salt-cured egg yolks photo by greg rannells

Gold Standard: How chefs around town are using yolks

Once maligned as evil cholesterol grenades, we’ve taken a new shine to eggs these days. They can be found crowning everything from pizza to bulgogi on local menus. But who really wants the white? We’re after the rich, luxurious golden treasure hidden inside. Harnessing the versatility and intense flavor of yolks, chefs have switched off the griddle and are going straight for the gold.

Low and slow
Olive & Oak’s executive chef Jesse Mendica slow cooks yolks sous vide style to achieve a thicker texture to pair with her steak tartare. The yolks are vacuum-sealed in a bag, and then cooked for an hour at the perfect (and secret) temperature, delivering more than a mere soak of yolk.

“We were trying to create a buttery, smooth texture,” Mendica said. “The yolk spreads right on the toast and is a base layer for the tartare. It has the perfect mouthfeel.”

Element’s executive chef Josh Charles also opts for the sous vide method in his take on carbonara. Classic carbonara sees raw eggs and extra yolks whisked with cheese and added to pasta. Charles instead whips slow-cooked yolks and adds them to the plate as both garnish and sauce.

“I sous vide the yolks until they’re set like custard, then I puree them with some sugar, rice wine vinegar and salt to brighten the flavor,” Charles said. “I like to break down the elements of the dish and put them back together.”

There are no-heat-required techniques that achieve the same viscous effect. The chefs at Randolfi’s cure yolks to a barely set consistency. “We drop egg yolks into a room-temperature salt water solution,” said chef de cuisine Tommy Andrew. “They stay in there for about an hour, then they can be plated. It’s pretty simple.”

Simple in preparation but not in result, the semi-cured yolks bring a custardy texture and a hint of saltiness to both beef tartare and pappardelle with white Bolognese.

Longer curing times make for a drier, concentrated yolk that can actually be grated over a dish for a salty, melty seasoning. Chef Mathis Stitt at Veritas Gateway to Food and Wine recently featured hard, cured yolks shaved over burnt mushroom soup.

The deep freeze
“I was looking for something fun and unique,” said Rooster and the Hen chef Michael Gallina. “I wanted something a little more firm – not just an egg yolk that runs.” Taking an unconventional U-turn away from heat, Gallina found that two days in his freezer gave the bright yellow orb the tender but springy, putty-like consistency he was after. At a recent Rooster and the Hen pop-up dinner, the frozen yolk was brought up to room temperature and nestled alongside a tender broccoli stem and cheddar foam atop a savory bowl of Missouri wheat berry risotto.

The sunny shade and luxurious texture of egg yolks can inspire culinary creativity at home, too. Next time you whip up a meringue, bury the unused yolks in a mixture of equal parts salt and sugar and stash in the fridge. After a few days, the yolks will firm up. Then, gently rinse them off and grate over anything from fried tofu to soup. It’s a golden age for egg yolks.