For this cook, the real star of the brunch table – and it’s almost always brunch, not the evening meal, that suits us this time of year – is the simple egg.
We’ve got several egg dishes to update your culinary repertoire because you will need them this season, when brunches pop up like tulips (or dandelions) – Mother’s Day being the perfect example.
Go out of the box and into the muffin tin by baking eggs with bacon and asparagus.
Serve deviled ham within those perfectly deviled eggs for a real treat.
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Or combine spinach, asparagus and ricotta in a tart just made to be topped with an egg for each.
Any of these will make your message clear at the table: a simple good morning to all.
Baked eggs with asparagus and bacon
From “The Summer Table” by Lisa Lemke.
Butter for the pan
8 strips cooked bacon
6 green asparagus spears, cut into large pieces
Salt and black pepper
Chili sauce for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 8 cups of a jumbo muffin pan or prepare a baking sheet with large, sturdy paper muffin liners – preferably double-layered so that they’re a little more stable.
Crack an egg in every cup and add 1 slice of cooked bacon. Distribute the asparagus in the cups. Season with salt and pepper, and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 to 17 minutes.
Serve the eggs warm and, preferably, with a good chili sauce.
Deviled ham with eggs
Makes 48 deviled eggs
From “Home” by Bryan Voltaggio (Little, Brown, $35, 272 pages).
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
11/2 teaspoons pickle juice (from a jar of your favorite pickles)
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
2 1/2 cups diced honey ham
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 celery ribs, minced
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
Leaves from 1 bunch celery
Cook the eggs: Put the eggs in a single layer in a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches cold water. Set the pot over high heat and, once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 7 minutes; use a timer. When the time is up, remove from heat, strain and cover the eggs with ice water. Let them cool in the pot, about 15 minutes, then peel the eggs.
Make the filling: Cut a small slice off the bottom of each egg so that it will stand up without rolling. Cut the tops off each egg, scoop out the yolks, and put them in a food processor with the mayo, mustard, soy sauce, vinegar, pickle juice, Tabasco and salt. Process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Reserve in the refrigerator while you make the deviled ham.
Make deviled ham: Put the olive oil in a small sauté pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender and translucent. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Put the ham, chives, orange zest, mayonnaise, mustard, Tabasco, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the onions and celery. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Prepare the garnish: Just before you are ready to serve the eggs, set a small pot with 2 inches of oil over medium-high heat and bring it to 350 degrees. Line a plate with paper towels. Rinse the celery leaves, pat them dry gently, but thoroughly, and drop them in the oil. Let them fry for 10 to 15 seconds, until the oil stops bubbling and they are crisp and translucent. Transfer to the paper towels, season lightly with salt, and let them cool.
Assemble the eggs: Take the piping bag with the deviled ham and fill each egg almost to the top. Take the bag with the egg yolk mixture and pipe it over the ham, mounding it slightly over the top of each egg. Garnish each egg with a piece of fried celery leaf and serve immediately.
Asparagus tart with ricotta
Serves 4 to 6
From “The Summer Table” by Lisa Lemke (Sterling Epicure, $24.95, 272 pages).
5 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Scant 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 tablespoons small-curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cold water
2 to 3 garlic cloves
9 ounces (about 1 cup) ricotta
1/4 cup cooked and squeezed dry baby spinach
Scant 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino, divided
Salt and black pepper
1/2 bunch green asparagus
3 to 4 eggs
Cut the butter into cubes. Quickly work together the butter, flours, cottage cheese and salt, either in a food processor or by hand, until pea-size clumps form. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons water and work together quickly into a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic; chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a disk about 1/8-inch thick.
Add more flour to the surface as you roll so that the dough doesn’t stick. Line a 9-inch tart pan or springform pan with the dough. Be sure to press the dough gently along the bottom edge and pinch a little at the top of the side edges. Cut away any excess pie dough hanging over the sides. Cover the pie shell with plastic wrap; chill it 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove pie shell from refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap and prick the bottom with a fork. Cover the edges with aluminum foil and prebake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the bottom is baked through and begins to brown. Remove the crust from the oven and remove the aluminum foil.
Chop the garlic and place in a bowl. Add the ricotta and blend together with the spinach, parsley and 2/3 of the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and distribute the filling evenly in the pie shell. Break off the tough parts of the asparagus. Spread the asparagus lengthwise over the ricotta mixture and lightly press it into the mixture. Crack the eggs over the filling, season with salt and pepper, and top with the rest of the grated cheese.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the eggs are set and the edges are golden brown.