Edible Cooks: Eggs

By Our Readers / Edited by Sarah Blackburn / Photo by Michael Piazza

Planning this season’s Readers’ Recipe Contest (during what seemed like an utterly endless winter!) got us thinking of the universal symbols of spring, icons shared across all cultures around the globe. We wanted to gather recipes that reflected the season, that shared a common ingredient but diverged radically in taste and tradition. We thought of lamb, rabbit, peach and cherry blossoms, asparagus, green garlic. Chive flowers bloom early, as do lilacs and apple trees. But the image we kept coming back to, the one that really stood out as the agreed-upon emblem of the season of re-birth, was the egg.

Eggs are a simple food in many ways but also miraculous in their chemistry. They leaven, they enrich, they even emulsify. They give life to baby chicks and sustenance to hungry humans. They last weeks in the fridge, offer substantial nutrition, and are easy to prepare. When whipped into soufflés they are airy and light, when hard-boiled and sliced they offer two distinct textures and flavors, and when simply scrambled in a bit of butter with flakes of salt and freshly cracked pepper, they are one of the most wonderful things you can put into your mouth.

We asked you, our readers, to submit your favorite ways to prepare eggs, where they stand out as the star of the show, and we received so many delicious entries. We read about wood-fired pizza with bacon and eggs; an “Upstate Sour,” made with apple whisky, cider syrup, and an egg white; two wonderful stories about real Cuban flan and 19th Century Cuban bacalao con huevos; multiple Sunday morning scrambles, frittatas, and stratas; we even received a gorgeous watercolor painting of assorted eggs from the artist’s hens! Our favorite recipes are printed below.

Mrs. Thrift's Red Beet Eggs

Submitted by Betsy Williams of Andover, MA. She gets her eggs from Springdell Farm in Littleton where she gets her meat CSA, and she finds her copies of Edible Boston at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA. 
”I grew up loving pickles of all kinds—cucumbers, beans, watermelon, cauliflower, carrots, apples, onions, even pigs feet—but I never knew you could pickle eggs. And I certainly didn’t know pickled eggs would turn a deep ruby red if you added beets!"

One long-ago Easter Sunday, my sister arrived for dinner carrying a beautiful blue and white antique bowl heaped with peeled, hard-boiled eggs the color of rubies accented with sliced baby beets. I took one look at that beautiful sight and fell in love before I even tasted them! Red beet eggs have been an Easter staple ever since. When it’s time to make them, I let the eggs sit in the refrigerator for several days before boiling. It’s hard to cleanly peel a freshly laid egg!”

Makes 12 eggs

12 large eggs, hard-cooked and peeled 
3 small beets, boiled and peeled 
1½ cups herb or apple cider vinegar 
1½ cups water 
½ cup sugar 
8–10 whole cloves 
1 cinnamon stick 
2–3 allspice berries

Put the peeled eggs into a non-reactive, heatproof container with a lid, such as a glass or ceramic casserole. Cut the beets into ¼ inch slices. Measure the water, vinegar, and sugar into a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and add the whole spices. Boil 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.

Pour the pickling liquid over the eggs. Add the sliced beets and stir gently, being careful not to nick the eggs. The pickling liquid should completely cover the eggs and beets. If it doesn’t, add a little more water or put a small plate on top of the eggs and beets to push them under the liquid. Cover tightly. Put the container of beets into the refrigerator.  It takes a week to 10 days for the eggs and beets to pickle. Red beet eggs are a delicious accompaniment to roast lamb and chicken as well as baked ham. Sliced red beet eggs make a pretty appetizer presented on crisp toast squares topped with a dollop of seasoned mayonnaise. The sliced eggs and pickled beets are also a bright, savory addition to plated salads.

Orange Almond Flan

Submitted by Sabrina Pashtan of Brookline. Recipe adapted from “Dulce lo Vivas “ by Ana Bensadon and The New York Times. Sabrina gets her voluptuous, rich eggs from Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchester, MA, or Pete & Gerry’s organic, cage-free Ameraucana or Marans heirloom varieties. 
”Eggs are at the height of sexiness in this orange almond flan, a dish that has become a perennial at our Passover Seder. Smooth, bright, rich and nutty, this flan shows off eggs at their best, marrying bright citrus with ground almonds to create the perfect dessert. While this recipe honors the Sephardic tradition during Passover, it can be served anytime. Almonds, a favorite ingredient of many desserts in southern Spain, can be traced back to Medieval Arab Andalucía.”

Serves 8 using a large mold, serves 10 using individual ones

3 cups sugar 
1 ½ cups water 
8 egg yolks 
4 whole eggs 
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice 
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
 
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier, optional 
¾ cup finely ground almonds or almond flour

This flan can be made either in individual flan cups, ramekins, flan mold or a cake pan that easily inverts. The recipe yields about 10 ramekins or an 8” round cake pan or mold.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Start by making the caramel: Combine 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water in a medium saucepan. On medium heat, let the syrup begin to bubble, rotating the pan as the sugar turns golden at the edges. Once the syrup has a uniform golden brown hue, within about 5 minutes, pour it immediately into the ramekins, ensuring that it spreads evenly on the bottom of the mold.

In the same saucepan, mix the remaining 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water over medium heat and boil for 4 minutes. Let cool. In a bowl, whisk whole eggs and yolks, adding orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, optional Grand Marnier, and almonds. Add the cooled syrup and whisk to combine. (It’s important that the syrup is at room temperature so that it doesn’t cook the eggs. If you suspect this has occurred, you can push the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any possible cooked bits of egg.) Pour the resulting mixture into your molds, but leave enough room so they don’t spill when transferring to the oven, about half an inch.

Cover each mold with foil and place them in a larger pan with enough space to fill with water. Pour hot water into the pan so that about half the height of the mold is submerged in water. Carefully place in the hot oven and bake for about 30 minutes for ramekins and up to an hour for a single mold, or until the custard is set. It should tremble slightly when shaken in the center.

Refrigerate flan after cooling for at least a couple hours. To serve, dip the bottom of the molds in hot water for just a few moments to loosen the caramel and then invert onto a plate. Drizzle all the loose caramel over the top and serve.

Ovo E Pomodoro, Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Submitted by Elizabeth Bertolozzi of the South End. She gets her copies of Edible Boston at the Whole Foods Symphony store. 

“I grew up in an Italian neighborhood where status was measured not by the type of car your family had parked in the driveway, but by who grew the largest tomato. In many years, that was my father. Sunday evening meals were light, punctuating a weekend of extravagant cooking and baking. My father would often use his garden’s fresh basil and tomatoes for this quick, easy and oh-so-savory Tuscan dish.”

Serves 3–4 people

2-3 tablespoons olive oil 
½ –1 cup puréed tomato 
1 clove garlic, minced 
3 fresh basil leaves 
3 fresh sage leaves 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
7 eggs

Combine the olive oil, tomato, garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a shallow saucepan over high heat until cooked down, about 7-8 minutes. Crack the eggs into the sauce and cook gently. When the eggs are almost cooked through, break the yolks and stir until cooked to your liking. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Sunday Morning Frittata

Submitted by Sal Graceffa of Bolton and Sal’s Gourmet Potato Chips. He gets his amazing, out-of-this-world eggs from a neighbor who raises chickens, goats, and sheep. He finds his copies of Edible Boston at Whole Foods markets. 
”This recipe has been a part of my life for over 30 years. I remember waking up as a child in a Sicilian household to the smell of fresh eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, onions, fresh herbs, and olive oil cooking away in the oven. I was smiling before I opened my eyes; the smells were so delicious that I was filled with excitement to look in through the oven door to see what was cooking!

In my family we have many ways of making eggs, but this was a Sunday classic. It brought all of us together: I remember sitting at the table with my grandfather eating my frittata and playing scopa, which is a Sicilian card game. As the years went on, I grew a huge passion for food and between lessons from my mother and grandmother, I learned their delectable recipe. This frittata is a treasure that I hold close to my heart and I plan to pass it on to my children one day.”

Serves 6

1 red onion, thinly sliced 
4 tablespoons olive oil 
10 large cage free egg or farm fresh eggs 
¾ cup grated Pecorino Romano 
1 teaspoon thyme, minced 
½ teaspoon fresh oregano, minced 
3 basil leaves, sliced into chiffonade 
1 tablespoon mashed roasted garlic 
1 russet potato, cut into small cubes 
¼ cup chopped sun dried tomatoes 
½ cup fresh or defrosted frozen peas
⅓ cup mascarpone cheese
 
½ cup whole milk 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F. Sauté the onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan until caramelized, then set aside. Whisk together eggs, Pecorino Romano, and milk. Add the fresh herbs, roasted garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. In a medium-sized, oven-proof, nonstick skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the caramelized onions, potatoes, peas, and sun dried tomatoes, stirring to evenly distribute the vegetables in the pan.

Pour egg mixture over the vegetables and cook on medium heat until frittata begins to set on the bottom, then add dollops of mascarpone evenly over the top. Place the pan in the oven and bake until eggs are set, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature..

Pavlova

Submitted by Beth Wittenstein of Cambridge. Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking. She gets her copies of Edible Boston at The Painted Burro or Posto in Davis Square, Somerville. 
”Few egg dishes can be described as crisp, crumbly, or marshmallowy, but pavlova offers all three. A humble concoction of egg whites and sugar, pavlova boasts a soufflé-like center that melts in your mouth enclosed in a crunchy shell. I first made a pavlova “cake” with alternating layers of meringue, whipped cream, fresh fruit, and lemon curd for a family dinner during Passover. This incredibly versatile dessert is an easy and delicious flourless option that can be adorned with any number of toppings.”

Serves 6–8

4 egg whites 
½ cup sugar 
½ teaspoon white vinegar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
½ teaspoon cornstarch, sifted 
whipped cream, citrus curd, berries or shaved chocolate, for serving

Preheat oven to 250° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and using a pencil create the outline of the shapes you’d like your pavolvas to be (ovals or circles work best); flip the parchment over so you can still see the lines but won’t spread the graphite into the meringue. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Fold in vinegar and sifted cornstarch.

With a spatula, spoon meringue mixture onto the parchment paper template, smoothing the edges to make them as uniform in size and shape as possible to ensure even baking.

Bake on the center rack of the oven for 60-70 minutes or until the shells are completely dry and turn a pale cream color. Turn off the oven, crack open the door with a wooden spoon, and allow to cool completely inside the oven.

Top with your choice of whipped cream, citrus curd, fresh fruit, or shaved chocolate, and don’t be afraid to stack your pavlovas to make “layer cakes.”

Tortilla Española

Submitted by George Warner of Chestnut Hill’s architecture firm Warner + Cunningham. As a longtime advertiser and friend, George gets his copies of Edible Boston in the mail. 
“I have many egg recipes, and all of them have a connection to Spain where I have many cousins. When I was eight years old, we lived in Spain for the entire summer. When I was 21, I was lucky enough to study there for a year. In Spain, the tortilla, or omelet, is widely available in many styles and varieties. For a country where they stay up late and drink heartily, there are surprisingly few choices for breakfast! I would rely on the small wedges of tortilla that are available at bars everywhere, and I mean everywhere: every town, every train station, every few blocks in every town. The tortilla was usually day-old and kept at room temperature under a glass cover like one that you would see over a cake or pie in small diners here in the United States.

My favorite bar in Madrid was in a basement, and had no chairs or tables, only a counter around the perimeter. They served beer, spicy hot potatoes, and over 20 varieties of tortilla. That is all. And it was packed wall-to-wall every evening! If Hemingway thought that Paris was a “Moveable Feast,” then he would surely agree that the Spanish tortilla is as well. It is a favorite for picnics since it needs no refrigeration for a day. At school, many of my classmates would bring tortillas that their host mothers had prepared for lunch. My favorite was one made with chorizo that one friend’s mother would prepare from time to time.”

So here is how it is done:

The most basic tortilla is made from only potatoes, onions, and eggs of course. To this basic version, I like to add chopped parsley.

For a 4-egg tortilla you need 2 or 3 big Russet potatoes. Peel them and cut them into thin slices about ¼ inch thick. Stack these slices and cut them into chunks about ⅜” wide in one direction and in half in the other direction. This gives you chunks about ¼” x ⅜” x ¾”. Cook these in olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes. (No, you cannot use another type of oil and call it a Spanish tortilla!) They should get soft and just begin to brown on the edges. Dice up a yellow onion and cook those in the oil for about 5 minutes to take the bite out of them and soften them up. Season the vegetables with salt to taste.

If you are doing this in the morning you can precook the onions and potatoes the evening before and leave them in the fridge. Once the potatoes and onions are ready, you mix them into a bowl of 4 eggs that have been beaten thoroughly and seasoned with salt. Stir in a small handful of chopped parsley. It should look like there are not enough eggs: the eggs are the glue, not the main volume.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, swirl it around the pan to get it up onto the sides. Pour the egg-potato mix into the middle of the pan and let the oil get displaced up and out to the edges and sides. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the edges are starting to firm up. The middle should be pretty runny still.  If you smell that it is burning, then it is time to flip it.

The flipping is a real art, or at least it is dramatic. First, run a fork around the edges to make sure that the tortilla is not stuck to the pan. Shake the pan a little side to side to help loosen it, and if needed you can run a fork down the side and under the bottom to free things up. Invert a dinner plate over the top of the pan. Now, with one hand on the handle and the other on the plate, flip the tortilla over and onto the plate. This should be an up-and-over motion that ends abruptly to knock the tortilla free. It should be a good-looking color of cooked, but not burnt. Now slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the new bottom side. This should take much less time than the first side, 1 to 2 minutes, maybe even less. Now flip it again onto the plate or simply slide it out of the pan. Pick whichever side looks better and leave that one facing up.

Tortillas can be made with 2 to 12 eggs. The thicker and bigger you go, the lower the heat should be and the more time it will take. Covering it as it cooks helps if you have a deep pan and lots of eggs.

Some of my favorite variations are to add chorizo, sun dried tomatoes, and cheese; slightly cooked green or red and yellow peppers like the Spanish flag; zucchini; golden beets. The possibilities are wide open. Still, the simple, plain version, served at room temperature, is a taste that always reminds me of the best of Spain and the special way in which Spaniards savor the simple pleasures in life.

Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, soccer mom, Italophile and managing editor at Edible Boston. She can be reached at sarah@edibleboston.com.