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Recipes and Stories

19 December 2016: Simple Holiday Entertaining

Soft-Scrambled Eggs, or to put a French spin on it, Oeufs Brouillés aux Fine Herbes, are a perfect dish for intimate, impromptu entertaining.

Big Christmas parties can be a lot of fun, with their crowds of folks filled with holiday cheer (never mind that it came from a bottle), festive decorations, and endless arrays of rich, fancy party food.

But they do require a certain amount of planning and work. And as we come into the last stretch before Christmas, if you’ve not already planned one, it’s a little late to start now. That does not, however, mean that it’s too late to do anything at all.

There’s no perfect-host rule mandating that the only way to entertain your friends at the holidays is in herds. Sometimes the best kind of hospitality that you can offer at this or any other time is cozy, intimate (from two to no more than eight close friends), and impromptu.

Yes, impromptu.

It can be nothing more than asking drop-in friends to stay for supper or a spur-of-the-moment invitation to a recently widowed neighbor or lonely new family on the block. The beauty of small and spur-of-the-moment is that the only planning you have to do is make sure your pantry and refrigerator are well-stocked from the get-go with things that can be put together in a hurry or easily added to the family meal to give it a company touch and stretch it a little further.

Nothing says “I love you” like an unrehearsed “we need more time together; please stay for supper.” Or to that lonely widow or widower, “We miss you. Come on over and have some supper and eggnog with us.”

It doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, sometimes the best way to impress people is by not trying to do so. A simple dish, prepared and presented with care, will always make its mark.

This isn’t just for the next five days: the Twelve Days of Christmas isn’t merely a party song: it’s a reminder that the holiday doesn’t end on the twenty-fifth but is just getting started. You have another eleven whole days after it in which to share your home and table.

To get your imagination going, and to remind you that sometimes the best impromptu offerings are things that are a bit obvious, here’s a little something that never fails to please.

Oeufs Brouillés aux Fine Herbes

Don’t panic: it’s just soft-scrambled eggs with minced herbs sprinkled over them. But doesn’t it sound so much more festive, not to mention classier, in French?

Soft-scrambled eggs are wonderful for impromptu entertaining: they can make a light, quick supper with a nice green salad on the side when you hadn’t planned a meal, or a quick first course to stretch a family meal at the last minute. If you’re feeling flush, and are really wanting to show off, you might even top each serving with a spoonful of caviar or a few slivers of lox.

The best thing about scrambling eggs, however, is that anyone can master making them. There’s an art to it, but that art is a simple one that requires only three things (beyond good, fresh eggs): low heat, lots of butter, and patience.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as an appetizer

8 large eggs
Salt and whole black pepper in a mill
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley, thyme, chervil, or marjoram, or a combination
2-4 Toasted English Muffins (see To Toast Muffins the Old Way below), 4 pieces dry toast, or 4 split and toasted biscuits, optional

1. Break the eggs one at a time into a small bowl and then transfer each to a larger bowl. Lightly whisk them until they’re well-mixed, then season with salt and pepper and whisk to blend.

2. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch nonstick or well-seasoned pan over medium low heat. Add the eggs and let the bottom set for 15-20 seconds.

3. Begin gently stirring with a silicone or wooden spatula, pushing the eggs from the bottom toward the center of the pan. Keep stirring until soft curds form and the eggs are no longer runny but still moist and soft. Off the heat, add the remaining butter and gently stir until it’s incorporated.

4. if you’re serving the eggs over bread, toast and arrange the split muffins, toast, or biscuits on 4 warmed plates. Spoon the eggs onto the bread. If you’re serving them without it, of course just spoon them directly onto the plates. Sprinkle with herbs and serve immediately.

To Toast Muffins the Old Way: our ancestors would say that most of us nowadays do this wrong, first splitting the muffin and toasting the inside surface. The old way was to leave it intact and toast the outside on a griddle. To do it, warm a griddle over medium low heat. Add the muffins, cornmeal-dusted side down, and warm until that side is toasty, about 3 minutes. Turn and warm the second side until it’s beginning to darken. To eat them plain, split them with a fork, slather with butter, and press the two halves back together. To top them with scrambled eggs, split them open and put them on the plate inside-up and top with the eggs.

Recipe and story copyright © 2016 by Damon Lee Fowler, all rights reserved.

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