Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Heavenly Eggs

If you make as much soup as I do, there are bound to be leftovers. Honestly, I welcome those leftovers with open arms and empty bowl. On many a Saturday night, you can find me in my kitchen, happily chopping and stirring and salting and tasting a big pot of soup that will feed me well that night and for the rest of the week. Soup makes a delicious, filling lunch AND helps me sneak in a few servings of vegetable in slurpable form. What’s not to love about soup?

And yet, by the fourth or fifth go-around with the same pot of soup, my tastebuds start to sigh with boredom. My hands get itchy to make something new and exciting in the kitchen. What’s soup-loving gal to do? Fortunately, soup has an uncanny ability to morph into a new entrée. By varying mix-ins, toppings, and sides, soup can keep the eating exciting all the way to the last bowl. Today’s recipe (more of a strategy or a technique, really) is my happy discovery of new life in delicious leftovers.

I had been fascinated for some time with this idea of poaching eggs not in water but rather in a liquidy medium that would eaten with the eggs. Two recipes I had read use this technique. From Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, Eggs in Hell is a half-dozen eggs poached in a well-seasoned spaghetti sauce, sprinkled with cheese, and served over bread or pasta. From Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home by the Moosewood Collective, Chakchouka is four eggs poached in a spicy, vegetable-laced tomato sauce. I kept coming back to both of these recipes in my mind because they sounded so simple and so satisfying. But I had yet to try either one.

On a dark November night (aren’t all November nights dark when you live in Illinois?), I found myself craving something other than leftovers, but I didn’t have many ingredients in the house. I spread the recipes for Eggs in Hell and Chakchouka on my kitchen table and got to work making an approximation using leftover Homemade Tomato Soup for Winter Days and a bean chili. The results were heavenly: light, flavorful scrambled eggs in a puddle of beany, tomatoey sauce and sprinkled with white cheddar. I was so pleased with the dish that I promised myself I will make it again the next time I have some brothy leftover soup that needs another chance.

The following recipe is a set of guidelines that I have written out for your sake and my sake. I imagine this strategy will work well with a variety of soups and stews, so you have my permission to play with it as you like. Rather than poaching my eggs, I chose to scramble them individually before adding them to the hot soup. I have a long-enduring childhood fear of the “runniness” associated with poached eggs; thus I prefer my eggs cooked thoroughly. If you enjoy poached eggs, then by all means poach whole, unscrambled eggs.

Heavenly Eggs
Serves 1 as a hearty entrée or 2 as a side dish
Instructions adapted from those given for Eggs in Hell in Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon

About 3 cups of any brothy, tomato-based soup or stew (if they have similar flavors, many soups and stews can be combined to good effect here for a total of 3 cups)
2 eggs
Grated cheese to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Toast to eat with your heavenly eggs (optional but highly recommended)

1) Pour your 3 cups of soup and/or stew into a large skillet. Heat the soup until it is bubbly and hot. While the soup is heating, scramble your first egg in a measuring cup. Once the soup is bubbly, use a spoon to push a bit of the soup back to make an indentation and pour the egg into the indentation. Quickly scramble the second egg and nestle it into the soup like you did with the first egg.
2) Turn the heat down to medium low and cover the skillet with a lid. Cook the eggs over medium low heat for about 8 minutes.
3) Uncover the skillet. By this time, the eggs will have expanded during their cooking and are probably covering much of the surface of the soup. Use a ladle to scoop the eggs and the soup into a deep bowl. I ended up eating my eggs one at a time because it was easier to scoop one egg at a time. Sprinkle the eggs with grated cheese and/or salt and pepper as you like. Eat the heavenly eggs with toast and feel blessed.

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