Friday, December 4, 2009

The Fried Egg Sandwich Gets Its Due

Is there anything better than a well-made fried egg sandwich? I submit that there is not.

I finally exhausted my supply of Thanksgiving leftovers and have yet to make another trip to the grocery store; hence, many fried egg sandwiches have been consumed this week. Lest you think this post is a cop-out for a real recipe, I must stress that not all fried egg sandwiches are created equal and that it is imperative that all human beings know how to make a good one.

The fried egg sandwich has not been a very talked-about item in my lifetime, possibly because for years eggs were demonized as agents of high cholesterol. Pair them with the words "fried" and "sandwich" and you've got yourself a figurative heart attack. Eggs have made a big comeback in recent years, I think due to two things: their low cost and the faddishness of raising chickens in the city. Rarely a day goes by without me stumbling across the term "farm eggs" in some blog. I used to think the term was redundant - don't all eggs come from a farm? - but in this usage "farm" is meant to imply "happy hen haven." So, it's now very common to see hundreds of different recipes for baked eggs, poached eggs, and the newly fashionable migas, but what about the quietly delicious and not-that-bad-for-you fried egg sandwich? It demands our attention.

I've noticed at homes and roadside diners alike that some people equate frying with cooking at high heat. When it comes to eggs, nothing could be further from the truth. For, as we know, even when you hard-boil eggs, you are not actually boiling them (or at least you shouldn't). Fried eggs must be fried slowly and at low heat, whether you like yours sunny side up or over hard. Turning the burner knob any more than a quarter of the way around will produce eggs the consistency of latex gloves, and no one wants to eat that.

It does not matter whether you use white or wheat bread, but one thing is for sure: the bread must be toasted. The nice crunch of toast provides a great textural contrast to the softness of the egg. If the bread is not toasted, the sandwich lacks interest.

A piece of cheese is always encouraged, and although it can be nice to experiment with different cheeses, I find that sharp cheddar is always the best default. But I advise against white cheddar, if only for aesthetic reasons. An orange-hued cheddar against the dark yellow egg yolk evokes a beautiful sunset, and white cheddar simply does not achieve that effect.

Recipe: Fried Egg Sandwich The Right Way
Makes one sandwich. In the summertime, when there are good tomatoes, this delicious sandwich can become something sublime.

a drop of cooking oil (any kind you want)
1 egg
2 pieces of sandwich bread (any kind you want)
1 slice of sharp cheddar (Trader Joe's is the best value)
salt and pepper

Add the oil to a nonstick skillet or cast iron pan, and set it to low-medium heat. I use very little oil and just try to spread it around well, but you can use more if you want. When you cook eggs, the pan should preheat, so let the oil sit at this temperature for about five minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Break the egg directly into the pan and cook at least until it sets, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Depending on how you like your eggs, you have a number of options: remove the egg now if you like fairly runny eggs; let it cook another couple minutes without flipping if you like sunny-side up; let it cook another couple minutes and then flip and cook yet another couple minutes if you like over-easy; let it cook another few minutes, flip, and let it cook for another five to seven minutes if you like over-hard (the yokes are completely solid). Remove, set on one piece of bread, add salt and pepper to your taste, and top with the slice of cheese. Put it all together with the other piece of bread and enjoy.


Sara M. said...

the only thing this post is missing is sausage.

DEO said...

Or bacon.

RW said...

I think I might choose Swiss, but I do like the sunset imagery...