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Get Cracking

April 08, 1993|MICHAEL ROBERTS

Eggs are not what people usually think of when they want to eat light, but they're one of the world's great foods. And they're heavy only when you eat them for breakfast with greasy sausages and potatoes. Save your eggs for a real meal, one that is the focus of your day.

But even if you're eating your eggs plain, keep in mind that just because an egg recipe is basic doesn't mean it's simple. Pay attention to detail if you want to milk every milligram of cholesterol's worth of enjoyment.

* Scrambled Eggs: Making perfect scrambled eggs should be accomplished slowly and with patience. First, add 1 tablespoon water for each egg to soften the mixture. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Melt a little butter in a small saucepan over low heat and pour in the eggs. Immediately start whisking the eggs with a wire whisk. The aim is to have the eggs coagulate as slowly as possible so that the lumps remain soft and as small and uniform as possible. So don't add salt until the eggs are cooked, and use water rather than milk or cream to thin the mixture.

When you see lumps beginning to form, remove the pan from the heat and continue to whisk about 20 seconds. Then return the pan to the heat and cook another minute. Continue this on-and-off-the-heat procedure until eggs form a creamy, lumpy mass.

If you prefer scrambled eggs loose, as I do, remove them from the heat while they're still shiny and moist. Add a dash of salt and immediately scrape into a serving bowl. If you prefer eggs dry, cook a little longer, but still remove the eggs from the heat while still moist. Continue to whisk in the pan until eggs dry out. You'll have perfectly dry scrambled eggs that are fluffy with small lumps.

* Omelets: Whether you make them in the runny French style or puffy American-coffee-shop style, omelets are really just quickly cooked scrambled eggs with a thin skin to hold the mass together. Since we want a quick coagulation, add only 1 teaspoon of water for each egg and season to taste with salt before cooking. And don't overbeat the eggs. Cook omelets over fairly high heat, but be careful not to cook them too much or the eggs will become rubbery.

The eggs in a frittata (an Italian baked egg dish) should be treated the same as for an omelet so they coagulate quickly. However, since the mixture bakes in the oven without being scrambled, the result is a puffy mass of eggs, whether you cook the omelet until dry or slightly underdone and moist.

* Poached Eggs: Perfect poaching requires very fresh eggs--use AA grade eggs with the most distant "sell-by" date. Add salt and a little vinegar or lemon juice to about 3 inches of poaching water in a large skillet to help the immediate coagulation of the egg white. Let the poaching water come to a full boil, then reduce the heat so the water is barely simmering. Break each egg into a small bowl just prior to cooking and gently slide each egg into the water. Don't overcrowd. Poach for 3 minutes to 5 minutes, then remove the poached eggs with a slotted spoon.

CRAB HASH AND POACHED EGGS 1 1/2 pounds crab meat 1 1/2 pounds potatoes 1 tablespoon flour 1/2 cup finely minced chives 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon dried Salt Freshly ground white pepper 1/4 cup milk 1/4 cup butter or margarine 8 poached eggs

Place crab meat in bowl and pick over to remove any bits of shell.

Wash potatoes. Do not peel. Shred potatoes with shredding blade of food processor or coarsely grate by hand. Add potatoes to crab along with flour, chives, thyme and salt and white pepper to taste. Mix well. Add milk and mix well.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add about 3/4 to 1 cup hash mixture and form into 2-inch-thick round. Cook, without stirring hash, 3 minutes. Flip hash, which will have formed into patty. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Place patty on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture, to make 4 hash patties. Place baking sheet with patties in oven and bake at 375 degrees 7 minutes. To serve, top each patty with 2 poached eggs. Makes 4 servings.

MACARONI, MUSHROOM AND SPINACH FRITTATA WITH TAPENADE 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 small onion, finely diced 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms 1/2 cup cooked small pasta shells 2 cups chopped spinach leaves 1 dozen eggs 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper Tapenade

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add pasta. Increase heat to high and add spinach. Cook, stirring, until spinach wilts. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl.

Lightly beat eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add eggs to spinach mixture.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in 12-inch oven-proof skillet. Add frittata mixture and cook 1 minute. Immediately transfer skillet to oven and bake at 350 degrees until frittata is barely set, about 15 minutes. To serve, slide frittata onto serving plate. Serve with Tapenade. Makes 4 servings.

Tapenade

2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1/2 cup pitted Nicoise or Kalamata olives 8 anchovies 1 tablespoon lemon juice 3 tablespoons olive oil

Process parsley, olives, anchovies, lemon juice and olive oil in food processor until paste forms. Makes about 1 cup.

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