Every other Thursday, we bring you Nicholas Day -- on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of.
This year I will feed my children too many eggs.
Does this count as a resolution? It’s how I prefer mine: modest and resigned. Because this probably isn’t the year to join the high fliers who soar to high heights. It’s probably the year to do the same thing you were doing anyway. But to do it better.
Which is why: eggs. When there is no dinner to be seen—not ready in the freezer, not gestating in the fridge—eggs are there for us. An embarrassing percentage of Isaiah’s body was built with egg protein: fried with sardines, over-easy on English muffins, scrambled next to roasted vegetables.
You’ve heard of the flight-versus-invisibility question? There’s a poultry version: which would you rather have—the chicken or the egg?
We pick the egg. Until our rebellious children become vegans and destroy our family forever, we live on eggs.
But this year they will be better.
A long time ago, someone misshelved eggs in the breakfast half of the day. As Tamar Adler has observed, this is unwise. Eggs have an almost magical ability to transform whatever was in your kitchen into a meal. They’re like that reality show about the British nanny who comes and molds a dysfunctional household into a family-like shape. Eggs mold your dysfunctional ingredients into a dinner-like shape.
For the New Year, I’ve assembled these half-dozen frames for eggs. They aren’t recipes, exactly, except for the last—they’re more like outlines. But together they’ll make your 2013 a double-yolk year.
Fried rice: for the basics, see the Jean-Georges genius tutorial. But—and this is crucial—make it less elegant: add some hearty greens, a spare amount of abandoned canned tomatoes, some poor huddled vegetable yearning to be free. And then drench your egg in fish sauce, plus chiles. Explain to the table that anyone who doesn’t want their egg drenched in fish sauce is wrong.
Restes: for braised leftovers—the liquid, the bits of meat, the mush of vegetables. Get your oven hot. Simmer up a good cup of leftover liquid and an equal amount of meat and vegetable scraps. Crack some eggs on top and bake until done. (Or do the whole thing on the stove: the same principles apply.) You’ll need bread.
From India: take a half-dozen eggs, whisk, dump in a hot, well-buttered saucepan. Add a chopped chile of your preferred heat. Instead of scrambling, fold the eggs toward the center, like folding sheets. Add a handful of golden raisins and the same of chopped cashews. Continue folding. Leave a touch wet. (From Mangoes and Curry Leaves, very loosely. A great book of Indian egg dishes remains to be written.)
Pasta: but do I need to say this? For nights when even carbonara is too hard, there is no shame in serving your children pasta with olive oil and garlic and parmesan and a fried egg on top. (You’re never too young to start eating like a bachelor.) For any residual guilt: frozen peas.
Frittata sandwiches: make your preferred frittata (mine is with a lot of sautéed chard and ricotta). Slice. Place on bread. Charge children $9 each and make them wait for a table.
And then there’s shakshuka.
Shakshuka had its moment in the States recently, but I worry that no one noticed. If you did, carry on. If not: Tunisian in origin, Israeli by adoption, tomato-sauced, spiced eggs. This version, tangy with dollops of yogurt, is from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s recent Jerusalem.
We ate it the other night. It went well with biscuits. Baby Mila decorated the floor with tomato-flecked egg whites. I was feeling pleased with myself. Eggs are a fittingly metaphorical way to begin the New Year, I was thinking. They’re embryonic.
“Dada?” Isaiah said, poking at his plate.
“I hate eggs.”
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem (Ten Speed Press, 2012)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon harissa (add more if desired)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 large red peppers, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
One 28-ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup labneh or Greek yogurt
Photos by James Ransom