Cookbook: Eggs on Top: Recipes Elevated by an Egg by Andrea Slonecker
Overall Impression: An enthusiastic thumbs up for this informative and authoritative primer on egg cookery, with restaurant-style recipes to boot.
Eggs are an indispensable part of my routine. Whether fried over easy to top my morning avocado toast, hardboiled and sprinkled with salt and pepper for an afternoon snack, or slipped into a spicy shakshuka, they make their way into my diet on a daily basis. In thumbing through this book, I had hoped to find a few new flavor combos to spruce up my egg-centric meals, but I didn't imagine that I'd learn so many new techniques and tricks!
Oven Eggs with Olive Oil and Dukkah
Recipes I Tried
- Simmered Eggs (7-minute cooking time)
- Japanese Soy Sauce Eggs (Shoyu Tamago)
- Sage-Brown Butter Eggs
- Garlic-Chile Eggs
- Spicy Golden Eggs
- Oven Eggs with Olive Oil and Dukkah
- Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Tuna, Chiles, Eggs, and Pangrattato
Cooking From Eggs on Top
This book has a logical format and progression — first, we get a well-written primer on the star ingredient. The author demystifies common egg terminology, outlining the differences between cage free, organic, pastured, and so on. Next are recipes for basic preparations (poaching, scrambling, frying, etc.). Finally, Slonecker gives us complete dishes that build upon the basic recipes, always with, you guessed it, an egg on top.
I decided to take a crack at the basic recipes before moving on to the more complicated, composed dishes, and I'm glad I did. The first half of this book is full of useful hints and ways to up your egg game, even if you can fry and poach with the best of 'em.
In my mind, the star recipe of this book is the one pictured on the front, Sage-Brown Butter Eggs. It’s so simple, but So. Flippin’. Good. Sling English muffins into the toaster as you’re heating the pan, and in five minutes flat, you’ll have insanely good breakfast sandwiches for two. Reader be warned, these eggs require a tablespoon of butter per person. And that’s why they’re so delicious. Don’t skimp, and you’ll be rewarded!
The second recipe I tried was for 7-Minute Eggs, which I then used to make Japanese Soy Sauce Eggs. While I’ve hardboiled a whole lot of eggs in my life, I’ve recently found myself unable to shell the darned things without mangling most of them in the process. It was great to go back to basics with Ms. Slonecker’s method — the shells peeled off effortlessly, with nary a nick on the soft-ish boiled eggs, and the yolks were just this side of "molten," the term she uses to describe yolks that are thickened, but still a bit liquid.
Once I’d transformed my 7-Minute Eggs into Japanese Soy Sauce Eggs, I was disappointed that I’d chosen that treatment. They were very, very salty, much better suited to slipping into a bowl of soup than eating as a snack. Even then, I’d make sure the soup broth was just shy of properly seasoned, so the salty eggs didn’t throw things off.
I enjoyed the Spicy Golden Eggs far more. Pickled in a turmeric-infused brine, they are a gorgeous yellow color with lots of flavor from garlic and slices of jalapeño. I followed Slonecker's appetizer serving suggestion, halving the eggs and dolloping a half-teaspoon of mayonnaise with a pickled jalapeño slice on top. These are easier and less messy than deviled eggs, and I can't wait to break these out at my next get-together.
Olive Oil Eggs with Dukkah
Oven Eggs with Olive Oil and Dukkah were another simple winner. Once I'd tracked down all of the whole spices (thank you, friendly neighborhood Middle Eastern market), the dukkah was a snap to put together. Next time, I'd use a mortar and pestle rather than my spice grinder (Slonecker says either will work fine); the spice grinder processed the mixture a little more finely than I'd like. It was still delicious, and the baked eggs were easy to monitor for doneness, cooked at a fairly low temperature of 325ºF. After 15 minutes, they emerged with evenly cooked, just-set-but-still-golden yolks, exactly how I like them.
Flipping through the selection of more involved dishes that follows these basics, I could tell that most of Ms. Slonecker’s recipes are higher in fat and salt than what I’d normally prepare. For instance, a recipe that serves two (Miso-Creamed Kale and Mushrooms with Soy Sauce Eggs) includes three tablespoons of butter, a half-cup of heavy cream, a quarter-cup of miso, a tablespoon of soy sauce, salt to taste, and additional soy sauce in the Soy Sauce Eggs. That's a serious wallop of fat and sodium for a one-dish meal. If you like making seasoned-to-the-edge, restaurant-style dishes at home, go forth and make these recipes as written. They’re well laid out, with instructions that are thorough without being patronizing or cumbersome.
Whole-Wheat Spaghetti, Tuna, Chiles, Eggs, and Pangrattato
For a final recipe, I chose one of the more involved dishes from the second section of the book: Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Tuna, Chiles, Eggs, and Pangrattato. The Garlic-Chile Eggs, a separate mini-recipe unto themselves, are fantastic. A mosaic of crunchy, golden brown garlic and spicy red pepper flakes covers the undersides of the fried eggs, the perfect topping for a bowl of sturdy whole wheat pasta. Olive oil-packed tuna and wilted greens make this a one-dish meal, and the topping of fried, herbed breadcrumbs takes things over the top. Oh, and the whole thing takes about a half hour to put together (though you will find that you've dirtied a pasta pot, another pot, a few bowls, and a skillet or two). This is a dish I'll be keeping in my back pocket for cooler weather.
What Could Be Better
I have to say, I really don't have a lot to complain about here! I loved the informative introductory section, thoughtfully outlined egg cooking techniques, and easy to follow recipes. My quibbles have more to do with personal preference than any fault with the book — my everyday cooking includes much less salt and fat than the recipes included in Eggs on Top. Ingredients are seasoned and enriched at every step of the cooking process, which makes for intensely flavorful dishes. I'll definitely whip out this cookbook when cooking a casual meal for company. Many of the recipes can be served in a bowl, perfect for a couch-bound movie or TV night with friends.
Those Sage and Browned Butter Eggs are worth the price of admission. Make them now. And if you feel like you need a refresher course on the best ways to poach, fry, boil, and scramble, you’ll find great instructions here. Venture into the last section of the book for great ways to incorporate your eggs into complete dishes (all of the flavor combos look fabulous), but be mindful of ingredient amounts and adjust to taste.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Eggs on Top by Andrea Slonecker
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(Image credits: Coco Morante)