When everything else lets you down, eggs are always there for you. Forgot to thaw out that roast? Let’s scramble some eggs for dinner. Need a high-protein snack? Peel a hard-cooked egg. Toast not cutting it for breakfast? Fry an egg and turn it into a sandwich.
Whatever your culinary dilemma may be, eggs are likely the answer, and for good reason. They’re a quick-cooking, nutritious, inexpensive and tasty ingredient that most of us have in our refrigerators.
Because now more than ever you may need this superhero food to come to the rescue, here are a few tips and recipes that will be helpful before you get crackin’.
Eggs might seem like the simplest of ingredients, but cooking them can be tricky, so much so that cooking a basic omelet or fried egg is often a test given to new chefs seeking employment. This is true because, while eggs can be finicky, a good cook knows how to avoid any potential problems.
Those problems typically come in the form of heat, and here’s why. Eggs are full of natural proteins. These proteins are all individual, free-floating, coil-like units. When heated, the protein coils unwind and begin to stick to other proteins, creating a mesh.
You can see it happening when you fry an egg and the white turns from clear to opaque. This indicates the proteins are linking together, forming a tight mesh that you can no longer see through.
If you cook the egg too long or at too high a temperature, the mesh tightens so much that it squeezes out any liquid and becomes dry and tough. Of course, what’s too long and what’s too high can be difficult to determine.
Let’s take a look at Asparagus Basil Scrambled Eggs in Parmesan Dutch Baby With Crispy Pancetta. Scrambled eggs are a good illustration of the balance you need in time and temperature when it comes to cooking eggs.
In this recipe, we are looking for light and fluffy scrambled eggs to mix with sautéed asparagus and crispy pancetta, before we pile them into the perfect vessel — a savory, cheesy Dutch Baby.
To get the result we’re looking for, we first add a little fat to the eggs, in the form of half and half. The fat comes in between the protein coils, preventing them from meshing too tightly together.
Next, we start the eggs cooking in the skillet at a high heat. This seems counterintuitive, but we need some heat to create steam, which is what inflates our eggs enough to make them fluffy.
Once the eggs begin to set and have reaped the benefit of the high heat, we reduce the heat to low to finish their cooking. The whole process takes less than 2 minutes, but the result is a perfectly light, yet moist scrambled egg.
Hard-cook the egg
Hard-cooked eggs are a bit controversial. Forever, we boiled eggs the way our mothers taught us: covered with water in a pot and boiled for about 10 minutes. The result was eggs with tough whites and green-tinged yolks, telltale signs of an overcooked egg. And those eggs would often be difficult to peel.
Then the Instant Pot came along and changed the world of hard-cooked eggs. The sealed environment of the electric pressure cooker provided even cooking with precise timing, both critical elements in the hard-cooked egg game.
You don’t need a new small appliance, though, to make perfect hard-cooked eggs. You simply need to adjust your technique and start your eggs in boiling water. Placing an egg in water that is already boiling controls the temperature and timing. You know how hot the water is when you add your egg and how long it will take to cook them to your desired doneness once you lower the temperature.
Also, the shock of the heat prevents the egg white from adhering too much to the membrane of the eggshell. This dramatically lessens the possibility that you’ll tear the egg apart in the peeling process.
For Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs, we want a hard-cooked egg with a fully done yolk, so I cook the eggs for 13 minutes after reducing the heat from a boil to low.
Once I’ve peeled the egg and separated the yolks, I mix them with a simple, but flavorful mixture of Old Bay Seasoning, lemon juice and a touch of hot sauce before folding in a generous amount of crab. What you get are not your mama’s deviled eggs, but a satisfying bite of luxury, masquerading as a familiar family favorite.
Bake a custard
Crème brûlée, flan and cheesecake are all forms of baked custards, as are quiches and baked egg casseroles, i.e., bread puddings and stratas, and they are all subject to the time and temperature issues that come with egg cookery.
Many baked custards are cooked in a water bath — a large pan filled with hot water. The baking dish with the custard is lowered into the hot water and the whole thing is baked in the oven until the eggs are just set.
The water bath gives the custard insulation from the harsh heat of the oven and allows the proteins in the eggs to set without tightening too much, which would create a grainy, unpleasant texture.
It’s a solid technique, but with our two baked custard recipes — Skillet Bacon-Cheddar Quiche With Hash Brown Crust, and Blueberry Lemon Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole — we create insulation in a different way.
For the quiche, we cook it in a cast-iron skillet. The cast iron provides an evenly cooked custard and tempers the oven heat. The hash brown crust acts as an additional layer of insulation, resulting in a silky custard.
In the French toast casserole, the sweet lemon-scented custard is soaked into bread cubes overnight and baked together with blueberries and cubes of cream cheese, which all act as a form of insulation.
It really is incredible how just a little bit of information and delicious recipes can take your egg-cooking game to the next level.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on instagram @meredithdeeds.
Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
Note: A generous amount of crab turns a homey dish into a hardy but sophisticated appetizer, perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner. From Meredith Deeds.
• 8 eggs
• 1/3 c. mayonnaise
• 2 tbsp. lemon juice, divided
• 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
• 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
• 6 oz. lump crab meat, divided
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped chives
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Carefully lower eggs into pot and continue to boil for 30 seconds. Cover, reduce heat to low and continue cooking at a gentle simmer for 13 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and transfer to an ice bath. Let sit in the cold water for at least 15 minutes.
To peel, first gently tap hard-boiled eggs all over to crack the shell, then remove shell under a thin stream of running water.
Halve eggs lengthwise. Place egg yolks in a medium bowl and mash them with a fork. Add mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, mustard and hot sauce and stir until smooth. Add half of the crab and gently fold into the yolk mixture.
Place egg whites onto a plate and fill each egg half with some of yolk mixture.
In a small bowl, gently toss the remaining half of the crab with the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and chives. Top each filled egg half with some of the crab mixture before serving.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 160 Fat 12 g Sodium 305 mg
Carbohydrates 1 g Saturated fat 3 g Added sugars 0 mg
Protein 10 g Cholesterol 210 mg Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ medium-fat protein, 1 fat.
Asparagus Basil Scrambled Eggs in Parmesan Dutch Baby With Crispy Pancetta
Note: A sophisticated brunch dish, done in under 30 minutes, only needs a little fresh fruit, and maybe a Bloody Mary or mimosa to complete the meal. Pancetta is Italian salt-cured pork belly, much like bacon, without the smoke. It is often sold in the deli or specialty cheese section of the grocery store. From Meredith Deeds.
•10 eggs, divided
• 3/4 c. milk
• 3/4 c. flour
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1/2 c. finely shredded Parmesan cheese
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 oz. thinly sliced pancetta, chopped (see Note)
•2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 lb. medium asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-in. pieces at an angle
• 1/4 c. half-and-half
• 3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
To make the Dutch baby: Combine 4 eggs, flour, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. Batter may also be mixed by hand.
Melt 1/4 cup butter in a 12-inch cast iron or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Pour the batter into the skillet and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the Dutch baby is puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
To make the scrambled eggs: Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until the asparagus is bright green and crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Remove from heat and wipe out skillet with paper towel.
When the Dutch baby has been removed from the oven, whisk together 6 eggs, half-and-half, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.
Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and heat until melted. Add egg mixture and using a rubber spatula, push eggs all the way around the circumference of the skillet, then across the bottom for about 30 seconds. When you can just begin to see that your spatula leaves a trail in the skillet, reduce the heat to low. Continue to push eggs around and across skillet until fluffy and barely set, about 1 minute more.
Add the basil, asparagus and 3/4 of the crispy pancetta, and gently fold into the eggs. Spoon egg mixture into the hot Dutch baby and top with remaining pancetta. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 605 Fat 51 g Sodium 800 mg
Carbohydrates 26 g Saturated fat 23 g Added sugars 0 mg
Protein 30 g Cholesterol 545 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 carb, 4 medium-fat protein, 6 fat.
Skillet Bacon-Cheddar Quiche With Hash-Brown Crust
Note: A crispy hash-brown crust gives this simple quiche a fun and delicious twist. From Meredith Deeds.
• 4 medium russet potatoes (about 2 lbs.), peeled and coarsely shredded
• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
• 1 1/4 tsp. salt, divided
• 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
• 1 c. chopped red onion
• 6 eggs, room temperature
• 1 1/4 c. half-and-half
• 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 1/2 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
• 6 thick-cut slices cooked bacon, crumbled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the shredded potatoes in the middle of a clean dish towel, gather together ends of towel, and thoroughly wring out excess liquid over the sink.
Heat oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Add potatoes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat. Spread mixture into an even layer across the bottom and all the way up the sides of skillet. Press firmly on the potatoes, using a dry measuring cup, to help form a crust. Bake until lightly golden, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add red onion and sauté until translucent, 5-6 minutes; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, mustard, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Sprinkle the Cheddar cheese, sautéed red onion and bacon over the bottom of the hash-brown crust. Pour the custard mixture over the top. Bake until quiche is set and crust is well browned, 30-35 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 505 Fat 35 g Sodium 1,020 mg
Carbohydrates 27 g Saturated fat 16 g Added sugars 0 mg
Protein 21 g Cholesterol 260 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 2 medium-fat protein, 4 ½ fat.
Blueberry-Lemon Cream-Cheese French Toast Casserole
Serves 8 to 10.
Note: Creamy and bursting with bright flavors, this egg casserole can be assembled the night before, ensuring a stress-free breakfast or brunch that you and your family will be making time and time again. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 loaf (14 to 16 oz.) day-old French or Italian bread, cut into 1-in. pieces, divided
• 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
• 2 c. fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries, divided
• 8 eggs
• 3 c. whole milk
• 1 c. heavy cream
• 3/4 c., plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
• 2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1/4 c. unsalted butter
Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the bread cubes in an even layer in the baking dish. Top evenly with the cream cheese and 2/3 of the blueberries (keep remaining blueberries in refrigerator if using fresh) or freezer (if using frozen), followed by the remaining bread cubes.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until combined and then whisk in the milk, cream, 2/3 cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and press on the bread lightly to submerge.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the casserole for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar over the top of the casserole and dot evenly with the butter. Place the casserole on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, uncovered, until custard is set and top is golden, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information per each of 10 servings without sauce:
Calories 500 Fat 27 g Sodium 460 mg
Carbohydrates 50 g Saturated fat 15 g Added sugars 19 mg
Protein 14 g Cholesterol 220 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 1 ½ carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 4 fat.
Blueberry Lemon Sauce
Makes about 3 cups.
Note: From Meredith Deeds.
• 3 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 2 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
• Pinch of salt
• 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
• 1 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
• 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the blueberries, 2/3 cup water, sugar, lemon zest and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to burst, about 5 to 8 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and cornstarch. Stir into the blueberry sauce, and cook until it begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance.
Nutrition information per ¼ cup:
Calories 60 Fat 0 g Sodium 20 mg
Carbohydrates 15 g Saturated fat 0 g Added sugars 8 mg
Protein 0 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb.