Empty Nest Eggs

Last Thursday, a week and a half before we dropped off Daughter Number 1 at college, Andy and I found ourselves in a not-unusual position as the parents of teenagers: There would be no kids eating dinner with us — both had plans. I wouldn’t normally care, but with the clock ticking down to their Departure Days, each missed family dinner — one of the only times in the day when we’re guaranteed to lock eyes with our girls — felt like mini tragedy. But we only have four more dinners with them! I whined, before Andy looked at me and said right back, “Let’s have eggs.”

I’m guessing that most empty nesters are excited about making travel plans without consulting the school calendar; or RSVP-ing to an event without considering anyone else’s schedule; or going right to sleep at night instead of lying awake wondering whether or not their kid is a) safe and b) gonna blow curfew again.

Not us! 

I am not kidding when I say that one of the things I’m looking forward to the most about this new chapter is the fact that I can fall back on eggs for dinner. Anyone who has spent a second reading Dinner: A Love Story this past decade knows that I have one child who can sorta maybe tolerate a frittata if the stars have aligned, and another child who shows up in the kitchen wearing a balaclava if she so much as sniffs a hard-boil, a scramble, a sunny side up. This has made things a little annoying for an Olympic-level egg lover like me, who — you might’ve heard — has made a commitment to eating more vegetarian dinners. How many nights have I wanted to fall back on a spinach-and-cheese omelet when I just need something meat-free on the table fast?

Well, it’s the dawn of a new era. Pretty soon — after Daughter Number 2 leaves in a week or so — I’ll be able to eat scrambled eggs or any kind of eggs for dinner any night I want to. I think all of this must’ve been in the back of my mind when I wrote The Weekday Vegetarians because one of my missions going in was to come up with exciting, dinner-worthy egg recipes that felt just a little more special, or intentional, than, say, eggs on toast. This pizza is a good example of that. So are Migas tacos, a traditional Spanish or Portuguese egg dish that incorporates stale bread or tortas, and was probably the first thing that came to mind. Anyone who has ever been to Austin—famous for its Mexican-style migas made with tortilla strips—knows the strange and magical chemistry that happens when you take five seemingly basic ingredients (eggs, cheddar, jalapeños, tortilla chips or strips, onions), cook them low and slow, then stuff it all inside a soft corn tortilla with hot sauce. They can be otherworldly—the tender eggs, the fresh tortillas, the deep blue Texas sky canopied over the picnic table while you eat them! Wowowowow. It’s not quite the same eating them at my suburban New York kitchen table, but it’s pretty close.

Still, as good as all that sounds, somehow any day of the week, I know I’d sacrifice my dinner eggs for even just a few more rounds of chauffeuring the girls all over the county or negotiating the mountain of cleats and Birks and Chuck Taylors in the foyer with a weed wacker or staying awake, stressing about past-curfew arrivals. Is it possible that I even find myself getting sentimental about the tough parts, like that time my daughter was not invited to the New Year’s Eve party and we spent dinnertime in tears trying to work through it? Eh. Maybe not so much, but I think you know what I mean.

Migas Tacos
From The Weekday Vegetarianswhich will be out in four days!!
When we made this last week, we served with rice and refried black beans and made our Salsa Fresca with the most unbelievably sweet yellow cherry tomatoes. Definitely try to find some peak-season heirloom-y type tomatoes — it will take the tacos from good to great. 
This recipe, along with the sides shown, is gluten free.Serves 4 (recipe can be halved)

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (olive or vegetable oil if dairy-free)
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 large eggs
1 cup crumbled tortilla chips
2/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (omit if dairy-free)

Serving

Salsa Fresca (below) or store-bought salsa
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Hot sauce
Lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Wrap the tortillas in foil and place them in the oven, for at least 5 minutes and up to 15 minutes. Set a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the butter and, once it melts, stir in the onion, jalapeño, and some salt and pepper. When the vegetables are soft, after 2 minutes, spread them out evenly across the surface of the pan. Reduce the heat to low.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, tortilla chips, cheese, salt, and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the onion mixture and stir gently until the eggs are cooked but still tender (or until scrambled to your liking). Remove the tortillas from the oven and unwrap them. Distribute the eggs evenly among the tortillas and top with Salsa (or salsa Fresca), avocado slices, and cilantro. Serve with hot sauce and lime.

Salsa Fresca
In a small mixing bowl combine the following:

2 1/2 cups finely diced fresh tomatoes (the freshest you can find), preferably heirloom, with juices
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1 small garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
2 tablespoons finely minced sweet white onion
1/2 small jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dash of hot sauce (or to taste)

Salsa only gets better as it sits in the fridge and the flavors mingle, but if you don’t have time, it’s still great.

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Photo by Christine Han; food styling by Olivia Mack McCool.

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4 Comments

G Mulholland

I saw someone online recently call it “roomy nest.” 🙂 We have two college kids (senior who is at our local Cal State and lives at home— no debt! and sophomore at a small private school in St. Paul, MN), a high-school sophomore who wants to follow his parents to UCLA (go Bruins!) aaaaaaand an 8-year-old, who keeps us young. So our nest is still hopping. But when we hit “chapter 3,” as this stage is called by our friend whose second and last child is going off to school this year, I will really get rolling on all the tasty international foods our two picky youngest aren’t thrilled about. Also, excited to get your book! Our local indie bookshop preordered it for me.

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Lynn

This sounds delicious…eggs being my favorite food source. Food here in Toronto is very ethnically diversified so I’m sure this would go over well with all my very grown up children.

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Holly

Hi, I tried making these after being disappointed with the last migas recipe I made. Can you clarify what the tortilla chips add? They don’t really have any texture that they add, and we basically can’t tell they’re there. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks for any advice

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