A master chef’s hat, a chef’s “toque” to which they are more accurately referred, has exactly 100 pleats; one hundred crisp, precise folds standing together in conical harmony, unabashedly towering above the heads of the hallowed few who have earned the right to wear one. The more folds, the better the chef. What’s more, each of the toque’s folds represents a different way to cook or prepare eggs. Or so legend has it, and I am a believer of legends.
Crack. Whisk. Sizzle.
Crack. Whisk. Sizzle.
Crack. Whisk. Sizzle.
By the time I’d made it to my eighth egg dish of the day, the repetitive sound of the cracking, whisking and sizzling as the eggs hit their various pans had become engrained in my head, playing on a seemingly never-ending loop. The monotony was enjoyable in a way, save for the occasional hiccup caused by an accidental shell landing in the bowl. Darn shells. They kept throwing a kink into my one-person egg-making assembly line. No matter though, you can’t make 100 egg dishes without cracking (and breaking) a few eggs. One hundred egg dishes. It really sounds like a lot when you say it. Good grief. I’d read somewhere that a master chef should be able to craft ** at least ** 100 egg dishes right off the top of their head, no problem. As the legend goes, the real pros should be able to do something new with an egg every morning for an entire year. It’s impressive, no?
This little bit of egg knowledge provided me with just the inspiration I’d been seeking to help lift my husband, Lucas, out of the breakfast rut into which he’d unknowingly sunk. Beginning last Summer, for months on end Lucas fixed himself the exact same thing for breakfast, day in and day out: scrambled eggs and sausage links. Two of each, to be exact. The consistency and precision with which he selected and prepared his meal each morning was admirable, for sure. But this breakfast ritual of his brought to light a very clear distinction in our respective food personalities. Lucas prefers to exercise predictability and repetition in his meal choices, while I like to be spontaneous, varied and totally inconsistent with mine. From my vantage point, there is nothing wrong with consistency, though. In fact it probably makes for a more efficient and easy way of going about things. But variety is purported to be the spice of life, after all, and as I watched Lucas prepare his eggs each morning, I couldn’t help but think that maybe this breakfast routine could benefit from a little extra spice … both literally and figuratively.
Now, I am by no means a master chef, but I’d like to think that I could at least make fifty interesting egg dishes. Fifty isn’t so many, right? This seemed like a wonderously fun culinary journey upon which to embark, and after flagging page upon page of promising egg recipes, techniques, and preparations in my giant stack of cookbooks, I was sure that I had fodder for both a grand blog post – the stuff egg lover’s dreams are made of – and some new egg-filled breakfast choices for Lucas.
By the time I’d made it to my ninth egg dish of the day, that repetitive sound of the cracking, whisking and sizzling had begun to lose some of its charm. I’d set out to make 10 egg dishes on the first day, mostly eggs cooked straight-up, to reflect the gamut that is run by breakfast goers the world over each and every morning. Sunny side up? Nailed it. Over easy? No problem. Scrambled? I know some great tricks. But what began as a soothing, monotonously comforting kitchen endeavor had quickly become tedious, messy and unappetizing. Just as quickly as it had blown in, the wind swiftly exited my sails. I was ready to abort my 50-egg mission on the very first day.
All was not lost, though. I still left this eggsperiment with a “W,” and am pleased to share my winnings with you here. I completely ditched my initial goal of making 50 different egg dishes and refocused my efforts on creating just one solid recipe that could maybe pose as an occasional stand-in every once in a while on Lucas’ breakfast plate. Spice of life, remember? So after testing a few recipes and reading many, many more, I took some sausage, eggs, and a lot of actual spices and came up with this Moroccan baked eggs recipe. Let me tell you, it’s even more flavorful than it looks, and I actually think it looks pretty darn flavorful. The combination of the sausage, aromatics, harissa, and warm spices makes for an intensely satisfying dish, and when served alongside some buttery soft flatbread for dipping, this is an egg dish that could stand up to any other, I’d like to think. Well, any other except scrambled eggs and sausage links. Lucas still prefers his eggs and sausage served plain, separate and straight-up. Can’t win ’em all, apparently.
So, in the end, I learned that it is completely unnecessary to have fifty different recipes in your egg-making arsenal – “Fifty Shades of Egg,” as my cousin Lucia so wittily called my experiment. Who has time for that, really? Fifty shades of no thank you! When you’re dealing with someone who is happy with the same reliable, tried and true dish each day, there is no point in trying to force change upon them, no need for it. It’s sort of selfish of me, I guess. But that being said, if and when Lucas is ready to step outside the comforts of his breakfast routine, I’ll be ready and waiting in the wings with these Moroccan eggs.
Moroccan Baked Eggs with Merguez, Eggplant & Harissa RECIPE
*adapted from Bobby Flay
In addition to being incredibly delicious and versatile, eggplant have plenty of health benefits to boot. I was recently introduced to the site, Well-Being Secrets, and found this article to be particularly interesting. Certainly worth checking out if you’re an eggplant fan or are just interested in reading up about the benefits of various fresh foods.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces merguez, casings removed (you can also use spicy Italian sausage if you can’t find)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes
28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 – 3 tablespoons of harissa (or, 8 ounces of jarred harissa sauce, which is easier to find in the international aisle sometimes and usually less spicy)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
4 – 5 eggs (I usually try to not crowd the pan when I make this, so I stick to just 4 or 5 eggs)
Garnishes: fresh chopped cilantro and/or parsley, honey
Flatbread for sopping
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and adjust your rack to the highest setting.
In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, brown the sausage in the olive oil just until it is cooked through, breaking it up into crumbles as it cooks. This should take about three to four minutes. Now, add the onions, garlic, and eggplant and saute along with the sausage for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, harissa, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and paprika. Add 3/4 cup water to the pan and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and season with salt to your liking. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer this mixture uncovered on med-low for about 15 – 20 minutes.
Use a wooden spoon or spatula to dig little holes in the tomato mixture for the eggs to land when you crack them. Crack the eggs into these holes and place the entire pan into the oven. Bake uncovered for five minutes and then transfer back to the stovetop. If your egg whites haven’t yet cooked fully, simply place a lid on the pan and allow them to steam and cook through on top of the stove over medium heat. This will help prevent the yolks from over cooking in the oven. When the eggs are fully cooked, sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley and cilantro over the pan and serve with some torn flatbread.