Most of us think of eggs as a daytime meal. Besides the obvious breakfast, we'll have an omelet for lunch or spite our cardiologist with Eggs Benedict for brunch. But we don't make them for dinner.
There are conflicting points of view about the health impacts of eggs (cholesterol vs. protein and vitamins) and that's between you and your doctor. But if you do eat eggs, they can be a perfect weekday dinner for city cooks. Here's why:
- They're already in your refrigerator.
- They're quick to cook.
- Everyone's can be cooked to order.
- They're perfect for days when you get home late and want something easy to make but not so heavy that you'll have trouble sleeping.
- They're portion-controlled comfort food.
- They combine well with both everyday and special ingredients.
- They can be richly satisfying whenever you eat them.
- If it's just for you, who will know that the omelet is not art-direction perfect.
So what can you do with an egg besides just scrambling or frying it? Here are some ideas:
- Refrigerator omelet: make an omelet with whatever you may have leftover or on hand. Grate that last rind of cheddar (scrape off the mold first), dice the half-pepper that's in a baggie, shred pieces of fish or meat left over from last night's dinner.
- Scramble eggs with a spoonful of cream cheese added toward the end of cooking so that the cheese partially melts; add lots of freshly ground pepper.
- Scramble eggs with your favorite herbs and a chopped tomato. Serve with a couple of slices of smoked salmon or a side of steamed green beans.
- A plate of steamed asparagus with a poached egg on top, plus shavings of parmesan.
- An omelet with chives served with a spoonful of salsa, or leftover pesto.
- Poached egg on a green salad with a couple of slices of crisply cooked bacon (you get the same flavors as a frisée salad with lardons but with less effort).
- Egg fried rice (a good use for leftover chicken or fish or rice).
- Fried eggs on a piece of baguette or sourdough bread with a slice of cheese and another of fresh tomato.
In other words, treat the egg as the centerpiece of the meal and add dinner-like ingredients and sides to it.
I finally appreciated an egg's dinner potential after watching Mark Bittman in his PBS television series, "Bittman Takes on America's Chefs." He was cooking with chef Gabrielle Hamilton and he did a riff on her impressive pasta handkerchief with poached egg. Hers was an act of refined virtuosity, but who has time to make huge squares of fresh pasta for a weekday dinner?
Bittman's version is a very simple, but profoundly satisfying combination of spaghetti, sliced ham, a runny egg and a dusting of parmigiano-reggiano. A kind of post-modern carbonara. It's easy to make, the ingredients might already be in your kitchen (okay, you could pick up a few slices of ham at the corner deli on your way home), and the flavors and textures are so perfect together that it's good enough for company. This is what I make for myself for dinner when my husband is out of town. In fact, I've never made it for him. How truly selfish of me. Please don't tell him.