Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter brunch with fried eggs, not hardboiled.

Easter Brunch

What better way to celebrate Easter than with a brunch featuring eggs, the pagan symbol of rebirth, and asparagus, the culinary symbol of spring?

This year our household did not celebrate according to the religious tradition of Christian Easter, but we nonetheless shared a very beautiful holiday on Sunday, complete with Easter baskets and a perfect Easter Brunch. I struggle a little bit with feelings of guilt when I celebrate religious holidays without the religion, so this year I put some thought into my personal feelings about Easter Sunday, and Sam and I talked about it over brunch. Together we pioeced together an alternative Easter celebration that has helped me put a deeper meaning to the holiday than just chocolate bunnies. Over brunch we ascertained two themes that we feel comfortable celebrating on Easter, and they have given the day additional meaning and reflection.

This Easter, I recognized the holiday as:
1. A celebration of Spring, and recognition of the seasonal cycle of the earth;
2. and a celebration of the faithful. Easter is a time to feel an appreciation for value-based living and remember our human instinct to strive for peace, humility, and elevated consciousness in our daily lives, whether through religious or personal structure.

Whew. That is the deepest I have attempted to be so far in my public posts. Let me quickly move the discussion to a description of the meal, so we all can go back to our comfort zone of wannabe gastronomist and leave behind the struggling philosopher persona.

As part of our celebration, Sam and created the perfect Easter brunch. The pièce de résistance of the meal was an asparagus and fried egg dish, covered in butter and melted Parmesan cheese. It tasted lovely, both fresh and rich at the same time. I love to assemble dishes that allow each ingredient to flourish on the palate, and this recipe guides each ingredient to a heightened individual flavor when all the ingredients combine.

In addition to the meal, we also drank an entire bottle of champagne in the form of mimosas. Contrary to my expectations and much to my delight, we were not worthless for the remainder of the day due to the booze. Rather Sam conducted a dramatic reorganization of our den, complete with purging old files and hanging photos. I sewed a dress. It was a rebirth of the office and my wardrobe!

The only down side to the meal was that asparagus cost $8.39 for for a little over a pound, which struck me as a very un-Christian price markup on the part of the grocery stores. I think H-E-B bumped up the cost in anticipation of Easter brunch. I mean, come on now, even mangoes imported from the southern hemisphere don't cost $8 a pound...? However, the cost was worth it, and $8.39 ended up a a small price to pay for such a delicious and thematic spring brunch.

Fried Eggs and Asparagus with Parmesan


1 1/2 lb medium asparagus, trimmed and, if desired, peeled
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 oz)
4 large eggs


Set oven rack in upper third of oven, then preheat oven to 425°F.

Cook asparagus in a large deep skillet of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.

Generously butter gratin dishes using 1/2 tablespoon butter total, then divide asparagus between them. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with half of cheese.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then fry eggs, seasoning with salt and pepper, until whites are barely set, about 2 minutes.

Carefully transfer 2 eggs to each gratin dish with a slotted spatula, placing on top of asparagus. Sprinkle eggs with remaining cheese and drizzle with any butter remaining in skillet.

Bake in upper third of oven until cheese is melted and eggs are cooked as desired, 4 to 5 minutes for runny yolks.

Cooks' note: If eggs are served with runny yolks, they will not be fully cooked, which may be of concern if there is a problem with salmonella in your area.

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