Huevos rancheros, or eggs “ranch style,” is quick, satisfying and easy; a dish for those last-minute, we’re-out of-everything weeknight dinners. Eggs are nature’s fast food; pricewise, they’re one of the best deals in town.
So what makes a good egg? Color doesn’t really matter because the breed of the chicken determines the tint of the egg’s shell, not its character. Rhode Island Red chickens lay brown eggs, while pretty pale blue, light green and gray eggs come from Araucana chickens.
The size of the egg is related to the age of the hen, with younger chickens laying smaller eggs. Although size of eggs may matter when baking, it doesn’t with poaching, scrambling and frying eggs, but cooking times will vary a little.
The best eggs are the freshest, and they are easy to find at farmers markets, now in full swing. Flavor also depends on what the hens eat. Free-range “layers,” which roam and scratch in the farmyard as they feast on a varied diet, produce the tastiest eggs. When shopping at the co-op or grocery store, look for free-range local eggs delivered fresh from nearby farms several times a week.
Store your eggs in the carton on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door — it tends to be warmer and is subject to fluctuations in temperature. Eggs will keep up to three weeks in the refrigerator, but they taste best when used right away.
Corn tortillas are the most traditional and flavorful choice. Made with masa flour, they have a slightly tangy, corn-forward taste. They’re best lightly fried first to warm and toast them. But flour tortillas are delicious, too. Look for fresh corn and flour tortillas from local producers in the refrigerated section of food co-ops and mercados.
When it comes to salsa, I’m grateful to have so many small-batch local products available and ready to use. Corn, black bean and roasted tomato salsas come in varying levels of heat from our innovative makers. You’ll find them marked “local” on grocery store and co-op shelves. For a final flourish, smear the tortillas with mashed avocado to add contrasting color and a nutty creaminess that balances the salsa’s kick.
Huevos rancheros makes a comforting dinner for one, a quick lunch after a farmers market excursion and an impressive Sunday brunch.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.