Spanish Tradition, American Style
For a Perfect Fried Egg, Do as the Spanish Do
My humble love affair with Spanish food began with the egg. I was eight years old the first time I visited my godparents, Angel and Pilar, in Guadarrama, a suburb some 45 minutes from Madrid. Angel was the first to introduce me to the Tortilla Española, since discovered in nearly every cafe and bar across the country, and also educated me about the soul-nurturing effects of Sopa de Ajo (a paprika-laced garlic and bread soup that’s finished with a raw egg, which gently curdles into the broth as it’s served). Now, many years after my first visit, I’d still challenge any cook in the world to create a more celestial dish than the aptly named Huevos Estrellados found at Casa Lucio in Madrid, a simple but perfect harmony of french fries and half-scrambled eggs.
But my biggest egg takeaway that trip was from Angel’s kitchen, where he laid down the law for huevos fritos, the Spanish way. I remember the way Angel used to emphasize the “fritos” when he said it in his Madrileño lisp. Instead of simply greasing a pan, he would to send eggs into a scorching pool of olive oil. He then spooned the oil on top of the yolks as the whites cooked and crisped around the edges. Though uncovered and unflipped, the result was an egg cooked on both sides with the yolk still runny, and crunchy around the edges — the best of both worlds, as Angel would say.
Over the years, I’ve adapted his recipe to my American kitchen, adding a dollop of butter to the pan halfway through cooking process before covering. The top traps the steam given off by the water content of the butter. I think the yolk cooks better this way, beginning to coagulate, while still retaining some of its gooey goodness. I also just like the rich taste of butter when Sunday morning rolls around. The last time I was in Guadarrama, I showed Angel my version of his method. He took one bite and said, “rico“, before finishing his egg in silence. Well, that was good enough for me.
Crack your eggs on a flat surface instead of the edge of a bowl or pan. Not only does this method prevent bits of eggshells (which are covered in bacteria) from making their way into your eggs, it minimizes the risk of splitting the yolk into a gloppy mess.
1 Heat a shallow pool of extra virgin olive oil (about 1/4 inch) in a skillet on high.
2 Crack eggs in bowl. Season with a pinch of salt (before cooking). By transferring them together from a separate bowl instead of cracking directly into a skillet, all of the eggs will hit heat at the same time, cooking them evenly. This also helps to prevent egg shells from making their way into your fried eggs.
3 Transfer eggs to the skillet before the oil begins to smoke. Be careful not to splash oil outside of the pan, which should be very hot.
4 Add a dab of butter and cover the skillet after the whites start to crisp to trap the heat. The moisture from the butter will steam, cooking the top of the egg yolks.
5 Uncover and remove eggs from the heat when the yolks are covered by a thin layer of cooked egg white. Place them on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
6 Plate and serve with bread. The yolks should have started to coagulate but still be runny inside.