Who came up with that expression, anyway? Whoever they were must have been talking about hard-boiled eggs, which I agree are pretty straightforward. Well, relatively straightforward – hardboiling them is not too tricky, provided you don’t crack the shell by putting a fridge-cold egg into boiling water, and provided you know the mystical incantations that prevent it from cracking anyway. (Everyone, knows the mystical incantations, right? I don’t need to repeat them here?)
I mean, it’s difficult to overboil an egg, so you have a lot of leeway. And if you are feeling creative, you can always draw on them with wax candles or crayons, or tie them tightly into a stocking with some ferns and small flowers, and then boil them in dye to make pretty patterns. Or you can simmer them slowly with tea and spices to make Chinese Tea eggs.
I have done all of these things.
You can also try boiling them in the microwave without pricking a hole in them, just to see what happens. I have not done this, but I gather the results are spectacular, if you don’t mind cleaning your microwave afterwards.
What I have not done successfully, O my readers, is soft boil an egg.
In my defense, I can make a soufflé. Then again, people tend to write detailed recipes for soufflés. And even when you get a recipe telling you how to boil an egg, it generally doesn’t tell you things like at what point you should consider the water to be sufficiently boiling for you to start the timer (I mean, I know what a rolling boil looks like, and I think I know what a simmer is, but there is a lot of room between those points), or whether you should turn the heat down while the egg cooks, or how much. Trust me, if you mostly learned to cook from cookbooks, this stuff is *not* intuitive.
Anyway, the point is that I keep missing, and as far as I know, there is no way to check whether the egg is done right without removing it from its shell (I’m pretty sure the spinning test only works on hard boiled eggs.) – and once you do that, it’s too late. If you’re lucky, you have hard- or medium-boiled eggs (rats!), If you’re less lucky, the white is still loose and half cooked and completely revolting.
I actually got pretty close today. I’m off work sick with some kind of bug, and decided that toasted sourdough with a soft boiled egg might be just the thing. It might be, too, but I’ll never know, because it was medium-boiled. But… on the underdone side of medium-boiled. Almost soft-boiled. Close enough that I am tempted to try doing another one later, though that is probably the way of madness.
Still, there was a Christopher Robinish sort of comfortingness in sitting there in my flannel pajamas, eating toast with a boiled egg on the one hand and toast with marmalade – which wasn’t so bad after all – on the other. All I need is some lovely rice pudding for dinner tonight, and I’m sure that by tomorrow my sneazles and meazles will have vanished away…
(I think Andrew would probably object to the rice pudding, which is a pity, because I’ve never tried it, and suddenly I have the strongest urge to do so.)
… One of these days, I *will* sit down and experiment with boiling eggs until I get it right, and then I will write it up here in the sort of excruciating detail that will make you all astonished that I have ever cooked anything successfully at all, but I tell you, soft-boiled eggs are much harder than they are cracked up to be. So to speak. That really was awful, but since it was unintentional, I’m going to leave it be. Anyway, today is not the day for eggish experimentation, because me and my flannel pajamas are going right back to bed to sleep off this lurgy. See you in the morning!