Cooking With Confidence
birds nest
Breakfast/Brunch, Economical, Failure, Quick and Easy, Spicy, Vegetarian

The Bird’s Nest

by Nick

There’s an old dish called “Bird’s Nest” which is basically eggs fried inside of toast. So you just cut a hole in a piece of bread, toss it in a pan, and then add the egg to the center of it. The egg fries while the toast cooks. It’s a great dish and kids really like it.

But I kinda have a problem with the dish. A piece of toast doesn’t, in any way, represent a nest. A nest is lots of tiny bits of stuff. Not one big flat thing.

So I wanted to rework the dish a bit to actually look like eggs sitting in a nest. The best thing I could come up with was to make a potato hash and then set a few eggs on top to complete the deal.

Now this is a bird’s nest!

I got the idea to spice up the eggs and potatoes with smoked paprika from this post (@ Summer Tomato). It’s true that while I love bacon with breakfast, I didn’t really miss it for this meal. Everything was very flavorful as is. But before I get into making the dish (which is pretty straightforward), I have to tell you something.

I’m A Failure

So when I actually thought about this dish, instead of doing poached eggs, I wanted to make soft boiled eggs so they looks like real eggs sitting in a nest. How cute right?! Well, it turns out that I’m completely incapable of making soft boiled eggs. I went through about a dozen eggs and almost an hour of my life before I threw in the towel and went the poached route.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s make some hash first.

Yield
Serves 2.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Potato Hash with Poached Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes (I used new potatoes, but you could use Russet.)
  • 1/4 white or Vidalia onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

1) Dice potatoes into a fine dice. Also dice up onion and garlic.

2) Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once hot, add the potatoes with a tiny pinch of salt, pepper, and paprika.

3) After this cooks for a few minutes, add onions and garlic and continue to cook.

4) Cook has for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are nice and crispy.

5) Bring a pot of water to a simmer with about 1/2 cup of vinegar added for every gallon of water. Just eyeball it.

6) Crack your eggs in a bowl and gently roll the egg into the simmering water. Cook for 3 minutes and then remove with a slotted spoon and you'll have a perfectly poached egg.

7) Add poached eggs to a bed of the hash and top with extra paprika.

hash ingredients

Basic hash stuff.

Making the Hash

This is a really basic hash to make. There’s tons of variations on it, but sometimes just basic potatoes with a few other simple ingredients is one of the best things ever.

One important step to a good hash is to take the time to really dice up your potatoes into a pretty small dice. I try to shoot for about 1/4 inch cubes. And especially if you’re using new potatoes like I did, the skin is great to leave on.

potatoes

Do a pretty fine dice here.

Also dice up your onion and garlic.

Start by heating up your oil in a large skillet over high heat. I like to add my potatoes first, with a tiny pinch of salt and pepper and some paprika for spice.

hash cooking

The paprika is where it’s at.

After this cooks for a few minutes, add your onions and garlic and continue to cook. I like to do mine in this order because it insures that the garlic and onion doesn’t burn and just gets nicely browned.

Depending on how crispy you want your potatoes (I love mine really crispy), you’ll want to cook them for 10-15 minutes probably.

hash almost done

Guess what? This was tasty.

Ideally, you can start your eggs when your potatoes are almost done and then everything will come together nicely. That didn’t exactly happen in my case.

The Eggsperiment

Sometimes things don’t go as I plan in the kitchen and I always try to be honest about those failures. In this case, I had a serious egg failure.

eggs

My nemesis today!

I know how to make a good hard boiled egg so I figured that a soft boiled egg would be easy enough to master. But even still, I did a little research before starting. I read this incredible write up on eggs (@ Serious Eats) and figured I’d be able to nail it after one or two tries maybe. Boy was I wrong.

I swear I followed the instructions perfectly. I used my thermometer to get the water the perfect temperature. I used a stopwatch to try to get the perfect timing.

My first result? BIG FAT FAIL.

fail one

Fail!

After that, I composed myself and adjusted a bit. I’m not even going to tell you how I adjusted the original technique because it didn’t matter. Still I had a big fat fail on my hands.

fail egg again

Fail!!

After almost a dozen eggs, I finally got something that somewhat resembled a soft boiled egg.

And it still really sucked.

oh my god fail.

Fail!!!!!

The Problem

I think the problem is that there are just too many variables in soft boiled eggs for the home cook to handle. To start, it’s hard to know how old your eggs are and the age of your eggs matters. There’s a very fine balance. You want fresh eggs, but if they are too fresh then they will be very hard to peel.

Basically everything has to be perfect for the dish to work. A restaurant can normally perfect this over many hundreds of trials, but I just don’t know that it’s realistic for the home cook to even try the soft boiled egg. So I say: Abandon it!

By the way, if anyone disagrees with me, leave a comment with a surefire way to cook a soft boiled egg (by surefire, it needs to work 9/10 times regardless of eggs or altitude or whatever). If anyone can do that, I’ll retract my abandonment!

The reason I’m giving up on it is because you can get a very similar result by poaching eggs. And poaching eggs is something that I can teach people to do successfully 9 or 10 times out of 10.

Poaching eggs

All you need to successfully poach some eggs is:

Eggs
Water
White Vinegar

Bring water to a boil in a large pan. The water should be at least 8 inches deep. Add about 1/2 Cup of vinegar for every gallon of water (it’s okay to eyeball it). Bring the water to a simmer (not boil!).

Meanwhile, crack your eggs in a bowl. You don’t want to crack them straight into the water or you might get shells cooked into your eggs.

Once your water is simmering, gently roll the egg out of the bowl and into the simmering water. The vinegar will cause the egg whites to contract and make the egg stay together.

poaching

I can do this!

For perfect eggs with a runny yolk and firm white, cook for about 3 minutes. Then remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and dab them a bit with a paper towel just to remove the excess water.

Add the poached eggs to your “nest” and dust with some extra paprika.

birds nest

The paprika is awesome.

I thought about making a sauce for this, but it’s really unnecessary. If you poach your eggs perfectly, they kind of act as a sauce as you break into them.

eggs cooked

Why you don’t need a sauce for this dish.

It may have been because it took me over an hour of failed eggs to actually get a chance to eat this dish, but I absolutely loved it. It’s really basic, but it shows how you can take a few simple ingredients and make a great meal out of them.

And by the way, if you ever happen to have one to many at the bar, this is the meal for you.

So what do you think? Soft boiled eggs? Anyone have any ideas?

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30 comments on “The Bird’s Nest

  1. You're not kidding about soft-boiled eggs — they're one of the most perfect foods on earth and yet for some reason they seem out of my grasp, too. My dad used to make A++ soft-boiled eggs on command every time. How is it that dads can just do things like that??

    Poached eggs are the next-best thing, obviously, and it looks like you sure know how to poach the heck out of them. Those are gorgeous! I've been poaching up a storm lately myself, now that I learned how easy it can be — in a deep skillet, even without the vinegar! I hope someone tells you the soft-boiled secret, though. I'm dying to become a soft-boiled master.

    1. This looked so good that I made it tonight. My picky 3 year old had seconds! We will definitely be making this again. The poached eggs wre incredibly easy. Love your blog!

  2. Ooh! Do you suppose someone could figure out how long to cook it for the yolk to be "set" (but not hard–it should be like a gel) I'd be thrilled to hear it.

  3. This is the perfect hangover cure. You could sneak in some bacon by frying the potatoes in the left over bacon fat :) what about just ketchup for the sauce?

  4. Nick,

    Did you know that the pleats in a chef's toque represent how many different versions of eggs the he/she could cook? It used to be back in the day you could NEVER be allowed to wear it until you mastered them.

    Eggs are super fickle, but you can get by with some simple rules. You are right, there are a lot of variables. Here is what I do:

    I place the eggs in COLD water in the pan. I then bring up the heat quickly to a boil. I turn the heat OFF and set the pan in the back. I then set a timer :

    2 minutes for coddled eggs

    5 minutes for soft-boiled (That is how you order them in a restaurant BTW)

    11 minutes for hard boiled.

    Now, if you are up in the mountains, it is important to add a minute to the time… as the atmosphere is different out there. If you are at sea level, 30 or so seconds less is required.

    After that, for hard-boiled, I place them in cold water right away.

    I hope that helps you out! Now get in there, and try again. NEVER give up. Learn from your mistakes!

  5. So, I have a soft-boiled egg recipe that works for me:

    Let the egg come to room temp. or run warm water over it until it's room temp. Using a safety pin, stick a hole in the small end of the egg (not sure if this is necessary, but some other people recommended it to me). Put it in boiling water for 5.5 minutes, then dunk into ice water and let it cool. That's it. You can do longer (like 6.5 minutes) if you like a firmer yolk.

  6. I know this description as Toad in a hole:

    There’s an old dish called “Bird’s Nest” which is basically eggs fried inside of toast

  7. Soft-boiled eggs are one of the first ways I learned to cook eggs when I was maybe 8 years old. It’s pretty much just a matter of boiling it in water for about 5 minutes. I don’t add anything to the water, I don’t soak it in cold water after. Just boil for a bit and enjoy. I think where you ran into issues is that you wanted a whole peeled egg, and a soft-boiled egg just isn’t supposed to be peeled but just eaten from the shell. The egg whites of a soft-boiled egg just aren’t cooked to a firmness that would withstand peeling. Most of your pictures look like they could have been perfectly fine soft-boiled eggs, but they’re just not the right preparation for what you’re trying to do.

  8. I might be making that hash for dinner tonight to go with some grilled chicken.

    As far as the soft boiled eggs, I've been working the practice portions of the Rouxbe Online Cooking School's classes for eggs. I've done the fried (sunny side up, over easy, medium, hard), basted, poached, scrambled, and scrambled with Boursin cheese. I haven't hit the soft boiled yet but they do give a great tip for figuring out if your eggs are fresh or not. They recommend using older eggs for boiled eggs. Put your eggs in a bowl of water. If they lay flat, they are fresh. If they raise up on one end, the egg is older and perfect for boiling.

    For what it's worth, I would have preferred the poached over boiled anyway.

  9. Afraid that I cannot help with the 'soft' eggs….I am a scrabled egg girl myself….well done…as well. The potatoes look wonderful though…and I do have some smoked paparika that I have been wanting to use.

    Thank you for a great blog!

  10. I use a small pot (enough for 4-6 eggs). Fill half way with cold water and place two eggs in the pot and turn on the stove to high. Once it begins to boil I set the timer for 3.5 minutes.
    (It usually is enough time for me to make some toast. )
    Once the timer goes off I spoon them out and run cold tap water over them and shell them.

    It works everytime. I have these for breakfast 3 or 4 times a week.

    Good luck!

  11. I don't have much to add in terms of how to make soft boiled eggs, sorry, but I must ask about the brown eggs in your picture. I have always wanted to try them but never got around to it. Do they taste any different or are there other benefits that I should know about? Like I said, I have always been intrigued yet have never sprung for them.

    1. Well… there's no real difference in the color of eggs. White eggs come from white chickens and brown eggs come from brown chickens! Now… there is a TON of difference in flavor and health from a standard factory egg and a pastured or farm fresh egg… but I don't think that the color in and of itself actually means anything.

      I recommend trying a side by side taste test.. but do it with a normal cheap egg and one you get from a farmer's market or try the pastured organic variety in your supermarket. You'll never go back. :)

  12. We always called eggs fried in toast, “toad on the hole.” Now if you can make the egg look like a toad that would really be a cool thing.
    My Mom always made us soft boiled eggs and served them in the shell(top 1/3 removed) in these cute little egg cups handed down from her Mom. I thought they were always served in the shell but I can’t remember for the life of me how she was able to remove the top 1/3.
    Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulation, sometimes you just crack me up.lol

  13. I was really responding to your comment that white eggs come from white chickens and brown eggs come from brown chickens, because that's not always true. The Delaware, White Cochin, and White Langshan for example are white chickens that lay brown eggs. Golden Penciled Hamburgs and Buttercups, are reddish/brown chickens that lay white eggs. Polish chickens come in white, buff, black, and gold and all lay white eggs. I've just always found using the ear lobes a more accurate way to determine egg color. But, like I said, even that has exceptions. But in general……

  14. I also thought your eggs could have been difficult to peal due to age of them. Extremely fresh eggs are typically very difficult to peal. I add salt to the water if I am boiling extremely fresh eggs, and it helps immensely. There is really no difference in taste or nutritional value between fresh white or fresh brown eggs – only the shell color. The taste of eggs IS affected by the diet of the chicken though. You were joking about white chickens laying white eggs and brown chickens laying brown eggs, right? The rule of thumb is that chickens with white ear lobes typically lay white eggs, and chickens with red ear lobes typically lay brown eggs. But there are exceptions to most rules, and in the case of chickens there are some that lay pink, blue, green, etc. eggs! Sorry for the long winded comment :) I raise chickens and get a lot of questions about them – I did a little write up on fresh eggs if you are interested http://backtobasicliving.com/blog/how-does-this-whole-chicken-and-egg-thing-work/

    1. But aren’t chickens with red ear lobes normally brown or red? I don’t raise chickens, but that’s what I’ve always read…

      Thanks for the link!

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