With the onset of spring, hens have an abundance of weeds and grass to peck at, creating egg yolks the hue of marigold. From farm chalkboards screaming “eggs, eggs, eggs!” to neighbor’s backyard coops, fresh local eggs are available around the Island and can be found at many Island grocers. (Be on the lookout for quail and duck eggs).
A year ago, I was on my way to Europe, where I spent two months traveling, cooking, working on farms and eating lots of yummy food. One thing that immediately stuck out to me was the European reverence for eggs. Eggs were elevated from what I thought of as a humble breakfast food to the main attraction of many dishes.
In Lyon, France, I sampled salade Lyonnaise, a salad made with croutons, lardons, and poached eggs; and oeufs cocotte au St. Marcellin, creamy coddled eggs with St. Marcellin cheese. In Modena, Italy, I was made a simple frittata for dinner the first night I arrived, and learned how to make glossy fresh pasta from the golden yolks of the eggs from the chickens in the backyard. The list continues, with pastry cream, semifreddo, and finally tortillas Espanola at my last stop, Barcelona.
When I think that I don’t have any food left in my fridge, I usually have eggs. Many a night I find myself eating fried eggs over toast, poached eggs broken into a salad, or eggs mixed with pasta or rice. There is something comforting about eggs, knowing exactly what you are going to get. As a child, when I was feeling under the weather, my mother would make me pastina, the little star shaped pasta, with egg and parmesan cheese.
What other food can you have cooked to your personal preference in so many ways? Scrambled, over easy, sunny side up, fried, poached, coddled, hard or soft boiled — the list goes on. Eggs are one of the most difficult foods to perfect in all their incarnations and are also one of the most versatile.
In many cultures, it is common for eggs to top off the dish, such as the Korean rice dish bibimbap, and anything “a lo pobre” in Chile. The trend can also be seen in many U.S. restaurants, topping burgers with fried eggs.
One of my favorite uses of eggs is stir-fried. A quick fried rice can be made from leftover rice fried with egg, garlic, onion, soy sauce, and any vegetables, seafood, or meat that you have on hand (topped with a tiny bit of sesame oil). I also like to make noodle dishes, with softened rice noodles sautéed with egg, vegetables, soy sauce, and oyster sauce topped with fish sauce, lime, and cilantro.
For a quick preparation try:
An omelet, French toast, croque madame, egg in a hole, egg sandwich (try with a toasted Orange Peel Bakery baking powder biscuit), egg salad, deviled eggs (myriad of preparations and flavors), poached egg over salad, grilled asparagus with fried or poached egg and parmesan.
Baked egg dishes:
Bread pudding (sweet or savory), strata (a savory Italian bread budding), frittata, tortilla Espanola, quiche, egg pie.
More dishes with eggs:
Fried rice, pad Thai, rice noodle dishes.
Shakshouka, a Middle Eastern stewed egg dish, eggs in purgatory, eggs simmered in a fiery tomato sauce (serve with polenta), oeufs en restes “eggs in leftovers.”
Avgolemono, a Greek lemon, rice and egg soup; and Asian egg drop soup.
More uses for eggs
Use up extra egg yolks with: Pastry cream, pasta carbonara, lemon curd, chocolate mousse, pudding, crème brulée, ice cream, Caesar salad dressing, mayonnaise, hollandaise, béarnaise, homemade pasta, sabayon or zabaglione, crème anglaise.
Yolks can be frozen, but the texture tends to deteriorate. For best results, add a pinch of sugar or salt to the yolks before freezing.
Use up extra egg whites with: Macaroons, meringue, marshmallow, soufflé, angel food cake, baked Alaska, pavlova, frosting, semifreddo, financiere, omelets. Or try a classic cocktail made with egg whites such as a Ramos gin fizz, pisco sour, or an original whisky sour.
You can always use up your extra egg whites in beauty remedies such as an egg white mask or hair conditioner. Or freeze extra whites for later use. Try freezing in ice cube trays. A large egg white is about two tablespoons and weighs 25 grams.
Tips for cooking
It is best to boil eggs that are not very fresh. It makes them easier to peel.
When frying eggs, cover with a lid to cook evenly.
For poached eggs, put a little vinegar in barely simmering water. Swirl the water, making a whirlpool as you slip the egg in.
A quick test for freshness: place an egg in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs stay at the bottom of the bowl while older eggs float to the top.
Combine leftover egg whites with salt to create a crust to cook fish.
6 egg whites
2 1/2 cups of kosher salt
Scaled, cleaned and gutted whole fish (try striped bass)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking dish with parchment paper. Rub fish with olive oil. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks, fold in kosher salt. Spoon 1/3 of egg mixture lengthwise on baking sheet, place fish on top, and spoon the rest of the mixture over fish until completely covered. Bake 15-20 minutes until the crust is solid.
Break open and remove salt crust. Served with olive oil, lemons, and sea salt.
Please note: consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness.