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Nero Wolfe's Scrambled Eggs

The Recipe

From The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, copyright 1973, fourth printing April 1974. Original copyright 1934.

Bring water in double boiler to simmer. Mix eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, whisk vigorously. Melt butter in double boiler, then add egg mixture. Cover double boiler, leave for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook clarified butter in a pan on extremely low heat until brown. When done, and off heat, add vinegar.

After 15 minutes, open double boiler and begin stirring continuously until eggs are at desired texture.

Serve, spooning butter-vinegar sauce on top of eggs.

The First Attempt

After watching the "Motherhunt" episode of The Nero Wolfe Mysteries, I was intrigued by a scrambled egg recipe that took 40 minutes to prepare. So I took a stab at it. Being lazy and under-provisioned, I made some modifications.

First, salted butter for butter. Second, white wine vinegar for the tarragon wine vinegar. I made some half-assed clarified butter in the microwave; a bunch of solids were still left behind, but it seemed good enough. I also halved all of the ingredients, as this was a late-night snack.

Lacking a double boiler, I used two pots stacked on top of each other. They didn't stack well, so a cookie sheet provided a base between the two. It's hard to know how this impacted the recipe. I could have used a bowl in a pot, but given the recipe I figured that a flat bottom was important.

I love my gas stove, but "low" heat is not something that it does. Especially in a covered pot, you get a boil, not a simmer. I hoped this was okay and pressed onward. For the clarified butter, I alternated on and off the stove top.

Then the alteration that I'm sure doomed my effort: 1% milk for light cream. A twentieth of the requested fat.

After 15 minutes I opened the top pot to find liquid. Maybe just a bit thicker than it had gone in, but liquid. I dutifully began stirring. 10 minutes passed. 20 minutes. 30. 40. 50. Maybe the liquid was starting to thicken, but I wasn't going to be eating anytime soon.

Wanting some eggs, and to be done, the egg mixture got tossed into a frying pan and I finished the eggs in a few minutes.

Surprisingly, despite my sabotage in ingredients, tools, and ultimately technique, these were quite good eggs. They were lighter and smoother than typical scrambled eggs. Not worth the hour plus I put into them, but good enough to convince me to try it again.

The Second Attempt

Inspired by the first attempt, I acquired two key elements I had been missing: light cream and a double boiler. Metcalfe's lacked anything labeled "light cream," but they had "coffee cream" that had the right fat content and consisted entirely of cream and preservatives. Good enough!

Otherwise, I made the same substitutions as before. Salted butter for butter. Half-assed microwave clarified butter. White wine vinegar for tarragon wine vinegar.

This time, after 15 minutes uncovered, progress was made! The bottom half of the liquid had formed into a very soft mass. It broke up easily and I began stirring. The result was still too liquid to be called scrambled eggs, but over the next 10 minutes or so, it tightened up and looked like undercooked scrambled eggs. Wanting them a bit more done, I continued for another 5 or so minutes. The eggs didn't particularly dry, but I noticed some liquid pooling at the bottom of the boiler. I assumed that this was the left-over liquid from earlier, but the more I stirred, the more liquid pooled. Concluding that the eggs were not cooking, and that I was just driving the liquid out, I declared them done and served them with toast and the butter sauce.

The Review

These are good eggs, and not like normal scrambled eggs. The eggs are incredibly moist, soft, and smooth. The eggs had a delicate but distinctly eggy flavor.

But, it's 40 minutes of time. In 5-10 minutes I can have regular scrambled eggs, which are still delicious. I might take the time to do it again, but not often.

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