When trying to make a point of how a recipe is simple, some might describe it by saying that it’s as easy as scrambling an egg. But I say perfect scrambling isn’t so darn easy. Well, ok, it’s simple if you know a couple of basic rules. Ask a chef where home cooks generally go wrong, they will probably respond with two words.
For a moist, fluffy scramble, eggs need low heat and patience; it’s a French technique that results in irresistible scrambled eggs. No oil. Butter is essential, many chefs insisting on a low-water unsalted butter such as Plugrá.
But if rethinking your approach to scrambled eggs sounds like a hassle, I have other egg-centric ideas that may appeal. How about a delicious sunny-side atop grilled ham and cheese? A sandwich called a Croque Madame is a classic French treat that is a fancier version of a Croque Monsieur because it is served with Mornay sauce slathered on top (Béchamel sauce with added cheese). A sunny-side egg crowns the top.
Kale-topped toast adorned with sunny-side up eggs make a delectable breakfast treat, but they also could be the centerpiece of a tasty lunch or supper. Use either Tuscan black kale (cavolo nero) or curly-edge kale. As with other leafy greens you start out with a mountain, but it cooks down with oil and water to become a more moderate amount. Lemon juice adds a tasty spark to the wilted greens.
Croque Madame a la Petrie
Many years ago, I spent a day in the kitchen at the now-shuttered Pinot Provence restaurant at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel, Costa Mesa. Jason Petrie, the executive chef at that time, consented to share some of his breakfast know-how with me. Petrie showed me some of his culinary magic for turning out irresistible breakfast fare 365 days a year. He worked his magic on until numbers of eggs per day. One of my favorites was his Croque Madame.
Yield: 2 servings
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Salt to taste
4 slices brioche or egg bread or challah
8 thin slices Gruyere cheese
8 thin slices Black Forrest ham
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons butter
2 curly cups; see cook’s notes
Enough extra-virgin olive oil to lightly coat leaves
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Cook’s notes: Frisee is a variety of curly endive with delicate, ragged edges. If you can’t find it, substitute a mixture of baby greens.
1. Prepare Mornay sauce: In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes (do NOT brown). Whisk in milk and salt; increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer, whisking. Whisk in 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese. When cheese melts, remove from heat and set aside.
2. Prepare sandwiches: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brioche on dry, clean work surface. Divide cheese and ham slices between the brioche slices. Season with salt and pepper. Make two sandwiches by topping two bread-cheese-ham slices with another, placing filling sides together. Spread 2 tablespoons butter on the outside of sandwiches.
3. Heat an ovenproof nonstick skillet on medium heat. Brown both sides of the sandwiches. Spoon Mornay sauce on top of each sandwich, spreading it with the back of a spoon. Place in preheated oven until top is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook the eggs sunny-side up. On medium-low heat, melt 1 to 2 teaspoons butter in a medium-size nonstick skillet. Lift pan from stovetop and tilt handle to swirl butter over surface of skillet. Return to heat and add two eggs, one at a time, placing them side by side. Cook until egg whites turn opaque and solidify, about 2 minutes. As they cook, occasionally loosen the sides of the eggs with a heatproof silicone or rubber spatula. Don’t rush it; let the eggs gently cook. Add salt and pepper.
5. In a medium bowl, toss frisee with just enough extra-virgin olive oil to lightly coat the leaves. Add parsley, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss.
6. To assemble, place sandwiches on separate plates. Top each with a sunny-side up egg. Top each with frisee mixture. Serve.
Breakfast Toasts with Kale and Sunny-Side Eggs
If you prefer firmer yolks to top the kale-crowned toast, turn the eggs to cook on both sides, or substitute moist French-style scrambled eggs or scrambled egg whites.
Yield: 4 servings
4 (3/8-inch thick) slices rustic whole wheat bread
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 cups Tuscan black kale (cavolo nero) or curly-edge kale — that has been washed, patted dry, midrib removed, loosely packed, cut into 1/4-inch-wide crosswise slices
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
Seasoned salt, to taste
1. Adjust oven rack to 8 inches below broiler element. Turn on oven light and broiler. Place bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil until just lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove from oven, turn bread over and lightly brush with olive oil, using about 1/2 tablespoon. Sprinkle each toast with 1 tablespoon cheese. Return to broiler. Keep a close eye on the toast; broil until lightly browned, about 40 to 50 seconds.
2. Line a large plate with paper towels. Heat remaining oil in large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, kale and water, season with salt and pepper. When liquid comes to a boil, cover, and cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes, tossing mixture 2 or 3 times during cooking (common kale will take longer to cook than Tuscan kale). Remove lid and cook until most of liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice and toss. Place on paper-towel lined plate.
3. Place toasts on 4 plates. Generously spray a medium-size nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Place on medium-high heat. When hot, add eggs one at a time, placing them in a single layer. Reduce heat to low. Cook until white is set, about 2 minutes. Divide kale between 4 toasts. Using a spatula, remove each egg from skillet and place on top of kale. Sprinkle eggs with seasoned salt and remaining cheese. Serve immediately.
Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)
French-Style Scrambled Eggs
Chef, cookbook author and PBS TV star Jacques Pepin detailed the steps to making French-style scrambled eggs in his early work, “La Methode” (Times Books, available used). Rather than a skillet, he uses a saucepan to slowly cook the eggs and attain a moist, fluffy mix.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 1/2 tablespoon cut into pieces, divided use
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste; see cook’s notes
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Optional garnish: Chopped chips
Cook’s notes: Pepin prefers white pepper, but if you prefer black pepper use that.
1. Break eggs in a bowl and beat with a whisk until yolks and whites are well blended. Whisk in salt and pepper.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium-large saucepan on low heat. Add eggs and cook, constantly stirring with whisk. Be sure to move the whisk in the “corners’ of the pan where the eggs tend to set first. As soon as eggs begin to hold together but are still creamy, remove from heat. Keep mixing; the eggs will continue to cook for a while. Beat in cream and pieces of 1/2 tablespoon butter. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve, topped with chopped fresh chives if you like.
Source: “The Method” by Jacques Pepin (Times Books, available used)
Cooking issue? Contact Cathy Thomas at email@example.com