José Andrés, the best-known Spanish chef working in the United States today, is the new dean of Spanish Studies at the International Culinary Center in Manhattan. On a recent afternoon in the Culinary Center’s kitchen, Mr. Andrés held forth on the essential Spanishness of the fried egg.
“My whole life, I have been trying to cook an egg in the right way,” he said. “It is the humbleness of the dish. Why do you need to do anything more complex?”
To cook an egg, Mr. Andrés uses a method that begins with a sauté pan in which four tablespoons of olive oil had been brought to medium-high heat. He then tips the pan at a steep angle, so that the oil collects in a small bath, and slides the egg into the oil.
Next, he spoons hot oil over the egg. This allows for greater control than what’s afforded by more typical frying methods, in which the bottom of the egg is left to brown and then is flipped over, coagulating part of the yolk, explained Mr. Andrés.
After only 30 seconds of cooking, the egg white forms a protective coating around the yolk without becoming attached to it. It develops a golden coating from the oil, resulting in an exterior and interior that are perfectly cooked.
After being removed from the pan, the egg receives a sprinkling of sea salt.
So what’s different about this frying method?
“An egg swimming in a hot oil bath achieves a higher level of browning around the entire surface of the white,” said Mr. Andrés, “which imparts a distinctive, much more flavorful taste, given the level of caramelization of the proteins and sugars. The entire egg achieves a perfect crust.”
Slice into the egg and a deliciously runny yolk emerges. Because the yolk is entirely covered with the white of the egg during the cooking process, it achieves the right level of warmth without coagulation.