fried egg formula for a satisfying breakfast (or lunch or dinner)

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My personal Breakfast of Champions is a fried egg on a handful of raw greens – say arugula, dandelion, baby spinach, watercress or even mesclun – lightly dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and a few drops of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, maybe some snipped chives. It is a play on a classic rustic Italian dish: steamed asparagus with a fried egg and some grated Parmigiano. The operating principle is that when you break the soft-cooked yolk, it spills onto the vegetable like a sauce; vegetable and protein, marry, with little fuss, in a single delicious dish.

I love that idea so much that I tried putting a fried egg on all manner of cooked vegetables – roasted sliced onions or peppers, crushed boiled new potatoes, piles of sautéed escarole or wild mushrooms– until it seemed the natural course of things to throw a fried egg on a plate of spaghetti, which, when mixed with Parmigiano, simulated a Carbonara. It is the ultimate lazy person’s supper.

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The idea of a breakfast version came from my belief in the energizing power of raw greens coupled with the need for an easily-made and delectable breakfast for myself when I’m moving fast.  “Why not throw the fried egg on raw greens,” I wondered “and marry the asparagus-fried-egg gist and with the dandelion-salad-topped-with-a-soft cooked- quail-egg that appears on restaurant menus here and there?”

For me, it is a perfect breakfast, born of a formula that works for any meal, any time of day:

a savory base (cooked vegetables or pasta; if raw greens, dress them with extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper)

+ grated or shaved Parmigiano (grated for cooked stuff; on raw greens, use shaved or none at all)

+ a sunny side-up fried egg

Or, here’s a recipe for the most elaborate version of it. You can improvise upon it on endlessly; replace the pasta (and cooking water)  with warmed leftover cooked vegetables, or some steamed asparagus or crushed potatoes….

Pasta with a Fried Egg and Parmigiano

To gild the lily, cook some diced bacon or pancetta, fry the eggs in the fat and toss the crispy pieces with the pasta.  This recipe is easily scaled down to serve 1 or 2.

Serves 4.

12 to 16 ounces (depending how hungry you are) of spaghetti, linguine or other
pasta 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
4 extra large eggs, preferably organic
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano

In a large pot of boiling, well-salted water, cook the spaghetti until it is slightly underdone (the pasta will keep cooking after its drained). With a measuring cup, scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and set the colander over a bowl while you start the eggs.

Carefully break the eggs into a bowl without breaking the yolks. Heat a 12-inch nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. Add the butter or oil and swirl to coat. Add the eggs, gently nudging the yolks so they are evenly spaced in the pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny.

While the eggs are cooking, transfer the pasta to the cooking pot. Add about 1/3 cup of the cooking water and 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano. Toss until the cheese has melted and the pasta is coated with a creamy sauce, adding more cooking water if necessary to keep the pasta moist.  Season with salt and pepper generously. Divide the pasta evenly among 4 warm dinner plates. Sprinkle each serving with some of the remaining grated cheese.

Separate the eggs with a spatula and arrange a fried egg in the center of each mound of pasta. Scatter coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley over the top, if desired.  Serve at once, instructing your guests to break the yolk and toss the egg with the pasta.

14 Responses to fried egg formula for a satisfying breakfast (or lunch or dinner)

  1. Frances Boswell 07.13.2009 at 9:32pm #

    Funny – just home from long day – two eggs in fridge and last nights sautéed kale and boiled beets from 5 days back. Poached the eggs – reheated the veg – poured some wine and happy as can be. Love your blog. Love you. X F

  2. admin 07.13.2009 at 9:43pm #

    I’d take an invitation to THAT dinner any day. With eggs and leftovers and of glass of wine, we can survive just fine.
    (How nice to see you here!)

  3. admin 07.13.2009 at 10:23pm #

    ps: I forgot to emphasize the great point of your post: that poached eggs work equally well.

  4. Lummox in the Kitchen 07.14.2009 at 11:57am #

    Could someone please tell me how to poach an egg?

  5. toussaint 07.15.2009 at 6:15pm #

    Whenever I’m home, my dad poaches my eggs. I vote for poached. And if you have fresh asparagus…….

  6. admin 07.15.2009 at 7:32pm #

    Hi Mr. Lummox, Poached eggs are something that should be in every cook’s repertoire. It’s really easy if you know a few tricks. Here’s a terrific little video of the whole process and the logic behind the steps, by Bay area food editor Jenny Slafkosky. http://www.slashfood.com/2009/04/10/how-to-poach-an-egg-foodie-flicks/
    I’d love to know how your egg poaching turns out, and what you put them on.

  7. admin 07.15.2009 at 7:33pm #

    Yeah, poached or fried eggs on steamed asparagus (with some butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano) is THE BEST! (my fall back dinner)

  8. Lummox in the Kitchen 07.16.2009 at 5:50pm #

    Thanks so much for the crystal clear video. Now I shall go forth and poach….

  9. Karen 07.20.2009 at 10:44pm #

    Yes, so fried egg on top of a bowl full of greens is what I’ll be having for breakfast tomorrow – so simple, so perfect. Thanks!

  10. Andi 07.22.2011 at 6:00pm #

    Love the egg post. Any ideas for my 93 y/o mom who only has a microwave in her apt? She does miss a good poached egg. Her errant daughter hasn’t taken the time to experiment.

  11. Lesley 09.25.2011 at 6:08pm #

    Here is my best emergency dinner or lunch when time is tight, and energy lagging. I always have on hand Yemenite chile paste ( a puree of fresh jalapeños, coriander, parsley, garlic, cumin, olive oil and lemon) or harissa, the North African pungent hot paste. I call it my culinary insurance.
    I fry an egg, spread the paste on the toast, tuck in some lettuce if I have some, or a roasted tomato and then figure I am going to need a bib as the fried egg dribbles out of the toast, and down my chin.

    Fast, satisfying and subject to infinite variations!

  12. Sally 09.25.2011 at 8:47pm #

    Hey, that sounds great!!! Where do you get Yemenite chile paste???!!!

  13. suzy lowinger 01.08.2013 at 12:47pm #

    one of my absolute standbys for a while was sauteed mushrooms, on toast, usually a piece of bread i rubbed with garlic after it was toasted, and the fried egg on top…yum. thanks sally

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