There's a simple way to enhance virtually any savory dish: Put an egg on it.
Traditional cooks have long practiced this trick: The great French salad frisee aux lardons is nothing more than a poached egg draped over a bed of bitter greens that have been tossed with pieces of bacon. In an authentic bowl of Japanese ramen, an egg graces the rich broth along with noodles, meat and vegetables. The national dish of Colombia, bandeja tipica, features grilled beef, pork rind, sweet plantains, avocado, rice and beans, and corn cakes. But it is incomplete until surmounted by a fried egg.
Now, New American chefs are getting in on the act, and eggs are showing up in all sorts of new guises.
"I love them because they're so versatile," said Eric Lomando, chef-owner of Kitchen A Bistro and Kitchen A Trattoria in St. James and Orto in Miller Place. He fries eggs, poaches eggs and sometimes subjects them to a battery of techniques. "I love to do a six-minute soft-boiled egg, then take it out of the shell, bread it and deep-fry it. It turns out crisp and creamy at the same time."
Over the summer, Lomando served that crisp egg on a bed of stewed peppers. For fall, he's offering a sunny-side-up egg on a savory hash made of sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Instead of bacon, he's using Speck, the Italian smoked ham. "The egg just ties everything together," he said.
"I put eggs on everything," said Greg Ling, executive chef at the Riverhead Project in Riverhead. "There's just nothing like the yolk for smoothness, richness, creaminess. And it's comforting. Somehow, it always reminds me of growing up." Ling usually has some egg-topped dish on the menu. Right now, it's a ragout of duck sausage and wild mushrooms with ricotta gnocchi. Ling makes the rosemary-infused sausage himself with ducks from Crescent Farm in Riverhead. At the last minute, the dish gets a duck-egg hat.
At Hendrick's Tavern in Roslyn, chef Joseph Maulo serves a linguine Zsa Zsa with a fried egg that smiles up at the diner from a tangle of homemade pasta. "It's a kind of deconstructed carbonara," he said. "Instead of mixing the egg in with the linguine and the pancetta, we just put it on top. Then, people can mix the yolk in as they eat. They love it."
Maulo also has a hit with one of Hendrick's appetizers, deviled eggs, which are impossibly creamy and topped with surgically snipped chives. "A couple of years ago," he said, "people weren't that into eggs. But eventually everything old is new again."