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'Scramble two,' using the classic French technique

The English used to refer to an egg as being "full of meat"; was there ever a time when you have had a dish of eggs of such richness as to make you think of it as "meaty"?

It isn't just that the eggs we buy are not freshly laid, but also that few of the ways we eat them are really calculated to bring out the warm, golden flavor of the egg itself.

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Take scrambled eggs. In a restaurant you order them. The cry is raised, "Scramble two," and a couple of eggs are beaten and tossed unseasoned into a very hot griddle where they quickly dry out.

Even at home, while your effort is infinitely nicer than the diner's breakfast special, it still doesn't justify all the fuss the classical French chefs and their latter-day counterparts make over oeufs brouilles, and of the adjective, "meaty."

But they are right. Believe it or not, we have been scrambling eggs all wrong for as long as anyone can remember.

Try this French method early one morning or late one night. When you've discovered what a wonderful thing scrambled eggs can be, try some of the additions.

Oeufs Brouilles (The French method of scrambling eggs)

Take at least 3 eggs per person, break them into a bowl, and season them with salt, pepper, and, if you like, nutmeg.

Beat them with a fork until fairly well blended. Now, over very low heat, melt a good lump of butter per person in a saucepan small enough that the eggs will not get lost in it.

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Add eggs and keep stirring, with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, still over very low heat. They will gradually warm up and begin slowly to thicken.

If you find egg solidifying on the bottom and sides of the pan, scrape it into the uncooked eggs and either lower the heat still further or be more diligent in your stirring.

When you have a custardlike consistency -- don't worry if they are not 100 percent lump free -- add another lump of butter per person, stir it in, and serve.

All this may take 10 minutes, or it may take twice that. If you have the patience of Job and want to achieve the ultimate scrambled egg, you may follow the same procedure in a double boiler, where the heat will be strictly controlled.

For simple variations, you may, first of all, add some heavy cream toward the end of the cooking period.

The eggs will be quite loose and may be served in little cups or bowls. A favorite presentation is to serve them over crisp, buttered toast or crustless bread fried golden brown in a mixture of butter and oil.

Fresh chopped herbs, chives are particularly nice, or grated cheese may be added before serving.

Some fancier variations should give you some ideas for using up leftovers. Sauteed chicken livers are marvelous with these eggs, as is smoked salmon gently warmed through in butter. If you use this idea, undersalt the eggs as there is usually quite a bit of salt in smoked salmon.

Raw or sauteed mushrooms or bread croutons may be spooned over the eggs when they are dished up and leftover ham or tongue may be added after being diced and heated in butter.

It is very easy to get carried away, but once you have tried the basic method you will never lose sight of the fact that in these dishes the center of attention is always the egg itself.


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