Two Men's Eggs

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The only thing my husband likes to eat, said my Japanese friend Hiroko, one of the most dedicated and talented cooks I have ever met, is steak or a soft boiled egg. What a pity with your great cooking skills, I replied, but at least that makes him easy to please.Not at all, was her response. In our many years of marriage, I have never achieved an egg that he has deemed perfect. I looked at her carefully to see if she was kidding. No. She was quite serious. The yolk must be entirely fluid while the white must be entirely set. The yolk must be precisely in the center, and when the egg is cut the short way, none of the yolk must run onto the white. Each time he tells me I have failed. she ended sadly.

This was beginning to sound like some sort of Midieval punishment. It is a truism that the seemingly easiest tasks are often the most difficult to accomplish. This Zen like challenge made me vow someday to go for the impossible and with the help of instructions from Hiroko, make that egg. (Actually, Hiroko who is now back in Japan, writes me that this egg, called "half-cooked egg" is a famous recipe from a restaurant called Kyo-tei in Kyoto, a city renowned for its refinement in crafts and the quality of ingredients.)

Several years passed since first hearing about this special egg and I found myself repeating the story to another couple. The wife's response: That's funny, Heinz cooks only one thing and it is also an egg which he has perfected. This struck me as much more equitable an arrangement. The egg is "coddled" in a microwave-safe ramekin so that it exactly fits an English muffin. Heinz cautioned me that it would probably be necessary to experiment a bit for exact timing because microwaves vary but I must say it worked perfectly on the first try.

The recipe couldn't be more simple: Place a little piece of butter into a ramekin that is about the same diameter as an English muffin. Break 1 large cold egg into the ramekin. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Slide the egg onto the toasted English muffin. That's it. Except for a little refinement, I prefer: if desired, carefully separate the egg to remove the chalaza (the little ropey bit attaching the yolk to the white that never really sets on cooking). Then add both the white and unbroken yolk to the ramekin.

Now for Takao's egg, essentially as given by Hiroko: Use fresh egg, put in room temperature for more than 1 hour. Put it in quietly boiling water, using a slotted spoon. Turn egg in boiling water for the first minute to make yolk centered. Boil quietly 5 minutes from the beginning. Put egg in cold water. Peel off shell and skin in the cold water. Cut off a very thin slice from each pointed end so egg will sit evenly. Holding egg in palm of hand, use a wide bladed knife to cut egg in half the short way, being careful not to cut hand. Quickly separate the two halves onto your palm, using knife blade to smooth yolk into place. To quote Hiroko: It is quite simple but difficult. Size of the eggs or room's temperature change the condition. So try once or twice.