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Take a crack at these egg-based dishes

Want fantastic eggs? Just cook them low and slow.

It doesn't matter if you're poaching, scrambling or frying: The lower the heat and the slower the cooking, the more creamy and custardlike your eggs will be. Too hot or fast, and your eggs will quickly overcook.

Eggs are really just a jumble of proteins. During cooking, those proteins start to join together and get organized. You can see this happening as the whites become opaque and the yolk get firm, and as scrambled eggs gather into curds. However, the longer the eggs cook, the more those proteins band together, toughen up and squeeze out moisture -- leaving you with dry, rubbery eggs.

You can still overcook your eggs even on low heat if you let them sit too long, but it's far less likely. Since the cooking is happening more slowly, it's easier to gauge that exact moment when the proteins have come together but aren't yet drying out. You have a window of minutes instead of seconds.

Also, take the eggs off the heat a little before you think they're done. The eggs will keep cooking for a minute or two. By the time you sit down to eat, they will be perfect.

Southwestern skillet scramble

Serves 4

6 ounces chorizo or andouille sausages, cubed

1 medium onion, diced

2 roasted red peppers, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

6 whole eggs, whisked

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

4 pieces hearty sandwich bread

1. Heat one teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the sausage and cook until it is golden-brown on all sides. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a paper towel.

2. Pour off all but a thin film of oil. Add the onions and a healthy pinch of salt, and cook until the onions are softened and beginning to turn golden. Stir in the peppers and cook until most of their moisture has evaporated.

3. Clear a small space in the middle of the pan. Cook the garlic and spices in this space until fragrant, then stir them into the vegetables along with another pinch of salt. Add the sausage back into the mixture.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour the eggs over the vegetables. Stir the eggs gently and let them slowly cook until soft and creamy.

5. Meanwhile, toast the bread. When the eggs are as cooked as you like them, stir in three-quarters of the cheese. Divide the scramble among the pieces of toast and top with the remaining cheese.

This dish is best eaten immediately, but leftovers can be kept refrigerated and reheated for up to a week.

Spiced lentil stew with poached eggs

Serves 6-8

Note: If you don't have one of the spices in this recipe, you can do without. Taste the dish toward the end of cooking and add more of any of the other spices to adjust.

1 large onion, diced

1/2-inch ginger, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

4 ounces spinach, roughly chopped (about 2 cups chopped)

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups red or brown lentils

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

6-8 whole eggs, one per person

Salt and pepper

1. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large steep-sided skillet or heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When it stops foaming, stir in the onions and a healthy pinch of salt, and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown.

2. Stir the ginger, garlic and spices into the onions. Cook until they are very fragrant and the onions look coated in spices. Add the spinach and allow it to wilt slightly.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, broth and lentils, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and cover. Cook for 15 minutes and then check the lentils. Continue cooking and checking every few minutes until the lentils are soft. Stir in the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

4. One at a time, crack the eggs into a measuring cup and gently nestle them into the lentil stew, working your way around the edge of the pan and then into the middle. Cover the pan and cook the eggs for 12 to 15 minutes, until the whites are firmly set.

Serve in individual bowls with one egg per person. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to a week.

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