Eggs-ellent Valentine’s Day RecipesJan 19, 2016 11:19AM ● By Kevin
Chocolate Souffle. Photo courtesy of Carol Ritchie.
So which is it, the chicken or the egg? No doubt, the answer to this philosophical dilemma will continue forever. However, for this year’s Valentine’s Day menu, the answer is easy. (Or should I say, “over easy,” or perhaps, “sunny side up”?)
Yes, it is the incredible, edible egg. The fragile, yet versatile food product of mother hen that so many delicious recipes - from the breakfast table menu to the dinner dessert - deeply rely upon. Eggs are often components in recipes that require a clarifying agent, a leavener, a thickener or a coating. However, we’ll put the spotlight on the egg for special Valentine’s treats.
But before we get too far into exciting egg preps, what about the issue of cholesterol? Egg yolks are known to be high in cholesterol; so much controversy has been made regarding eggs and increased blood cholesterol levels. Research has shown that it is the amount of saturated fats in foods that more highly affect blood cholesterol levels. One large egg has less than 2 grams of saturated fat, so as part of a balanced diet, eggs are a wonderfully nutritious food to enjoy regularly in moderation.
While breakfast and lunch menus abound with common egg preparations, such as fried, scrambled, poached, baked, soft-cooked, deviled or hard-boiled and chopped for salads or egg salad sandwiches, let’s explore a host of alternative egg preparations, delectable recipes to celebrate with your Valentine at breakfast, brunch or dinner. Here are a dozen delicious ideas that are simply eggs-traordinary! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
Un-scrambled eggs with a delicious filling. Who doesn’t like a made-to-order omelet? For best (and authentic) results, use an omelet pan - a small, flat-bottom frying pan with shallow sloping sides - with a nonstick finish. Mix an egg or two with a tablespoon or two of water or milk, and cook in just enough butter to coat the pan. As the egg “pancake” cooks, using a spatula, slowly pull the sides in to the center, allowing the uncooked egg on top to run to the sides, filling in any gaps. When the omelet is just about cooked through, add your choice of fillings (shredded cheese, diced cooked meat, chopped cooked veggies) to the top of one side. Slowly slide the omelet onto a plate and allow the empty half to fold over the filling. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and parsley and serve immediately!
The Italian omelet. This is an omelet with the filling cooked in. Usually prepared for several servings, the egg mixture is added to a large omelet pan or skillet with chopped vegetables, cooked pasta (perfect for leftover spaghetti noodles) and your choice of Italian seasonings. It is slow cooked over low heat without stirring, and often finished in the oven (to cook the top), or carefully flipped in the pan. I use a flat lid to turn the pan over, carefully sliding the frittata back into the pan to finish cooking the other side. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and a hint of sea salt, and slice into wedges to serve.
A nice baked breakfast casserole for any holiday. Much like the frittata, this concoction is a mixture of eggs and other flavors that slowly bake together in a large baking pan in the oven. Favorite ingredients include shredded cheeses, crumbled sausage or bacon, chopped apples and toasted bread cubes. This is easily cut into serving “squares” for a delicious breakfast or brunch. They always come back for seconds with this one!
A Manhattan restaurant legendary creation. This preparation of poached egg, on top of a slice of Canadian bacon or ham, on top of a toasted English muffin half, all topped with a dollop of hollandaise sauce (butter, egg yolks, lemon juice), usually suggests an air of sophisticated breakfast dining with an elegant presentation. So what could be better to prepare for your sweetheart?
Forget what they say. This is brunch for a real man. An egg custard in a pie pastry shell may sound a bit light for a hearty appetite, but when loaded with favorite meats, vegetables or shellfish, this dessert-looking delicacy turns into a fulfilling meal. The classic quiche pan has fluted, straight sides and is about an inch-and-a-half deep. Quiche pans are available in pie-size diameters for pie-style servings, or if preferred, choose small, single serving-size pans, which are perfect to present a loved one their own personal quiche.
Scrambled eggs with Southwest flavors. This stovetop sensation stirs up a combination of eggs, sweet peppers, hot peppers, chopped tomatoes, onions, shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese and crispy fried tortilla strips. All topped with a favorite salsa. A nice, spicy celebration for a sweetheart with a burning taste for something south of the border.
Egg Drop Soup
Chicken soup for the heart, soul and appetite. This Chinese specialty consists of a chicken broth base, the canvas for a palette of flavors: shredded chicken or pork, chopped vegetables (including bamboo shoots), sliced mushrooms (often dried shiitake mushrooms), cubes of tofu and egg “flowers.” What are egg flowers, you might wonder? Merely the shapes of quickly cooked egg. A beaten egg is slowly swirled into the soup (and cooks very quickly) just prior to serving. Egg drop soup presents a wondrous “wow factor” for a delighted dining recipient.
French for “pancake.” Light and delicate, these thin egg, milk and flour pancakes are cooked quickly and often “stuffed” with a variety of savory or sweet treats. Most crêpe recipes will make dozens of crêpes, so there’s plenty of batter to get the pancake just right. Savory crêpes are rolled around fillings such as spinach and mushrooms, sautéed beef tips and caramelized onions or broccoli and cheese. Sweet crêpes are spread with fruit or jam, rolled or folded and topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream for a delectable dessert. Crêpes suzette is a famous flambéed butter and orange liqueur-flavored dessert. I’d suggest a strawberry or raspberry flavored version for Valentine’s Day.
A crêpe on steroids. But seriously, this spectacular egg creation consists of egg, milk and flour - like crêpes - but prepared in a much different fashion. The eggs are separated: the yolks part of the soufflé base, the whites whipped to stiff peaks, then lightly folded into the yolk mixture. Ingredients that you might choose to roll in a crêpe are mixed into and baked in a soufflé. The result: a light and airy egg dish with a thin-crusted surface that stands tall above the straight-sided baking dish. But baking a soufflé is where most cooks are intimidated. As it bakes, the egg whites cause the soufflé to rise, but it quickly falls and sinks if disturbed, such as opening the oven before it is done. To master the soufflé baking technique, try my Chocolate Soufflé (see recipe) for a sweet Valentine’s Day dessert your loved one will not forget.
A pudding-like dessert. This sweet mixture of eggs and milk is slow-cooked on the stovetop or slowly baked in the oven. Custards can easily curdle, so gentle, slow cooking is required. Double boiler or bain-marie (water bath) cooking techniques are often utilized when cooking custards. One of the most popular custards is the Spanish flan dessert, also known as crème caramel.
A fluffy, foam delicacy. Like the soufflé, a mousse can be savory or sweet. Savory mousses are often baked slowly in a water bath, like a custard, to prevent curdling. Sweet dessert mousses are generally prepared and served cold, flavored with fruit purées, extracts or chocolate. Egg whites beaten to stiff peaks, whipped cream and gelatin form the rich, light-textured mousse structure in which the unforgettable flavors reside. For chocolate fans, Valentine’s Day and chocolate mousse seem to go hand-in-hand.
And speaking of egg whites … let’s finish on a lighter note. Egg whites and sugar, beaten to stiff peaks, is a meringue. Soft meringues are baked until lightly browned, such as for pie toppings or the renowned baked Alaska dessert. Hard meringues are usually baked on parchment very slowly at low temperatures. The result is a fragile crispy cookie with a soft, chewy interior. Pavlova is a famous Australian dessert where a large meringue base is topped with fresh fruit and berries, a fruit sauce and lots of whipped cream. A perfect “light” dessert at the end of a perfect sweetheart dinner.
The Good Egg
Don’t discount the myriad of ways to enjoy an egg. While the egg may not have been the first idea to come to mind for a sweetheart celebration, whether you realize it or not, it would be difficult to dine without the egg showing up in one dish or another - even if it may be in just a small supporting role. Elevate that role to “star of the show” and treat your sweetheart to the good egg. With delightful dining options that outnumber the eggs in a carton, forget the chicken - it seems clear that this is a year for the egg to come first.
teaspoon butter and 2 teaspoons sugar to prepare baking dish
1/2 cup sugar, divided use
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 eggs, separated (yolks and whites)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish (or straight-sided casserole dish) with 1 teaspoon butter, then sprinkle 2 teaspoons sugar over all to coat evenly; set aside.
Whisk together in a saucepan, 1/4 cup sugar, cocoa powder and flour. Mix well, add milk and continue stirring with the whisk. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add vanilla and almond extracts and stir briefly. Remove pan from heat; reserve.
In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. While mixing, add cream of tartar and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, two tablespoons at a time. Beat on high speed until egg whites reach soft peaks. Stir egg yolks into the reserved chocolate sauce, then using a spatula, carefully fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites. Gently pour this mixture into the prepared soufflé dish.
Bake the soufflé (at 350°F) for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is set and has risen straight out of the pan. Use a large serving spoon to scoop out servings; serve immediately.
Rather than using one large soufflé dish, you can divide the mixture into several small soufflé dishes (ramekins) for individual servings. Prepare as directed; however, bake the single soufflés for 12 to 14 minutes.
Substitute vanilla bean paste for vanilla extract, if desired.
Cream of tartar is a white powder-stabilizing ingredient. It is added to egg whites during beating for better volume and stability.
For an elegant Valentine’s Day presentation, serve the chocolate soufflé with a raspberry sauce drizzled over the top.
Written by Carol Ritchie.