Cheap Tricks: The Incredible Egg

(Kim O'Donnel)

Looking for cheap protein during hard times? Have an egg for supper. Despite the financial challenges we’re all facing at the supermarket checkout, the cost of a dozen eggs remains a serious bargain.

And I’m not just talking about the mass-produced variety in the refrigerated case in Any Town (which are currently about $1.50 per dozen); the local farmstead eggs (which I highly recommend for their unparalleled flavor) from your neighborhood farm market might run five or six bucks, tops – about 50 cents per serving.

In fact, even if the price of a dozen eggs skyrocketed to a dozen dollars, the cost per serving would still be ridiculously cheap. (Now that’s a real dollar menu!)

Here at the Casa, eggs are a supper staple not just because they’re so cheap, but because they’re so darn versatile both in method and flavoring. When it’s past seven, and neither one of us has a dinner clue, we look to the egg to bail us out.

Should a plate of scrambled eggs feel too much like breakfast at the diner, pair them up with salad greens, arugula, chopped tomatoes or a bunch of roasted asparagus. Suddenly, those eggs feel elegant and light rather than greasy spoon fare. Who says you need home fries every time you crack an egg?

I love the simplicity of an omelet, which I often pair with a handful of fresh herbs and a sprinkling of grated parmigiano. With a glass of red wine, a hunk of bread -- be it pita, tortilla, naan -- I’m set in about eight minutes. (Here are some useful tips for omeletting.)

Make an egg pie -- that’s how I describe a frittata, which also happens to be a terrific Eating Down the Fridge dish, playing nice with anything you’ve got lurking in the veggie crisper drawer. I like to make this when I’ve got a bigger crowd to feed, and serves beautifully even at room temperature.

When there’s leftover rice in the fridge, that’s my cue to fried up an egg like a pancake in a wok, then slice it into thin strips, spritz with sesame oil, then add to wok-fried rice and whatever quick-cooking veggies I’ve got on hand, plus a splash of soy sauce. Dinner is ready in about four minutes.

I’m also partial to fried eggs (particularly when they’re really fresh), cooked in olive oil (and cooked on low-medium heat, with a lid, so as to keep white from hardening up like plastic), then placed on a warmed up and oil-lathered corn tortilla, with some shredded cheese and other Mister MA add-ons, such as salsa, a slice of avocado or a few spoonfuls of warmed-up black beans. Some might call this dish huevos rancheros, but I call it heaven.

I’m less of a fan of poached (cooked in simmering water, usually with a small amount of vinegar) eggs, but they do have great utility, pairing up beautifully with spinach, chard, tomatoes and myriad sauces, including hollandaise, red wine and marinara.

I’m more intrigued by shirred eggs (known as oeufs en cocotte in French), which are typically baked in a buttered ramekin, often with a splash of cream and paired up with spinach, cheese, polenta, even asparagus. Fifteen minutes is all you need for a medium-hard center, still with a little yolky goo that’s good for dipping.

I’ll stop here and let you share your most treasured ways of eating the incredible spendable egg. Heck, I'll even take your tips for egg salad and not hold it against you -- weigh in and start cracking those shells now!

By Kim ODonnel |  April 7, 2009; 7:30 AM ET Cooking on a Budget
Previous: Meatless Monday: The Cinchiest Stir Fried Greens Ever | Next: Ask Kim: Veggies for Breakfast, Garlic Scapes


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ewwwwww eggs!

Posted by: nall92 | April 7, 2009 8:59 AM

sorry, i can do anything but eggs!

Posted by: nall92 | April 7, 2009 9:05 AM

I've warmed up to the idea of using eggs in more savory dinner-type dishes of late. It used to be that a carton would sit in my fridge until they were far gone. Now I'm using up a carton every 10-12 days or so. I made oeufs au nid last week...incredibly simple and delicious. Baked eggs + mashed potatoes = quick, protein rich, reasonably healthy, filling dinner.

Posted by: FullGTilt | April 7, 2009 9:15 AM

I hated eggs as a child but now will willingly eat an omelet or scrambled eggs if they have enough "stuff" added. my favorite is smoked salmon and whatever vegs are on hand. Add cream cheese and it's really heavenly.

Posted by: chiquita2 | April 7, 2009 9:49 AM

Ah, the incredible, edible egg.

Sunny side up on gallo pinto. A nice weekend treat.

Another one is an omelet with some herbes de Provence and goats cheese. Had that at a B&B once and it's been a favorite ever since.

For a great weekend lunch, Spanish tortilla with salad! It's not what you might think, rather similar to a fritatta.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | April 7, 2009 9:55 AM

We just made eggs for dinner last night! I love them as an easy, meat-free dinner.

And we'll have them again later this week as it's that time of year for matzah brei.

Posted by: mauramcc | April 7, 2009 9:57 AM

my favorite way of eating eggs is to soft boil them (i do this in a microwaveable egg cooking thingy)until the yolks are bright yellow and runny. i snip off the top, put the egg in an egg cup, and dip in spears of steamed asparagus. heavenly!! my four year old is hooked on eating eggs this way too. with a side of whole grain toast or baguette, this is a complete meal (protein, veg, carb!).

Posted by: spd279 | April 7, 2009 9:58 AM

spd279, there is something dreamy about the sunny yolks of freshly laid eggs and those green spears of asparagus. It's the quintessential bite of spring.
Fairlington Blade, I know exactly of what you speak -- love those Spanish "tortillas"
Maura, that's right, matzo brei for Passover! Do you add onions and herbs to the mix?

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | April 7, 2009 12:14 PM

two of my favorite preparations --

- poached egg on a salad with a lemony or vinegary dressing. The runny yolk mixed with the vinaigrette is a perfect combo.

- make a spicy (or not) tomato sauce and poach eggs right in the sauce. Let it simmer for 6-7 minutes with a lid on, and you've got a perfect dish that can be served anytime of day. Serve with some beans. (This is actually what I'm making tonight!)

Posted by: theyawns | April 7, 2009 12:19 PM

One of our EDF meals was a frittata, in which I used up leftover ham, cheese and onion. Frittata is a great clean-out-the-fridge meal.

Posted by: margaret6 | April 7, 2009 12:36 PM

I love a recipe from Giada di Laurentiis, Eggs in Purgatory. You mix leftover mashed potatoes with an egg and a little bit of flour and shape into patties. Saute in olive oil until brown and crispy. Put some warm marinara sauce on a plate and top with a potato patty, a fried egg with runny yolk, and some grated parm on top. These are amazing. I sometimes do another version where I use sweet potatoes and substitute black beans and a little salsa for the marinara sauce and goat cheese for the parm. One of my most favorite meals.

Posted by: Agfras | April 7, 2009 12:45 PM

eggs are one of my favorite go-to meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I love making mini frittatas cooked in muffin pans that our family takes for lunch the next day. And the poached, roasted, or fried to a med. with asparagus is one of my favorite things about spring.

Most of the farmers at the markets around DC have them in the 3.37-4.75 dollar range.

Posted by: mcleve | April 7, 2009 12:45 PM

Frittatas are also Enjoy the Garden meals - our favorite uses swiss chard, carmelized onions, garlic, either chevre or gruyere and whatever else sounds good at the time. If I've got small amounts around, I throw in some ham or bacon.

A trick I learned from the local Thai restaurant is to throw a fried egg over noodles and vegetables. I usually make this Asian style, but Italian-ish flavors work well, too. Probably Greek would, I think I'll try that tonight as I've got some feta to use.

Posted by: esleigh | April 7, 2009 12:55 PM

I once came home to a fridge with one egg, a little milk, sparse fruits & veggies and the end of a wedge of cheese. There were three of us to feed and no time for shopping. When I asked what we could do with one egg, my roommate responded with crepes (1 egg + 1 cup flour + 1 cup milk, whisk together then thin with a little more milk if necessary - makes about 10). My other roommate made cheese sauce with the leftover bit of cheese. I sauteed the somewhat sad veggies in a little vegetable oil and herbs and they perked right up. It turned out to be a marvelous meal. For dessert, I sauteed the two apples we had in a little butter, with some cinnamon and sugar and we had them with the remaining crepes. Not bad for 1 egg!

Posted by: leahstan | April 7, 2009 1:03 PM

Kim, I cannot tolerate eggs as themselves, like the first poster. Even a picture, like the one above makes me gag. Is there any product - Just Whites, or something else that you think I might be able to tolerate in some of these frittatas or similar things? I hate to miss out on the fun.

Posted by: nativenewjerseyan | April 7, 2009 1:24 PM

Nativenewjerseyan, the texture of the frittata is quite different, beaten -- i wonder if a little cream would help as well? If it helps to know, the texture of hard-boiled eggs totally makes me gag!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | April 7, 2009 2:19 PM

I love eggs and used to eat them daily unitl that study came out for men to limit their egg intake to 6 a week.

My favorite is poaching eggs in salsa and then scooping them out onto a warm homemade tortilla!! (i know what I am doing for dinner tonight). Also a big fridge-cleaning frittata fan, and I can't think of a meal I wouldn't put a fried egg (the runnier the better) on top of: pizza, pasta, green salad to name a few.

Posted by: The_Dude_Abides1 | April 7, 2009 2:38 PM

I made beef empanadas the other day and in addition to carrots, onions and diced tomatoes, the recipe called for two hard boiled eggs, chopped - I was skeptical at first, but it was fantastic!!

Posted by: emily_ak | April 7, 2009 3:45 PM

nail92, nativenewjerseyan and anyone else who can't eat eggs--if you are not allergic to eggs, then try the "cholesterol-free" boxed eggs in the dairy section of the supermarket. These are only egg whites mixed with yellow coloring. They don't have the yolks and have less of the flavor. You might find that you can tolerate them and be able to enjoy some egg recipes.

As for my tip, here's a simple Chinese recipe. Take eggs (one will serve about 2 people), scramble with soy sauce to taste and an equal volume of eggs to chicken broth (if you are ovo-lacto vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth). Scramble well to get the yolks, whites and broth well mixed together and consistent. Put the bowl in a steamer, or a big Dutch oven with a rack and some water in the bottom. Steam about 10 minutes or until the egg is cooked through (check the middle with a spoon to make sure). The texture should be like silken tofu or a light jello. Serve with steamed veggies and rice. If you don't have a steamer or can't do the Dutch oven thing you can cook in the microwave, but you have to watch it very carefully or the top of the egg mixture will cook too much and dry out. You don't want the texture of scrambled eggs. In the microwave, cook about 3 minutes, then stir to loosen up some of the already partially cooked egg and it will sink to the bottom and not overcook. Cook in periods of 2-3 minutes checking to make sure the egg stays silken and soft. It's very good this way and very different from other egg dishes.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 7, 2009 5:42 PM

For those who don't like/want to eat whole eggs, I recommend using the white and ditching the yolk rather than buying a gussied- and chemicaled-up product. It's healthier and less expensive. You can give the yolks to cats or dogs, or family members who like them/can eat them, boil them to use as a thickener by grating into the soup or sauce that needs thickening, save them for ice cream, make creme anglaise...

Posted by: fitday19550 | April 8, 2009 9:19 AM

I have great childhood memories of my Mom's strada. Load a casserole up with stale bread chunks, mushrooms, sausages, cheeses, whatever else you have in the fridge, and a dash of dry mustard, top with egg and milk, soak for a while, then bake. Yummmy.

Posted by: dannajulie | April 9, 2009 4:21 AM

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