Friday, July 31, 2009

The Fried Egg Sandwich

Early on in Gael Greene's book Insatiable, the Insatiable Critic tells us about a tryst she had a few years ago with the king. No, not that king, the real king - Elvis Presley. When the fun was over, Gael says of Elvis:

He twitched a shoulder toward the phone. "Would you mind calling room service and ordering me a fried egg sandwich?"...the totemic fried egg sandwich. At that moment, it might have been clear I was born to to be a restaurant critic. I just didn't know it yet.

Now, I'm no restaurant critic, and I certainly don't have the food chops of Ms. Greene, and I'll never even get to meet Elvis. But I do like me a fried egg sandwich every now and then, if you know what I mean.

A couple of months ago, I started a thread on eGullet about the fried egg sandwich, and even though Gael and Elvis happened to be in Detroit at the time of her epipahny, I tend to think of that sandwich as our own special breakfast treat.

You see, New York City has an old tradition for people on the go in the morning. And maybe other cities too; but here, it seems like you can pop into any "deli" or any "bodega" and grab a fried-egg sandwich on a Kaiser roll, along with a cup of coffee, for about $2.

People sometimes eat them later in the morning, at which point it's really not a hot sandwich anymore. It's a sandwich that at one point was hot, and was wrapped in deli paper, allowing the heat from the egg to soften the roll...and infuse it with eggy smells.

If I recall correctly (I haven't had one from a deli in a long time), the egg on the sandwich is of the broken-yolk fried egg variety. So the egg is thrown on the griddle or into a hot buttered pan, allowed to set a bit, and then the yolk is broken as the egg finishes cooking.

Then there are the add-ons. To my taste, the only possible additions there can be are bacon, ham, cheese or some such combination thereof. Nothing else - nada - you wouldn't put lettuce on there, would you? Especially if you're planning on eating it later, because then the lettuce would just turn, well - gross.

This morning I decided to make the fried egg sandwich at home. Fortunately for Significant Eater and me, there is a kosher bakery right up the block and Kaiser rolls are easy to come by. Kaiser rolls are, to my mind, the classic container for the fried egg sandwich, but I also bought an onion roll for comparison's sake. Unfortunately, they had run out of the seeded Kaiser, which I like, but I settled for the unseeded variety, to go along with the onion roll.

Next, to make the sandwich, I fried up a couple of eggs (yes, farmer's market organic free-range eggs at $4 a dozen) in my trusty nonstick skillet (broke the yolks as you can see from the picture below) - toasted and buttered the roll, although I don't think toasting the roll is "traditional," added a bit of cheese to the sandwich and you know what - it was good. Not quite the same as unwrapping the fried egg sandwich from the deli, where the steamy, eggy smell hits your nose - but it was damn tasty. And I can guarantee my coffee was better too.

Here's the sandwich on the onion roll. I guess due to the fact that it's not the traditional enclosure, we didn't like it as much as the egg on Kaiser. The near burnt onions mask the flavor of the delicate egg and cheese way too much.

By the way, do you make fried egg sandwiches? Are they good? Feel free to share how you make yours.


  1. I love me a good fried egg sandwich and agree with everything you said. I would add that ideally the roll is grilled along with the egg. I also like a thin slice of sausage patty on my sandwich. I actually prefer it, in this context, to bacon.

  2. Oh, that sounds good doc. I can see "griddling" the roll as the egg is cooking - if I only had a griddle!

  3. Double Egg Sandwich on butters kaiser roll, ham and cheese. Needs to be american cheese, and needs to be cooked on a flat top that preferably has been cooking eggs and bacon all morning long.

  4. Egg sandwiches fall into the sorta gross but forbidden pleasure category. Secondo me.
    There is a deli in New Paltz, right under the Gunks where all the climbers would meet up. They had THE best egg sandwich, with cheese, with sausage (totally agree with Doc) and ketchup. Fueled you right up for climbing rocks and hanging off cliffs. Mmmmmm......

  5. I gotta try the sausage pattie thing...hmmm, maybe be making my own sausage!

  6. We have fried egg sandwiches for breakfast on weekends once in a while. They are delicious!
    We do ours on a french baguette ( buttered & toasted)
    Then Gary fries the perfect eggs (2 per sandwich)brown crispy corners with the yolk once over, so that when you bite into the sandwich is runny!! yum!! a little salt and pepper...sometimes a little melted yarlsberg cheese..and slice of tomatoe and voila! The perfect fried egg sandwich! Comfort food with a big pot of Cuban coffee...sitting outside by the fireplace. And all is good with the world!

  7. @ raisaress...that sounds awesome! But don't try to sell that in New York City!

  8. I know this will surprise you endlessly... But I make mine like a grilled cheese. Fry the egg, then lay it on the bread with cheddar and bacon, grill the whole thing together in butter until the cheese is good and melty.

  9. I think you can add a slice of tomato on it as well...doesn't go bad like lettuce...