Chefs have always been in love with eggs. The 100 folds in a toque are said to represent all the ways a culinary professional should be able to prepare an egg. It’s a symbol of mastery, a celebration of one of the most versatile ingredients in a chef’s arsenal.
But it’s only been in recent years that the egg has been exonerated in the public eye. Consumers are now embracing the egg with wild abandon, moving it into a rarefied place where it straddles both decadence and wholesomeness. This positioning has helped launch eggs into the stratosphere of serious menu opportunity today.
So, although the egg has a newfound health halo, it still rocks the cool factor. For doubters, search #YolkPorn and see how many posts revolve around the majesty of breaking into a runny egg atop avocado toast, or the ribbon of yolk when a toasted breakfast sandwich gives way to a bright yellow river of goodness.
“Eggs have always been an incredibly versatile ingredient in savory/sweet menu development,” says Quinn Adkins, director of menu development for Culver’s, based in Prairie du Sac, Wis. “We have finally put to bed the notion that eggs are bad for you. Chefs are reveling with new enthusiasm around egg play. It doesn’t hurt that eggs are camera-friendly. Those bursts of white and deep yellow add to the allure. Egg innovation has moved well beyond topping a burger with a fried egg.”
Today, the sky’s the limit. Chefs are leveraging the egg’s superstar status and applying fantastic creativity that results in menu differentiation. At Bywater American Bistro, a neighborhood restaurant in New Orleans, the brunch menu stars Crispy Rice (main pic above) topped with brown-sugar bacon, roasted maitake mushrooms, sweet peas and a bright swirl of yolk jam, made by cooking the egg at a low temperature.
At Strip House, a modern steakhouse with locations in New York and Las Vegas, a side of asparagus is finished tableside with a flurry of cured, shaved egg yolk. Juniper, a Southern restaurant in St. Louis, makes the sunny-side egg a crucial part of the Cornmeal Hoe Cakes, with the yolk dripping down over the dish, mingling with the aged maple syrup, green tomato mostarda and chow-chow.
And at District Kitchen + Cocktails in Austin, Texas, the Royal Egg is served like a boiled egg, but with the shell hollowed out and refilled with soft scrambled eggs mixed with labneh and topped with chives and caviar.
The Topper With Texture – Egg toppers increase the flavor, variety and perceived value of dishes, and the yolk provides an additional “sauce”. By Gerry Ludwig.
One of the biggest champions of egg-centricity is the modern toast platform, which practically begs for a velvety, rich egg topper. Ella Elli, a Mediterranean small-plates concept in Chicago, runs an Avocado Toast on its menu that is crowned with a slow-poached egg and everything-bagel spice. The egg elevates the toast, adding protein, color contrast and a luscious richness that’s hard to beat.
“Eggs are winning today, defining a dish in trend-forward, interesting ways,” says Louis Maskin, marketing director with The Culinary Edge. “Their social currency is huge, where the success of a brunch outing hinges on that killer yolk shot. And although breakfast is a huge driver with this trend, egg innovation is moving well beyond that daypart.”
Of course, eggs are at home in the breakfast space. They own it, they define it. They’re also helping to drive innovation, anchoring more adventurous dishes through their stature as beloved beacons of breakfast.
“There’s a growing willingness and interest among consumers to experiment at breakfast,” says Maeve Webster, president of Menu Matters consultancy. “Breakfast used to be a habit-driven event, but that’s not the case anymore, particularly with younger consumers.” That appetite for adventure, she says, is fueling tremendous innovation in breakfast, the most egg-heavy daypart of them all.
Perfectly exemplifying this is the surge in shakshuka dishes over the last few years, on breakfast, brunch and all-day breakfast menus. Starring a heavily seasoned sauce and boasting beautifully braised eggs, shakshuka is showing up across the country, well outside of Eastern Mediterranean concepts. Chefs aren’t just running with shakshuka, they’re bending it to fit their menus, leveraging the power of eggs to reel in curious diners.
Balaboosta, a Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant in New York, serves both a traditional shakshuka and a “yellow” one, adding coconut milk for a different spin. Jack’s Wife Freda, an all-day bistro with two locations in Manhattan, demonstrates shakshuka’s ability to move into other global profiles, subbing out the tomato for a green tomatillo sauce.
First Watch Restaurants, based in University Park, Fla., is planning on rolling out its version of a shakshuka this spring, says Shane Schaibly, VP of culinary strategy and corporate chef for the all-day breakfast chain. “The familiarity of eggs lets us pull off more ethnic dishes, like shakshuka,” he says. “People aren’t afraid of runny yolks anymore. Social media has really helped with making that an appealing trait.”
The greater adoption of sous vide cookery is helping as well, enabling high-volume operations to deliver consistent soft-boiled or soft-poached eggs—on breakfast dishes and beyond. “Sous vide is incredibly important for limited-service operations that don’t have a kitchen-suite structure that can execute these appealing egg dishes,” says Culver’s Adkins. “With sous vide, they can get a soft-poached or soft-fried egg that’s perfect in a sandwich or over avocado toast. That opens up the door to so much more opportunity.”
Leading with Eggs
The incredible success of places like Eggslut, a sandwich shop with five locations in the West, has propelled the idea of eggs as the hero of casual, hip fare. Eggslut, and others of its ilk, glorify the portable side of eggs with breakfast-on-the-run sandwiches, like the brioche bun filled with soft scrambled egg, chives, cheddar, Sriracha mayo and caramelized onions.
Eg², an all-day breakfast concept from Creative Dining Services at Stryker Instruments Corporate Kitchen in Kalamazoo, Mich., is menuing a clever and craveable version of a New Zealand egg pie. “It has pastry on both sides. You crack the eggs whole into the pastry, then add whatever ingredients you want. We do pork belly, Parmesan and vegetables in one version,” says Ian Ramirez, director of culinary innovation and operations for Creative Dining Services, based in Zeeland, Mich.
“We bake it on a huge sheet pan, then cut the pies into squares and wrap them in butcher paper so guests can eat them like a sandwich. They’ve been a huge hit.” One of the unique markers of this pie is the celebration of the whole egg, which remains intact through the baking process.
Eggs plus portability plus cool factor equals opportunity. Robert Danhi, culinary consultant, calls out the “walking omelette” as another way to deliver on the trend. “Portability is as important as ever,” he says.
“Eating omelettes on the go never used to be an option. Now they are, when griddle-cooked, then adhered to the inside of a hot dog bun.” He suggests flavoring the egg for signature effect, perhaps moving it into a Thai profile with lemongrass, chiles and other aromatics.
Egg Trend Insights – insights into the egg trend from our panel of experts.
Tamra Scroggins, director of food culture at Sizzler USA, based in Mission Viejo, Calif., sees rolled omelettes as a great way to make a classic both modern and portable. “Anything you can convert to a handheld is a win,” she says. “Wrap an omelette into a cone, add signature ingredients to the egg mixture and you’ve got a fun dish.”
At Queen’s Danh Tu, a Vietnamese street food vendor in Brooklyn, N.Y., the bánh xèo is an omelette-crêpe served in a cone, signaling how eggs can be a part of edgy, global treatments while maintaining a familiar profile.
Old Vine Café in Costa Mesa, Calif., makes egg yolk the focal point of its Shrooms appetizer: seared hen-of-the-woods, shiitake and beech mushrooms topped with Parmesan, chives and an egg yolk, adding a creamy quality to the dish.
Egg Shop, with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, N.Y., menus Mushroom Toast composed of grilled sourdough topped with cremini mushrooms, chive butter, pickled onion and egg yolk. “The heat from the mushrooms cooks the yolk, which adds this amazing richness and color to the dish,” says Nick Korbee, chef/partner at Egg Shop.
Mason Eatery, an upscale pub in Miami, goes all-in with the decadence of eggs, serving it in The Goopy Egg shareable. The dip stars beaten eggs, cooked on low with sour cream, Muenster and salt, until eggs thicken and become “goopy.” The egg dish is served with housemade bagel chips for dipping.
Cured, Marinated, Shaved…
Chefs are showcasing eggs as a high-impact ingredient in a myriad of wonderful ways. Ani Ramen, a Japanese noodle house with locations in Montclair and Jersey City, N.J., shows off a technique that would work beautifully across foodservice. Its Japanese soft-boiled egg, a mainstay in ramen dishes, is marinated in soy sauce, mirin, water, garlic and ginger.
“We cook and marinate hundreds of eggs on a daily basis,” says Julián Valencia, chef/partner. “The yolk is custard-like, and the egg lends a great savory-sweet balance to ramen.” He says the egg can also be enjoyed by itself or on a rice dish, pointing out its versatility.
“Operators should absolutely consider all the different ways eggs can work in a dish, with different flavors enhancing a sous-vide egg, for instance” says Webster. “Why not a sweet-style shakshuka, flavoring the eggs with maple syrup or honey?”
Cured egg yolks are another opportunity, making a strong showing on Instagram, thanks to the “Wow!” factor. Egg Shop’s Korbee employs cured egg yolk in a number of applications. He uses a 50/50 salt-sugar mix on a sheet tray, with the egg yolks placed on top, then mounds the cure over the yolks and lets them sit for two days, adding a bit of citrus to the mixture. He gently rinses the yolks, then oven dries them at a low temperature.
Korbee uses the cured egg yolk in various dishes, including his herb-salt seasoned french fries. The cured yolks are grated over the fries. “It’s like micro-planing Parmesan, but instead, it’s cured egg yolk—salty, sweet and rich,” he says.
He also cold-smokes soft-boiled eggs, bringing them to a consistency that he describes as “a little stiffer than hard boiled.” Slices of smoked egg are featured in his take on a Caprese salad. He has also grated smoked eggs over elote. “I season the egg pretty heavily to get that Cotija saltiness, but it works great and brings a bit of creativity to the corn dish,” says Korbee.
Cured egg yolk acts as a great finish for all sorts of dishes, from veg-centric to pastas. Blue Dog Café, with two locations in Louisiana, finishes its Blue Crab Spaghetti (fresh lump crab, chile-garlic butter, citrus-herb gremolata and shaved Parmesan) with cured egg yolk.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston spins the idea of a shaved egg into a pub profile with its Shrimp & Crab Cake, topped with salsa verde and shaved pickled egg.
Eggs are not just having a moment. They’re reaching new culinary heights, lifted up by consumers who now wholeheartedly embrace them, and chefs who have never stopped loving them.
5 Ways to Crack an Egg
By Rick Perez
Eggs are the least expensive method of adding protein and rich flavor to a dish in different ways. Here are five out-of-the-box ideas:
1. Instead of poached eggs, make oeufs en cocotte (baked eggs) with a mushroom cream sauce and fresh herbs.
2. Top toast with fried egg-white foam.
3. Flavor poached or boiled eggs by boiling them in a variety of broths, from saffron to bone broth.
4. Take a cue from street-food stalls in Asia and experiment with egg-based handhelds, from a crêpe style to a typical bun, all filled with exciting flavors and textures. In India, street vendors fry an egg, then grate hard-boiled eggs on top and serve it between a toasted bun.
5. Offer commercial egg-white “chips” as an alternative to bread for dipping.