New cookbook puts ‘Egg’ in perspective

Eggs are a hot topic this spring as chefs and cookbook authors flock to showcase this versatile ingredient.

Best-selling author Michael Ruhlman (“The Elements of Cooking,” “Charcuterie,” and with Thomas Keller, “The French Laundry Cookbook, “Ad Hoc at Home” and “Bouchon”) notes the 100 pleats in a chef’s toque represent all the ways to cook an egg. Except that hat should have many more pleats; there are a lot more than a hundred ways.

Ruhlman’s latest book explores eggs’ diversity while focusing on the basics. Set to debut April 8, “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient” (Little, Brown, 236 pages, $40) sees eggs as “a lens through which to view the entire craft of cooking,” Ruhlman writes. “By working our way through the egg, we become powerful cooks.”

Ruhlman starts with the basics: hard-boiled, soft-cooked, poached, scrambled, fried, shirred and coddled eggs. He then moves onto to egg-based classics including mayonnaise, pasta, brioche and souffle.

His egg-salad philosophy comes in handy (especially when faced with an overload of Easter eggs).

“Because egg salad is about the softest food you can make, it should always be paired with something crunchy: Toast, crackers, celery, crisp bacon,” he wrote. Another possibility: Serving the egg salad inside a crunchy lettuce wrap.

His basic recipe (per serving): 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, “judicious flavoring” (herbs, spices, mustard, etc.) and “crunch” (croutons, celery, sweet pickle, onion, etc.). Ruhlman loves the combination of finely chopped red onion, tarragon and chives as the crunch and flavoring.

A common question: What’s the difference between a Grade A egg and a Grade AA egg? It’s not size, but overall quality, according to the USDA. That’s why two eggs of slightly different sizes may be part of the same Grade A or AA dozen. That “AA” designates top quality inside and out. The shell is flawless and the interior air pocket may not exceed 1/8 inch in depth and the size of a dime. Grade A eggs have a slightly larger air pocket.

Eggs can be too much of a good thing. They pack a lot of cholesterol, notes reader Paul Ayars. He quotes the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations:

If you are healthy, it’s recommended that you limit your dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams (mg) a day.

If you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) blood cholesterol level, you should limit your dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg a day.

“One large egg has about 186 mg of cholesterol — all of which is found in the yolk,” Ayars said. “Therefore, if you eat an egg on a given day, it’s important to limit other sources of cholesterol for the rest of that day. Consider substituting servings of vegetables for servings of meat, or avoid high-fat dairy products for that day.”

For more about eggs and recipes, click here.