There's something very comforting about the symbolism of Easter. The perfect oval of an egg. Strong, self contained, smooth and cool in the hand. Eggs are my ultimate food of tradition, comfort, and memories:
Dyeing Easter eggs with my younger sister on a newspaper-covered table, ending up with streaks of dye in our hair and on our hands.
Making Provençal devilled eggs for parties and baby showers.
Watching my mom whip egg whites into a frothy mound for our unshakeably traditional Christmas dessert of my great-grandmother's snow pudding, to be swathed with eggy custard.
Salivating as the waitress sets down in front of me a plate of challah toast, poached pears, greens, and eggs over easy. That first bite of egg yolk on buttery, eggy challah is pure heaven. And the ritual of Sunday brunch--the walk, the coffee, the paper, the friends--is what I call jokingly, but not really joking at all, my church.
Crunching into my grandmother's ethereal chocolate-chip meringues after one of our wild and crazy family dinners, which usually involve at least one instance of milk-out-the-nose hysterical laughter, and sometimes interpretive dance.
Waking up on a Sunday morning to the sounds and smells of bacon sizzling in the pan, coffee gurgling through the filter, and my dad perfectly frying eggs. Eggs are a food I always associate with my dad--from him, I inherited my "desert-island-if-I-was-forced-to-eat-one-thing-forever food" love of eggs on toast.
Being sick as a child and wanting something both nourishing and comforting, and then being served soft boiled eggs with toast soldiers--what we always called dippity doo eggs--by my mom.
Along with the shape, it's the dipping part of eating eggs that I love the most. Normally it's toast I'm dipping, but today I wanted something a bit lighter, something to evoke the symbolism of spring and growth that's everywhere on Easter weekend. I'd read about asparagus dipped into soft-boiled eggs, in Nigella I think, but I'd never tried it.
What a mistake.
It was, perhaps, the most gloriously simple and simply delicious thing I've eaten in a very long time. Completely uncomplicated. Completely familiar. But in combination, absolutely divine. I sautéed the asparagus over very high heat with lots of salt and pepper and a bit of oilve oil (here's Laura Calder's take on the technique--it tastes almost roasted), and the salty, caramelized edge on the asparagus made the yolks taste eggier than eggy, and the play of creamy against crisp was luxurious. With a side of slightly blackened cherry tomatoes, it was the perfect lunch to usher in Easter weekend and the promise of spring ending her long tease and arriving to stay at last.
It also helps that my egg cups are super cute.
Dippity Doo Eggs with Asparagus Soldiers and Blackened Cherry Tomatoes
Two free-range eggs
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
If your eggs are fridge cold, place them in a pot and cover with cold water; bring to a boil and boil for 1 3/4 minutes. If your eggs are already room temperature, add them to the water once it is boiling, and boil for the same amount of time.
Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan with the olive oil over very high heat; when the oil is almost smoking, add the asparagus in one layer, turning frequently as each side caramelizes and blackens slightly. Season well with salt and pepper, and remove to your plate when tender-crisp.
Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan and sauté, shaking the pan occasionally, until just heated through and beginning to blacken and burst.
Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon immediately when the timer rings. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, lop off the tops with a heavy knife or egg topper, and set into egg cups. Serve with a small spoon for eating the egg whites and a fork for the tomatoes. The asparagus, you eat with your hands. If you want to get really fancy, you can wrap the stems in translucent slices of prosciutto as a sort of salty-sweet edible napkin.