Soft boiled eggs are oddly comforting and yet luxurious at the same time. Maybe it’s because I’ve most often encountered them while staying in a cozy bed and breakfast somewhere in Europe, run by a kind grandmotherly type. Who can resist the lady in the frilly apron asking, “would you like more toast dear?”
Recently I ran across this wonderful collection of genuine traditional Irish recipes (no green food coloring here!) which of course included soft boiled eggs. It got me thinking that I should try making this time honored breakfast at home.
How could I have waited so long? This is one of the easiest breakfasts I’ve ever made. No messy pans to clean up, and it takes a total of about 5 minutes! Better yet, the fact that the egg is still in it’s shell when served forces you to eat slowly, giving your stomach a chance to tell your brain that it is full. Surprisingly, one egg and one slice of buttered toast is very satisfying and sticks with me right through to lunch at the cost of only about 198 calories.
I know many people worry about the risk on contracting Salmonella from raw or undercooked (i.e. soft boiled) eggs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in every 10,000 eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella and that 1 in every 50 “average consumers” could be exposed to a contaminated egg each year.
I think the best way to combat this is by not being an “average consumer.” Before factory farming, Salmonella was not a wide spread problem in this country. If you buy your eggs from farmers who raise their chickens the way your great-grandmother did, you will significantly lower your risk of being exposed to Salmonella.
I buy eggs from Tello’s Green Farm stand at at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket in Brooklyn. Not only are these chickens organic, they have no cages whatsoever, roaming around the Tello’s 5 acres in Red Hook, NY scratching for grubs and taking baths in the dust, just as my great-grandmother’s chickens did (yes, my great-grandmother, really did raise chickens). Not only do I feel more comfortable soft boiling these eggs, they also taste fantastic, with bright orange yolks indicating their freshness.
A Soft Boiled Egg with Toast “Soldiers”
1 large egg at room temperature
1 slice of bread
Fill a small sauce pan half full of water and bring it to a gentle boil. Use a spoon to lower your egg carefully into the water so it doesn’t hit the bottom and crack. Boil your egg for 4 to 6 minutes depending on your taste. At 4 minutes the whites are opaque but still soft and the yolk is very runny whereas at 6 minutes the whites are all solid and the yolk is a bit runny.
Put your bread on to toast now so it will be done at about the same time as your egg. When your bread is toasted slather it nicely with butter and cut it into long narrow strips that you can dunk into the top of your soft boiled egg. These are your “soldiers.”
When the egg is finished use a spoon to remove it from the pot and gently dunk it in some cold water (or run it under the tap) to stop the cooking. Transfer it to an egg cup and serve with salt. If you don’t have an egg cup, espresso cups do quite nicely (see photo above).