- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Eggs may not be a given, but they will probably come to the mind of whoever is in charge of a Mother’s Day breakfast.

This is for those dear ones, children or dads, who dare to take on a meal that most moms can serve up without a single broken yolk. Mom will certainly feel nurtured by the love served with an egg that didn’t go over quite so easily. But she’ll be downright dazzled if ordinary eggs are presented in a special way.

Brown shells, white shells, all eggs are about equal nutritionally. Size and freshness have more to do with what’s inside the egg than the outside color does. Egg freshness affects not only how it tastes, but how it cooks, whether you are boiling, frying or poaching.

Shirley Corriher, author of “Cookwise” (Morrow), suggests testing an egg for freshness by placing it in a bowl of water. If it lies flat on the bottom, it is very fresh. If the egg stands up and bobs on the bottom, it is not so fresh. If the egg actually floats, it could be, well, a rotten egg. When in doubt, throw it out.

Membranes in the egg grow weak and eventually break as they age. If you crack an egg onto a flat surface (like a frying pan), the yolk should not flatten out or break easily, and the white should be the same thickness from yolk to outer edge. Use older eggs for hard cooking (they are easier to peel than fresh eggs), for scrambling or for baking a cake for Mom.

Cracking an egg on the rim of a bowl or a frying pan is not the best idea.

Experts say the best way to crack an egg is on a hard, flat surface because the shell doesn’t shatter as much. Hit the egg on the side and pull the shell apart.

To make something special out of plain eggs, consider these ideas. Fancy eggs: Sprinkle softly scrambled eggs with truffle salt (available in specialty food stores and cook shops) and give Mom the rest of the jar as her gift.

Eggs ‘n’ soldiers. For an impressive presentation, serve a perfectly soft-cooked-to-Mom’s-desire egg upright in a wine glass layered with salt and pepper with “soldiers” — rectangular strips of toasted bread standing at attention on her breakfast tray.

Eggs in a hole. Cut toast circles from Mom’s favorite bread (rosemary, olive, sour-dough, wheat) then cut out a hole in each (set these aside), crack an egg into each of the holes and fry (egg and toast) until done to Mom’s liking. Serve with the toast cutouts and a salad of frisee tossed with bacon bits and some good olive oil.

Peppered salmon and egg. For something a little more hearty, spread a toasted bagel with creme fraiche or cream cheese. Top with flaked, peppered and smoked salmon and serve with sliced red onion and teardrop or cherry tomatoes and a perfectly hard-cooked egg, halved, powdered with pepper and sprinkled with some of the fancy salts (perhaps truffle salt) that are available today. Leftover fancy salt can be a gift.

Perfectly cooked eggs are easy if you treat them kindly. Whether soft-cooked or hard-cooked (never boiled), fried, scrambled, poached or even baked, the secret is gentle heat.

Here are a few tips for perfectly cooking eggs for Mom with some help from “Cookwise”:

Soft-cooked. Bring eggs to room temperature. Bring enough water to cover eggs by 1 inch to a boil. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Carefully lower eggs into water. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.

After 2½ to 3½ minutes, the eggs will be cooked but some of the white will still be soft to runny. At 4 minutes, the white will be firm with a runny yolk. Hold the eggs briefly under cold running water to stop cooking. With a sharp knife or egg scissors (maybe a gift for Mom) cut off ½ inch of one end of egg and place in an egg cup (another nice gift).

Hard-cooked. Place eggs in a saucepan large enough to hold them in one layer. Cover with water so that they are topped by 1½ inches of liquid. Partially cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered, just 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Rinse under cold running water and let sit in cold water for about 5 minutes.

Fried eggs. Use a heavy skillet and gentle heat. Warm the pan first, then remove from flame and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Return to heat and add oil or butter. Crack egg into the pan and cook as desired. For over easy, wait until the white is opaque all way to the yolk before turning.

A fun way to finish cooking the top of the egg is to add an ice cube to the pan, cover and let steam until cooked as desired.

Scrambled eggs. There are several ways to scramble eggs. These include stirring constantly over low heat, stirring just once or twice over very high heat and everything between. Adding a little water to the beaten eggs will make them puff up a bit with the steam that is created. Adding cream at the finish will make a very rich creamy dish.

Try it this way: Add a little oil to a warmed skillet, then add a bit of butter. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly and come up the side a bit. Quickly pour in well-beaten eggs. When they begin to set, push curds from the bottom to one side with a spatula. (If eggs cook too fast, lift pan from heat for a moment.) Remaining uncooked eggs will spread over the bottom. Let them puff up before gently pushing to one side again.

For more creamy, fine-curd eggs, stir eggs constantly in the top of double boiler set over hot water or over very low heat. Either way, remove the pan from heat before eggs are completely done. Retained heat from the pan will continue to cook the eggs.

Omelets. Omelets are another way to glorify scrambled eggs. Use a well-seasoned or nonstick pan.

Heat pan just until warm, remove for heat and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Add a bit of butter or butter and oil, tilting the pan to coat the bottom and side a bit.

Add beaten eggs. When they begin to set, push them to the side and let uncooked eggs flow to the bottom.

When eggs are nearly cooked but still wet, shake the pan to free omelet from the bottom and side of pan.

Scoot the omelet over to the edge. With a spatula, fold a third over the center third. Tilt the pan and place the side of the pan with the unfolded edge against the plate. Turn pan upside down to fold the omelet out of the pan and over itself.

For an easier omelet, slide unfolded eggs onto a plate, place desired filling on one half and fold other half over filling. For a souffled omelet, see the recipe that follows for Gramma Frieda’s favorite omelet souffle.

Poached eggs. Fill a nonstick 8-inch skillet about half full of water. Add 2 teaspoons vinegar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a gentle boil.

Break a very fresh egg into a saucer and slip it into the water. As soon as water returns to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer.

When egg begins to set, gently run a slotted spatula under the egg to release if from bottom of pan. If yolk breaks, do not disturb it. It will seal by itself. Cook until white is firm. Lift out with a slotted spoon. Rinse briefly in hot water to remove vinegar. Drain and serve.

Baked eggs. See the recipe that follows for Shirley Corriher’s baked eggs.

Gramma Frieda’s favorite omelet souffle

2 eggs, separated


Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1 tablespoon minced onion

In large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. In another bowl, beat egg yolks with 1 tablespoon water and salt and pepper to taste. Carefully fold yolks into whites.

In an 8-inch well-seasoned or nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat.

Tilt pan to cover bottom and side. Transfer egg mixture to skillet, mounding slightly in center. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, shaking pan gently to prevent sticking.

When egg turns golden around the edge, place in preheated 450-degree oven and bake until puffed and golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Slip out of pan onto warmed serving plate. Add remaining butter to pan and quickly saute onion. Drizzle over omelet and serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving.

Sweet variation: Omit pepper. Sprinkle omelet with sugar before placing in preheated 450-degree oven. Toss ½ cup sliced strawberries with 2 teaspoons high-quality balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar.

Serve strawberries over omelet, instead of drizzling with onion and butter.

Shirley Corriher’s baked eggs

About 2 tablespoons butter

About 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs

2 eggs

Freshly grated nutmeg

Hot red pepper sauce

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese

Grease each of two small ramekins or custard cups with 1 tablespoon butter.

Distribute bread crumbs evenly around sides and bottom of cups. Crack an egg and place it in center of each cup.

Sprinkle each egg with dash of nutmeg, dash or two of pepper sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon 2 tablespoons cream on top of each, then 1 tablespoon Gruyere. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven about 8 minutes, or until set.

Makes 2 servings, but can easily be doubled.

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