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11 Tips from Chefs for Cooking Perfect Eggs

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Eggs are readily available, relatively cheap, and full of healthy protein and amino acids. Although it may seem easy and straightforward to cook eggs, trying out a few techniques from these chefs will turn your scrambled, hard-boiled, or fried eggs from just fine to flawless. Here are 11 tips from chefs for cooking perfect eggs.

1. CHECK THE CARTON’S JULIAN DATE.

No matter what type of egg dish you cook, fresh eggs taste better and are easier to work with than older ones. J. Kenji López-Alt, the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, suggests checking the Julian date—the three digit number that appears on every carton of eggs packed in the U.S. Numbers range from 001 for January 1 to 365 for December 31, so you want to buy a carton with a number that’s as close to the current day as possible.

2. CRACK YOUR EGGS INTO A SEPARATE BOWL.

When you crack eggs directly into the pan, you risk getting shell fragments in your eggs. But two more reasons to always crack eggs into a ramekin or cup first, according to Alton Brown, are so your eggs cook evenly, and so that you can more precisely control exactly where in the pan you want your eggs to land.

3. ALTERNATE THE PAN BETWEEN HEAT AND NO HEAT.

Gordon Ramsay recommends cooking scrambled eggs on medium-low heat and moving the pan back and forth between the stove and off the stove. Alternating the eggs between heat and no heat, which Ramsay does three or four times during the course of cooking, makes for scrambled eggs that are creamy and rich.

4. SCRAMBLE THEM IN BUTTER FOR A LIGHT, AIRY TEXTURE.

According to Chef Evan Hanczor, scrambling eggs in butter instead of oil will make your eggs more light, fluffy, and tender. Because the heat releases moisture in the butter as steam, the steam increases the airiness of the eggs.

5. HEAT YOUR METAL SPATULA IN THE OIL.

If you’re using a metal spatula to flip your fried eggs, heat olive oil in the pan and then, before you add any eggs, heat your spatula in the oil. This tip, from Spanish-American chef José Andrés, ensures that your egg won’t stick to the spatula, potentially breaking the yolk and messing up your fried eggs.

6. DON’T STOP STIRRING.

When Bobby Flay makes scrambled eggs, he doesn’t take a moment to rest. Similar to risotto, scrambled eggs should be stirred continuously, as soon as the eggs go into the pan. Doing so will help to break down the egg curds, giving your eggs a softer and creamier consistency. Just don’t stir so vigorously that the eggs begin to foam.

7. HEAT YOUR SERVING PLATE WHILE YOU COOK.

Although you might overlook the serving plate as a trifling detail, Brown argues that even the plate you serve your eggs on is important. Because a cold plate will lower the temperature of your eggs too fast, he recommends heating the serving plate in hot water (or in an oven on low heat) while you cook. Doing so ensures that your eggs stay hot while you eat them.

8. BOIL FOR 10 SECONDS BEFORE POACHING.

Poached eggs are notoriously difficult to pull off, but Julia Child has a tip to make you a master of poached eggs. After you boil water, poke a small hole in the egg with a pin to release air inside the egg. Then drop the egg in the hot water for 10 seconds, which will greatly help it keep its shape and deter cloudy strands of egg white from forming when you poach it.

9. USE WATER BATHS TO QUICKLY COOL SOFT BOILED EGGS.

To make soft-boiled eggs, Wayt Gibbs, the editor of Modernist Cuisine, suggests using a bowl of ice water and a water bath. After boiling your eggs for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, put the eggs into ice water so they quickly cool down. Then, put the eggs in a water bath for 35 minutes at 147 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature might seem extremely precise, but the yolks will come out perfectly gooey.

10. PUT THE PROPER AMOUNT OF DAIRY IN YOUR FRITTATA.

According to Dawn Perry, the digital food editor for Bon Appétit, full-fat dairy greatly improves the taste and texture of frittatas. But proportions matter: For every six eggs that go into the frittata, you should use a half-cup of dairy, whether it’s milk, yogurt, or crème fraîche.

11. SLIGHTLY UNDERCOOK YOUR EGGS.

Because eggs continue to cook a bit after they’re no longer on the stove, Jamie Oliver suggests that you turn off the stove (or move the pan away from the burner) just before your scrambled eggs look fully finished. By the time you sit down to eat, your eggs will be perfectly cooked.

All images via iStock.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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