A “mess” that’ll make you clean your plate


A springtime interpretation of "huevos rotos," minus the heavy meats. (Edward Schneider for The Washington Post)

The dish consists of potatoes cooked with onions and, often, ham or chorizo or other sausage, slid onto a plate and topped with a couple of eggs fried sunny-side-up in the same onion-scented fat. You break the yolks, and the yellow theoretically oozes out like the points of a star, hence the dish’s more fanciful name, huevos estrellados — “starry eggs.”

Some people, like Jackie and me, prefer to cut up the eggs and stir everything into a mess. It’s really the best way to eat it.

In spring, another great dish is spaghetti with asparagus and leeks (or onions) topped with a fried egg and, yes, mixed into a mess — but a different, perhaps more elegant, mess.

Our first visit to the farmers market after a couple weeks of vacation yielded sweet spring onions and snappy asparagus that needed no peeling. The ingredients got me thinking about both those dishes, the common points being onions and fried eggs with runny yolks. We had a fresh loaf of excellent bread in the house, and I really wanted to use it to mop up that yolk, so pasta (while not out of the question) was pretty much off the table. And there were no usable potatoes in the house — much less at the late-May market.

The best way to take advantage of our market basket and to maximize the character of the produce, then, was to make a meatless, potato-free variant of huevos rotos: onions, asparagus and eggs with no ham or chorizo (or even herbs) to mask their flavors.

The spring onions were nice and plump; the bulbs were more than an inch across. For the two of us, I sliced four of them — just the white/reddish parts, saving the greens for another day — then got them started in olive oil and salt in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over low heat. While they were softening, I rinsed a generous bunch of asparagus. I used the tips and the upper half of the stalks (the rest went into fried rice the next day), cut into pieces about 1 1/2 inches long. When the onions were soft, I added the asparagus, drained but still damp, and seasoned and cooked them over medium-low heat until they were as I wanted: with a bit of crispness, but recognizably cooked.

I arranged half on each of two warmed plates, toasted a few slices of bread and fried eggs two at a time in the same skillet with additional olive oil, making sure to keep the yolks liquid while cooking the whites through. I seasoned them well and slid them onto the asparagus-onion mixtures.

This we attacked with our knives and forks, demolishing the eggs and plowing them into the vegetables. Every forkful was bathed in viscous egg yolk — in effect, a sauce — yet every forkful was its own unique mix of asparagus, onion and egg white. No flavors were hidden — and what delicate springtime flavors they were!

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