Everyday Cooking: Eggs for Dinner
Eggs for Dinner? Absolutely!
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.
- It's a budget-friendly meal.
- 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.
- Eggs in Purgatory in which eggs are poached in a lively tomato sauce. See our recipe.
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 once watching Mark Bittman on PBS cooking with chef Gabrielle Hamilton. He was doing 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 weeknight dinner?
Bittman's version was 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.
It's a no-recipe recipe: Cook a portion of spaghetti. Add to a bowl and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and toss Take several slices of room temperature or warmed boiled ham and cut into large pieces. Place on top of the spaghetti. Fry an egg until the whites are opaque but the yolk is still runny (you could also use a poached egg for this). Place on top of the spaghetti and ham and cut the yolk so that it runs into them. Gently toss. Dust with a tablespoon or so of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese and season to taste with lots of black pepper (the ham and cheese are both salty so taste before adding any other salt to the dish).
This is what I make for myself for dinner when my husband is out of town. But I've never made it for him. How truly selfish of me. Please don't tell him.