oeuf a la coque
One of my favorite books as a child tells the story of two mice named Guri and Gura who one day, while hunting for chestnuts and wild mushrooms in a forest (they love to cook and eat), come upon a mysterious egg. It's too big to take home so they bring back a giant frying pan and bags of flour and sugar and some milk and butter and mix up a batter with the egg. Soon good smells are wafting through the forest drawing out all their animal friends who join Guri and Gura in an impromptu feast of the big, hot, yellow cake.
When I first started cooking, around the age of 10 or so, I mostly made "hotcakes," or Japanese-style pancakes. Unlike American pancakes which should be thin and crisped on the edges, the hotcake resembled Guri and Gura's creation. It was large and thick, and it was divided into wedges and eaten with honey, not maple syrup. Cracking the eggs was fun but I think it was their transformative properties, the way they turned the batter yellow and made it puff up in the pan, that I found so appealing.
I wonder now what I would do if I found, like Guri and Gura, the ultimate egg: large, brown, freckled, preferably organic, fresh from the farm. Elizabeth David would have cheerfully made an omelette and enjoyed it with a glass of wine. Julia Child might have eaten it hard-boiled, blissfully smothering each egg-half in mayonnaise. MFK Fischer would no doubt have made her beloved Aunt Gwen's fried egg sandwich.*
Here is my recipe for oeuf a la coque, which is the way I would eat the perfect egg:
Cover the egg in cold water and set over medium heat. Meanwhile ready a napkin, a sharp knife and a small spoon. Toast bread and cut into batonnets. Exactly 10 minutes later take the egg out of water and serve on a pretty ceramic egg stand. Immediately slice off the top with knife then add a pinch of salt to the egg yolk and eat by dipping in the bread sticks. Eat the egg white by scooping out with spoon. You should be left with a clean, empty eggshell.
*for recipe see "H is for Happy" in Fischer's An Alphabet for Gourmets.