Slow-scrambled egg tapas with mushrooms

This dish, which makes an impressive and delicious tapa or passed hors d'oeuvre, is deceptively simple and easy to make. It was inspired by a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, The New Spanish Table, whose author -- Anya von Bremzen -- credits Barcelona chef Carles Abellan (Comerç 24) with having created the dish. Anya suggests presenting the eggs -- scrambled slow with the mushrooms and spooned into egg shells -- in a cardboard egg carton that holds six eggs. "It never fails to bring smiles to people's faces," she writes, "making an adorable little tapa." I'm lucky enough to have an even nicer serving piece: a lovely ceramic egg carton my friend Michalene brought me as a gift from South Africa.

It's pretty easy to empty the egg shells. Just hold an egg, pointed side up, in the palm of your hand, invert an empty spice bottle on top of the egg and hold it firmly in place with the thumb and forefinger of the same hand. With your other hand, give the bottom of the bottle a sharp whack with a heavy wooden spoon, and as Anya explains in her book, "the shock will create a crack around the top of the egg." If it doesn't, try again. Sometimes the crack will only go partway around the egg. If that's the case, rotate the egg and whack the other side. Remove and discard the top of the eggshell and pour the egg into a bowl. Rinse the eggshell under warm water and let dry upside down. 

For the mushrooms, use either all fresh wild mushrooms such as chanterelles or morels, or interesting fresh cultivated ones, such as beech or hen-of-the-woods or shitakes, or a combination of interesting mushrooms and cultivated ones, including button mushrooms or crimini.

Makes 6 tapas

6 large brown eggs

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 large shallot, peeled and minced fine

6 ounces fresh mushrooms -- either a mixture of wild ones and criminis or button mushrooms, or all wild ones, or interesting cultivated mushrooms such as beech or hen-of-the-woods -- trimmed and roughly chopped

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

4 ounces white vermouth or dry white wine

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

1 tablespoon sliced chives for garnish

Freshly ground white pepper

Prepare the egg shells, placing four of the eggs in a small bowl and reserving two for another use. Set aside. Whisk the eggs together with the salt and set aside. 

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium sauté pan over low heat. Add the shallot and cook it slowly till soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook over medium-low heat until they are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the type of mushroom. If you're including button mushrooms or criminis, let them cook until they release their liquid and reabsorb it, so their texture is silky rather than spongy. 

Increase the heat to medium, add the vermouth or wine and cook, stirring, about two minutes, till the liquid evaporates. Stir in the parsley.

Add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the pan and reduce the heat to low. When the butter is hot, add the eggs and let cook for about a minute over low heat till the mixture just starts to set. Add the rest of the butter, stirring it into the eggs, and continue cooking -- stirring almost constantly -- until they look like soft-scrambled eggs that are still very moist. Add white pepper to taste and more salt, if necessary.

Use a small spoon to divide the mixture evenly between the egg shells (working quickly so they don't cool down). Garnish with the chives and serve immediately.