I've always loved Robert Frost's line about home being the place where, "when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Perhaps I'm putting an overly optimistic reading on it, but it's reassuring that even on our coldest, darkest nights, there is always a place with a warm light in the window.
That's kind of the way I feel about having eggs in the refrigerator.
It doesn't matter how gruesome the workday has been or how late it is when I get home, give me a couple of eggs and some of this and that from the fridge and I know I can fix a meal that will not only get me through the night, it can even redeem the day.
Yet it seems like every time I mention eating eggs for dinner, I get met with a blank look -- "Dude? You don't know those are for breakfast?" -- or even worse, pity -- "So, at long last it's come to this, has it?"
But while I'll happily acknowledge the rules-turned-upside-down pleasure of eating things like waffles and pancakes for dinner (or pizza for breakfast!), that's not at all what this is about.
These are egg dishes that make perfect sense as light main courses. Better yet, throw together a quick salad and you have a complete, elegant meal that can probably be prepared in less time than it would take a pasta pot to come to a boil.
Of course, there are omelets and frittatas. Those are easy answers. Eggs, cheese, a few bits of vegetables and you're there. But you don't even need to get that complicated.
You're going to have to trust me on this, but one of my favorite late-night dinners is scrambled eggs. These aren't your typical diner eggs, though. They're more like the ones you get at great restaurants, only there you usually get them elaborately piped back into their shells and garnished with caviar or truffles.
The trick to getting that creamy texture in scrambled eggs is monitoring the heat really carefully. The way I fix scrambled eggs, I add just a little bit of cold butter to the raw eggs and start cooking over medium-low heat. You do need to stir constantly -- a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula is perfect.
Keep the eggs well agitated and in a couple of minutes, when you can feel them getting thick and see them looking creamy, start beating in little cubes of cold butter, a few at a time. Adding the cold butter moderates the temperature, keeping it just below the point at which the eggs will actually set.
Oh, and the butter also emulsifies into the eggs, making them absolutely delicious. The eggs will be done when they have formed tiny, creamy curds. Take the eggs off the heat while they still look a little too moist. They cook so quickly they'll firm up more in the couple of minutes that you're dishing them up. (I usually garnish with a couple of pinches of minced fines herbes.) In a pinch, a good grinding of cracked black pepper cuts the richness deliciously.
Another favorite dinner is based on a recipe for eggs fried in bread crumbs that I learned from my old friend Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Serve it with just a tart salad, but at this time of year, when I seem to be eating as much asparagus as I can hold, it's even better with the egg laid languorously over a bundle of steamed spears.
It's a simple thing, really just scrambled eggs, but knowing I've got this waiting for me when I get home, I don't care how my day has gone -- there is a light shining at the end of the tunnel.
> Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Fines Herbes
3/4 teaspoon minced herbs, from a mixture of fresh tarragon, parsley, chives and chervil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes, divided
4 slices hot toasted and buttered baguette
Freshly ground black pepper
Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat briskly with a fork. Beat in half of the fresh herb mixture and the salt and stir in about 1 tablespoon of the cubed butter.
Heat a small, nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When it is warm, pour in the egg mixture and stir briskly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, scraping the bottom and sides to make sure the egg doesn't set too quickly. If you feel the cooking is too fast, remove the pan from the heat for a moment or two, stirring constantly, then return it.
After a couple of minutes, the butter will be melted and the eggs will have begun to thicken into a creamy sauce. Add the remaining cold butter in 2 or 3 portions, continuing to stir briskly. When the eggs are thick but not yet set, arrange the hot toast on warm plates.
The moment the eggs begin to set firmly (they will still be slightly creamy), spoon them over the toast, season with just a little black pepper and the remaining fresh herbs and serve immediately. These must be eaten hot to be appreciated fully.
Each serving: 412 calories; 16g protein; 17g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 31g fat; 17g saturated fat; 428mg cholesterol; 1g sugar; 581mg sodium.
> Asparagus with Bread Crumb-Fried Eggs
1/2 to 3/4 pound asparagus
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
A few leaves fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
Prepare the asparagus: If it is thin, simply cut off the bases; if it is thicker than a No. 2 pencil, cut off the bases and peel. Steam the asparagus until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes for thin asparagus, 4 to 5 minutes for thick. Drain, pat dry, dress lightly with 1 tablespoon oil, season with a pinch of salt and keep warm.
Place the bread crumbs in a bowl. Season lightly with salt and thyme leaves and then add enough oil to generously coat, about 1 tablespoon; put crumbs in a small nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to darken and dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Still in the pan, divide them into 2 equal batches and pat to make a thin layer.
Crack the eggs over the bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper, cover tightly and cook the eggs until they're as done as you like (if you prefer over-easy, you can flip them).
Arrange the asparagus on two warm plates; drape cooked egg over each asparagus bundle. Add the vinegar to the empty pan and let it sizzle for a moment before drizzling it over the eggs. Serve immediately. (Based on a recipe from Judy Rodgers' "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.")
Each serving: 175 calories; 10g protein; 9g carbohydrates; 3g fiber; 12g fat; 3g saturated fat; 186mg cholesterol; 2g sugar; 118mg sodium.