Which came first, the chicken or the embryo…not!
I see from the comments that some people are operating under a few erroneous assumptions that neither the episode nor my blog have dispelled, so I thought I’d write a quick follow-up to clarify a couple of things:
First and foremost, Michael’s eggs were not undercooked. Let me repeat that: they were not undercooked. When you cook eggs using the sous-vide method, i.e. in a water bath under a controlled temperature, what happens is the egg whites firm up almost to a custard consistency. Ditto, the yolks. The proteins just set and the fat just warms. There is an albumin that comes out of the egg whites — this is what looks to the viewer at home like uncooked egg, but it is not. The albumins are cooked. They appear watery, slippery and clear, and people often mistakenly believe they are raw but they are not. When serving eggs that have been prepared as Michael prepared his, you usually put them into a bowl and then lift them out so that the whites and yolks emerge but the watery albumins from the whites remain in the bowl. Michael failed to do so, but this is not a reflection on his preparation of the egg, just on his presentation.
One viewer had it right when s/he said that it’s all subjective where such a thing is concerned. In making this type of egg, if you’re someone who doesn’t like a sunny-side egg, you won’t like it. People have egg preferences, just as they have steak preferences. If you like your steak medium, you will think it’s undercooked if it’s presented to you rare. But it’s not undercooked for someone who likes it rare.
The issue with Michael’s dish was less that he failed to remove the albumins, which bother some but wouldn’t bother others; it was that the ratio of egg to veggies was off. That was it, really.
And as for whether eggs are vegetarian, there are plenty of vegetarians, called, interchangeably, “lacto-ovo” or “ovo-lacto” vegetarians, who eat eggs and dairy in addition to vegetarian items. “Ovo” vegetarians just eat eggs but not dairy. Michael asked permission to use eggs in his vegetarian dish and was granted permission by the producers of the show. For the record, the unfertilized eggs Michael was using were not “chicken embryos,” as one viewer stated. In fact, I believe that even a fertilized egg is not yet considered an embryo but a fertilized “blastodisc” or “blastoderm” that then develops into an embryo. But just as unfertilized eggs in mammals are not embryos but are still just eggs, so, too, were the eggs Michael used just that…eggs.
Now onto Jen’s duck dish. We knew from the moment we tasted Jen’s two offerings that she was going home. Her vegetarian dish was so oversalted that it was inedible. We always try to comment both on what we like about a dish and what we don’t like, and the editors used what we liked about the duck dish (and the ensuing conversation about ducks of that region) to keep from revealing half-way through the program who would be going home. But that does not change the fact that one of Jen’s two dishes was inedible. If a dish is a little underseasoned, you can always add salt and eat it; if a dish is very oversalted, it’s a ruined dish. This week, that was enough to get Jen sent home. All four of these chefs are outstanding; Jen was most off her game this week, though, so Jen went home.