Nature's sauce, and perhaps the most important thing a young chef can master (next to the chicken), is the egg. Unless it's Easter and your hands are stained with pastel PAAS, there's no greater culinary disappointment than a cooked-through egg yolk. So here, we salute the chefs and the line cooks and the brunch guys and gals who can coddle, poach, soft boil, sunny-side up, sous vide, and generally soft touch these little babies onto the plate, intact, gloriously sunny, happily jiggly, runny and lavish as the liquid gold they are.
"That's my grandpa's recipe," Joe Rolle proclaims with a beaming smile of the chicken cacciatore at the new and outstanding Italian giant Il Foro. It says so right on the menu: "Dario's Rabbit Cacciatore." Tender, on-the-bone rabbit swaddled in tomato sugo and quilted with a confetti of fresh herb gremolata. But sorry, grandpa, the star of this show might just be the smooth as pudding polenta with no hint of cornmeal tooth, and a barely warm egg yolk to bust over it and anoint the plate like baptismal water. It's good. (top photo)
So many try and fail to recreate and improve upon the almost unimproveable BLT. When someone succeeds, we up and take notice, like this Fried Green Tomato BLT from Butcher and the Boar where lacy green tomatoes steam inside the crunchy shell of fried batter. Fatty bacon takes its place as base and the crowning glory is a just-set egg that makes a blessed mess of the whole thing. Let it run down your arm and be the envy of the bar.
A classic Caesar is another rarely improved upon mainstay of good American cooking — egg yolk, anchovy, garlic, copious amounts of Parm, and a spice market's dose of black peeper is all you want. Aside from a crouton, the only excusable accompaniment is a runny egg, making almost a second dressing for sturdy romaine. Red Wagon Pizza gets it right, with a soft-cooked egg that yields to a runny, lukewarm river of yellow, almost making us forget about pizza pie altogether. What a promising way to start a meal.
The chefs at Brewer's Table are playing with their food with the aplomb of grade-schoolers cut loose in FAO Schwartz: meringue cigarettes that taste of baby aspirin, dollops, swishes, purees, seeds, circles, and powders. It's playful, colorful, strange, maddening, gorgeous, confusing, and odd. And that was just one dinner. But we liked this egg, where the white was swapped out for a sluice of cream cheese, an enriching accompaniment to any beef, but especially pastrami — the cracker is a sneaky play on rye.
As far as we're concerned, Hola Arepa has bumped Haute Dish's chicken and waffles for the best excuse to eat fried chicken for breakfast with Fried Chicken and Cachapas. The sweet corn cakes make an aromatic, sweet, almost fruity base for smedium-sized boneless fried chicken that's neither too much nor too little to tackle in the morning. Bonus, you also get bacon, chile, chipotle maple syrup, gooseberries, and bonus bonus: a basted egg! If the Beatles got back together for just one more album, they couldn't jin up a better greatest hits than this.
If ever there was a dish for any time of day, it's shakshuka, a Middle Eastern home-cooking winner that stews together a heady sofrito of grilled sweet peppers, roasted romas, garlic, and onion and then — you know it — puts an egg on it. It's gratifyingly savory when you want no part of kid's stuff like pancakes or waffles, so much so that it's a fine contender for a simple dinner. It's Shish chef/owner Leo Judeh's fondest memory of big family meals in Jerusalem, where all would gather around the table and discuss the dramas, sorrows, and delights of the day. At Shish it's served with enough accompaniments of veggies, fruit, potatoes, and bread to practically feed his entire family. Invite yours along and see how many you can feed, but keep the egg for yourself.