Celebrating Easter with 50 eggs, 50 ways


Celebrating Easter with 50 eggs, 50 ways

Oeufs en Cocotte: Eight Ways

These breakfast eggs are just as quick as any other you might make on a Saturday when the time is ripe for a long pot of coffee, a good scour of the papers and a silent glide around the kitchen as you settle into the start of a weekend. Cooked this way, each yolk nestled with its white in the ramekin, we’re reminded of hatched Easter eggs in different wrappers; each egg with its own colors and flavors and the decision of those around the table to jump in and take whichever they fancy.

Each ramekin serves one, with buttered brown toast. The method is pretty much unchanged for each type of egg – it’s just a case of putting the initial ingredient in between the tomato puree and egg and then finishing with the others; it just depends on how you want it to look. Feel free to play with the ingredients, or to try anything that needs eating from the fridge. We prefer to top the eggs with fresh herbs once out of the oven, but it’s up to you.

4 tsp. tomato puree

Seasonings, as below

8 eggs

Few pats of butter

Salt and pepper

8 ramekins

1. Parmesan, breadcrumbs and sage

2. Ham and asparagus spears

3. Greek yogurt and paprika with coriander

4. Sumac, parsley and chili flakes

5. Sauteed mushrooms and croutons

6. Sauteed leeks

7. Anchovy and spring onion

8. Smoked salmon and dill

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Smear a generous half-teaspoon of concentrated tomato puree into the bottom of each ramekin and add your chosen seasonings, excluding any fresh herbs. Crack an egg into each ramekin, top with a little butter and season with salt and pepper. Fill a baking tray with about ¾ inch boiling water from the kettle and place the ramekins in the tray so they’re half submerged in the water.

Bake for up to 15 minutes or until the eggs are just set – this will vary quite dramatically between ovens that do or do not have overhead elements, so keep an eye on them. Top with the fresh herbs and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

— From “Kitchen & Co: Colorful Home Cooking Through the Seasons” by Rosie French and Ellie Grace (Kyle Books, $22.95)

Tips on making and even baking hard-cooked eggs

Kathy Casey learned the first rule of making hard-cooked eggs the tedious way.

When the author of the newly published “D’lish Deviled Eggs” (Andrews McMeel, $14.99) was in college, she used super fresh eggs for a large catering gig and spent hours chipping the shells away piece by teeny tiny piece.

Eggs are much easier to peel if they’ve been refrigerated for about a week, which gives them time to absorb air and allows the membrane to separate from the shell, she writes in the book.

“D’lish Deviled Eggs” features 50 recipes for stuffed eggs, which Casey says date back to when fowl were first domesticated some 8,000 years ago. The term “deviled egg,” however, only dates back to 1786, and though the standard mustard-mayo-paprika version might be the most popular, Casey created imaginative versions inspired by Bloody Marys, pulled pork, French toast and even pumpkin pie.

Casey’s tried-and-true technique for hard-cooking eggs is pretty straightforward: Place a dozen eggs in a nonreactive pot and add cold water to 1 inch above the eggs. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, remove pot from heat and immediately cover. Let eggs rest for 15 minutes, then run cold water over the eggs until they are cool enough to peel under running water.

(Soft-boiled eggs weren’t part of our breakfast routine when I was a kid, but I persuaded Statesman photo editor and soft-boiled egg lover Nell Carroll to show me last week during our egg photo shoot. Go to austin360.com/relishaustin to see the video.)

Leave it to Alton Brown to come up with this nifty trick for hard-baked eggs from the 2006 version of his book “I’m Just Here for the Food”: Place raw eggs directly on the wire rack (or sitting in muffin tins) and bake at 325. After 30 minutes, place them — using tongs, please — in a bowl of ice water, and then peel. (Careful not to overbake these. If your oven runs hot, as mine does, they’ll be done in about 20 minutes. Place a baking sheet on the rack under the eggs if you’re worried about them cracking, though none of mine cracked when I baked these last week.)

My best hard-boiled advice this year: Don’t bother buying the plastic egg boiling contraption from that infomercial. (Hey, I got it at a White Elephant swap.) A ton of maddening pieces that, big surprise, don’t work as well at home as they do on TV.

And now, eight ways to use up those Easter eggs that are not deviled eggs:

Sliced with butter and salt

Coated in sausage, breaded and then fried for Scotch eggs

Egg salad

Tuna salad

Pasta salad

Cobb salad

Finely grated in lasagna

Baked au gratin

About the eggs

At traditional grocery stores, you can choose between brown and white eggs, but at local farmers markets, you’ll find every shade of brown, beige and even blue. Some of the eggs pictured with this story come from Gary Rowland of Hairston Creek Farm and Chris Olsen of Milagro Farm, who sell at the Wednesday and Saturday Sustainable Food Center farmers markets. Their eggs cost between $5 and $6 per dozen, which is about twice what you’ll pay at the grocery store, but the prize for paying a little more isn’t in the color of the shells but the vibrant, deep orange yolks inside.

Beet’ ing Heart Deviled Eggs

I’m all for an appetizer that doubles as a fun craft project, and these eggs certainly fit the bill. Pickled beet juice turns the whites deep pink and makes these ideal for serving up on Valentine’s Day or Easter. Kids will love helping.

1 (15-oz.) can sliced pickled beets

½ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1 dozen hard-cooked eggs

3 Tbsp. mayonnaise

3 Tbsp. sour cream

2 Tbsp. stone-ground mustard

2 Tbsp. minced red onion

¼ tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

Fresh-cracked black pepper

2 Tbsp. thinly sliced green onion

To pickle the eggs, drain the beet liquid into a deep medium container and reserve the beets separately. Add the red wine vinegar and sugar to the beet liquid and stir to dissolve the sugar. Peel the hard-cooked eggs and add to the mixture, being sure they are submerged. Cover and let sit for about 4 hours, refrigerated. Stir often to color evenly. Drain the eggs well, pat dry on paper towels, and discard the beet liquid. Halve the eggs lengthwise and transfer the yolks to a mixing bowl. Set the egg white halves on a platter, cover, and refrigerate.

To finish the eggs, with a fork, mash the yolks to a smooth consistency. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, red onion, sugar, and salt, and mix until smooth. (You can also do this using an electric mixer with a whip attachment.) Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain or large star tip, then pipe the mixture evenly into the egg white halves. Or fill the eggs with a spoon, dividing the filling evenly. Top each egg half with ½ teaspoon of diced pickled beets and a sprinkle of green onion.

Tip: For a polka dot effect, firmly pack the eggs into a narrow container so that they are all touching, and do not stir them. The eggs will be lighter pink or white where they touch, lending a perky polka dot pattern. Makes 24.

— From “D’lish Deviled Eggs” by Kathy Casey (Andrews McMeel, $14.99)

Green Goddess Deviled Eggs

Tarragon’s anise notes and bright green personality bring an herbaceous attitude to these garden-fresh deviled eggs. For a truly classic Green Goddess flavor, replace the salt with 1 to 2 teaspoons of anchovy paste.

1 dozen hard-cooked eggs

½ ripe avocado

3 Tbsp. mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. sour cream

1 tsp. minced fresh garlic

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon

½ tsp. salt

24 fresh tarragon leaves

Fresh-cracked black pepper

Halve the eggs lengthwise and transfer the yolks to a small bowl. Set the egg white halves on a platter, cover and refrigerate.

In a mixing bowl, mash the avocado well with a fork, then add the yolks and mash to a smooth consistency. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, chopped tarragon and salt, and mix until smooth. (You also can do this using an electric mixer with a whip attachment.) Taste and season accordingly.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain or large star tip, then pipe the mixture evenly into the egg white halves. Or fill the eggs with a spoon, dividing the filling evenly.

Top each egg half with a tarragon leaf and a grind of fresh cracked black pepper. Makes 24.

— From “D’lish Deviled Eggs” by Kathy Casey (Andrews McMeel, $14.99)

Don’t trash those cartons

Ever wondered what to do with that stack of egg cartons on top of your refrigerator? The Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, 8201 S. Congress Ave., accepts clean cartons, as do many egg vendors at the local farmers markets. If you plan to donate your cartons, don’t place empty, cracked shells back in the carton.

Paul Newman’s character in “Cool Hand Luke” famously ate 50 hard-boiled eggs in one hour to settle a bet.

Even though you might be stuck with 50 hard-boiled eggs after Easter this weekend, we set out to find at least 50 different ways to eat one of our favorite — not to mention inexpensive — sources of protein.

At the Omelettry, the diner that got its start at 4811 Burnet Road in 1978, they serve the basics: over-easy, over-medium, over-hard, sunny side up (and its slightly more cooked cousin basted) and scrambled. (No poached or boiled, the menu notes.)

Jesse Carpenter, son of founder Kenny Carpenter who is now a partner in the business, says that even though they now offer lunch and dinner dishes until 10 p.m., the restaurant goes through almost 5,500 eggs per week. “Even when we are serving dinner, we’re still serving eggs,” he says. “Ninety percent of sales is still breakfast.”

Carpenter, who literally grew up in a playpen in the restaurant’s office, started working in the restaurant when he was about 10 years old and his dad asked him to roll silverware. Now he juggles running a business with a 16-month-old in tow.

Instead of flipping eggs on a large flat-top griddle with a spatula, Omelettry staff prepare the eggs in small saute pans. “Once the egg is cooked, we flip it up in the air and catch it on the way down. Otherwise, you’ll break the yolk,” Carpenter says. “The flip is the hardest thing in the whole restaurant to teach.”

Omelets are big business for diners like the Omelettry, which has more than a dozen on the menu, but if we’re going to talk about French-inspired omelets, we have to talk about their Spanish and Italian counterparts.

My life changed when I went to Spain and had a tortilla for the first time. So many potatoes, so savory and satisfying with that cafe con leche. (With the help of my house mom, I learned how to use a big dinner plate to master the Flip, and while I was living with her, I had a Japanese roommate who taught us both how to make the Japanese egg pancake called okonomiyaki.)

I don’t have an emotional connection to the Italian frittata, but quickly sauteing vegetables and making one is a lot easier than poaching a pan full of potatoes in oil for the Spanish version.

If you like your eggs fluffy (or perhaps are looking for a new way to eat egg whites), consider the souffle omelet, made with eggs whites that are whipped and then baked in the oven.

On the other hand, the egg yolk, one of nature’s most efficient emulsifiers, is key to making both hollandaise (with butter, lemon juice and heat) and mayonnaise (with oil, lemon juice and no heat).

We eat a lot of fried eggs in my house, and to keep things interesting, we’ll swap the fats in which we fry them and the seasoning on top: An egg fried in olive oil and heavily peppered tasted significantly different than one fried in butter and topped with Kosher salt.

Fried eggs are a welcome surprise at dinner on top of pasta, pizza or just about any leftovers from the night before, or you could cook an egg in a stir fry, carbonara, egg drop soup or piping hot bibimbap.

McDonald’s might have set the original bar for the egg muffin sandwich, but you can take the homemade route with better results. You can take the high, healthy road and skimp (or skip altogether) the butter and salt, but a thin layer of butter on both the top and bottom pieces of English muffin — with a well-seasoned fried egg and perhaps a flash-fried piece of ham — are the keys to an irresistible sandwich. Bagels, croissants and plain old bread work just fine, too.

A childhood is not complete without trying an Egg in a Basket (or maybe your family called a fried egg in the middle of a piece of bread a Toad in the Hole, One-Eyed Jack or Gas Light Egg) or Egg in a Nest, an egg baked in a muffin tin “nest” of mashed potatoes or hash browns.

For an adult spin on the “egg in a (fill in the blank),” consider baking an egg in an avocado. I’m not a huge fan of warmed up avocados, but if you like the idea, cut an avocado in half, remove the pit and fill the hole with a cracked egg. Place in a small baking dish, season well and bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes.

Kids and adults will love the scrambled-egg-in-a-mug trick: Coat a microwave-safe mug (or even a small bowl) with cooking spray or butter, add two eggs, salt and pepper and a splash of milk and whisk with a fork. Microwave for 45 seconds, stir and microwave again for another 30 seconds. Top with shredded cheese, if desired.

An eggy crust is the best part of French toast and what makes waffles only marginally more nutritious than pancakes. (Speaking of sugar, eggs are essential for both meringue and curd, if you have a sweet tooth this week.)

My grandmother recalls salt-preserved eggs from her childhood out in the sticks where they didn’t have electricity, and preservation is also the driving force behind pickled eggs, which seem to be making a comeback in bars these days.

Breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros and migas — scrambled eggs with tortilla chips, cheese, peppers and salsa — have never fallen out of favor in Austin, but if you’re looking for inspiration from the French, try one of the eight varieties of oeufs en cocotte that cookbook authors Rosie French and Ellie Grace serve in their London restaurant French & Grace. The technique — baking eggs in ramekins with whatever spices and ingredients your heart desires — might not be as familiar as quickly scrambling eggs and rolling them up in a taco or baking a large egg casserole or quiche, but they make for an easy, customizable way to serve eggs during an Easter brunch.

That is, if you’re not just eating the hard-boiled ones, along with a little candy, that the Easter bunny left behind.

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