I used to know a woman who started every workday of her adult life with a fried egg on toast. I admired the commitment to actually eating breakfast, but I’m not one for that predictable a routine. The only way I could eat a fried egg everyday is if I changed it up somehow. You too? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve all heard the trick about using bacon grease to fry eggs but how many people actually fry up rashers on a weekday morning? (Actually, if you’ve made your way here, probably a lot of you.) But there’s a lot you can do to jazz up a fried egg, whether it’s going on toast or not.
None of the following suggestions will take too much time, or extra effort considering you have about five minutes to get dressed, dry your hair, check the weather, find that work folder, and make yourself a decent breakfast, which, by the way, you deserve. Here, some ideas for upgrading your eggs not because you have to, but because you can.
Eggs fried in breadcrumbs
Still dog-eared in my copy of the Zuni Café Cookbook is Judy Rodgers' recipe for Fried Eggs in Breadcrumbs. I’ve had that book for at least 15 years and while that recipe has always been in the back of my head I’ve never actually made it. But that’s the thing about the best recipes: They inspire without requiring one to follow them to a T.
Here’s how you do it: Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in your cast-iron skillet or favorite egg pan (I know you have one). When it’s shimmering and hot, add a nice, even layer of breadcrumbs. They can be panko, Progresso, or your very own fresh homemade. Scootch them together so they’re roughly the size of a fried egg, about 4–5 inches across. Crack an egg on top and cook to your liking—until the white is set for sunny side up, or flip for over medium. For extra credit you can add some chopped fresh herbs to the crumbs.
Eggs fried in flavored oil
The pimenton-fried egg is one of the Canal House gals’ great contributions to food. You heat a tablespoon of oil (per egg) in a hot skillet, add a pinch of smoked paprika (per egg), and swirl around until fragrant. Crack the egg in there and fry to your liking, spooning some of the auburn oil over and around. That’s a great idea, especially alongside a split toasted baguette rubbed with garlic and tomato (mouth actually watering here).
Just as easy would be adding a pinch of madras curry powder (per egg) and serving with warm, buttered naan. Try some whole cumin seed cut with a bit of sesame seeds for an egg with texture. A little Chinese five-spice powder would be nice if that egg were destined for a bowl of leftover steamed rice, topped with sliced scallions and a little chile oil.
What else? Fresh herbs certainly work. Pop a sprig of marjoram or thyme, or a couple fresh sage leaves in the oil until sizzling, push them to the edge of the skillet, then add the egg. That fried herb sprig infuses the oil and makes for very nice Instagram photo, too. And don’t forget the old workhorses shallot and garlic. A few slices of either—or both—would make a delightfully savory egg if that’s your a.m. inclination.
Frico fried eggs
I have recently found that my most honest cravings tend toward the kids’ menu, so it’s no surprise this egg, fried on top of a layer of crispy melted cheese, is my favorite. It’s a similar approach to Eggs Fried in Breadcrumbs: Heat a tablespoon of oil until shimmering, add about two tablespoons of shredded or grated cheese (per egg) to the center of the skillet. When it starts to melt, crack an egg on top. Fry to desired doneness and flip as you like. I prefer yellow cheddar for this (See? Kids’ menu.) but Parmesan, pecorino, or Gruyere are all great choices. I just had a vision of one of these beauties floating on top of a bowl of tomato soup, but perhaps that’s more of a brunch dish. Your call.
I admit this is not really weekday-morning friendly but I have to include it. No secrets, no special tricks, it’s just a deep-fried egg. Heat a couple of inches of neutral-flavored oil—that’s canola, vegetable, safflower, etc.—in a heavy bottomed medium pot to about 350° (but I know none of you are going to dig out the thermometer for this so just heat over medium until a little piece of bread dropped in the oil sizzles, but doesn’t go crazy). For safety’s sake, crack an egg into a small bowl and then gently tip it into the hot oil. This will prevent a hot oil splash, and your mom thanks you for taking caution. Fry the egg until golden, using a slotted spoon to gently coax the white together like a poached egg. Use that same slotted spoon to transfer the fried egg to a paper towel lined plate, and season with salt and pepper. Serve however you like, toast or no toast, but the Deep Fried Egg is a great way to slay new sleepover buddies as well as hangovers.
And if you just want a simple egg on toast, fried to your liking, by all means, do your thing. I just want you to be informed, and eat breakfast.