Most of my life, eggs were as interesting to me as iceberg lettuce. I was never an eggs-for-breakfast kind of person. I bought eggs for baking cakes and cookies mostly, and occasionally pancakes.
Then I moved to France and my relationship with eggs changed. There, the eggs were different. Never refrigerated, they were brown, all of them, and they came in cartons of four or six. It wasn’t uncommon to find a feather or two attached to the shell.
The color of these French eggs wasn’t this pale, light yellow that you often find here; the yolks were deep orange, and so then, was everything I made with them, from omelets to cakes. After I started eating these French eggs on their own, I understood why they were poached and put on top of everything from salads to open-face sandwiches — their beauty was only eclipsed by their rich, eggy flavor.
Home in the land of the soufflé and quiches, I started separating my jaunes (yellows) from the whites, and learned to whip and fold the neige (snow) into whatever I was making that needed a bit of a lift. I taught myself basic techniques and, over time, I learned to revere the egg like everyone else.
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I still don’t eat eggs for breakfast, but I’ll soft boil or fry up one and put it on top of just about anything and call it dinner, like the recipe for asparagus and potatoes here. The yolk, I’ve learned, is perfect sauce on its own, or mixes well with vinaigrettes on salads or tomato sauces on pizzas — there’s some kind of magic in that mashup of fat plus acid that just works.
These two classic French desserts rely on eggs — the mousse for the lift and lightness, and the clafoutis for the custardlike texture — and they’re both so easy and quick to put together that you’ll wonder why you don’t make them all the time.
Ditto on the favorite Thai takeout, pad Thai. Like with fried rice, the egg isn’t necessarily the star of the show, but if it’s not there you’d definitely miss it.
So if you bought dozens of eggs for Easter and are wondering what to do with the rest of them besides making egg salad, there are a lot more options than you think.
Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25). www.cowgirlchef.com, @cowgirlchef.
Clafoutis with strawberries
Makes 6 servings
You’ll want to use this recipe over and over as the fruits and berries come into season. You can swap out the strawberries for anything you’d like. Cherries are traditional in France.
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing skillet
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
8 ounces strawberries, halved
Powdered sugar, for serving
1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave. Set aside to cool.
2. Heat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with a bit more butter.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, flour and melted butter. It’s OK if there are a few lumps. Pour this into the greased cast-iron skillet and scatter the strawberries around. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until set — it’ll puff up but then fall when you take it out of the oven, but that’s OK. Let cool slightly before serving with powdered sugar on top.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 208 calories, 8 grams fat, 30 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 84 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 35 percent of calories from fat.
Adapted from a recipe in “Cooking From the Heart” by John Besh
Chocolate mocha mousse
Makes 6 to 8 servings
12 Biscoff cookies
7 ounces good chocolate pastilles (I used Barry 64%)
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
6 extra-large eggs, separated
8 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided
8 ounces (1 cup) heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Put the cookies in a heavy-duty plastic bag and with a rolling pin, gently smash them into smallish pieces. Divide the crushed cookies among 6 to 8 glasses.
2. Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler over medium heat, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add the espresso powder and set this aside; let it cool slightly.
3. Separate the eggs, putting the egg yolks into the largest bowl you’ve got. Whisk the yolks.
4. Put the egg whites into a clean mixer bowl with a whisk attachment and turn it on medium-high. When the peaks are soft, gradually add 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and keep mixing until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in thirds. Spoon the mousse mixture into the prepared glasses, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and refrigerate until firm, for 3 hours, at least.
5. Before serving, make the whipped cream. Pour the whipping cream into a mixer bowl and mix on medium-high. When it begins to thicken, add the vanilla and sprinkle in the powdered sugar. Continue to mix. When it thickens, spoon on top of the mousse, add a few more cookie crumbles, and serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 525 calories, 33 grams fat, 50 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 297 milligrams cholesterol, 106 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 57 percent of calories from fat.
Basic pad Thai
Makes 2 servings
This is a recipe that can be added to as you wish. There’s normally dried shrimp in the recipe, but I didn’t have any, and bean sprouts, too. Fresh shrimp, chicken, whatever leftovers you might have can be added to this. It’s comfort food, Thai-style.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1/4 cup fish sauce
14 ounces firm organic tofu
1 Thai chile
3 green onions
1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
5 ounces rice noodles (flat)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Lime wedges for serving
Canola or peanut oil
1. Make the pad Thai sauce. Put sugar, water, tamarind paste and fish sauce in a small saucepan over low heat and cook until the sugar dissolves. Taste for balance. You want this to reflect the sourness of the tamarind, the salty fish sauce and the sweetness from the sugar. To save time, you can make the sauce in advance and keep in a jar in the fridge.
2. Put the block of tofu on a plate, cover with folded paper towels, and set a large pot on top to squeeze out the water. Leave this for an hour or more. Slice half the block of tofu into 1-inch pieces and put the remaining half in the fridge (or you may want to fry it all, then keep the extra in the fridge for another use).
3. While the tofu water is draining, finely chop Thai chile, slice the white parts of the green onion and reserve the green for serving. Roughly chop the peanuts. Set all of this aside in separate bowls.
4. Put a pot of water on to boil. Put the noodles in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let steep for 15 minutes or until soft.
5. Put enough oil in a wok or large skillet to cover the bottom. Turn the heat to medium-high. Fry the tofu until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
6. Pour off all but a little bit of the oil. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the eggs. Cook them, breaking them up as they firm up. Remove to a plate.
7. Pour a few tablespoons of oil back into the wok and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the softened noodles, some of the sauce, the tofu, eggs, white parts of the onions, and Thai chile. Stir until cooked through. Serve on one large platter or 2 plates. Sprinkle with the crushed peanuts, and lay the greens of the onion on one side along with the lime wedges.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 563 calories, 28 grams fat, 57 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 186 milligrams cholesterol, 205 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 45 percent of calories from fat.
Adapted from a recipe on Imported.com
Poached eggs, asparagus and potatoes
Makes 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds small potatoes, halved
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Sea salt and pepper
2 pounds asparagus
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees and get out 2 large baking sheets.
2. Put the halved potatoes on one baking sheet. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sea salt and pepper to taste. Put them insides-down in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until browned on both sides, turning once.
3. Trim the ends of the asparagus and put them on the other baking sheet. Add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste, and roast until very lightly browned, about 15 minutes if you have the skinny asparagus; a little longer if they’re the fatter stalks.
4. After the potatoes and asparagus are done, simply put the potatoes on top of the asparagus.
5. Poach the eggs. Put about 4 inches of water in a saucepan along with a big pinch of salt, and turn the heat to high. When the water boils, turn it down to a simmer. Crack the eggs into small glass bowls and gently pour each egg from the bowl into the barely bubbling water. Set a timer for 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the eggs and put each egg (still in the spoon) on a paper towel to absorb the moisture for a few seconds before carefully putting it on top of the potatoes and asparagus. Chop the tarragon and sprinkle on top.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 238 calories, 14 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 186 milligrams cholesterol, 76 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber, 53 percent of calories from fat.