When it comes to family, you should never play favorites. Actually, you shouldn’t have favorites! Should I feel guilty then, that I favored my grandfather over my grandmother? In regards to their eggs, that is.
There are endless recipes and foods that my Nana made, that I wish for often. When I’m making her red sauce, and the whole big pot is simmering and spurting over the stove and I smell that oh-so-familiar garlicky, savory goodness, I miss her. When I’m rolling up “scapels” (something I’ll tell you about later, I promise), stuffing them with salty bits of Romano cheese and cracked peppercorns, I can picture her hovering over the stove, covered in flour. But the food memory that snaps me back to pigtail braids and sparkly jellies like no other is probably the simplest and easiest to prepare.
I’m a big fan of eggs for breakfast: omelets, frittatas and soft-boiled on bread. But no eggs, not even my Nana’s peppers and eggs or her dippy eggs with toast, can compare to my grandfather’s crispy chile eggs. This is partly due to the fact that they are completely delicious (who doesn’t love crispy, crunchy fried things?) and partly because the man never cooked, in my time anyway, except to make breakfast for me and my sister once in awhile.
When B and I had sleepovers at their house, it was my Nana’s joy to cook for us. Come to think of it, I hardly remember her stepping foot outside the kitchen the entire time we were there. In order to make his special breakfast for us, my grandfather was forced to wake up at the crack of dawn to get first dibs on the stove. He didn’t make it there every time, but I was elated when he did!
My mom makes these for me, now. Although they look and taste identical to his—the whites fluffy and crisped, the whole thing spicy and salty—they are not quite the same. I miss watching my grandfather at the stove, quiet and unhurried, much like I knew him in life. I can still picture the ever-perfect silver wave in his hair and the look of mischief in his green eyes, pleased that he had won the Battle of the Eggs that morning. Yes, those eggs are definitely my favorite.
I doubt my mom would care to know that I still think his are the best; I think she thinks so, too.
These eggs are cooked in an abundance of olive oil. Don’t be turned off; just don’t eat them everyday! And no skimping, either. The egg whites won’t get their signature lacy browned edges with just a splash of oil in the pan. Take a deep breath, close your eyes if you must, but POUR that oil in!
Also, the oil gets HOT and it does splash, so wear safety goggles if you must or perhaps just use a small sauce pot instead of a sauté pan. That should help keep the bubbling oil contained. I just use a frying pan, take a step back from the stove and cross my fingers.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Whole Dried Chiles
Eggs—you can cook as many as you like, but no more than two at a time for a small pan or four at a time for a large pan.
Heat the oil over medium high heat until it reaches its smoking point, (I should mention here, that it would be a good idea to turn on the vent fans and open the windows). When you crack the eggs into the oil they should immediately start bubbling. If they don’t, it means the oil is not hot enough and you will just end up with an oil-soaked mess. If that happens, remove the mess, let the oil heat longer, and crack a new egg.
With a heat resistant spoon, begin spooning the hot oil over the eggs. You may need to tilt the pan for this; think, basting a turkey!
As the eggs brown, take a few chiles, maybe one per egg or to your liking of heat, and crumble them into the pan over the eggs. Continue spooning the oil over the eggs until the edges look fluffy and browned and the yolk has not quite set (any longer and the whites will turn rubbery). Remove from the pan, chiles and all, and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with some crusty Italian bread, preferably studded with giuggiulena, just like my grandfather would have done.