Once you've made friends with eggs again, invite them for supper. They can be charming dinner partners.
Around the world, the egg and its abundance of inexpensive protein is welcome at the table all day long with an amazing variety of companions.
In restaurants, breakfast for dinner has become so popular that the American Egg Board hosted a seminar on the topic. In grammar-crunching jargon, the Egg Board calls the reshuffling of meals "re-dayparting.'' Or as MBAs might say, eggs are being repurposed on a new platform.
That new platform is the dinner plate, and the eggs are more than retreads of sunny-side up specials with grits and sausage.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the main-course egg can dine out with lettuce and spinach, curried fish, tomato sauce and chicken stew. In the best cases, beyond Benedicts and souffles, the egg remains simple, be it fried, poached, hard-cooked or baked.
The drama is in its courageous partners or perhaps with adventuresome home cooks prompted by a tough economy or a low-carb diet. Yes, the prices of eggs have gone up, especially those from chickens who eat only organic and are allowed to roam free. But an 18-pack of store-brand eggs can still be had for less than $3. Such a deal.
Many health groups still frown at eggs. They encourage eating no more than two a week and using egg whites only or egg substitutes. The American Heart Association warns that the egg is also nutritionally troublesome because it's often consumed with butter, bacon and other fatty foods. New research, however, continues to challenge the link between dietary and plasma cholesterol. A study this spring by Harvard researchers concluded that an egg a day would not increase heart disease risks for healthy people.
If you can scramble eggs, it's easy to tweak that recipe into diverse dinner fare such as omelets, egg foo yung, Spanish tortillas, huevos rancheros, frittatas or quiches. Do remember that big dishes like frittatas and quiches always take extra eggs. No matter how high the heap of vegetables and cheese or how small the pan, I need at least five eggs. And, oui, real men eat quiche happily.
Here are a dozen ideas for quick, inexpensive and filling egg dinners:
1 In my favorite, the hearty salad of Lyon, a grand poached egg crowns a heaping pile of greens, toasted croutons and lardons (does bacon sound better in French?). The Lyonnaise specify frisee lettuce not to be fussy but to have all the delicate curly edges of the frizzy lettuce to trap drips of silky yolk as dressing. Other ruffled greens, such as curly endive, work too.
2 Poached eggs can also star on freshly sauteed spinach in eggs Florentine.
3 Another Italian recipe calls for serving poached eggs over tomato sauce. For extra flavor, poach the eggs in the sauce.
4The French poach eggs in a light red wine like Beaujolais or pinot noir and serve the purplish eggs on toast. Over all is draped a rich sauce made from the same wine, chicken stock, onions, garlic and thyme and sauteed mushrooms.
5 In Colombia, the signature indulgence of national cooking is the bandera platter, heaped with red beans, rice, potatoes and flank steak with a fried egg gilding the whole affair.
6 Likewise in Wiener schnitzel, the most famous form of the breaded veal cutlet, the schnitzel is crowned with a bright splash of yellow and white and is then dubbed a la Holstein.
7If a thin steak with eggs is a step up from bacon in a diner at breakfast, a fried egg on top of a T-bone at dinner is a grand touch in gourmandish meals from New York to Seoul. It's best when the steak has a well-seasoned crust or a lively marinade.
8In its whole, ovoid shape, the egg is a revered symbol of fertility. The hard-boiled egg is a classic element of the fiery Ethiopian chicken stew, doro wat. In this deep red soup sparked with ginger and peppery spices, the whole egg is as much a prize as a cooked drumstick or thigh.
9Hard-cooked eggs are handy in stir-fries and curry dishes, or the famous hybrid of the imperial England, kedgeree. This dish combines hard-boiled eggs and cooked rice with curry from India and the smoked haddock or salmon of English breakfasts.
10 Some say shirred; the French and a growing number of American chefs say cocotte. The principle is the same and simple. Put one or two eggs into a small porcelain dish or ramekin, well-buttered, top with herbs, mushrooms and a tablespoon of cream or milk. Cook in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
11 Because eggs cook quickly, many cooks add them at the end of soup, simply swirling into a cooking dish, especially soup to enrich it, from Greek avgolemono or Chinese egg drop to Italian wedding soup.
12 The grandest use of the whole raw egg is in Asian entrees, dropped into sukiyaki with spinach and noodles or the Korean beef stew, bi bim bap, where the diner takes charge of the breaking and the stirring.
Chris Sherman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8585.
8 cups frisee or tender inner curly endive leaves, rinsed and chilled
About 1/4 pound French bread, sliced and toasted
½ pound thick bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 to 4 large eggs
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Tear frisee into bite-sized pieces and place in a wide salad bowl.
Tear bread into 1/2-inch chunks and scatter over the greens.
Put bacon in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat and stir often until browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to towels to drain.
Break eggs into drippings in pan, and when whites are firm on the bottom, slide a spatula under each egg and, if desired, carefully turn over. Cook until whites are no longer clear, about 1 minute total. With spatula, transfer eggs to a plate (place side by side); keep warm.
Quickly discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan. Turn heat to high, add vinegar and mustard, and whisk until mixture boils.
Pour hot dressing over frisee and bread, add bacon, and mix. Spoon into wide bowls and top each serving with a hot egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 3 or 4 servings.
Source: Sunset magazine
Italian Eggs in Tomato Sauce
1 jar (26 ounces) prepared chunky-style tomato sauce
6 slices Italian bread, toasted or grilled
1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
In large skillet with lid, heat sauce over medium heat until it comes to a rolling boil, stirring steadily, then reduce to simmer.
One at a time, break eggs into large bowl then slip eggs gently, one by one, into sauce. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Cook until the egg whites are set all over and the yolks start to thicken and cloud over, which may take another 2 minutes.
When the eggs are done, remove the skillet from the burner.
Spoon one egg onto each slice of bread, add 1/2 cup of sauce and sprinkle with cheese.
Makes 6 servings.
Source: American Egg Board
Avgolemono (Egg Lemon) Soup
6 cups chicken stock, fresh or canned
1/3 cup uncooked rice, long or medium grain
3 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon minced fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried
In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, thicken stock to a boil over high heat. Pour in the rice. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partly uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until the grains are just tender but still slightly resistant to the bite.
Beat the eggs with a whisk or a rotary beater until frothy.
Beat in the lemon juice and stir in about 1/4 cup of the simmering chicken broth to temper the eggs.
Then very slowly pour the mixture into the broth, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the soup thickness is enough to coat the spoon lightly.
Do not let the soup come to a boil or the eggs will curdle. Add salt to taste and serve at once, garnished with mint.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
3 cups cooked and
chilled long grain white
3 large eggs
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil and the sesame oil in a large saute pan or wok over medium heat. Add the scallions, peas and grated carrot all at once, taking care to avoid being splattered by hot oil. Saute the vegetables for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the rice and stir the mixture occasionally as it heats for 2 to 3 minutes.
Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them with a fork or small whisk until blended. Move the rice to the perimeter of the pan and pour the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil into the center. Add the eggs and stir them continuously with a wooden spoon until they are soft but not overcooked.
When the eggs are almost fully cooked, stir the rice into them until everything is well mixed. Add the soy sauce and heat for another minute or two, stirring often. Makes 4 servings.
Serves 4 to 6.
Shopping and storage
Freshness is essential when buying eggs, no matter what kind you buy. Florida stores now carry a variety of eggs, white, brown, cage-free and organic, priced from $2 to $6 per dozen.
At small stores, stands and delis, shoppers should ask what day the eggs are delivered.
Otherwise check packages for dates. If packed in USDA-inspected plants, eggs are stamped with a pack date, usually a three-digit Julian date, starting with Jan. 1 as 001; Aug. 20 would be 233. The sell-by date is generally 30 days after the packing date. Eggs bought within that time will last at least a month and more in refrigeration.
If you don't use eggs quickly, buy half cartons and buy more often.
Use the newest eggs for frying or poaching because the white holds together better. Use older eggs for scrambling or boiling.
The best technique for frying is slowly without sizzle and with butter. Let the butter melt over low heat, slide eggs in and cook for about 5 minutes.
To poach an egg, add vinegar to boiling water, which will help the egg white congeal. In a deep pot, stir the water vigorously to create a swirling vortex in which you then gently slide the egg (from a dish). This method results in a firmer, rounder egg.