The Main Menu: Easter brunch calls for eggs

The egg is a wonderful package. Packed with nutrients, easy to digest, simple to prepare, an essential ingredient in numerous dishes and inexpensive, it is a staple on the grocery list. However, at Easter the egg becomes a star. As a symbol of new life, it is decorated and becomes an integral part of celebration breads and desserts, often the centre piece on celebratory tables.
For Easter Brunch, the egg is indispensable. These are just two recipes to showcase the excellence of the egg.

Ham and Egg Pie
A wonderful make-ahead brunch dish, this is also a tasty way to use the leftover ham at Easter. The cheddar cheese pastry is delicious, but if you are pastry challenged, do not let the thought of making pastry deter you from trying this dish. Simply substitute pre-made pastry shells and brush the bottom layer with the mustard as the recipe suggests. Serve the pie with your favourite fruit chutney or chili sauce, a salad and hot rolls. Yum!

Cheddar Cheese Pastry:
2 cups (500mL) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) cold butter
1/4 cup (50 mL) shortening
1/3 cup (75 mL) cold water
Ham and Egg Filling:
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
4 cups (1 L) chopped, cooked smoked ham
6 eggs
Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C). Spray 9 inch (23 cm) preferably pyrex pie plate with baking spray. In mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut butter and shortening into flour mixture until it becomes a fine crumb mixture. Sprinkle water over flour and stir in until it starts to clump together. Using hands, form dough into ball. Divide into two parts making the bottom a little larger as it will require more dough.
Using the pie plate as a template, roll dough out between two layers of waxed paper rolling the dough a little larger than the pie. Carefully remove one layer of waxed paper; invert the pastry into the pie shell and gently remove remaining waxed paper layer. Ease pastry down into the pie. Brush bottom of the pie shell with mustard. Sprinkle the pie with half of the chopped ham. Make six indents around the edge of the pie at equal spaces to hold each of the eggs. Carefully crack the eggs into these indentations. Sprinkle remaining ham over eggs. Roll out remaining dough to fit the top of pie and remove one layer of waxed paper; invert pastry over pie and gently remove remaining waxed paper layer. Trim and crimp edges. Cut slits in the top of pastry to allow steam to escape and brush with a little mixture of egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk (egg wash) which will give pastry a lovely golden brown sheen. Bake at 425˚F (220˚C) for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350˚C) and continue to bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. May be made the day before; cover and refrigerate. Warm at 350˚F (180˚C) for 20 to 25 minutes before serving the next day.

Egg Crostini with Sauteed Mushrooms
This recipe is the inspiration of John Taylor, executive chef at Domus, a kitchenware store and restaurant in Ottawa. I thought it was so delicious, I wanted to adapt it for home but ideally for only two people at a time.
2 thick slices of fresh French or Italian bread, toasted
1 lb (500 g) assorted mushrooms, cremini and brown
2 tbsp (25 mL)    each, butter and olive oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) dry sherry
1/4 cup (50 mL) good balsamic vinegar
1 cup (250 mL) watercress or other fresh greens
Fresh black pepper
Chili sauce
Preheat oven to 300˚F (170˚C) and place dinner plates in oven to keep warm. Toast bread and place in oven. In frying pan with stove set to medium high; heat butter and olive oil. Stir in mushrooms and sherry; stir fry mushrooms over medium-high heat until mushrooms have given off their juices and liquid has evaporated. Meanwhile heat non-stick pan over medium high heat and break two eggs into pan. Sprinkle a little water into pan; cover with lid and cook eggs until whites set but yolk is still soft about one to two minutes (depending on your stove and pan). Arrange slice of toast on each of two plates dividing mushrooms between each plate piling them on the toast with a sprinkling of mushrooms on edge of plate for garnish. Gently lay egg on top of mushrooms; grate pepper over egg. Drizzle plate with balsamic vinegar, garnish with the chili sauce and fresh greens. Consume with gusto immediately!

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