Whether celebrating Passover, Easter or the end of prohibition on white pants, the time is prime for celebrating the simple genius of eggs.
Admittedly, the egg is celebrated on tables around the world in continuum. As long as chickens, ducks and quail are capable of producing them, we humans will consume them.
As for the season, eggs play a role on the Seder Plate for Passover. Beitzah is an egg hard-boiled — then sometimes lightly roasted — that symbolizes the festival sacrifice (korban chagigah) offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and is eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.
Easter and its colored eggs were originally dyed red commemorating the cleansing blood of Christ. The tradition was absorbed by Catholics and Protestants and is now a secular tradition of the season, expanding from a quick dip in red dye to a myriad colors and design styles.
But long before Jews and Christians commandeered eggs for their religious purposes, mankind was celebrating what J.R.R. Tolkien's Gollum called a box without hinges key or lid with golden treasure inside hid as a symbol of spring and fertility.
In current food trends, the egg is as hot now as it was the first time some poor sap accidentally dropped a cracked egg onto a hot surface and had the gumption to flip after it set. Fried eggs on sandwiches, burgers or even steaks are as popular in restaurants as braised short ribs or pork belly at wine dinners or bacon presenting itself in paradoxical dishes.
The French are wrong about plenty, but not in matters of gastronomy. La Baguette Bistro owner and proud Frenchman Michel Buthion is notorious for his inability to resist fried eggs as chapeau for any plate of food put in front of him.
I've witnessed eggs soft-boiled, dropped in an ice bath, rolled in breadcrumbs and flash-fried help transcend a simple mix of fresh greens transcended into the most memorable dish at Odyssey de Culinaire by chef Christine Dowd.
At the Peruvian restaurant Inca Trail, chef/owner Niel Zambrano offers Bisteck ala Pobre, which is a grilled skirt steak topped with fried eggs — simple and sigh-inspiring. I wrote recently about the Nino's Special at Chelino's, which consists of fried eggs over enchiladas. One of the tenets of making Asian-style fried rice is scrambled eggs. Fried quail eggs are the salad-topper of the moment at many fine restaurants.
The fried-egg is now almost as popular as a burger-topper as bacon or cheese — who says three's a crowd?
A couple of years ago, chef Beau Stephenson of Bin 73 did an omelet demo for us at Culinary Kitchen. Stephenson, who recently showed off his Bin 73 Burger with a sunny-side-up egg for a photo shoot, took us through the paces of how to prepare a perfect omelet. You'll find his recipes in today's section.
I've also compiled recipes for deviled eggs, which are popular this time of year thanks to the high volume of hard-boiled eggs prepared for adornment. For fun, you'll also find a recipe for Egg Foo Young, if you really want to diversity your Easter feast.
I cook eggs often, but probably the most requested egg dish I make is migas. A simple Mexican play on scrambled eggs mixed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese and fried tortilla ribbons, they are served on fresh warm flour tortillas with crumbled bacon and/or chorizo sausage with salsa or a spicy saute of hot peppers and onion. Migas promises to get your family hopping on Easter morning.
Makes 12 breakfast tacos
6 slices bacon
6 corn tortillas, sliced in ¼-inch strips
6 flour tortillas
½ a white onion, chopped small
½ bell pepper, chopped small
1-2 serrano chiles, preferably those a little more ripe, showing yellow, orange or red coloring, minced
1 ripe, garden-fresh tomato, chopped
6 ounces grated mild cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
3 teaspoons cream or whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped green onion, optional
¼ cup minced cilantro, optional
1 pound cooked crumbled Mexican chorizo sausage, optional
• In a medium mixing bowl, crack eggs, discard shells and whisk white and yokes with cream. Set mixture aside.
• When bacon has rendered off most of its fat, remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Increase heat to medium and fry tortilla stripes. If there's not enough bacon fat to cover the bottom of the skillet, supplement with vegetable or peanut oil. Fry the tortillas until they are crispy, then drain in a colander lined with paper towels.
• Clean and dry the skillet, then melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and saute 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs and cook until they've set.
• Lower heat to low and stir in tomatoes, cheese, crumbled bacon and optional ingredients. Warm tortillas on a hot griddle and serve immediately with your favorite salsa.
Note: I like to dust freshly fried tortilla strips with salt and chile powder ... Ready for something other than salsa? Slice one large fresh jalapeno in thick rings and half an onion into thin strips or rings and saute in a tablespoon of melted butter or olive oil. Grate a small clove of garlic over the softened veggies, crank heat to medium high and finish with a sprinkle of soy sauce or Worcestershire, salt and pepper. This kicking condiment takes no more than 2 minutes to complete ... Purchase large flour tortillas to do breakfast burritos instead of breakfast tacos.
Egg Foo Young
FOR THE GRAVY
½ cup chicken stock
1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 ½ hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of lukewarm water
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 or 4 shiitake or cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
5 green onions, whites and greens separated
1 ½ cups bean sprouts
¼ chopped Chinese-style sausage (available at Chinatown Supermarket and Super Cao Nguyen Market
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil or chili oil
Make the gravy first, by heating a small saucepan and bringing the chicken stock to a boil in it. Reduce to a simmer, and stir in the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, cornstarch slurry. Simmer another minute until the sauce thickens. Keep warm on lowest heat and cover. You might need to kill the heat completely from time to time as you make the rest.
Heat a wok over medium-high heat about a minute. To test, flick a bead of water on the surface. If it evaporates immediately, the wok is ready.
Add a tablespoon of peanut oil and swirl the wok so the bottom is coated. Add the mushrooms, onion whites, and bean sprouts and stir-fry until the mushrooms and sprouts soften and the onions are fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Toss in the sausage and combine thoroughly. Stir in the soy sauce and sesame or chili oil and cook another minute, making sure the sauce is evenly distributed. Remove from heat and place in a cool bowl. Let stand until mixture has cooled enough to add the eggs without cooking them.
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl with a little water and stir in the cooled vegetables and sausage.
Heat the remaining oil in the wok over medium heat. Working in batches, ladle a ¼ cup of the egg mixture in the wok and let spread into pancake shape.
Cook until eggs have set, flipping once, no more than 2 minutes.
Transfer the finished eggs to a warmed plate and cover. Repeat until the mixture is exhausted, adding more oil to the wok as necessary.
Drizzle the eggs with gravy or serve it on the side. Garnish with remaining green onion.