Nothing quite speaks of spring in the same way as an egg. A creation waiting to emerge, life resting dormant until the perfect moment. Easter eggs, golden eggs, a nest of tiny bird eggs — they’re all miraculous, especially from a child’s point of view. Fix me an egg for breakfast and I’m immediately transported back to my childhood, sitting in my place at a table set for seven. On occasion, my mother fixed soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and served them in an egg cup. I always thought this was fancy and somehow put us in the ranks of British royalty.
For those not familiar with this worthy tradition, the egg is soft-boiled and placed in the small end of the cup. Hit the side of the egg with a knife to crack the top off. This takes some practice but once you do it a few times, you can devise a method that works well for you. Turn the cup over and using a spoon, scoop the egg into the large side of the cup. We always tore off pieces of toast and mixed them in with the egg. I still love it that way. Sprinkle the whole thing with salt & pepper and top with a pat of butter.
So perfectly civilized and so easy to make. If the eggs are room temperature before cooking, they are less likely to crack. Bring a pan of water to a boil, adding a sprinkling of salt. Make sure that you have enough water to completely cover the eggs. Once the water is boiling, carefully lower the eggs in and cook for 5 minutes. Gently lift eggs out and rinse with cold water if the shells are too hot to hold. I’ve found that after 5 minutes, the whites aren’t runny but are still very soft. You might start there but experiment with timing until you get a consistency that is right for you.
Another childhood favorite, though less refined, is what we called “eggy-in-the-nest.” I’ve read there are many other names for this dish, including “toad in a hole” but that strikes me as much too crude. Tear a circle out of the center of a piece of bread. Put some butter or oil in a large skillet. When it’s hot, put the bread in, making sure that the whole surface is covered with butter. Crack the egg, dropping the yolk into the hole. The white can go on the bread or over the sides. Once one side is toasted, using a spatula, flip the egg & bread over to cook the other side. It’s like cooking an egg over-easy. You try not to break the yolk or to overcook it. I like to toast the circle, removed to create the nest, in the pan as well as an extra little treat.
In the spirit of Miss Make-it-from-Scratch (apparently my new name), I decided to try dyeing Easter eggs using natural dyes. I found several sets of instructions on the internet. Here’s the one I tried — using enough water to completely cover the eggs, add dye material, 2t white vinegar & 1/2t alum. Put uncooked eggs in the pot with everything else and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. I used 2 peeled and quartered beets and got yellow, not red as expected. Grape juice, full strength, gave me an interesting greenish gray. Half a red cabbage gives a nice blue while 2 tablespoons tumeric give a pale yellow. In the end, I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend this method. The eggs end up over-cooked and reportedly retain some of the flavor of the dye, making them inedible. The colors are, well, as Charlie so diplomatically said, “natural.” I switched to Paas dyes for the kids, complete with stickers and wax crayons. I have to admit, they are way more fun.
Have a Happy Easter!