Surely one of life’s purest culinary delights is the perfect soft-boiled egg. How to cook it remains one of the most controversial topics in the kitchen and the cause of heated debate – both professional and domestic. The great and good cannot agree. Jamie Oliver is a “five minutes into boiled water” man. Nigella Lawson insists on a small saucepan, four minutes and a matchstick that will prevent the white cloudy substance from flowing out should the egg crack. Wylie Dufresne, a self-proclaimed egg fanatic, has written volumes on the subject.
At Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, the exquisite eggs – with yolks a dark shade of orange – have been the talk of many guests since the Hotel opened. “Most importantly, I source all our eggs from the delightful Paolo Parisi, who describes himself as a farmer, shepherd, gourmet and inventor,” says Executive Chef Vito Mollica. “Paolo feeds his hens a blend of cereals mixed with fresh goat milk. He also shares with me interesting cooking tips from his own experiments.”
It was Parisi who gave Mollica these tips for making the perfect boiled egg. His technique is to cook the eggs at a temperature below 61°C (142°F), that being the point when the egg starts to boil, change consistency and harden. His recommended cooking time is 20 minutes or more, and remarkably, these egg remain soft boiled even if not eaten immediately. They are served with a little salt and pepper and nothing more. “Our guests regularly ask why these eggs look and taste like no other they have tasted. This cooking tip might help, but of course, the fact that Paolo’s eggs come from his happy chickens is probably the main reason,” says Mollica with a knowing smile.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.