It’s not easy breaking out of a cultural shell. Take eggs, for example. Partly due to targeted marketing in the early 20th century, some folks still consider the egg merely a breakfast and baking staple. The stigma attached to it as a result of the cholesterol phobia of ’70s and ’80s certainly didn’t help its popularity, either.
But eggs’ image as a healthful food rebounded — a cause for celebration itself — and gave us another reason to break out of the bacon-and-eggs mindset. Now you can find this versatile ingredient incorporated into foodie favorites like ramen, ratatouille and pizza. At only about $1.50 per dozen on average nationwide, eggs make a cheap and easy addition to nearly any meal.
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1. Add Pizzazz to Pizza
With variations ranging from hot-dog stuffed crust to Pastrami and dill pickles, no food gives you quite as many options to embellish as pizza.
Adding eggs to a pizza doesn’t differ that much from adding them to an open-faced sandwich, as done with the French croque-madame. In fact, eggs combine so deliciously with pizza, you might wonder why you haven’t tried it before.
With fresh baby spinach just hitting the markets, you can adapt eggs Florentine into a pie. Top a pizza crust with thick tomato sauce, sautéed spinach, mozzarella and a little Parmesan, and bake it at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until the cheese just melts (about five minutes).
Next, crack a few eggs on top and continue baking until the egg whites set and the crust browns. Eggs also complement pies topped with prosciutto, figs and Parmesan and add a lovely finishing touch to pizzas made with sautéed asparagus and sliced avocado.
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2. Revise Ramen
Ramen gives you as much freedom for innovation as pizza does. Veggies, steak, fish, tofu, chicken — anything goes. It’s just noodles and broth, after all.
Whether you use the individually-packaged Top Ramen from your college days or go for the better quality uncooked air-dried noodles, toss out the included seasoning packet and make your own traditional broth instead. Try pork-and chicken-based tonkatsu — it will change your view on ramen noodles forever.
And while you’re at it, go full-on authentic and add in an ajitsuke tamago, or Japanese marinated soft-boiled egg. For every two soft-boiled eggs, mix two tablespoons each soy sauce and mirin with six tablespoons of water in a bowl. Add the soft-boiled eggs to the marinade and cover them with a paper towel — keep the edges of the towel inside the bowl. Marinate the eggs in the fridge for two to 12 hours, then slice them in half and drop them in a steaming-hot bowl of ramen noodles.
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3. Make a Better Mash
Mashed potatoes, despite their ubiquity and reverence in culinary Americana, don’t command much respect at the table. Sure, you’ll find them on nearly every Sunday dinner table and probably alongside every roast you’ve ever had, but they don’t really stand out.
Up your mashed-potato game with egg yolks. Just after you mash the potatoes, stir in the yolks from two pasteurized eggs. The creamy, silky smooth texture they lend will have your guests wondering how you made your potatoes so rich.
For an updated version of coddled eggs, fill ramekins a little over three-fourths full with leftover mashed potatoes and bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit in the center. Crack an egg over each, add a little cream and Parmesan and bake until the whites set but the yolk remains fluid (about five minutes).
For a family style dinner with leftover mashed potatoes, mix them with the works — fully cooked bacon, cheese, onions, whatever you have in the fridge — and load them into a cast-iron skillet.
Make a few wells in the mashed potatoes and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they reach about 150 degrees Fahrenheit in the center (about 20 minutes). Crack an egg into each of the wells and continue baking until the whites set but the yolks remain fluid, about five minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped chives and serve.
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4. Add Bang to Your Burgers
Burgers practically beg for an egg, and not just because of the delectably rich combination of beef and egg yolk — the egg also helps keep all the other toppings from sliding off.
For a Southwestern-style burger, take the best parts of chilaquiles and do a burger mash-up. Top the patty with roasted tomatillo-cilantro salsa and a spoonful of warm black beans. Top with a fried egg, a few thin slices of avocado and sprinkle with queso fresco.
Make an eggs Benedict burger with a faux hollandaise that combines with the yolk for a spectacular take on a French classic. Make the mock hollandaise by mixing one-half cup mayo or sour cream with a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard and four teaspoons of lemon juice, then season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Top the burger with sautéed spinach, a fried egg with a runny yolk and a couple dollops of faux hollandaise.
In truth, you can top any type of burger with an egg. A few add-ons that go particularly well with fried eggs include sautéed onions and mushrooms, as well as aged white cheddar with chives and bacon.
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5. Bolster Soups
Soups and sauces have long used egg yolks as a thickening agent. When whisked quickly into a hot cream-based soup or sauce, the mixture of egg yolk and cream forms a liaison, a classic finishing touch found in numerous French recipes.
But eggs can do more for soup than just make it thick and silky. Turn just about any stock-based soup — vegetable, chicken noodle and beef work well — into stracciatella by whisking in eggs and Parmesan as the soup simmers.
Include poached eggs in soup by cooking them in the soup’s stock. Bring a hearty pork or chicken broth to a simmer and whisk vigorously to get a whirlpool effect going. Slide the egg into the stock and cook for three minutes, stirring around the sides of the pan occasionally.
Other ideas include adding a fried egg sprinkled with Parmesan to the crouton of classic French onion soup instead of Gruyère, or adding chopped hard-boiled eggs to chilled soup. Vichyssoise, chłodnik (Polish beet soup) and Ukrainian borscht are a few examples of chilled soups that love the company of an egg or two.
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6. Punch Up Pasta
Pasta and eggs have a long history. Egg noodles, lasagna, pasta carbonara and fresh homemade pasta all put the marvelous egg to good use. But you can do more.
Beat one egg with a generous pinch of Parmesan for each serving of pasta. Add hot, drained pasta of any shape to a sauté pan with a little extra-virgin olive oil and set the heat to medium. Stir in the eggs until they just start to set and take the pan off the stove — the residual heat will continue cooking the eggs.
Put your own spin on this dish by adding steamed vegetables or cooked pancetta to the noodles before adding the eggs.
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7. Revamp Ratatouille
With fresh tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and peppers, ratatouille signals the start of summer just as reliably as strawberries, solstice and school breaks. For an idyllic summer Sunday, add an egg to ratatouille and call it brunch.
You can add egg to ratatouille in one of three ways — poached, fried or baked. Roasted, caramelized ratatouille works well with a fried egg, while a soft poached egg melds beautifully with the classic stewed version.
To make a roasted ratatouille, simply mix all the ingredients and roast them on a sheet pan until caramelized, stirring occasionally (about 35 minutes). Start frying the eggs just before the ratatouille finishes and top each serving with one.
Use a similar technique with the classic version. Prepare the ratatouille on the stove and, as it approaches doneness, poach the eggs in a separate pan and add them to each serving.
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