By Matt Duckor
I tend to not order eggs in restaurants. I'm not one of those food people who despise brunch. In fact, I love it. Can't think of a better way to start Sunday morning. But eggs aren't usually on the order -- I like making them myself at home and really dislike being disappointed by bad ones. So the chances of me ordering scrambled eggs at dinner basically amounts to a statistical anomaly. But there it was on the menu the other night at Casa Mono, an excellent, highly-regarded NYC tapas spot run by chef Anthony Sasso and owned by some up-and-coming-chef named Mario Batali. The menu described the eggs as "creamy" and topped with sea urchin. Against all odds, I ordered them.
The dish hit the table and, within five seconds, I realized these eggs were different. Sure, Sasso tops them with briny slivers of sea urchin that practically meld with the soft eggs into one luxuriously smooth texture. And yeah, a few glugs of high-quality olive oil along with a dash of anchovy oil (think of it as Italy's answer to fish sauce) add equal parts fat and funk. Amidst all that, though, the dish hit a bright, high note that I couldn't immediately identify. It was acid. Specifically, fresh lime juice and zest.
Fat, funk and acid all playing together nicely like kids from different backgrounds on the schoolyard. Why didn't I think of that?
"Honestly, this dish started out as something I happened to make at home," recalls Sasso. The chef had a lime in his fridge while making some late-night eggs and figured he'd give the combination a try. "Everyone salts their eggs -- no one finishes with lemon or lime juice or vinegar," says Sasso. He points out that people top poached eggs with a ton of acid, in the form of rich, lemony hollandaise sauce. But lemon juice tends to fly under-the-radar on the palate: "Everything that leaves our kitchen gets hit with fresh lemon juice." Sasso stuck with lime juice when it came time to translate his at-home experiment to a dish for the restaurant's menu, because when something has lime in it, you know it.
Intrigued? Good news: Adding acid to your eggs is easy. Start with soft-scrambled eggs. Then, building the dish in a bowl, top the eggs with a healthy pour of olive oil. Don't have access to anchovy oil like they use at Casa Mono? Add a tablespoon of fish sauce for a comparable kick. If you're able to get your hands on a tray of fresh uni, do that. If not, a wide variety of seafood will pair well here -- consider smoked options like gravlax or salmon, a few pieces of cooked shrimp or if you're feeling extravagant, a lobster tail.
All that's left is a quick squeeze of lime juice and a zesting with a Microplane. (Of course, simple scrambled eggs will benefit from the acid treatment without tricking them out Casa Momo-style, as well.) And, just like that, breakfast for dinner became a whole lot more awesome.
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