Egg You On: Seven dishes to entice and inspireThe versatility of eggs amazes. You can enjoy them in something savory or sweet, high-brow or low-brow, hearty or light – and best of all there are options for the morning, noon and night. This spring roundup of tasty egg incarnations should have you out and about in no time. And when you eat in, a sprinkling of cooking tips just might help you hatch an idea or two of your own.
BACON, SPINACH AND BISON BURGER
Eggs fry up in a hot minute. And topping a hamburger, they’re unstoppable. Chef célèbre Hubert Keller of downtown’s Burger Bar said a fried egg paired with bison, fresh sautéed spinach and applewood-smoked black-pepper bacon adds up to a special kind of wonderful. “The egg yolk seeps into the spinach, and it’s marvelous,” Keller said. No cheese necessary, just a stiff-crusted ciabatta bun to soak up all the yellow goodness.
Cooking a fried egg with sizzle, Keller said, requires three things. “It’s important to use the absolute freshest egg so that the egg white stays together and the center stays soft,” he said. Also, no speeding to the finish – wait for the edges to crisp all around. Lastly, don’t drown the egg in grease. “At home, people always make the mistake of using too much oil or butter,” Keller said.
If you suddenly feel like frying an egg or making a beeline to the Burger Bar, just blame it on spring fever.
“You don’t have to be scared. Break the yolk. Just let it run,” said chef Bruno Cardone, digging into a farmer’s pizza at downtown’s Cielo. A flash flood of yolk spread quickly over chunks of ham, roasted tomatoes and wisps of thyme. Then it seeped into the rustic crust. “The whole idea is that the yolk incorporates into the dough itself,” said Cardone.
Fresh yeast lends the dough fuller flavor, while extra-fine Italian double-zero flour creates a crust offering just the right amount of resistance.
About seven minutes before a farmer’s pizza finishes slow-baking, Cardone cracks two organic eggs on top. (“Organic is the only way you can make an egg taste better nowadays,” he said.) Then he waits. He rotates the pizza. He watches. If left too long in the oven, the yolks harden, spoiling the experience of a semiraw egg. “It’s a high-maintenance pizza,” he said.
Despite its classic pairing of ham and eggs, the farmer’s pizza isn’t breakfast fare in Cardone’s mind. “In Italy, we would eat this for lunch or dinner,” he said. The Turin native added that pizza traditionally forms the centerpiece of a light meal. So instead of a Supertuscan or a stout, order a Pinot Grigio or a lager.
That’s right. A cold omelet.
Modesto on The Hill serves its frittata-like tortilla Española at room temperature. From time to time, executive chef Grace Dinsmoor riffs on this national Spanish dish by adding ingredients like asparagus, artichokes, red pepper or ham. The classic rendition, which Modesto makes in-house daily, just features sliced potatoes.
“The key for this dish is making sure the egg coats every single thinly sliced potato,” Dinsmoor said.
In Spain, she said, chefs will often size up each other’s omelets – as funny as that might sound. “The thing is, the bigger your tortilla Española, the better Spaniard you are,” she said. Modesto’s version starts out about 10 inches in diameter. Then it’s cut into wedges, beribboned with housemade aïoli, and topped with a salty-tart caperberry. As a minimalist dish, the tortilla Española lets you spend some quality time with the richness that is egg, and it augments that flavor with textural heft.
“A poached egg is cleaner than a fried egg,” said Jack W. MacMurray III, executive chef and co-owner of Sage Urban American Grill in Soulard. “It’s a little more fine-dining.”
The Soulard Cubano – a meaty, Carribean variation of the pulled-pork sandwich – has several other touches of class. For starters, it features ham and slow-roasted pork. “That’s my joke: ‘It’s pork on pork,’” MacMurray said. Before roasting, the pork butt sits in a house-concocted dry rub for two days to build its bodacious flavor. The pickles develop their nice buttery spiciness over six weeks. (When MacMurray starts a new bushel, he pours the boiling brine over the cucumbers to prevent them from becoming overly pickled.) Citrus mojo shores up the pickles and the proteins, no problem. That zippy, sweet-and-sour punch to your taste buds arrives via a trio of citrus juices and a roasted garlic purée. And then, of course, you have the special sauce of the egg.
“I love the yolk. Its decadence is just phenomenal,” MacMurray said.
Here’s how he hooks up the perfect poach: “Poaching an egg, you may lose 20 percent of it,” he said. “I like to use a nonstick saucepot, so therefore when it drops down, it doesn’t stick to the bottom. For a quart of water, you need one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of vinegar – that helps the protein stay together.” Temperature counts too. “You never want it to boil. It should simmer at 180 degrees,” he said.
This after-dinner treat at Clayton’s Blue Elephant Royal Thai Cuisine has the copious egg yolks found in other recipes, but jaggery sugar and coconut milk take it off the sweet charts.
Owner Art Lee said custard is a typical Thai dessert, but that the taro (a tropical tuber with grayish flesh) makes it fit for royalty. “Taro is a basic staple for cooking, but it’s not typical in this kind of custard. With the taro in it, it becomes royal cuisine,” Lee said.
The addition of steamed taro mash adds a nutty elegance to the creamy dish, and each supple bite has a mellow yet penetrating sweetness. Did we say this was an after-dinner treat? On second thought, you may want to go ahead and eat it first.
In Ethiopia, doro wat is a dish people traditionally eat just twice a year, said Henok Gerbi. At Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant, which Gerbi co-owns with his wife, Atsede, on South Grand Boulevard, the dish is available anytime served with injera bread. When you order it, prepare yourself for a spice rush.
Without berberé, an Ethiopian spice blend, doro wat is a basic pairing of chicken legs and a hard-boiled egg. (In Ethiopia, it’s often served with a whole chicken.) However, berberé’s hot-sweet mix including paprika, cloves, garlic and cardamom turns the rustic chicken-and-egg duo into a spirited pair.
“It takes probably a week to make it,” said Gerbi, who uses berberé from Ethiopia. “They have to take all the spices and crush them, and after they’re crushed, they dry together in the sun.” We suggest you let the egg sit in the berberé sauce for a bit. Once you bite in, you’ll know why.
This British dessert has an absolutely unforgivable amount of cream. Isn’t it exciting?
Eton mess has a consistency somewhere between whipped cream and soft butter. Its flavor has no edges; expect a straight shot of vanilla-y sweetness. At Wm. Shakespeare’s Gastropub in Grand Center, pastry chef and baker Tony Noce serves Eton mess with the traditional strawberry purée spiked with kirschwasser.
Noce’s spin on the dish involves meringue and a misunderstanding. “I had a recipe and it said, ‘crushed meringue,’” he said. “I thought it was an English term I didn’t know.” Noce “crushed” the meringue by torching it as he whipped it. He mixed the egg whites for a bit, turned the mixer off, torched and then repeated. Noce liked the result – caramelized flecks of meringue mixed throughout the Eton mess – so much that he has continued to use this technique even after he discovered that “crushed meringue” refers to baked meringue chips.