Eggs are responsible for some of the most pleasurable sensations of taste and texture in the culinary world.
Yolks emulsify and thicken, and whites give poof and puff to an array of dishes, both savory and sweet. In cooking school, a student cook is judged on how he or she handles egg recipes, from omelets to soufflés.
You need to start with really good eggs. I have very strong feelings about factory-farmed eggs stamped “best.” They are dreadful and usually inhumane. So, if I have to purchase eggs in a supermarket, I always look for organic, cage-free. The finest eggs usually come from your local farmers’ market.
I’m now raising my own heritage chickens again and am totally spoiled with rich-colored yolks sitting up high on the whites. P.S.: It is an old wives’ tale that brown eggs are better for you. The chicken determines the color of the egg, and what the chicken eats determines the quality. So, my blue eggs are just as organic and healthy as the white or brown.
Learn to make a good omelet and you have a meal at the ready. Fabulous frittatas (eaten hot or cold) are even easier than an omelet and can use up leftovers. The variations are endless.
For a change of pace, a flaming dessert omelet can be a spectacular finish to a meal. Just don’t burn the house down!
- 1 cup diced canned pineapple, drained
- 1/4 cup apricot jam
- 6 eggs
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup rum
In a small bowl, mix pineapple and jam. In another bowl, whisk eggs with pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar until blended but not frothy.
In a large, heavy skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat until foamy. Pour in eggs and let cook, lifting sides as they begin to set to let egg flow underneath, until omelet is barely set in middle, two to three minutes.
Spoon pineapple jam mixture down omelet off center. Fold plain half over pineapple. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
Increase heat to high. Pour in rum and carefully ignite with match. As soon as flames subside, cut into wedges and serve.
A favorite standby.
Frittata with Dried Tomato and Blue Cheese
- 6 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (the ones packed in oil are easier than having to rehydrate dried ones)
- 3 ounces blue cheese (I like Maytag blue), crumbled
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parley or basil if you have it
Preheat broiler. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper until blended.
Melt butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. When butter foams, pour in eggs and reduce heat to medium. As edges of eggs begin to set, after about one minute, lift edges to let uncooked eggs flow under. Continue to cook until firm but still moist.
Sprinkle tomato, cheese and parsley all over frittata. Transfer to broiler and broil one to two minutes until frittata is puffed and cheese is barely melted. Serve hot or cold, cut into wedges.
While visiting Austria, I was served these big, billowy vanilla dumplings and have been a fan ever since. It made me feel like Heidi of the mountains.
Big Billowy Austrian Vanilla Dumplings
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 eggs, separated
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean
- 6 tablespoons flour (all purpose)
- Powdered sugar
Set rack on lowest level of oven and preheat to 425. Melt butter in a 6-cup baking dish or oval gratin in oven.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in sugar and continue beating to firm but not stiff peaks.
In another bowl, blend egg yolks with vanilla extract. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean (see note) into yolks and mix well. Pour down side of bowl into whites, gently fold together.
Sieve flour over top of batter, fold until flour is incorporated and mixture is smooth. Don’t over-blend or batter will deflate.
With a large spoon, scoop out six even mounds of batter and drop gently into baking dish. Pull up on tips so sections become distinct.
Bake five to six minutes, until tips are brown and most of dumpling is pale brown outside and creamy inside. Serve immediately dusted with powdered sugar.
Note: I put the scraped bean into a container with regular sugar — it makes a great vanilla sugar.