Baking with yogurt sauce keeps egg whites tender

Recent news reports of a nationwide egg shortage have renewed my household’s long-standing debate over backyard chickens.

As everyone with a few square feet of space behind their tract homes seemed to be raising chickens, my husband, Will, held firm in his stance that a flock is not in our future. Forget that our home sits in a semirural setting on a half-acre. Forget that our kindly neighbor (Will’s mom) would gladly install the coop and all its infrastructure on her property.

Forget, more recently, that our 2-year-old son likely would delight in helping to feed the hens and collect the contents of their nests, thereby supporting his one-a-day-organic-egg habit. None of those factors have dissuaded Will from the belief that chickens are noisy, messy and easy pickings for predators.

Predictably, it took the testimonial of one of Will’s firefighter friends to soften his stance. Mark’s measured enthusiasm, also predictably, came with a play-by-play of converting a prefabricated metal shed into a coop, adding automatic feeding and watering systems and safeguarding the run with a fence of landscaping cloth.

Will’s uniquely unpredictable response? “Let’s make chickens next year’s project” (!)

Until then, I’m crossing my fingers that grocery-store rationing of eggs doesn’t come to pass. If so, there’s always local Craigslist sources for farm-fresh eggs, even at premium prices.

Worst case scenario, we can limit our consumption to dishes that show eggs at their best, with tender whites and runny yolks intact. This recipe for baked eggs (also called shirred eggs) gets a flavor boost from an onion-y yogurt sauce and a liberal dusting of sumac.

The latter is one of my favorite spices for accenting white foods or light-colored foods, such as feta cheese, sour cream and, indispensably, hummus. A friend’s trip to the Middle East provided me with a generous supply of this ground fruit, which has a bright, tangy flavor.

Paired with buttered toast, this dish isn’t just for breakfast. Add a green salad for a simple, rustic brunch or dinner.

Tribune News Service photo

Baked Eggs With Spinach, Yogurt and Sumac

2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Big handful baby spinach leaves

8 large eggs

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon grated sweet onion

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 slices good bread, for toasting

Ground sumac, for garnish

Arrange rack in center of oven preheated to 375 F. Set a large kettle of water to boil.

Generously brush 4 (6-ounce) ramekins with some of the melted butter. Line bottom of each dish with 1/4 of the baby spinach. Crack 2 of the eggs into each dish.

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, onion and salt with a tablespoon of water to make a sauce similar in consistency to heavy cream.

Spoon a couple tablespoons of sauce over egg whites in each dish, avoiding yolks so they will stay a lovely bright yellow. Season each egg with a pinch of salt.

Place ramekins on a 2-inch-deep baking dish and place dish in preheated oven on center rack. Fill pan with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of egg dishes, taking care not to get any water in eggs. Bake eggs for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until whites are cooked and yolks are still bright yellow and jiggle when shaken. Toward end of baking time, toast and butter the bread.

Remove baking dish from oven and carefully remove each ramekin from hot water, drying off ramekins. Drizzle eggs with more melted butter and dust with the sumac. Serve immediately, placing each hot ramekin on a plate with buttered toast.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen” by Maureen Abood (Running Press, April 2015, $30)

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