News for Glenview "The Glen"
Pioneer Press – April 1, 2010
Egg-cellent idea: Strata as centerpiece of an Easter brunch
Imagine Easter without the egg. Not just the pastel-colored, hunt-for-it-in-the grass variety of egg; or even the chocolate Easter egg. Imagine Easter brunch or Easter dinner without any eggs at all.
“Certainly there are people who don’t eat eggs because of dietary restrictions,” said chef and caterer Lauren Absler of Ooh La La Kitchen and Bake Shop in Highland Park. “But it would make a huge difference in the way I cook and bake.”
We can certainly thank eggs for omelets and scramblers, but also for many cream sauces, souffles, crepes and even meatloaf. And let’s not forget the desserts-cakes, cookies, sweet breads, pies, meringues — the egg is a crucial building block of Western cooking. There’s a reason Julia Child devoted an entire chapter in Mastering the Art of French Cooking to the humble egg.
“Legend has it that the French toque worn by chefs have 100 pleats,” Absler said. “That is to represent the versatility of eggs and the role of eggs in cooking.”
If anyone knows eggs, it’s Jon Steinberg, who manages the Egg Harbor cafe in the Glen. Those at the Egg Harbor restaurants serve up eggs all day long, in just about every fashion imaginable, from Eggs Benedict with crab cakes to French toast casserole.
“Every kid grows up eating scrambled eggs,” said Steinberg, who also teaches children’s cooking classes, “but I show them different ways to prepare an egg, like basted eggs, poached eggs and then we show them frittatas and omelets.”
Eggs also hold special meaning for Christians at Easter, who see them as a symbol of how Jesus broke out of the hard walls of the tomb and was resurrected to new life. Orthodox Christians traditionally paint their eggs red to remind themselves of the blood Jesus shed on the cross before he was raised to new life at Easter.
And when it comes to the celebratory Easter meal, Absler recommends her Strata with Brie and Fresh Herbs, which has long been a favorite for brunches. Similar to a bread souffle, Absler’s strata is a savory concoction of bread, cheese, herbs and ham. One of the most important ingredients, of course, are the eggs, which give it body and height.
“In terms of it being a centerpiece for an Easter brunch, it’s very springy,” Absler said. “It’s got chives, tarragon and other flavors so you have the earthy flavors of spring to contrast with the very rich flavors of the eggs and the brie.”
But if you want to keep it simple this holiday, why not consider an easy omelet topped with grated cheese and grilled vegetables?
“It doesn’t have to be over easy with bacon,” Steinberg said. “Think outside the shell.”