Spring brings to the table new ingredients bursting with flavor and bright colors, including a roulade that can be filled with almost anything the cook can imagine, as well as fresh asparagus.
You can fry them, shirr them, scramble or roll them up. Is there a more versatile food at your fingertips? It's that incredible egg, long on the upswing after its battering on the health front.But everyday eggs can be so, well, everyday, always pleasant and comforting, with a predictability and demeanor that might as well whisper, "It's time to wake up."But when morning takes on grander importance, for those celebrations when you want to shout, "Welcome!" to the day -- whether it's a regular morning or any of the spring gatherings where guests gather around the table -- the egg can be dressed for company.Consider the roulade, a curlicue of egg, cheese and vegetables. Made from a batter that cooks in a jellyroll pan, the eggs become nearly as firm as a crepe, with a topping of good stuff that's added before it's rolled up. The roulade is a bit time-consuming, but it's definitely worth the effort for the "wow" factor alone. And if it's the only dish on the menu that needs some last-minute attention, you are set.Then there's the shirred egg, an everyday kind of dish that's turned on its head when cooked with cream and lemon and anything else you might want to add.If there are too many at the table to fuss with individual eggs, a crustless quiche -- creamy and filled with vegetables -- is a grand way to fill out the menu.Whatever the option, morning couldn't taste better.Egg RouladeThis calls for a 10- by 15-inch jellyroll pan (a baking sheet with edges). If you have a different size, just shape the batter on the pan accordingly. I've made two of these at a time, for a group of 12 diners, and I made the batter individually for each. With two roulades, it's a little extra last-minute pressure, but if the rest of the meal is simple, this is doable. Keep in mind that you'll need the full oven if you're making two of these. Adapted from Sara Moulton. Serves 6 to 7.
5 tablespoons butter 6 tablespoons flour 1 1/4 cups milk 4 eggs, separated Freshly ground black pepper Filling (see below)
HEAT oven to 350°. Line the 10- by 15-inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper; either butter or spray it with cooking oil.MELT butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Increase heat to high, whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.TRANSFER flour mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Season with pepper.BEAT egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir a third of the whites into yolk mixture and fold in the rest.POUR the batter onto the parchment paper and smooth it out. Bake for 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch.MEANWHILE prepare any filling that needs to be warmed. Increase oven temperature to 375°.
COVER the egg surface with another oiled or buttered piece of parchment. Invert onto the counter, and peel off the parchment on the top.SPRINKLE the egg surface with whatever filling is to be used. Starting on the long side of the egg surface, and using the parchment on the bottom to help, roll up the egg, jellyroll fashion. Place the roulade back on the jellyroll pan, with parchment underneath, and return it to the oven. Bake until any cheese in the filling has melted, about 10 minutes. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch slices.Filling variations:
The filling must be prepared and hot (except for cheese) before it is placed on the cooked egg surface. Make sure any moisture in the vegetables is gone; heat in a sauté pan to assure it.Diced tomatoes or roasted red peppers and grated cheddar cheeseDiced sautéed mushrooms and Gruyere cheeseCooked, chopped spinach (make sure it's thoroughly dry) and Parmesan cheeseSlices of prosciutto and any grated cheeseBlack beans and diced roasted red peppersDiced ham and grated cheddar cheeseSmoked salmon (lox), whipped cream cheese (so it's easy to spread), chives or capersCooked and crumbled bacon or sausageTopping variations:Grated cheese or fresh, minced herbsSalsaGreen chili sauceHollandaise sauceShirred Lemon EggsZest is the grated colored rind of citrus fruit. This recipe can easily be increased. Ramekins are individual baking dishes, about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. From "The Breakfast Book," by Marion Cunningham. Serves 2.
Butter for the ramekins 4 tablespoons heavy cream, divided 1 teaspoon lemon zest (see note above) 3 tablespoons grated Gouda cheese 2 eggs Salt and pepper to taste 1 1/2 teaspoons minced herbs (dried fines herbs or fresh parsley, oregano, tarragon, marjoram or thyme)HEAT oven to 325°. Butter 2 ramekins well and pour 1 tablespoon cream in each. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese over the cream in each ramekin. Salt and pepper to taste.CRACK 1 egg into a cup and carefully pour it into a ramekin (this is to assure that the egg yolk doesn't break or have a spot on it; if it does, use another egg); repeat with remaining egg into second ramekin.POUR the remaining tablespoons of cream over the eggs. Scatter herbs over the top. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes (about 15 minutes for the white to be cooked, but the yolk will still be soft and a bit runny).Variations:Add lemon zest to the top of egg before it's cooked.Add salsa or Asian chili sauce over eggs when they come out of the oven.Prosciutto-wrapped: Place a paper-thin slice of prosciutto in each ramekin (cut to assure it fits the dish without overhanging) and bake for 10 minutes. Continue with recipe, first warming cream before adding it to ramekin. Add egg and seasoning.Ham (or prosciutto) and mushrooms: Finely chop ham, mushrooms and green onions. Toss with a little brie and place mixture in ramekins. Top with egg and additional cheese over egg and bake.Florentine: Spread 1 tablespoon chopped cooked spinach on bottom of each ramekin. Top with egg and 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese.Mushroom and Onion QuicheNeed an easy egg dish? This quiche fits the bill. It does not have a crust. If you prefer one, roll out two prepared pie crusts and bake according to directions. Then add the egg mixture and bake as directed below. The more finely shredded the cheese is, the more it will melt into the eggs. Substitute other vegetables as you prefer; chopped fresh asparagus is particularly nice (be sure to cook until almost tender in advance of adding to eggs). From "Come One, Come All: Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus," by Lee Svitak Dean. Serves 10 to 12.
6 to 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced 1 medium onion, sliced (3/4 cup) 2 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease pan 8 eggs 1 1/2 cups half-and-half or milk 4 ounces (1 cup) finely shredded Gruyere or white cheddar cheese 1 teaspoon salt Dash white pepper 2 tablespoons chopped chives, plus more for garnish, optionalHEAT oven to 350°.SAUTÉ mushrooms and onions in a saucepan with butter until soft. Set aside. (If preparing in advance, refrigerate mixture until ready to use.)CRACK eggs into large bowl; whisk until egg whites and yolks are thoroughly blended. Add half-and-half or milk, cheese, salt, pepper and chives; whisk thoroughly. Add mushroom mixture and stir.LIGHTLY grease with butter a 9- by 13-inch pan (glass or ceramic will look nicer than metal for serving) or two 9-inch pie pans. Pour egg mixture into pan(s). Bake until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature, with additional chives sprinkled on top for garnish.