By Robert St. John
In the iconic Beatles song, “I Am the Walrus,” John Lennon states, “I am the egg man.”
Taking into consideration the song was released in 1967, I beat Mr. Lennon by six years. In all actuality, I am the egg man. Though back then I was just the egg boy.
My mother was a masterful egg scrambler. She was big on soft-boiled eggs, too. She would boil three eggs for three minutes, crack open the eggs, plop the yolks in an empty coffee cup, and then scrape the whites into the cup. I would tear and crumble a biscuit into the cup, add a little salt and pepper, and eat away. I still eat soft-boiled eggs – cup eggs, as they are called at our house – today.
During childhood trips to Jackson, my cousin Marty would prepare Eggs in the Hole. This was always a great treat served early in the morning outside by their pool.
I still make Eggs in the Hole for my children. I start with a large slice of wheat bread and, using a cookie cutter, cut a circle out of the center of the bread. I then place a couple of pats of butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-medium high heat. Just as the butter starts to brown, I drop the bread in the skillet and let it cook for a few seconds, then I crack an egg into the hole of each slice of bread. Turn once, cook to desired doneness, add salt and pepper, and you’ve got Eggs in the Hole.
Some would say that eggs are boring. When we started cooking eggs sous vide in the Purple Parrot Café, I figured everything that could be done to an egg had now been done. Last week, I learned a new egg dish, and ironically it was from my cousin Carol, the daughter of Marty who used to make Eggs in the Hole.
I was recently in Cleveland hosting a fundraiser for Delta State University. Carol and I were talking about her mother’s Eggs In the Hole when she asked, “Have you ever eaten an omelet in a bag?”
“No,” I replied, “but it sounds interesting.” In 10 short minutes she had done all the prep work and set up what was needed for the Omelet-in-a-Bag breakfast. It was a blast, and I plan to repeat the process the next time my kids have spend-the-night company.
There were six of us having breakfast at Carol’s that morning, so she took six Zip-loc freezer bags and wrote everyone’s name on a bag using a permanent marker. She then broke two eggs each into six large coffee cups and beat them gently. Earlier that morning she had prepped a lot of omelet fillings – chopped green onions, chopped red bell pepper, crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, salt, pepper – and placed them on individual plates.
Carol instructed us to grab the bag with our name on it, choose a cup with eggs, add whichever omelet ingredients we preferred to the cup, stir it up, and then add it to the bag, sealing it securely and making sure that almost all of the air was out of the bag.
Once everyone had created their omelet, she dropped all of the sealed bags into a large pot of boiling water on the stove. Cousin Carol was cooking sous vide and didn’t even know it.
She said to let the eggs cook for 13 minutes, though after 11 minutes I went ahead and removed the omelets from the water using a pair of tongs. They might have even been ready at 10 minutes (13 minutes might be needed for three eggs). Surprisingly the omelets slid right out of the bag and onto a plate. Brilliant, I thought. Escoffier would scoff, but he’s dead, who cares? My kids will love it.
I loved it, too. Breakfast with friends and family is always a treat. With a little fun thrown in, it is even a greater delight. From Eggs in the Hole to Omelet in a Bag in one generation, my family will be doing this for years to come.
By the way, we learn later, on The White Album, that the walrus was Paul. Though I am still the egg man – in a bag, in a cup, or in a hole, it makes no difference to me – goo goo ga joob.
Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.