Inspired by a lunch my good friend Christy made for me recently (when we were trying to squeeze in a bit of catch up time), the basic idea is to prepare a big platter of seasonal vegetables and top it with a fried egg. If you are spending a day working from home (as I was today), this is a perfect kind of lunch to make for yourself. (It would also make a nice light dinner.)
You can make the vegetable component as complex or as simple as you like....using whatever vegetables and pantry items you have on hand. When Christy cooked for me she served the egg over a mound of creamy polenta topped wilted spinach. I served mine today over a big plate of blanched asparagus, toasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese. A slice of toasted semolina bread added substance to my meal as well as something nice to sop up every bit of the soft yolk.
I guess I can't imagine that there is someone reading this post who has never made a fried egg, but if there is, a fried egg is truly easy to prepare. It should be in everyone's repertoire—any good basic cookbook will give detailed instructions. Start by warming some fat in a non-stick sauté pan (use enough fat to generously coat the bottom of the pan). My fat of choice for eggs is butter...but olive oil or bacon fat are both good options too. If you want a soft tender white, use medium-low heat. If it isn't a fried egg to you without crispy edges, turn the heat up so that the egg will sizzle when it hits the pan. For sunny-side up eggs, cover the pan, cooking until the white is just set and the yolk is beginning to set around the edges (this will only take two or three minutes). If you want the top of your sunny side up egg to be a bit more cooked, baste it a couple of times as it cooks by spooning some of the hot fat in the pan over the top of the yolk. For an "over-easy" egg, as soon as the white is just set, gently flip the egg over and continue to cook for another 30 seconds (be careful—the yolk is easy to over-cook....it will still taste good, but you'll lose your egg yolk "sauce" for your vegetables).
I couldn't get over how much I enjoyed my lunch with Christy. I eat eggs all the time. I love them. But most of the time I poach them...or cook them in the shell...or scramble them...or turn them into a frittata, Spanish tortilla or a quiche. Unless I'm making a fried egg sandwich, I don't often think of making a fried egg. Thanks to my friend, fried eggs will become a regular part of my lunchtime rotation.
Asparagus with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and a Fried Egg
For each person you will need:
1 oz. (1/4 c.) walnuts
1/2 lb. asparagus, tough ends snapped off and discarded (you should have about 4 oz. trimmed weight)
1 oz. goat cheese
a few fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley...whatever you have in your garden)—optional
Salt & Pepper
2 to 3 t. unsalted butter
Put the walnuts in a small pan (a metal pie tin works well for a small amount of nuts) and place the pan in a 350° oven. Toast until fragrant and lightly colored—5 or 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If the walnuts are large, break them into smaller pieces.
Bring a saucepan of well salted water to the boil. Cut the asparagus into 2-inch lengths on the diagonal. Add the asparagus to the pan and boil until just tender—2 or 3 minutes. Drain and spread on paper towels. Set the empty pan aside to use for tossing the asparagus with the nuts and herbs.
Fry the egg to your liking. While the egg is frying, toast some bread and mince the herbs if you are using any. Return the asparagus to the empty saucepan and add the walnuts and herbs. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange on a plate and crumble the goat cheese over all. Place the egg on top and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with buttered toast.