I can't remember exactly when I had my first runny egg, but I'm fairly certain my father prepared it. At the very least, he influenced the moment. He often ate a soft boiled egg for breakfast, gently broken into a bowl and eaten with a spoon, while sipping black coffee and reading the Florida Times-Union front to back. On Christmas morning, eggs benedict was a tradition, with poached eggs and Hollandaise that oozed across my plate, savory gold and decidedly adult. Liquid yolks were my first "adult food" I embraced with 100 percent of myself, no urging necessary.
There weren't many mature foods I liked as a kid. My father was a sportsman, so wild duck and shad roe, raw oysters, squirrel, things I wouldn't touch, not twice, regularly graced the table. For most of us, our palates change over the years. I can now eat oysters on the half shell, most fish (fresh, never overcooked), almost any kind of offal (though blood sausage is a bit rich for me), but shredded coconut still triggers the gag reflex and I suspect it will remain a lifelong thorn in my culinary side. Likewise, there are foods I used to love that I can no longer tolerate. Chef Boyardee Beefaroni comes to mind , which I recently re-visited, for nostalgia and posterity. It was a mammoth disappointment and should be removed from all supermarket and convenience store shelves. Pop Tarts are useless calories and make my teeth hurt, Hot Pockets look like a frozen stomach ache and Cheez Whiz, well, it's neither cheese nor exceptionally clever. Discuss amongst yourselves. Nor can I consume, for reasons related to the other path toward maturity, Champagne because it gives me heartburn, unless is #totes natch and non-dosaged (see how I retain my youthfulness!) and vodka because it has a dubious habit of commandeering the evening and stealing the next day, like a biatch.
Oh, but for the runny egg, my love, your silky, sensual form adds nuance and color and elegance to any vehicle, be it a warm bowl of broth, plain steamed rice, Brussels sprouts, polenta and grits, or a spoon. I love you. Please don't ever turn on me.
The runny egg parallels with the best sort of people, the polarizing types who straddle two worlds of being adored and being hated. These are the people who, often enough, carry bold convictions about life, rarely waver,and thumb their noses at their personal dislikes. It's hard to imagine someone I loathe being adored by another, but it happens. I've met many people who can not deal with the just-cooked yellow of an unfertilized chicken embryo. #runnyeggsalldaylong
There are essentially four types of runny egg: the soft boiled (three or four minutes), the medium boiled (six or seven minutes), the poached, and the fried sunny side up. I've learned most of these tricks from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, always my first resource.
The first egg image is a four minute egg and perhaps my favorite for the ease-to-make, flavor-texture-reward ratio. Begin with a pot of cold water, enough to cover the egg(s), and bring it to a boil. Carefully lower the egg into the boiling water with a slotted spoon, letting it roll off without bounce, or you'll end up with a broken egg and an underwater trail of dancing solid albumen. Set your timer to four minutes, or obsessively watch the time on a functioning clock. Promptly remove egg with the slotted spoon and run under cold water until you can get your hands around it to peel the shell.
Removing the soft egg is actually quite easy. I've found that hot eggs peel their shell eagerly and with little to no resistance. [Insert sex joke here] You can slip a spoon between the shell and the egg to help scoop it out without breaking the yolk. Definitely take care not to rush through it or you could end up with a mess, or at best, a cold yolk. [Ahem]
Below, is the three minute egg.
This was a demonstration of what to do with a little leftover white rice, a stalk of celery and a few cherry tomatoes. Sauté the celery with garlic, add halved tomatoes, a little salt, a little pepper, and crack a barely cooked egg over the top. This is actually a touch under done for me, not because of the taste, but because of the wee stomach ache I suffered afterward. What a difference a minute can make.
Below, the seven minute egg.
Prepared as above, only cooked for seven minutes. You can safely go six minutes on this as well and still end up with a very firm, yet not dry, white and a runny yolk with firm edges.
I eat a lot of eggs, love them in fact. Though I have to confess I'm not enthusiastic about scrambled eggs, frittatas or omelets. Something happens to the molecules when yolk and white are blended into one and cooked until dry that I find unsavory. I can't explain it but I'm confident there's a scientific confirmation for this. The flavor is more eggy in the way that old and overcooked fish is more fishy, and the texture is more dense, more chewy than preferred. Even a hard boiled, 11 minute egg is more satisfying, plus they travel well.