The Bird’s Nest
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After almost a dozen eggs, I finally got something that somewhat resembled a soft boiled egg.
And it still really sucked.
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.
All you need to successfully poach some eggs is:
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.
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.
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.
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?