According to French culinary folklore, the 100 pleats in a traditional chef’s hat (toque) indicate the number of ways to prepare an egg that a skilled chef should master. While the precise number of possible preparations is open to debate, the multifaceted applications of the egg are widely heralded by professional and amateur cooks alike. “Eggs are one of the most incredible ingredients you have in the kitchen,” says Luxembourg-based private chef Leonardo De Paoli. “They are so versatile —they can be a dish by themselves, or part of a dish and you don’t even know they’re there. Savory, sweet…you could have a whole menu made of eggs.”
Affordable and packed with protein, the indispensable egg is a perfect partner for cheese. “They are natural allies—they bring out the best flavor and texture in each other,” says New York-based cheese chef and ACS CCP Rachel Freier. “Think of a classic cheese soufflé: perfection!” The following preparations bring pairing possibilities to new heights.
Eggs in Purgatory
The name of the Neapolitan staple uova in purgatorio, or eggs in purgatory, likely alludes to the red pepper flakes that heat up this dish. The simple-to-make combination of eggs cooked in a fiery tomato sauce on the stovetop is enhanced with the unconventional addition of cheese. De Paoli suggests adding chunks of aged provolone or zesty Gorgonzola Piccante, then finishing in the oven. “The Gorgonzola Piccante has a funkiness and a more complex spiciness compared to that of the red pepper flakes in the sauce,” he says.
A cheesy riff on this classic is a surefire way to up your appetizer game at your next party. In her version of deviled eggs, Rachel Freier loses the typical mayonnaise and mustard, and instead mixes in a ripe, gooey cheese like Harbison with the hard-boiled yolks. “Harbison has the consistency of mayo, with a lot more flavor,” she says. “Those mustardy and spruce notes add another dimension.” Other earthy, mushroomy, bloomy rinds also work well here. No salt is necessary; add an optional touch of paprika or cayenne pepper to the yolk mixture to taste.
Hollandaise is a hallmark of this decadent brunch favorite, but swapping it with a cheesy sabayon adds complexity (to make your own, see recipe below). De Paoli’s go-to sabayon cheese is Pecorino Romano because of its sharp and salty flavor profile. “You have this very refined dish, but now there’s a wild punch to it,” he says. Any hard, aged cheese with a robust flavor will shine in this rendition as well—experiment with Alpine-style wheels such as Roth Grand Cru Reserve.
Pecorino Romano PDO + eggs benedict
Roth Cheese Grand Cru Reserve + eggs benedict
Savory Sabayon: Whisk 2 yolks and 3 whole eggs in a metal bowl, along with 2 tablespoons of fortified sweet wine and 1⁄3 cup of grated cheese. Continue whisking over a double boiler until the mixture is thick and frothy (a thermometer should reach about 150°F).
ON THE MENU: Curio, New Orleans
“A brunch burger with Gruyère and a fried egg. Since Gruyère is such a good melting cheese, when the egg yolks burst, it creates a saucelike texture that’s salty and nutty—it really enhances the flavor of the burger.” — Steven Marsella, culinary director
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