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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

Breakfast for dinner: baked eggs

BY JANET K. KEELER
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES

The tradition of breakfast for dinner is a strong one in many households. Sometimes the menu includes bursting vegetable-and-cheese omelets and English muffins, other times there's pancakes and bacon, or sausage. A shallow bowl of cheesy grits with a fried egg cradled on top adds a Southern twist. We're not sure if cold cereal counts, but we know Froot Loops are a dinner staple in some homes, mostly those called dorms.

Instead of copying traditional breakfast dishes from morning to night, we like the idea of taking the basic ingredients and doing something a bit different with them. After all, the egg is one of nature's most versatile little packages, providing lots of protein and other nutrients, plus it's a worthy alternative to meat. Integral to baked goods, eggs are also picnic-perfect when deviled and a satisfying desk-side lunch when mixed with mayonnaise and a bit of pickle relish for egg-salad sandwiches.

But cradled in a nestlike shredded potato casserole that gets bulk from shaved turnip and more flavor from Swiss cheese, eggs can be dressy enough for dinner. Rosti Casserole With Baked Eggs is a German-Swiss-inspired dish typified by shredded potatoes and Swiss cheese. The finished product is impressive and it reheats well for breakfast leftovers. It's a Cooking Light recipe, so attention has been paid to nutritional content, and it's less than 30 percent fat per serving.

Another egg dish that's perfectly suited for any meal is Ina Garten's Herbed-Baked Eggs. A sprinkling of fresh herbs and garlic mixed with Parmesan cheese provides a savory crust on top. The eggs are broiled, so make sure you cook them in shallow, individual gratin dishes. If the bakeware is too deep, the egg whites won't set before the top burns. Serve these Parisian eggs with Roasted Pear and Blue Cheese Salad, and what might be called a light dinner becomes very luxe.

The salad would also pair well with Leek Bread Pudding from Thomas Keller's new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home (Artisan, $50). There are lots of enticing recipes in Ad Hoc, but this is not a cookbook for beginners. Keller wields a blowtorch and a mandoline like the rest of us use a wooden spoon. The Leek Bread Pudding is one of the book's easier recipes, and it is fabulous.

The first time around, I used the whole milk and heavy cream called for in the recipe. You could say that 3 cups of each is a guilty pleasure, but I wondered if maybe it wasn't fat-laden overkill. The second time, I substituted reduced-fat milk and fat-free half-and-half. No surprise, the dish wasn't as good. The luxurious mouth-feel was gone. However, I think regular half-and-half would have worked OK to cut the fat a bit and maintain the dish's integrity. Next time.

Assuage the guilt by knowing that a 9-by-13-inch pan of the bread pudding feeds at least 12 people as a side dish. If you want to show off, make it for a potluck. It's definitely a weekend dish; plan on nearly three hours of work, of which an hour and a half is unattended baking.

The other variable is the bread. The recipe calls for a brioche loaf, which can be difficult to come by unless you are making your own.

I used an uncut loaf of white bread both times, only because the store was out of challah, which was my next choice. It worked well.

These dishes are worthy candidates for your dinnertime rotation, and would be especially nice for a Sunday brunch. Just more proof that eggs are perfect for any party.



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