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Keep on the sunny side of eggs

Think outside the salt and pepper shaker when seasoning eggs

Think outside the salt and pepper shaker when seasoning eggs

February 06, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

I occasionally get a craving for eggs, for over-easy, cooked egg whites and runny yolks to dip my toast in.

But too often that hankering turns into regret when I taste a few mouthfuls of fried egg.

Cracking the egg onto heated butter and seasoning with salt and pepper had just become sooooo boring to me.

So a few weeks ago I experimented by tossing some dried rosemary in with the butter and then seasoning my eggs with McCormick's Montreal Steak seasoning.

Wow!

I went from eating fried eggs maybe once or twice a year to having them three times within two weeks.

Curious about other ways to spruce up fried eggs, I called some local experts: professional chefs; culinary instructors; and Washington County residents who raise chickens and sell eggs.

Lonnie Coble, executive chef at LJ's and the Kat Lounge off Eastern Boulevard, suggested two ways to add interest to a fried egg: the way his mother prepares fried eggs and a version he developed last week after I called him.

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For the version developed from Coble's professional training, the chef seasons the egg while it's cooking with sea salt, pepper, minced fresh dill and lemon juice. How much lemon juice depends on how runny the yolk will be. People who like the yolks runny should use more lemon juice, maybe 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon, so the lemon juice stands up to the runny yolk, Coble said.

Coble recommends serving the dill-seasoned, fried egg with smoked salmon and toasted brioche or with buttered, toasted, French bread.

Coble thought of dill because it works well with eggs, Coble said.

For those looking for a more down-home version, Coble said his mother would use the grease from frying bacon to prepare fried eggs when he was growing up on the farm.

Coble's version: Cook chopped onions in bacon grease for two to three minutes on low-medium or medium heat until the onions are slightly caramelized. Then turn the heat to low, push the onions to the side of the pan and crack a couple of eggs into the grease. Prepare over-easy eggs as usual, then season with salt, pepper and maybe a splash of Tabasco.

If cooks prefer scallions to onions, just toss the chopped scallions into the pan after flipping the egg so the dish will have a fresh oniony flavor, Coble said.

Julie Stinar, owner of Evensong Farm south of Sharpsburg, likes a quick version of eggs Benedict that uses a fried egg rather than a poached one.

She serves the fried eggs on the toasted heels of bread loaves, then tops the eggs with ham and some hollandaise sauce.

"It's reminiscent of eggs Benedict, but a little easier," said Stinar, who sells fresh farm eggs. The dish can be prepared with sliced, deli-counter ham or country ham. Saut either ham in the pan a little to get it crispy and warm first.

Another way Stinar has spruced up fried eggs is by topping them with broiled tomato and cheese. She broils a slice of her heirloom tomatoes with cheese, usually goat cheese, for a minute or two (keeping an eye on it) until the cheese starts to brown and the tomato caramelizes a little.

For cooks who want to experiment with Asian cuisine flavorings, Mike Tosten, culinary instructor at Franklin County (Pa.) Career and Technology Center, has some ideas, though he hasn't tried them with fried eggs. He suggested using a drop of sesame oil with a little bit of butter to fry the egg, then topping the egg with some sesame seed-Asian spice blend.

Or saut minced ginger and scallion, then fry the egg in the pan with the ginger-scallion mix so it adds fragrance to the egg.

Tosten hasn't tried either with fried eggs but those are Asian blends with good flavors.

Both Tosten and Tammy Twigg, culinary arts instructor at Washington County Technical High School, like fried eggs with salsa. For an extra bite, top it with chopped cilantro, or drop the salsa and just season with cilantro alone.

Another option is laying cheese on the egg after it's been flipped; just long enough for the cheese to catch heat and melt a little, Twigg said.

Other fresh herbs to try in any combination are thyme, basil and oregano, Twigg said.

Tosten recommends using fresh herbs, rather than dried ones. If only dried is available, crush the dried herbs as fine as possible to release more flavor. Dried herbs take longer to give flavor to food, so, in general, apply dried herbs to the cooking process as soon as possible. Fresh herbs can be applied to eggs during the cooking or even atop the finished egg.

Or, even more basic, try using specialty salts and peppers, Tosten said. But be sure to grind any coarse salts because fried eggs cook so quickly coarse salt won't have time to dissolve.

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