Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Verbal Stuff I Like: Mr. Breakfast Edition

I was wondering one day how to make a soft-boiled egg. Making a hard-boiled egg is a piece of cake. You put an egg in boiling water and neglect it for as long as it ususally takes you to neglect things. After you come back to it, you boil it a few minutes longer if there's any water left. And you've got a hard-boiled egg.

A soft-boiled egg takes more planning. By planning, I obviously mean googling the matter. (So the question arises, if it's so obvious, why am I bothering to tell you? Good question.) So I ended up at the website of Mr. Breakfast. Julie B. asked, "Dear Mr. Breakfast, How do you boil an egg?" Mr. Breakfast acknowledged--correctly, in my opinion--that this is a great question (I would have used "excellent" instead of "great," but that's just a matter of emphasis). Mr. Breakfast then says, "I refer to boiled eggs as 'flash-boiled-then-simmered eggs'. I wasn't sure if you meant 'soft-flash-boiled-then-simmered eggs" or 'hard' so I cooked up a response for both." In point of fact, he doesn't refer to boiled eggs as anything other than boiled eggs anywhere else on the page. But I'm gladdened to know that he intended to do so. Nevertheless, this isn't why I chose Mr. Breakfast for the Verbal Stuff I Like series. Here's his recipe for soft-flash-boiled-then-simmered eggs (or, as he refers to them, soft-boiled eggs). But that's not why I'm featuring him here either. Anyhow, the recipe (which applies only to large eggs):

  • Remove desired number of eggs from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

  • Place eggs in a small sauce pan and add just enough water to completely cover eggs.

  • Bring the water to a rolling boil. Covering the pan will lead to a quicker boil and is recommended.

  • Immediately reduce heat to simmer and remove the cover from the pan.

  • The amount of time the eggs are allowed to simmer will determine the degree to which the yolk is cooked. A cooking time of less than 4 minutes is not recommended.

    Soft-cooked runny yolk:
    5 minutes (4 minutes for medium eggs; 6 minutes for extra-large eggs)

    Medium-cooked creamy partially-firm yolk:
    7 minutes (6 minutes for medium eggs; 8 minutes for extra-large eggs)

  • Carefully remove the pan from the stove top and place beneath the kitchen faucet. Run cool water into the pan for a minute until the water is cool to the touch. This reduces the temperature enough so the eggs won't continue to cook under their own internal heat. It also brings them down to a more appropriate serving temperature.

  • To serve soft-boiled and medium-boiled eggs: Place cooked egg in an egg cup. Small cappuccino cups work in a fix. Crack with a small spoon and consume directly from the shell.
  • Just to illustrate his point clearly, Mr. Breakfast follows the recipe with a very cool picture:

    But as I was saying, this isn't why I'm quoting Mr. Breakfast here. No, it's because of this:

    Quick & Dirty Method Of Hard-Boiling
    When Mr Breakfast was in college, a vibrant yellow yolk wasn't nearly as important to him as chasing skirts and getting stoned on beer. I--me being him--would simply bring water to a boil, place my eggs in the water and remove them all when the first crack appeared in any one of the eggs. The eggs would naturally be slightly over-cooked. But the negative effect of slight-overcooking was one of appearance. The yolk was more of an off-yellow, just-short-of-green color. The eggs still tasted great.
    The change of person, from "him" talk to "I" talk, was in itself not a big deal (at work, I'd pretend to be bent out of shape by it, but not in real life). But the explanatory "me being him"--well, as regular readers of this blog may not be surprised to hear, this appealed to me and won Mr. Breakfast this spot in the Verbal Stuff I Like series.

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    New Chicago Manual

    I admire The Chicago Manual of Style (except for the usage guide by Bryan Garner)--in fact, I explained here why I don't use italics when referring to it, an explanation based on the then-current sixteenth [oops!, I meant the fifteenth] edition. I also admire Carol Fisher Saller's The Subversive Copy Editor.

    The Chicago Tribune carries an article by Steve Johnson about the new sixteenth edition of the manual, featuring this paragraph:

    "Our readers really told us very clearly, 'We don't want to have to think about it that much. Just tell us the rule!,'" Saller says.
    If I had been writing this, and if there had been any hint of exclamation on Saller's part, I would have written this as
    "Our readers really told us very clearly, 'We don't want to have to think about it that much. Just tell us the rule!'!," Saller says.
    But misfortunately, or perhaps not, I didn't write it, and I don't know whether there was any hint of sclam from Saller herself.