- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One of the first dishes I learned to cook was scrambled eggs. Now that’s a recipe for instant success.

That’s what I thought at the time, but as I became a more serious cook, I discovered that scrambled eggs were simple to prepare but required an extra step to go from humdrum to dreamy.

What’s the secret? A fine-meshed strainer and a bowl. After you whisk the eggs so they are airy and well-blended, you’ll find that straining the mixture creates an unusually creamy and tender final result.

Another tip is to cook the eggs on as low a heat as you can (or have time for) to develop a thick, custardlike consistency. Stirring them continually also will help. Remember that scrambled eggs will continue cooking after you take them off the heat, so take them off a few seconds before you think they are ready and transfer them immediately onto a serving plate.

During the holidays, I make these for just my husband and myself or for a large group. You can double or even triple this for a large group if need be. You will need to use a much larger skillet, however. I really like to use a wooden spoon or high-heat plastic spatula to move the eggs around. These tools seem to work best.

Scrambled eggs with bacon or ham are a favorite weekend breakfast choice. Here those flavors are blended by using the Italian cured ham prosciutto, which avoids any additional cooking.

Serve these elegant scrambled eggs with warm homemade muffins and mugs of coffee with steamed milk. A winter fruit salad with grapes, apples, pears and persimmons would be a perfect accompaniment.

Help is on the way:

• You can vary the cheese by substituting cheddar, Swiss or even goat cheese for the fontina.

• Crispy bacon or pancetta would make a fine substitute for the prosciutto. Remember: You need to cook bacon or pancetta first and then cut it into bite-size pieces.

• Use a nonstick pan for ease in cooking.

• Add sauteed leeks or onions, mushrooms or diced tomatoes instead of the prosciutto for a vegetarian dish.

Stirred eggs with fontina, prosciutto and chives

Makes 2 to 3 servings

8 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely diced fontina cheese

1/4 cup finely shredded prosciutto

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, for garnish

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs to combine. Put a fine strainer over another mixing bowl and strain the eggs, making sure the albumen (the white stringy part) remains in the strainer. Add the milk, salt and pepper to the eggs, and stir to combine.

In a medium nonstick saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the eggs and stir continually with a wooden spoon or high-heat plastic spatula. When the eggs begin to curd, keep stirring about 2 to 3 more minutes or until the eggs are very creamy.

Add the cheese and prosciutto and continue cooking until the eggs are still creamy but not dry, or until desired consistency is reached, about 2 to 3 more minutes. Turn into a shallow bowl and garnish with chives. Serve immediately.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

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