Why Hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes, one man’s futile fight to feud with feudal food facts. I’m the Quixote of Achiote, Jon O’Guin. Today’s recipes are two fancy ways to make eggs, because, well, I don’t know if you know this, but my family has Chickens. I’m not putting a link to the recipes in today, because…well, because it’s Monday Morning Jon handling that, and as you’ll see, he’s not up for it at the moment.
And while they don’t really lay eggs from around mid-November to March, they have started back up, with no little vim and vigor. We’ve had several 4-egg days in the last week or two, meaning that 4 of our 5 hens laid an egg on the same day. One of our chickens got so into laying eggs that she actually started laying them inside herself, a medical condition that caused her to gain an extra 25% body weight from internal fluid, and would have killed her if I hadn’t kept complaining that she was “acting weird” for a week and a half.
On the one hand, my keen sight saved our pet. On the other, she now spends several hours a day whining for me to let her wander the house and eat garbage.
And I get to get up early to give her her medication!
As such, our refrigerator is growing rather full, as we easily clear a dozen eggs a week, and we were investigating ways to offset that prodigious growth. My suggestion of “life-sized Meringue statues” has been shot down multiple times, on the grounds that with how small our oven is, it would be tedious to bake the bodies one limb section at a time. Told to make less monumental and more edible choices, I discovered a recipe in a recently acquired cookbook that piqued my fancy: Cloud eggs. What are they? Good question, let’s investigate.
Cloud’s Fine, but I’m more of a Zack Fair Fan, Myself
So, Cloud Eggs, if you don’t know, were an instragram food hit a couple years ago. I for one missed them entirely, because I didn’t get an Instagram until…last June? That sounds about right. Anywho. The basic premise is pretty simple: you make fried eggs, but you whip the whites into meringues (sometimes filled with salty toppings, WINK) and bake the whole thing. So you don’t make fried eggs at all. The only similarity is the color, and the word “egg”.
In my defense, they do LOOK kind of like Fried Eggs.
Now, WHY they took off a couple years ago is actually up for question, because, interestingly, this isn’t a new recipe. And when I say ‘not new’, I’m doing what the youth call “understating the facts”. (What? The youth are remarkably critical of their media sources these days, as well as rhetorical framing.) Because this recipe is closer to 400 years old than it is to 300. It predates instagram, the telegram, as well just the straight up GRAM, as in “the measurement of weight”.
The first recipe for what we now call Cloud eggs appeared in Le Cuisinier Francois, the cookbook by Francois Pierre de La Varenne, a name exceedingly French, and rather hard to pin down for how pervasive it is. “Varenne”, I mean. I like to look up what people’s names mean for these posts, in case there’s a fun joke to be had, and the Internet looked at me like it had never heard of a human being called “Varenne” before. It knew of a HORSE called Varenne, but that was named after a Parisian street.
“Is it an important street?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, SUPER important. It’s where the Italian Embassy is, and the offices of the French Prime Minister, The Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry of Housing…”
“…Ok, well why is the STREET named that?”
“Well, I don’t know, but the French Wikipedia page seems like it has an idea.”
“A Varenne or “warren”, is uncultivated land rich with game. A game preserve. It might also be a reference to an abbot of Varennes, or the lord of Varennes, or-“
“You keep saying “Of Varennes”, like it’s just a normal place.”
“Oh, did I not mention? Varennes is a town in france. Super famous. It’s where they caught Louis the 16th when he tried to flee the country.”
“It’s on Google Maps and everything!”
“Why didn’t you tell me that earlier?”
“Because you asked me what the NAME Varenne meant.”
And that’s why I hate France.
Is Anyone Else Lost?
Shut up, Title Jon. That exhausting detour through 6 sites and 2 languages complete, we can get back to Francois Pierre, a name that was recently pointed out works much better in French than English: “Frank Peter” is NOT a name that rolls off the tongue. Another reason to hate France: all their dumb names sound cooler. “Jacques Noir” sounds much cooler than “Jack Black”, and people complain much less about the food at “Le Fortier Blanc” than they do about “Whitecastle” burgers
You can use all the fancy fonts you want, you sell burgers that burn people’s insides.
But enough of my assaults on French, we’re here to talk about food. La Varenne wrote “Le Cuisinier Francois” or “The French way of Cooking”. Seminal book. Huge deal. You remember a couple months ago, that “definitely a real person” Jacques explained about haute cuisine and French food becoming a symbol of wealth and status? This was part of it. This is the first time anyone writes down how to make a Bechamel, and kind of a Hollandaise, as well as bisque. He ALSO wrote a recipe called “ouef a la neige”, or “Eggs in the snow”, which is a very different dish nowadays, but back then was much more like Cloud Eggs.
Eggs in the Snow NOW are unbaked meringue puffs floating on vanilla custard. But back then, then were egg yolks baked in meringue shells. Which, spoiler warning, is basically what Cloud eggs are. And since I already used “spoiler warning,”, I guess I can talk about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones! Man, did you all see when-
I will unmake everything you’ve ever loved, Normal Jon. I haven’t seen it yet.
But…we’re the same person.
I know, YOU haven’t seen it yet either. But it’s still a dangerous joke to make.
Okay, okay. Sheesh. Everybody’s so sensitive these days. Anyway, while the original recipe is FINE, it’s also kind of boring. Seriously, it’s just “whip egg whites into little volcano-shaped mounds, and bake them for a couple minutes. Then add the yolk into the top of the volcano, and bake a couple minutes more.” Which makes cool LOOKING eggs, but…they don’t actually taste all that different. Which is why a lot of modern cloud eggs punch things up by putting shit in the meringue!
Our recipe used thinly sliced ham, and parmesan, but I’ve seen recipes with cheddar and bacon, chives, just…anything that goes well with eggs, just put it IN the eggs.
…I was going to make a joke about semen here, but I remembered I already made that joke earlier in the post, and now I don’t know what to do instead. I guess I blew that a little early. Sorry, this doesn’t normally happen to me, and I’d love to like, talk more about it, or help you get your joke off, but it’s really late, and I have to get up early tomorrow, so I’m gonna call it a night.
Fearfully Fried Fringes
Now, I’m about to make a very BAD call, and ACTUALLY call it a night. See, despite the last paragraph being an extended bad sex joke, in both ways that can be interpreted, it’s actually also fully honest. It IS quite late, and I was tired enough to actually write out a full second semen joke before thinking “wait, this sounds familiar” and I DO have to get up early: As I mentioned, I get to medicate the chicken I heroically saved. And also…I haven’t made the second recipe yet.
It’s SO easy, quick, and simple, that I wanted you guys to have the IMMEDIATE experience: if you read this post on Monday, I will have COOKED these eggs that very morning. And while our Cloud Eggs were salty puffs of history, today, we’re going fast, fried, and FLAT. These are Frico-fried eggs, brought to you by Monday Morning Jon. Take it away buddy.
I mean, my recipe had 4 ingredients, and yours has 2.
How hard can it be?
Fuck you, you piece of fucking garbage. You lazy, incompetent fucking twit. Past Jon, you’re a goddamn cunt, and I am pissed. I am so mad, every animal in the house, and maybe the houses next door, is HIDING, and I would not be surprised if we got a visit from the police, so LOUD have my cries of fury been. I’m Monday Morning Jon, and short of me dying in my sleep, everything that COULD have gone wrong this morning has.
First off, I slept through the ‘medicate the chicken’ alarm, so when my second “okay, you can get up for real now” alarm went off, I wasn’t happy. Then, the little shit-bird decided she didn’t WANT her fucking meds, despite loving them every other day. I spent twenty minutes bullying a small scared animal into eating less than a quarter’s worth of diced up pill. And the CAT showed up during the proceedings, further scaring the chicken, and bitching at me for God knows what.
Eventually, the chicken had eaten MOST of its meds, and I decided that was good enough. It’s not like I have to come back in an hour and get her to eat MORE medication she probably won’t want! So I went upstairs, and started the recipe, discovered that most of the cheese was expired, had to throw away moldy cheese to hand-shred good cheese, …and proceeded to dirty 3 pans and waste 2 out of 4 eggs over the next 30 minutes.
The first egg was entirely my fault. Alright, ALL the eggs were my fault, since the only other entities in this equation are inanimate objects, but I meant that my fuck up on the first egg was dumb enough that I shouldn’t have made it. I used a smaller non-stick pan, one of our older ones that I worry is losing it’s non-stickiness. And that’s important here: if you’ve forgotten, Frico is just straight-up fried cheese, so you NEED non-stick to make it. I cracked the egg on top, it immediately slid partly off the cheese, but I corralled it back on with a spatula.
Though the yolk broke, and that’s no joke.
Then, I covered the pan, and let cook for a minute or two. And then I fucked up. See, I don’t like raw yolks or whites on my fried eggs. As far as I’m concerned, Sunny-side up eggs are disgusting, and If I ever told you otherwise, I was just trying to be polite. (By which I mean “if you served me sunny-side up eggs and I said it was fine”, THAT was a polite lie. If you said “I like sunny-side up eggs” and I said “cool”, that was true: I don’t care if YOU like them. I’m sure they have appealing qualities to some. They just don’t appeal to me.) SO, in order to avoid that, I splashed a tablespoon of water into the pan, to steam the top of egg. Which it did. What it ALSO did was fuck up the fat-layer that was keeping the frico from adhering to the pan.
Ooh boy, that’s going to be fun to clean.
I pried the egg off the top, and it was actually fine. It even had a little bit of the cheese still clinging to it. But I knew I could do better. So I grabbed a second, larger non-stick pan. I put the cheese in the middle, cracked an egg on top, and was IMMEDIATELY reminded that this pan is RAISED in the middle, as the egg slid straight off the cheese into a corner of the pan.
This is what despair looks like.
This is where my temper started to unravel. I could forgive the chicken for not wanting its meds, the cat for wanting attention, and the other two fuck-ups of the morning were entirely my fault. But THIS. This was a bridge too far. So I got testy. I said “fuck it, if I use a cookie-cutter, I can keep the egg in the middle, on the cheese, and it’ll be fine.” And that plan actually kind of worked. Except I forgot to pop the lid on the pan, so the top didn’t cook, so I was left with a fucked-up egg sitting perfectly on a nice layer of frico (though maybe too thin, since it rolled up with the egg as I tried to slide it off.)
The orange on the right is mostly cheddar, actually. But that fat little goo ball in the middle is a deal-breaker.
These are the two eggs I wasted, by the way. I ate the first egg, and the last one, but I wasn’t joking about not liking raw egg white: I just straight up threw those in the trash.
The last egg, I took all the precautions. I set the cookie-cutter down FIRST, and sprinkled the cheese into that. Then, after the cheese had melted, I added the egg, covered, and just walked away. I had another spasm of temper, because I was trying to wipe down some of the dishes, and both the towels I was using slipped off the counter into the hot water of the sink while I was distracted. It was at THAT point that I started screaming.
But this egg actually turned out okay, except for one notable issue: see, our hens lay different sized eggs, and this egg happened to be a little bigger than the other ones I had used. Which meant it didn’t fully cook sitting in the cookie-cutter. The whites did, which was enough for me, but in the moment, it was one more little scratch on my sanity.
It’s okay looking, though I wish the cheese were a little more obvious.
I stomped out of the room at that point, as it had taken me almost half an hour to produce TWO edible eggs. Then I ate the final egg, and had to admit that it was pretty good. The little crisp cheese bits really add a nice texture and flavor to the egg. Honestly, if this had been my FIRST egg, today would have been declared a rousing success. As it was, at least I had proven that even on a really bad start to a day, you can make a pretty good egg. And I already have ideas for how to try and make them better In the future. Both of the bigger pans let the frico go quite easily, so they’ll be easy to clean, and If I just use the sides, not the middle, of the one pan, I can probably cook 3 frico eggs in one pan. But I don’t want to do it now. Right now, I have to take a breath, do some dishes, and get this up before prepping tonight’s dinner.
WAIT, crap, before I go, I never said how the cloud eggs were: they were pretty fine, but could have used a little nuance. The ham and parmesan made the meringue fairly salty, and the texture was springy JUST to the point of rubbery: the slight bounce-back of the salt and fat reinforced meringue wasn’t a BAD texture, but it was a strange one. I think something like Bacon, which has a stronger smoke flavor, and the addition of chives for some onion, would make a more nuanced meringue. But overall, I liked them, and could easily be convinced to make them again.
So while neither egg recipe was perfect, both were sufficiently interesting and enjoyable to leave them as “try again with some improvements”. And that’s a good place to be. MUCH better than French Wikipedia at 1 AM, at least.
This is not a healthy place to be. I don’t even care if you ARE French, it’s not great.
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THURSDAY: I’M LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, AND IF I DON’T DO THE COZIE BREAKDOWN HERE, I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL MAY. WHICH I MIGHT BE OKAY WITH. LET ME THINK ABOUT IT. WE’RE EITHER DOING THE COZIES, OR WE’LL TALK ABOUT DIFFERENT WAYS TO COOK EGGS.
MONDAY: WAS GOING TO BE POLENTA, BUT THEN I LEARNED APRIL IS APPARENTLY “GRILLED CHEESE MONTH”, SO I’M HITTING THAT BEFORE THE WINDOW CLOSES FOR ANOTHER YEAR.
Serves 2-4. (can be doubled)
4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
¼ lb thinly sliced ham, finely chopped
½ cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and grease a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form, 3-4 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the parmesan and ham.
3. Create 4 mounds of meringue on the baking sheet, using a spoon to make an indent in the top of each mound. Bake for 4-5 minutes.
4. Gently place one yolk into the indent on each mound, and return to the oven for another 3 or so minutes, until yolk is set to your liking. Serve warm.
Frico Fried Eggs, in theory
½ cup grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan, or other firm cheese)
1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle roughly 2 tablespoons of cheese into a roughly circular shape in the skillet. You can do both eggs simultaneously on the sides of the pan, or one at a time in the middle, if you’re worried about uneven pan heating.
2. Give the cheese 30 seconds to 1 minute to melt down, and then pour an egg over the cheese, corralling with a spatula or cookie-cutter, if necessary.
3. Cover, and cook 2-4 minutes, until whites are set. Remove from the heat, and let cool for 1-2 minutes, so the frico layer can harden and lift from the pan, before removing with a silicone spatula. Serve immediately.