THRILLIST
Food & Drink

How To Level up Your Egg Dishes

Whether you prefer your eggs sunny-side-up, in a shakshuka, or whipped into meringue, there’s no denying that they’re one of the most versatile ingredients in any kitchen. In fact, they’re so adaptable that eggs have probably already made an appearance on your holiday gifting list, since they show up in practically every baked good you’ll give out this year. With people cooking more than ever before, though, there’s no reason to repeat the same dishes for family and friends. In order to gift our pods something new, we reached out to chefs at the Institute of Culinary Education for ideas on how to upgrade classic egg dishes. Chef Seamus Mullen and Frank Proto, ICE’s director of culinary operations, were kind enough to give us tips on their favorite ways to take eggs to the next level and give the best gift of all this year: a delicious home-cooked meal. 

Omelettes 

The humble omelette is already highly flexible, since the filling can be varied to your heart’s delight. Proto’s toppings skew towards the fancy: “Creme fraiche is great in an omelette, as are truffles, chives, and tarragon.” But, of course, switching up your fillings is just scratching the surface of omelette options. Chef Mullen has a specific technique for volumizing: “When cooking the eggs, whisk in knobs of cold butter to help make the eggs extra creamy and fluffy. ” They both recommend cooking the eggs as soft as possible — scramble them in the pan until they’re just barely set, and then quickly fold the omelette onto the plate — to prevent browning in the pan and so the texture remains fluffy when served.

Poached Eggs

From mastering the perfect cook time to carefully nestling your eggs in boiling water, poaching can feel intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds — with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be an expert in no time. Mullen recommends straining the egg first in a thin colander to remove some of the egg white, which contains a lot of water and can throw off your texture. Frank has an even more novel technique: poach your eggs in red wine and red wine vinegar. “The eggs come out stained by the wine and have a nice wine flavor.” This forms the basis for the traditional French dish oeufs en meurette, which tops off the wine-poached eggs with a buttery red wine sauce with bacon. 

The nice thing about becoming an eggs-pert is that you can start to mix and match your techniques. Case in point: When you decide to upgrade your eggs Benedict, try using some of these poaching techniques. As for the hollandaise sauce, you’ll want to make your own — Mullen’s tip is to keep the heat low while emulsifying the butter. Or you can go with Proto’s technique, which is to use duck fat instead of butter for a richer flavor.

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Deviled Eggs  

Deviled eggs have been a classic appetizer for decades, and for good reason. They’re endlessly riffable, and as long as you can hard-boil eggs correctly, you’re halfway there. The basic technique is just to hard-boil eggs, like the recipe below suggests, then scoop out the yolk, combine the yolk with mayo and seasonings of your choice, and re-insert that back into the egg whites. Once you understand that much, they’re simple to customize and elevate, like with this recipe for Jalapeno Deviled Eggs. Ground nutmeg and cream cheese add a depth of flavor that takes these from good to lifechanging.

INGREDIENTS
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened 
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
½ teaspoon white vinegar
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 small jalapenos, 
1 tablespoon cooked and chopped bacon pieces
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons green onions, sliced

INSTRUCTIONS
Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cover with a lid. Allow eggs to sit in the pan for 12 minutes, then transfer eggs to an ice bath using a slotted spoon. Once eggs are cool, peel eggs and slice in half lengthwise. 

Scoop egg yolks from their whites, then place egg yolks in a bowl. Add mayonnaise, cream cheese, mustard, white vinegar, and salt. Finely dice one of the jalapenos, then add to the bowl. Stir until smooth, then place in a piping bag fitted with a small piping tip. 

Pipe filling into the whites of each egg. Slice the remaining jalapeno into thin rounds and place on each egg. Sprinkle each egg with bacon and green onions. 

Serve and refrigerate leftovers up to three days. 

Meringues

As anyone who has pulled a deflated meringue out of the oven can tell you, the technique can be a bit of a mystery. The key tips: Use room temperature eggs to get a good stiffness, add the sugar slowly so you don’t break the proteins, and make sure you’re adding some acidity (usually cream of tartar). Once you’ve got the basic technique down, there’s no need to change it up. Instead, vary flavors once you’ve gotten the egg whites fluffed up. Mullen’s suggestion is to throw in orange zest and finely ground coriander seeds to give it an additional nuttiness and flavor contrast you won’t find in most holiday desserts. 

Egg Salad

Egg salad is often made to be quick and easy, without much in the way of “secret ingredients.” But naturally, like all egg dishes, it’s possible to step it up a notch. The starting point: Make your own mayonnaise. “It’s not difficult and may take a little practice, but the end result is worth it,” Proto says. Whisk two egg yolks with a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, ½  teaspoon salt, and two tablespoons vinegar. Then, whisk in a cup of vegetable oil, pouring slowly so you get that thick emulsification. Or you could follow Mullen’s technique and not make “American” egg salad at all. He instead prefers the French sauce gribiche, made with extra-virgin olive oil, a dollop of spicy Dijon mustard, fresh horseradish, diced celery, and capers. Either way you serve it, taking the time to rethink your approach and ingredients will result in a mouthwatering upgrade.

Quiches

“Quiche: Oh how I love thee!” Mullen swoons. Quiches already toe the line of “upgraded” egg dishes, given the amount of prep that often goes into them. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Mullen’s suggestion is to use puff pastry (store bought is fine!) instead of a tart shell — just pre-bake the puff pastry before pouring in the quiche mixture to get the right texture. He also likes to add beaten egg whites to his egg mixture to increase fluffiness, along with a few dollops of labneh, a Middle Eastern cheese for additional lightness.

Bonus: The Brunch Basket

There’s only so much baking, deviling of eggs, and whipping of egg whites into meringue that you can do this year for holiday gift giving. If you’re all worn out from cooking (or want to inspire one of your loved ones to upgrade their breakfast) put together a brunch starter kit gift basket instead. Start off by making handmade recipe cards and pairing with special ingredients for your favorite dishes. Next, consider adding items like herb keepers and ceramic egg trays that make brunch prep a little easier. If they’re a true egg-ficionado, gift them an egg bite maker or breakfast sandwich maker. The more creative you get with your kits, the more unique creations you’ll (hopefully) get in return! Top it all off with a fun spatula or egg timer to add pizzazz and you’ll have the perfect, memorable gift basket.

Photo Credits: Photographer - Matthew Zach; Associate Creative Director - Colleen Lennon; Prop Stylist - Nicole Louie;  Food Stylist- Micah Morton; Producer - Alex Friedlander