Properly cracking and preparing eggs are foundational cooking skills. Eggs serve as the glue of many baked goods, as well as delicious packages of protein in their own right. How many of us have started a morning by slicing a pat of butter into the skillet and cracking an egg directly into the pan, watching as the edges sizzle and solidify? Whether you like your eggs sunny side up, over easy, over medium, or scrambled, they are an undeniably satisfying food.
Well, undeniable to some. Melinda, a third grader in one of my classes, told me proudly that she had never eaten an egg in her life. The trouble is that what we were making in cooking class that day was Huevos Rancheros–a dish where eggs are the main component. And cooking class has a fundamental rule: try everything. You don’t have to like it, I repeatedly tell me students. But give it a taste.
Melinda is one of those students who repeatedly contests this rule. “Do I have toooo?” she wheedles every week. Then, she pulls out an argument that is hard to disagree with: “It’s my body! I should get to choose what I put in it.” I tell her that that statement is true, unequivocally, but still: trying a bite can’t hurt. If it’s not for you, fine.
Nevertheless, she wants to be involved. “Can I crack an egg??” Melinda asks me repeatedly. I tell her yes; in this lesson, everyone gets to crack an egg at least once. Even though she insists she already knows how to do it, I still take the time to break down the process.
Counterintuitive for most of us, the best way to crack an egg is actually lengthwise on a flat surface. This prevents rupturing of the membrane which causes shell shards to detach themselves and also protects from bacterial contamination.
If a few stray shell fragments still find their way into your bowl, try fishing them out with another piece of shell instead of your finger. Egg shells adhere to themselves but repel from human skin.
Melinda cracks her egg into the pan and watches it sizzle. Once we’ve finished the salsa and I’ve handed out plates to every student, she quietly takes one bite, then another. When it’s time to go home, she comes up to me. “I like eggs!” she told me. “My mom is going to be so happy.” Just like that, her palate has multiplied exponentially. Moments like this make my job more than worthwhile.
All in a day’s work for a food educator.
HUEVOS RANCHEROS & WINTER SALSA
1 15oz can black beans
4 small corn tortillas
4 large eggs
To taste: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin
Toppings: avocado, cheese, sour cream, cilantro
Make the salsa and set aside.
To crisp the tortillas, brush each side with olive oil. Place in non-stick skillet over high heat and cook each side 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
In either the same or different pan, heat the black beans with a small sprinkle of the seasonings of your choice: onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt. Mash the black beans and taste. Adjust seasoning to taste. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, heat another skillet with olive oil over medium to high heat. Cook eggs over easy as desired.
Serve: place a cooked egg on each tortilla and top with salsa, avocado, cheese such as queso fresco or monterey jack, cilantro, and sour cream.
1 8-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
1 4-ounce can of green chiles
¼ small red onion (about 2 tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup cilantro
½ jalapeno, seeds removed by adult
¼ cup roasted red pepper
1 tablespoon lime juice
pinch of salt
Combine salsa ingredients in a blender until desired consistency is reached.