First, let’s deal with that problem of the cholesterol in eggs. Yes there’s quite a bit, but in 2001 nutrition researchers at Kansas State University published the first evidence that the body’s absorption of cholesterol is significantly reduced by another compound in the egg: lecithin. More research has been done in the intervening years, and for our purposes it suffices to say that the egg now enjoys a relatively clean bill of health – that is, if you handle them and cook them properly. Don’t leave eggs out of their carton in the fridge. The carton keeps the eggs from absorbing odors from nearby foods, and keeps them fairly well protected from breakage. It’s also smart to store them on the lowest shelf of the fridge, along with the milk and other dairy products, because that’s the lowest, coolest section.Years ago, a dairy man taught me way to go beyond the visual check for cracked eggs: two by two, rock the eggs toward each other to be sure they are loose in their little niche. If it’s broken, it won’t take long for egg-white to dry and cement the egg to the carton. Pound for pound, eggs are the cheapest form of protein. A dozen large eggs weigh about a pound and a half. Compare them price to the price of meat or fish per pound and you’ll be delighted.
I usually buy jumbo eggs. Ounce for ounce, I find them a better buy than regular. A dozen jumbo eggs will weigh 6 to 12 ounces more than a dozen regular eggs, and they make for more in my favorite dish of soft-boiled eggs. O.K., there are more calories too, but only 96 versus 70. One thing cooks must remember about jumbo eggs is to adjust for them in recipes. In standard recipes, where certain number of eggs is specified, they mean regular eggs. I’ve got to do a bit of math to make adjustments. More isn’t necessarily better. Three jumbos for four regulars is easy to remember, but come the holidays, with so much baking, I give in and by regular eggs.
On to the cooking: cookies and cakes and such aside, the motto for cooking eggs is “Low and Slow”. Never rush an egg, moreover, never boil an egg. Bring eggs just to the boil, turn off and cover them, and time them accordingly: 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how soft you like them, up to 15 minutes for hard cooked. Boiling ‘hard-boiled’ eggs just gets you that green ring around the yolk.
Eggs poach at just a simmer, baked eggs cook at a relatively low 325°. Unless you really like the taste of browned omelets or scrambled or fried eggs, cook those slowly too. Medium is as high as you should go.
Because they’re back in our good graces, there are now egg recipes galore available in print and on the internet. Now that you know that eggs are back in favor, how easy they are on your budget, and the basic ways to cook them, we’ll proceed to a few ideas a on how to make some easy dishes. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can always depend on eggs to come through when all else fails. They are Mother Nature’s original convenience food.
Let’s begin with breakfast. Short of “heart attack on a plate”, a great heap of greasy foods piled inches high, eggs can be part of a smart breakfast. Many studies show that kids do better in school and are more alert if they’ve had some protein for breakfast. Why wouldn’t that hold true for seniors too? You may not want to have them every day, but perhaps three times a week will do you. Knowing all the ways that a single egg can be turned into breakfast, you could go for several weeks and not repeat a meal. Add some ham or a piece or two of bacon, and the numbers multiply. If you consider the eggs in pancakes, waffles and French toast in there too, the number of choices grows and grows. For Sunday morning, perhaps with company coming, you might go all out with Eggs Benedict, or a wonderfully stuffed omelet, or one of the many varieties of stratas. One thing’s for certain, you should never be bored with breakfast.
Now let’s do lunch. The French invented one of the tastiest lunches around: Croque Madame. A Croque Monsieur is a hot, crunchy ham sandwich, grilled with cheese on top. Add a nicely done fried egg on top of that, and the Monsieur becomes a Madame. The name might translate as Mrs. Crunch. As you may guess, there are endless variations on this theme, with changes of meat, changes of bread, and changes of cheese – but always a melty one. How about some sliced tomato? Madame’s name might change with the variations, but her constant is the fried egg.Consider plain and simple scramble eggs on buttered (always buttered!) toast. You’ve done up the eggs ‘low and slow’. Now, while there is some creaminess still in them, you might want to blend in a bit of grated cheese or a pinch of herbs for a different flavor. You might want to add some chop up leftovers. Warm them up first so that your eggs don’t go cold. Again, anything from the breakfast repertoire can be moved up to lunch.
And they can be moved up to dinner too. For his birthday dinner every year, my Dad would ask for bacon and eggs, fried potatoes, and stewed tomatoes. Breakfast for dinner, with or without the addition of a vegetable or salad, is so easy to do. Quiche Lorraine has a certain set of ingredients associated with its eggs: onion, bacon and Swiss cheese. A quiche by any other name, you choose one, with a chopped up selection from the fridge, makes for a wonderful supper. There could possibly be more calories in that quiche crust than in the filling, so if you’re watching carbs or calories you might consider the crust-less frittata. Just as good, just as easy.
In recipes, eggs serve more functions than any other ingredient. They act as a binder in cookies, cakes, and even in meat loaf. They glaze baked goods, thicken sauces and fillings, and give a lift to soufflés and sponge cakes. They are delicious all by themselves. Outside of the Easter basket they may not be as decorative as something from Fabergé, but they certainly are worth celebrating.