It’s the weekend, perhaps mid-morning. I’m on my second cup of coffee — hand-ground beans steeped in a press — so I’m happy.
But now I have that nudge from my stomach telling me that I’m hungry.
And then comes the weekend quandary: What to make?
This used to be a constant circular debate for my wife and me. You know how it goes.
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Me: “I don’t know … what do you want?”
Her: “I don’t know … what do you want to fix?”
And it goes on and on.
Now, I have a very simple solution that solves two problems:
▪ What to make for brunch
▪ How to use some of our leftovers
I know a lot of people don’t care for leftovers. I get it. Heating up a container from a restaurant or that mush in a plastic box from the fridge sometimes just isn’t appealing.
However, I believe that the reason that most people don’t like leftovers is that they only use them in their stale incarnations and don’t use imagination to give them new life.
Here’s my solution: Put an egg on it! It’s just that simple.
Let’s say you have some leftover aligot from The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange (French mashed potatoes with lots of cheese and raw garlic). Heat the potatoes. Then, put a seasoned fried egg on top. Done. You have a complete meal containing protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat. And the work and thought process on your part was minimal.
Why is the egg my universal solution? Well, it’s the perfect food. An egg contains protein and fat in perfect proportions. It’s a great counterbalance to leftovers, most of which are carb heavy. Additionally, a runny egg yolk creates its own sauce, which can be important if your leftover is a bit on the dry side.
Here are other examples of how an egg is the perfect pairing for various leftovers:
▪ Sweet potatoes: Cook up onions and garlic, add cubed sweet potatoes, your favorite hot sauce and half and half. After it cooks down a bit, nestle in a few eggs, put a lid on it, and in about four minutes you have breakfast. Sort of a hash, I guess.
▪ Pizza: Heat a slice of pizza in a nonstick skillet with a lid on it over medium heat until the cheese on top melts. Meanwhile, in another skillet, fry an egg. Place the egg on top of the pizza slice … and there’s brunch. This is one of our favorites.
▪ Risotto: Make risotto patties and fry them or just reheat the risotto and put an egg on it.
▪ Baked or twice baked potatoes: A perfect candidate for the egg. About as simple as can be.
▪ Pasta: Add fresh-grated Parmesan cheese, maybe some leftover bacon, crispy shallots. With the egg, you have a new entree.
What style of egg should you put atop your leftovers? Here are three of my favorites.
Hard- or soft-boiled: Add a room-temperature egg to boiling water with a slotted spoon, being careful not to crack the shell. Cook for 7 to 12 minutes depending on how soft you want the egg yolk. After cooking, immediately place the egg in an ice water bath for at least four minutes. Remove the shell by cracking the pointy/smaller end of the egg first, and then peel under running water.
Poached: Fill a 12-inch nonstick skillet with water (one half-inch below the rim) and add one tablespoon white vinegar. When the water is boiling, remove pan from the heat, add the eggs. Cover with the lid and wait four minutes. At the four-minute mark, remove the eggs using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Fried: I’m not sure who taught me this method, but it’s one of my favorites. Brush a cold nonstick skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil. Crack the egg(s) and place in the skillet and cover with a lid. Set the burner to medium. The eggs should be a perfect “sunny side up” in about 8 minutes. If you don’t like a runny yolk, cook a bit longer to your desired doneness.
No matter which method you choose, be sure to season the egg with salt and pepper before topping your leftover. If you don’t, you’ll be adding a somewhat bland component to your overall dish. And no one wants that.
Try this egg-on-it strategy for a few weekends and see how it goes. Here’s your template:
Choose a leftover: Hash browns, risotto, rice, pasta, Chinese carryout, pizza or mashed potatoes.
Choose an additional flavoring: Crumbled bacon, leftover tomatoes, veggies, sausage, shredded chicken or leftover BBQ.
Choose an egg type: Hard or soft boiled, poached or fried.
Add a garnish: Parsley, cilantro, shredded cabbage, chives, arugula, diced onion, green chiles, diced tomatoes, or maybe cheese.
Get creative. Have fun. It’s a perfect way to transform your “blah” leftovers and enjoy your weekend brunch time.
OK, now it’s time for coffee No. 3 and a yummy brunch.
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS BBQ judge, a master student of pizza crafting, and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.