Eggs, for all the gifts they give us (Did you know there is over 300 million laying hens in the USA, as in almost one for every human being?), how many artists and politicians are symbols of contradiction. Sometimes they’re sturdy and invincible: you can cook them hot and fast with excellent results. But sometimes they are delicate and fragile. They threaten to break open if a pot of water is too hot. They pop and curdle and cry and stick – point is, eggs need a little DC. This is especially true for temperature changes.
For example, suppose you put raw eggs (or egg yolks) in a saucepan of hot liquid. If you pour the eggs straight into the boiling cauldron, they’ll stir almost instantly. This is great and by design if you set out to do it Egg drop soup, Tomato and egg, or Stracciatella. It’s much less desirable if you’re looking to harness the thickening power of eggs for a creamy effect pudding, Lemon curd, or Ice cream base that is not sprinkled with boiled egg. In the case of This avgolemono-inspired lemon tortellini soupThe goal is to cook the eggs slowly, rather than all at once, so that they add body and richness to the broth, rather than curdling into individual pieces.
“I’m the right temperature to keep you out of the storm?”
To solve the problem, you need to temper the eggs: essentially, this means slowly diluting them with some hot liquid before putting them in the pot to join the party. (Imagine the eggs are … pregaming? Do you remember those days?) This gives the eggs a head start in cooking and, as the people at Cook’s Illustrated explainmakes it harder for their proteins to connect and form bonds (i.e., get messed up) when heated.
How to temper eggs:
- Have a whisk and a ladle or measuring cup nearby.
- Crack your eggs into a bowl or large liquid measuring cup large enough to hold at least a few cups of liquid and room for a whisk. If you’re making a custard base, such as for ice cream or pudding, you can also incorporate sugar. Whisk the eggs (or yolks) to homogenize.
- Stabilize this bowl (if it’s large or awkward) with a damp towel so both hands are free – you’ll see why in a moment. You can use the towel to create a small nest for your bowl by rolling it into a log, then shaping it into a hollow ring and letting your bowl rest in it.
- Once your liquid is hot, use the ladle or measuring cup to slowly drip it into the eggs, wiping constantly. I like to water with my non-dominant hand so I can wipe with my more skillful hand.
- Touch your egg mixture (stick a clean finger in!). If it’s very warm, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, keep adding liquid until it gets there.
- Now slowly pour the egg mixture back into the pot and whisk it constantly.
- Keep cooking, wiping frequently (this is a lot of mopping), and being careful to scrape the sides and bottom of the saucepan until you get to the indicator you want (with many puddings, find the mixture to coat the back of a spoon ) or temperature.
In some (fussy) cases, with recipes, you will pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to ensure that not even a single lump can sneak past. But for this soup There’s enough going on – tortellini, spinach, dill, parmesan – that a tiny egg curd won’t be a problem. A whole pot of scrambled eggs? Well then it’s a completely different dish.
Soup is on!
Lemon tortellini soup with spinach and dill
This soup is bouncy and upbeat, but calming and full of flavor. It’s like a jacket for the off-season.