In a city obsessed with the newest and the nextest, New York transplants and 2009 San Francisco-area Rising Star Chefs Eric Korsh and Ginevra Iverson are driven by food that’s rooted deeply in tradition. This husband and wife team’s traditional French bistro—or brasserie, depending on whom you ask—is an East Village gem of old-school techniques with New World ingredients and know how.
One particular dish at Calliope exemplifies the restaurant’s unapologetic French-ness. The Traditional Eggs Mayonnaise is an understated masterpiece: three boiled eggs blanketed with lightly tangy mayonnaise and topped with chives, tarragon, and a dusting of celery salt.
Bantam Eggs with Traditional Mayonnaise, Celery Salt, Chives, and Tarragon
While an uninitiated cook might dismiss these chic oeufs as Culinary 101, one half a degree for an egg can mean the difference between an over-cooked and a perfectly creamy yolk. And it took Korsh weeks of recipe testing and refinement (and many an egg-based family meal) to find the technique he desired.
The chef starts with eggs from Bantam chickens—a miniature version of the more common Black Orpington hen. The eggs are one-half to one-third in size of standard large eggs, and their diminutive proportions makes cooking all more difficult. Korsh asserts that the “way to get consistent results”—without coughing up $700 for an immersion circulator—“is by removing the variables.”
He starts by bringing the eggs to room temperature. Then, always using the same pot, on the same burner, in the same corner of the kitchen, he brings water, lightly spiked with salt and vinegar, to a rapid boil. Maintaining the boil is paramount, he says, as it’s the best way to ensure the water stays at 212°F. There’s no hard and fast rule on how many eggs to add at a time. It’s all dependent on the size of the eggs, the type and size of the pot, and the output of the burner. Cook the eggs for six and a half minutes, quickly remove and immediately submerge in an ice bath. Once the eggs cool completely, gently crack, shell, and hold for service. The egg white should be completely set and the yolk should be bright yellow and barely translucent in the center.
The mayonnaise component is as traditional as mayonnaise can be. Starting with egg yolks in a food processor, Korsh blends the yolks with distilled white vinegar to denature the proteins and then slowly emulsifies in Arbequiña olive oil—a Spanish varietal with a mild buttery, fruity flavor—before seasoning with salt and lemon juice. The balance of the mayonnaise may be the most difficult part of this dish. In Korsh’s version, the texture and acidity are spot on to avoid muffling the palette and overwhelming the egg.
As for the celery salt, Korsh admits to borrowing it from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. He combines equal parts kosher salt and shredded celeriac, macerates the mixture, and bakes it until dry. All it takes is a blitz in a food processor to turn the mixture into a pantry staple worthy of shelf space in any kitchen.
Korsh delivers all that love and quality product to diners for a serious value. Priced at just $6, Calliope runs the dish at a 35 percent food cost—made up for by a 30-second pick-up that helps get the kitchen through the busiest services. With its comforting flavors and endless potential for customization, Traditional Eggs Mayonnaise is poised to sit comfortably on more than just the traditional brasserie menu.
Traditional Eggs Mayonnaise Technique
Bring Bantam eggs to room temperature.
Fill a medium heavy-bottom pot with water and season with vinegar and salt. Bring to a rapid boil.
Gently place eggs in the water adding only as many as possible without pulling the water off the boil.
Cook for six and a half minutes and immediately submerge in an ice bath.
Cool completely before peeling and holding for service.