This much I know: Old dogs can learn new tricks. When a friend taught my husband to cook eggs ahead of time for weekday lunches, I realized I needed to learn too. Especially since eggs prove versatile enough for every meal of the day.
Omelets made Sunday afternoons mean terrific weekday breakfasts in no time or elegant lunches on the go. I especially enjoy feasting on a filled omelet at my desk while everyone else scrambles to figure out what to eat for lunch.
We treat eggs as a refrigerator basic and nearly always have them on hand. The trouble with this thinking? We usually cook old eggs. In fact, most supermarket eggs are already more than a week old before they arrive at the store. Sure, they'll keep a week or more at home, but the flavor diminishes.
Whenever possible, I try to buy eggs from a local farmer. That means the eggs are just a few days old. Cooked side by side, fresh eggs versus supermarket eggs taste richer and have brighter yolks and whiter whites.
The secret to all egg cooking is gentleness, even more important when working in advance. Slightly undercooked poached, soft-boiled or scrambled eggs will allow for reheating without overcooking. Same if you fancy a fried egg on your lunchtime rice bowl -- hold back a minute or two to maintain runny yolks upon reheating. When working in advance, I prefer to cook eggs in a nonstick skillet filmed with olive oil rather than butter; the oil reheats better for my taste.
Adding cream or other dairy to beaten eggs destined for scrambles or omelets keeps them ultra-moist -- helpful when reheating later. I usually use half-and-half because we stock it in the fridge. For more luxury, try sour cream, mascarpone or creme fraiche.
Fillings for a make-and-take omelet can range from simple shreds of cheese and chopped fresh herbs, to smoked salmon, bits of tomato and red onion, to thin slices of fully cooked chicken sausage. I like to cook a few small potatoes in the microwave and then toss them with olives for a simple but highly impactful filling.
Eggs can be poached ahead too. Our friend cracks them into a wire-mesh strainer to drain off some of the most watery white (albumen). Then he slips the egg into simmering water for 3 minutes to poach gently into very pretty orbs. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and set them into a small container. Refrigerate poached eggs for up to two days. Reheat by slipping them into hot water for 1 minute, or microwave on medium (50 percent power for about 30 seconds). Serve the poached eggs on a slice of hot toasted whole grain bread, or set one egg on top of a hot rice and veggie bowl.
Hard-cooked eggs just might be the most popular egg to transport in a lunch or tuck into a small cooler on training day. Julia Child taught us a foolproof way to cook easy-to-peel eggs with sunny yolks minus the gray-green ring and nasty smell. Her method is paraphrased below. To be fashionable and traditional all at once, we often make pickled eggs. Simply fill a jar with peeled, hard-cooked eggs and a sprig or two of fresh herbs (such as bay leaves, thyme and tarragon). Then add seasoned vinegar to completely cover the eggs. The eggs will keep several weeks; I store them in the refrigerator. They make a great snack with beer or salad add-ins.
MAKE-AHEAD OMELETS WITH POTATOES AND OLIVES
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 5 servings
20 fingerling or other very small potatoes, about 1/2 pound
1/2 cup sliced pitted olives, such as Kalamata
1/2 cup crumbled, shredded or diced cheese, such as goat cheese, feta, cheddar or Swiss
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives or green onion tops
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh or dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
12 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half, heavy (whipping) cream, sour cream, mascarpone or creme fraiche
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salsa or chunky tomato sauce, for serving
1. Put potatoes into a medium microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons water, and cover with plastic wrap vented at one corner. Microwave on high (100 percent power) until fork tender, 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Slice thinly. Mix potatoes with olives, cheese, chives and thyme. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
2. Break eggs into a large glass measure or pitcher with a pour spout. Use an immersion blender or whisk to mix eggs. Whisk in half-and-half, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth.
3. Heat a 6-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, lightly film the pan with olive oil. Pour about ½ cup of the egg mixture into the pan. Mixture should set immediately at edges. Use a large fork to gently lift cooked portions of eggs toward the center of the pan and to allow the liquid eggs to be in contact with the hot pan. Tilt skillet to allow eggs to cover the bottom of the pan. When eggs are mostly set, put 3 to 4 tablespoons of the potato mixture on one side of the omelet. Use a flexible rubber spatula to gently fold omelet in half. Then gently roll the omelet out onto a plate. Cool.
4. Repeat with remaining eggs and filling.
5. Pack each cooled omelet into a container. Pack a little container of salsa or sauce alongside. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat, microwave on high (100 percent power) until hot, about 1 minute. Serve topped with salsa.
Note: You can substitute 2 cups cooked vegetables, such as broccoli florets, diced asparagus or sauteed bell peppers for the potatoes.
Nutrition information per serving: 281 calories, 18 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 682 mg cholesterol, 11 g carbohydrates, 19 g protein, 682 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
PERFECT HARD-COOKED EGGS
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 dozen
12 large eggs
1. Put eggs in a large saucepan in a single, uncrowded layer. Add cold water to cover eggs by 1- 1/2 inches. Set over high heat. Cook, watching closely, until the water comes to a full boil (large bubbles break on the surface). Set the timer for 1 minute. After the 1 minute, turn off heat and set the timer for 14 minutes. Let the eggs stand in the hot water.
2. When the timer rings, carefully tip off the hot water and fill the pan with cold water and several handfuls of ice. Let stand until the eggs are cold, about 10 minutes. Drain. Refrigerate the eggs for up to one week in a plastic container or zippered bag.
-- Adapted from Julia Child's method.
GINGER PICKLED EGGS
Heat 3 cups organic distilled white vinegar in a small saucepan with 2 slices of fresh ginger, a few slivers of orange zest, and a few black peppercorns and allspice berries. Simmer about 5 minutes. Then cool completely. Fill a glass jar with 6 or 8 hard-cooked eggs. Strain the cooled vinegar into the jar to completely cover the eggs. Close the jar tightly and refrigerate for a week or two before using the eggs.