The slurry of local eggs that have come slithering down the supermarket aisle pleases me. Isn't it awesome? We used to have to truck through the hills in search of a hand-lettered "EgGz" sign, to get a fresh dozen for $2. Now they're available alongside kohlrabi and Jujyfruits at many a hometown mart, shells charmingly varied in hue to ensure their individuality and free-range-ness.
It's amazing, the recent proliferation of easily purchased local foodstuffs. Am I living in some sort of Alice Waters hallucination? What happened to canned corn beef hash and white bread?? No, seriously, I adore canned hash -- I really do, I'm eating it right now, all crispy-edged and salty -- but I also like local eggs, mostly because they taste better than long-distance: fuller, yellower yolks, fresher, less carbon footprint, et cetera, et cetera.
But I'm not here to rant about hash -- which is delightful -- or Alice Waters -- don't get me started -- or localism in general. Today's rant is about some of my favorite ways to turn eggs into a substantial dish. As I grow closer to the start date of a) opening my business and b) paying rent, I am pillaging cooking notes from my days as an underpaid teacher, when my paltry income was supplemented by booking dates for escort service girls (hookers) and my food supply by dumpster diving. Along with 15-vegetable soup (another day), today's recipe was a go-to dish when I fancied protein, warmth and substance. The idea is versatile enough for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and can be made for just yourself or a slavering hoard.
The principle behind this dish is that of caramelized vegetables, cooked in oil and/or butter, and finished with poached eggs on top. The eggs are cracked directly into little wells formed with a spoon amidst your caramelized veggies. A lid is then placed over all. Slide it all onto a plate when the egg is poached.
There are a multitude of possible variations: vegetarian or not, spicy or no, light or rich, Asian or French-influenced. One can get in one's daily req's of veggies, and poached eggs are refreshing -- personally I get tired of eating the solid wodge of eggs in frittata or omelet form that vie with mimosas on the brunch table. I prefer my yolks poached runny so it makes a nice sauce. The dish's flexibility lends itself to most vegetables, and quite a few refrigerator odds and ends (cheese, bits of meat, etc.) If you really want to rock a loveboat, Hollandaise over the finished product is a treat, but it's buttery enough on its own. In Eggs Jada, I use sherry as a cooking liquid, but I use it interchangeably with cream, chicken stock, veg stock, and/or water. In all recipes, I use sugar and an acid; you can ignore the sugar if you're frantically slimming, but it adds to the caramelizing. Honestly I use sugar in almost all my savory cooking; it makes anything better. (Do not succumb to the anti-sugar fear campaign.)
Now, I give you these recipes as examples I've enjoyed, but feel free to experiment with any other ingredients you think would marry nicely. And if they don't, give it to the dog. Eggs are not expensive so even the underpaid can guiltlessly feed Fido with a blithe tra-la.
Note: Vegetables are variable. Leave out/replace whatever you don't want with broccoli, or carrots, or whatever you have and you know the cooking times for.
2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 leek, thinly slices and washed
1 handful finely chopped watercress (or spinach)
2/3 cup (sm. handful) chopped cauliflower
1/2 chopped roasted red pepper (jarred is fine)
1/2 peeled pre-roasted sweet ‘tater/yam, cubed
1/2 cup sherry, or stock
1/3 cup cream, or half and half
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt - more if desired
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
In a 10 in. cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until the pan's handle is warm. Add onion, leek, red pepper and butter, lower heat slightly and stir until leeks are tanned, about 7 minutes.
Add greens, salt, sugar and liquids and stir for another few minutes. Add pre-cooked yam cubes. Everything should be slightly caramelized.
Now, check liquidity -- if too dry, add enough water to make it quite wet, like a soupy stir-fry. Taste a leek -- does it need more salt? Make 4 lil' wells in the pottage, crack an egg into each and COVER.
After 2 minutes check under lid to ensure there's still liquid in the pan's bottom, adding liquid if necessary. Re-cover and poach till set. I like about 4 minutes. Uncover, remove from heat, sprinkle with parsley and pepper, and serve with hot crusty buttered toast. Serves 2.
Eggs on Creamed Alliums
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 finely chopped onion
2 leeks, thinly sliced and washed
4 green onions, minced
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup sherry or stock
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Optional: 3 - 4 strips crispy fried bacon, chopped; 1/2 c. chopped chives
In a 9 inch cast iron skillet over med. low heat, melt butter in oil, then caramelize the onion, leeks and green onion, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir for another minute.
Add liquids, sugar and salt. Make 4 wells and crack an egg in each. Poach covered, adding liquid if necessary till eggs are as poached as desired. Crumble bacon/chives over all and serve with hot buttered toast.
Vaguely Thai Eggs
1 T. peanut oil
1 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. each fresh minced ginger and garlic
2 chopped green onions
1/2 coarsely chopped yellow onion
1 sm. head bok choy, chopped
2/3 cup chopped Savoy cabbage
1 sm. roasted yam or sweet potato, peeled and cubed
handful minced cilantro
handful bean sprouts
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup stock
1/2 cup coconut milk (or just more stock if not available)
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. soy sauce
1 T. rice or white wine vinegar
1 t. Hoisin sauce if available
hot sauce of choice (I like Louisiana)
handful fried raw peanuts, chopped, if available
In 10 in. cast iron skillet, heat oils over medium heat, and sauté ginger, garlic and both onions for a minute or two. Add the bok choy and cabbage. Add water and cover to steam for 3 minutes.
Uncover, add yam and all remaining liquids and sugar, raise heat to high and stir for a minute.
Lower heat; make wells in mixture, crack eggs into wells and cover. Check after 2 minutes; if liquid is gone add 1/3 cup water or stock. Cover and cook another 2 minutes or until eggs are set.
Serve sprinkled with bean sprouts, cilantro and peanuts; add hot sauce to taste. Rice is a good starch alongside if you like; hot buttered baguette slices also rule.