Photo by Judith Hausman
The hopeful Easter imagery of springtime babies, pastel blossoms and new hats is irresistible. And sweet rituals such as egg hunts, coloring eggs and chocolate eggs abound. The humble and versatile egg, a universal symbol of the change of season, is even healthier now with more urban chickens and the greater availability of local and free-range eggs.
I know I don’t have to tell you about deviled eggs (I use chive and Spanish smoked paprika in mine) or egg salad (did you ever add some Dijon mustard and a little relish to the mix?) as a way to use up those pink and blue Easter eggs. Chopped egg, herbs and some breadcrumbs make a tasty garnish for steamed asparagus, too. Mixed with onion and browned ground meat (turkey, lamb or beef), chopped hard-boiled eggs also make a hearty stuffing for empanadas or filo pastries.
Try eggs in brunchy dishes for family gatherings or incorporate them with other holiday-feast leftovers. To make a savory strata for four to six eaters, you can beat a half dozen eggs or so with about 2/3 cup of the sour cream dip (and a little milk) you served for holiday hors d’oeuvres, soak 1½ to 2 cups cubes of leftover rolls or bread in it for 20 minutes or more, and pour it all into a greased baking dish along with some herbs, diced leftover ham, cut-up asparagus, cooked spinach, fresh arugula or other cooked vegetables. Sprinkle it with cheese (Parmesan, cheddar, chevre) or not, and bake it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F or until it’s puffy and firm. This is kind of like a crust-less quiche or a bread pudding.
Spanish tortillas — large, firm omelets resembling the Italian frittata, not the more familiar Mexican wrap — are traditionally made with cooked potatoes and olive oil. This egg dish is usually made in advance and re-warmed, making for convenient preparation. The tricky part is sliding it out of the frying pan onto a plate and flipping it over to cook on the other side. Practice with a smaller one, and ask for help. Use plenty of oil, put the big-enough platter over the pan and turn fast, keeping one hand on the platter. Peppers, leftover diced vegetables and ham enclosed in a frittata or tortilla are delicious.
Of course, many lovely sweets use lots of eggs. Take a deep breath, and try a soufflé. They’re not as hard as you’d think. I’d say the same about homemade chocolate or lemon puddings, which are spectacular and nothing like the boxed varieties. A pudding will leave you the whites to make easy feather-light meringues.
Traditional egg custards, such as flan or crème caramel, aren’t difficult either. Resting the custard cups (or single dish) in a large, low pan filled with water helps keep the custard tender. Serve the very simple version below with a little spring rhubarb sauce, fresh or frozen berries, or even a spoonful of maple syrup and a ginger snap on the side.
Recipe: Simplest Egg Custard
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1½ tsp. vanilla
- ground nutmeg
Beat eggs and sugar well. Add milk and beat again. Stir in salt and vanilla. Place six to eight buttered ramekins or custard dishes or a single baking dish into a larger pan, and pour the mixture into the dishes. Sprinkle nutmeg on each custard. Pour warm water into the pan, filling to about 2/3 up the sides of the dishes. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes until firm and golden.
Serves 6 to 8.
As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.