A few weeks ago, I visited Tram in Chicago for the most magical weekend. Usually when I visit Tram it’s about -20 degrees (I tend to find cheap tickets in February, plus, the freezing temperatures can last through May in Chicago), but this weekend was the most glorious, sunny, mid-70s weather. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The hoochies were done up in their skimpiest tube top-and-miniskirt ensembles. It was perfect. On Friday, we roamed around town stirring up trouble (um, eating pizza and ice cream and paella); on Saturday, we walked along Lake Michigan to a secret and mystical “witches’ circle,” drank margaritas, ate homemade mussels and French fries, and considered trying out for the Amazing Race.
Then, on Sunday, we woke up at 7a.m. to throw a bicycle breakfast party. Tram’s boyfriend Romeo is very into cycling, and the Paris-Roubaix race is an important race of some nature, so he always has some bicycle men over to celebrate. Tram and I love any opportunity to make food for people who are obligated to praise us, and so we volunteered to cook the breakfast. (Romeo, a very good cook and a perfect gentleman, also offered—we shot him down.)
As much as I wanted to impress the company, I know myself, and I know that I am not a morning person. So when we were divvying up the menu on Saturday, I volunteered for a dish that does not need a lot of advance preparation—but which, if done right, can still be quite impressive.
“I will make my famous one-hour eggs,” I volunteered magnanimously. These are scrambled eggs that are very, very creamy and rich, are almost risotto-y in texture, and which resemble the eggs they served at the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed at—which was, appropriately, in Paris. (I learned the technique from my friend James, who is from Pittsburgh.)
Tram and Romeo looked at me dubiously. “You cook them very slowly,” I explained. More blank stares. I flashed back to my Parisian experience and tried to conjure up an appropriate description. Rob and I had been on our first international trip together, and our hotel was right across from Les Tuileries. The vacation coincided with the French Open, and Mary Carillo was staying at our hotel, which to me seemed like the height of glamour. The eggs were part of the breakfast buffet, and they were so rich and extravagant, almost unrecognizable in their opulence. “They’re very fancy,” I lied, “It’s how Marie Antoinette ate her eggs.”
Sunday morning rolled around, and I sprung out of bed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or, you know, mildly hungover and tired), ready to cook a huge meal for several hungry cyclists.Tram started preparing the many things she had volunteered to make, such as scones and home fries, while I helped put together the Paris-Roubaix cocktail she’d invented for the party. Upon completion of that, I decided I had better get started on my eggs.
“Do you really think they’ll take an hour?” Tram asked. No one had arrived yet, and it would be bad news if the eggs were cold when people started arriving.
“Well….” I was suddenly filled with doubt. “I’m not sure. I’ve never timed it before. Maybe they won’t take a whole hour.” I thought about it. It suddenly seemed impossible that these eggs could take any longer than 15 minutes to prepare. I decided to hold off a bit.
Meanwhile, I was starting to get nervous, not only because I truly had no idea how long the eggs would take to make, but also because in the day since I had proposed them for the menu their “famous”-ness had become a running joke between Tram and me. What if my eggs actually sucked?! Here I was, serving them at a party where I only knew the hosts! What if Tram found out I was a fraud and immediately insisted that we cancel this blog???
Eventually, I started cooking. I needed to prove (to whom, I have no clue) that my eggs took longer than 15 minutes to make, so I turned the heat even lower than usual. Guests were trickling in slowly—keep in mind it was before 8 a.m. on a Sunday—and the eggs could not be finished before the party was complete, so I turned the heat down again. I stirred methodically, not paying much attention to what was going on in the pan.
Finally, the party-goers were assembled. The bicycle race had started. (Actually, it had started, like, hours beforehand, but I think by 8 or so the competition was heating up.) People were sipping on their delicious Paris-Roubaix cocktails. The potatoes were cooling and the scones were in the oven. I looked down to assess my eggs, only to find they were…. well, they were still liquid. And people were getting hungry.
The problem with hour-long eggs is that they really do take (more or less) an hour to make. And when you are trying to make a point about how long they take, like a stubborn idiot, they take even longer. By the time they were finished, my arm was about to fall off and the eggs themselves were almost—dare I say?—too rich. The trick is to cook them on medium-low (as opposed to low, which is what I had done) until you can take it no longer, then kick the heat up to medium for like, a minute, then go back down to medium-low until they’re done. The end result will be the creamiest, most sumptuous scrambled eggs ever.
LUCY’S “FAMOUS” ONE-HOUR EGGS
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup freshly-grated parmesan (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, whisk the 10 eggs together, with a pinch of salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the butter on medium-low heat.* Pour the eggs onto the skillet and stir constantly—a wooden spoon or a whisk will do. Continue to whisk on medium-low heat until everyone has left the kitchen to complain about how long the food is taking out of your earshot (about 30 mins), and you are alone, and bored to tears, and no longer care if the eggs are perfect. At this point, turn the heat up to medium for 30 seconds-1 minute. Continue to whisk vigorously. Entice your chatting companions back into the kitchen by promising the eggs are “almost ready!” and promptly turn the heat back down to medium-low. Continue to whisk until the eggs pile into velvety heaps, the consistency of oatmeal, and when they’re nearly done stir in the parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
*Stoves are all different, temperature-wise, so you may have to eyeball this a little. If your eggs immediately start cooking through when you put them on the stove, turn the heat down a notch.