer white rum)
- 3 oz chilled beef bouillon (Use Campbell’s double strength and NOT consommé)
- dash of Worchestershire, Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste
- 1 squirt of fresh lemon juice
- celery salt (optional)
- Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Shake well.
- Strain into a highball glass filled with ice.