It’s that time of the year when we think about eggs. Mostly though, as Easter approaches, we consider them in Technicolor and placed lovingly in a child’s basket. Some are even plastic with centers of chocolates or jelly beans instead of daffodil-yellow yolks.
But Easter is still a few days away, and today I am celebrating how a fried egg can elevate the most mundane tangle of flavors. Leftover fried rice? Bam. A fried egg on top turns it into Dinner, Night 2. Sick of Caesar salad adorned with chicken or salmon? Slide a fried egg on that ice-cold, dressed Romaine and let the runny yolk make the dressing even creamier. Looking for a new way to garnish a cheeseburger? Let a sunny-side-up egg do the talking (but not to your doctor).
Eggs are a hot topic this year, perhaps because of the city chickens phenomenon. There are at least seven cookbooks out this year celebrating the egg; among them are three published last month: Eggs on Top by Andrea Slonecker (Chronicle Books), The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook by Terry Golson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and The Egg Cookbook: The Creative Farm-to-Table Guide to Cooking Fresh Eggs by Healdsburg Press.
Adding a fried (or poached or baked) egg to a sandwich or salad is not a new trick. The French bring the technique to an art form with the Croque Madame sandwich and Salad Lyonnaise. The former is the femininely named version of the Croque Monsieur, basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a lush bechamel sauce. Add a fried egg to the top and you’ve got the Madame. For the Salad Lyonnaise, a web of spidery frisee is dressed with a red wine vinaigrette, studded with crispy bits of slab bacon and topped with a poached egg. Simple, elegant, delicious.
The Korean rice dish bibimbap typically has a cooked egg on top, and, honestly, what hash is worth its weight in calories without that yellow yolk winking up at you?
I think it best to keep the yolks soft and let the flavor run through the dish. If the yolk is hard-cooked, that changes the dynamic. You can fry them any way you like, using olive oil to baste them, executing a classic sunny-side-up egg or even finishing them in the oven. The experts advise against seasoning until they are done or you risk pock-marking the whites with the salt. I don’t mind that look at all. I call it rustic, but to each her own when it comes to frying eggs.
Here are five dishes you might not have thought to put an egg — fried, baked or poached — on: