First, get a Fry Baby.
A Fry Baby is the world’s smallest deep fryer, and we got ours at a Yankee swap hosted by our friends Tommy and Ali, for which all the guests were instructed to bring something that’s been lying around the house for ages but never used. We brought a platter we’d bought at a yard sale a few years back, but somehow never warmed up to. But one couple brought this 1970’s-era miniature deep-fryer. Imagine! They had it for years, and it was still in the box! There’s no accounting for taste.
It’s not really called a Fry Baby, but Kevin started calling it that and the name stuck. It was made before we had all these pesky safety regulations, and there’s no visible means of controlling the temperature of the oil, and no automatic shut-down if you forget to unplug it. It’s clearly a house fire waiting to happen, and perhaps it’s the element of danger that endears that little appliance to Kevin, who’s been deep-frying anything that’s stopped moving.
If you have a Fry Baby and you have chickens, it won’t be long before you start wondering just what would happen if you tried to deep-fry an egg. You’ll go to the Internet, and you’ll see all kinds of videos of people trying to do it, with results that range from failure to tragedy. Than you’ll eventually stumble on one of Jacques Pepin doing it, with perfect results.
The lesson you should take from this is that you should only deep-fry an egg if you’re Jacques Pepin. The lesson we took from it is that, hey, we can deep-fry an egg!
Pepin does it in a shallow pan of oil, and uses two wooden spoons to gather up the white as it spreads. But, before he does, he gives the critical piece of information. Make sure, he warns, to refrigerate your eggs so the whites don’t spread so much.
Anyone who’s ever opened an egg just out of the nest box knows that, the fresher the egg, the more coherent the white. As eggs age, they ooze carbon dioxide and the whites lose their viscosity.
So, we figured, if a cold egg is good, a fresh cold egg is better. So we heated the oil and, when it was hot, we took a couple eggs right out of the 38-degree chicken coop.
I broke an egg into a bowl, and slid it into the hot oil. I had my two wooden spoons ready, but I didn’t need them. The bubbles that rose up around the egg had the effect of keeping the white close to the yolk. I flipped the egg over mid-fry, but it’s not really necessary. There’s enough oil on the top that it cooks pretty evenly. When the white began to brown, about 45 seconds in, I took it out with a slotted spoon and drained it on a paper towel.
It was perfect, with whites completely set and a liquid yolk. There was a little crispy edge on the whites, like you get with a pan-fried egg.
Kevin had found another way to do it, and we tried that, too. You soft-boil an egg, peel it, and then coat it with flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. Then into the oil for about thirty seconds. It works great, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra work. Kevin, who can’t resist a crispy panko crust, disagreed. Which is fine by me, because it means he may occasionally make one for me.
We made open-face sandwiches of crusty bread, goat cheese and bacon, sautéed beet greens and garlic, and topped them with the eggs. They were terrific.