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updated: 6/11/2014 6:03 AM

Lean and lovin' it: Celebrate eggs and the many ways to cook them

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  • "Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient" by Michael Ruhlman

      "Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient" by Michael Ruhlman

 
 

It's so tempting to write that Michael Ruhlman's newest book "Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient," (Little Brown, 2014) is egg-actly the book you need. Cute.

A quick Internet trip yielded at least nine cookbooks (not including Ruhlman's) devoted to, as the American Egg Board frequently sings, "the "incredible, edible egg." And, although seemingly simple -- it's just a yolk and a white -- an egg can be made and used in more ways than you think.

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Consider the possibility of using the following as a guide to quiz your kids on a long road trip this summer: How many ways can eggs be cooked?

Here's your answer sheet: According to Ruhlman's flow chart included with his new book, first break down how an egg can be cooked into two categories; whole and separated.

The "whole" category is then broken down into two subcategories: "Cooked in Shell" and "Cooked out of Shell." Cooking an egg in the shell yields hard cooked, soft cooked, mollet (a non-molten center, but not hard boiled) and sous vide (translation: "under vacuum" -- food cooked in water at precise, at below-boiling temperatures).

You already know that hard-boiled eggs can be used for making egg salad, deviled eggs, or sliced or chopped for a salad garnish. Soft cooked eggs make a dandy day-starter with whole-wheat toast, as well as a now ubiquitous topping for "all in" hamburgers. Ruhlman coats peeled mollet cooked eggs with panko bread crumbs and deep-fries them then surrounds them with an asparagus sauce and serves sous vide eggs with ramen, miso broth and shiitake mushrooms.

Out of the shell eggs can be: fried (gently, aggressively or deep), or baked (coddled or shirred) or poached (in liquid or in a bag) or cooked blended (fried or baked with dry heat, poached with wet heat). Blended out-of-the-shell eggs can be used for an egg wash, a binder (as in meat balls or meatloaf), in custard, and as an enricher (I used egg yolks in my not-so-lean mashed potatoes a few decades ago).

Yolks can be used alone as a garnish (think crumbled hard-boiled yolks), as an enricher (Caesar dressing), or as a key ingredient (how would we make mayonnaise without it?). Hard to imagine how pasta carbonara, hollandaise or Bearnaise sauces would hang together without egg yolks.

Let's not ignore egg whites. Egg whites can bind a roulade together, just as they can a panna cotta. A consommé (a strongly flavored clear soup) wouldn't be crystal clear without the use of egg whites. Eggnog would be just … well … nog.

Where would a cheesecake or chocolate cake or pound cake be without the wonder of whole eggs giving each a substantial body, as well as lift assistance? My buttermilk pancakes wouldn't be nearly as light if I didn't whip the egg whites and fold them in.

I almost forgot pasta. Even something as mundane as a tuna noodle casserole wouldn't be as delicious without the enhancement of egg noodles; real egg noodles. And, of course, where would quiche be if not for eggs?

Michael Ruhlman's new cookbook is a wonder. The sensational pictures sprinkled throughout his book were shot by his wife, Donna Turner Ruhlman.

While you won't find nutritional information for any of the recipes you will find extensive head notes. These are not recipes to use for weight loss or control, but recipes to savor and learn from.

This also is not a book for kitchen beginners, although newbies could find this book's information giving their learning curve a boost and many of the recipes certainly are approachable.

Like his classic angel food cake. Served with sweet berry sauce this is the perfect recipe to take for a test drive. Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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