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Counter Intelligence: Eggsactly how to whip up the best scrambled eggs

By April Hamilton

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Cooking is like anything else: Some people have an inborn talent for it. Some become expert by practicing, and some learn from books." -- Laurie Colwin

My brilliant husband has a particular cooking talent that he shares with any and all who are within earshot of the kitchen. He is not limited to this one specialty, but it's the one he takes the most pride in. The one where he knows he has the upper hand, the magic wand.

If you happen to be within reasonable proximity when he takes to the stove, he will count you in. If not, you have missed out on something really good and will have to fend for yourself or attempt to duplicate his masterpiece.

Thankfully, his expertise has permeated down to the next generation. The day after our eldest daughter arrived home from college for holiday break, neither she nor I were within range when the breakfast bell tolled. Perhaps we stayed up too late catching up since our last visit. Whatever the reason, we missed the ceremonial egg breakfast à la Chef Charles.

Enter the sleepyhead college girl. "Mom!" she alerted me out of her dream state, "I'm going to make you breakfast." And she was off, right in her dad's footsteps. Taking inventory, she found last night's leftover baked potato, some spicy salsa, a ripe avocado. "This is going to be the best egg scramble you have ever tasted," she promised. "Do we have any tortillas?"

I stood back and watched her compose a complete feast in a small skillet. She reached for two plates and I fetched my camera. Dad missed out on this one, but he will be so proud.

Scrambled Eggs

To scramble eggs for a flock of friends, use 1 1/2 eggs per person. At first you may need a little practice, but pretty soon you'll be a pro! Makes 2 servings.

3 eggs

Dash of salt and pepper

Drizzle of olive oil

2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese, if you like

CRACK the eggs into a small bowl. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and beat with a fork until yellow and frothy.

HEAT a small skillet (preferably cast iron or nonstick) over medium heat for 2 minutes. Then add the olive oil and use a pastry brush to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour in the eggs.

PUSH the eggs from outside edges to center of pan with a wooden spoon, scraping eggs off sides of pan as you stir.

ADD the cheese now, if using, and stir to combine and melt the cheese.

Variations:

Jazz up your eggs with optional mix-ins. Pour the eggs into the pan, and add these ingredients before you scramble them:

Confetti Scrambled Eggs: Add 3 tablespoons diced bell pepper (1 tablespoon each of red, yellow and green).

Mediterranean Pockets: Stuff Confetti Scrambled Eggs into a whole-wheat pita half with some spinach leaves.

Traditional Ham and Eggs: Add 3 tablespoons diced lean ham.

Showy Salmon Scrambled Eggs: Add 1/4 cup chopped smoked salmon, 3 tablespoons cream cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, or crumble a leftover baked potato and quick-sauté it before adding the eggs.

Breakfast Burrito: Serve your eggs in a warm flour tortilla (preferably whole wheat) and top with guacamole and your favorite salsa. Olé!

Some notes on eggs

Eggs are one of those super-nutritious powerhouse foods, packing 6 grams of high-quality protein and all nine essential amino acids.

For a period of time, eggs were berated as the dietary enemy, but new research shows that moderate consumption of eggs does not have a negative impact on cholesterol.

My "all-things-food" mentor Michael Pollan has high praise for eggs, reminding us that "eggs are great and always were." Eggs from cage-free or, preferably, pasture-raised chickens are the best options when it comes to choosing which type; "happier, healthier" hens provide tastier, more nutritious eggs.

New urban agriculture ordinances have helped increase the number of egg farmers in some areas. Check with your local agriculture extension agent to find an egg farmer near you.

Eggs are deliciously versatile and so easy to prepare, so get cracking! And with that, may I suggest cracking eggs on a hard, flat surface to prevent tiny eggshell crumbs from getting into your dish.

April Hamilton has always said, "Cooking is fun!" She shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. April's husband and three daughters help with testing and tasting in their Charleston kitchen. April would love to hear from you: Email aprilskitchencounter@gmail.com.


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