Published in Flavours Magazine, Spring 2007
Published in Flavours Magazine, Spring 2007
Take an egg.
If it wobbles, it is raw.
If it spins like a top, it is hard boiled.
Long before well dressed rabbits started hiding eggs on Easter morning, the egg has been a symbol of spring. With images of fertility and the magic of new life, it is a fitting image for this time of year.
Eggs really are quite magical. An egg can thicken liquids, making custards, sauces and soups. An egg and expand in volume manifold times to build sponges, meringues and soufflés. An egg can emulsify oils to make liquids into thick rich spreads and sauces. It can clarify stocks and consommés. An egg can bind solids for burgers, pates, casseroles. Mix it with cream cheese and sugar, you have cheesecake. Mix it with flour, you have pasta. An egg can be cooked hard or served soft. You can fry it, bake it, poach it, boil it or serve it raw. Ever deep fry an egg? Believe me it’s cool.
The egg is an essential ingredient in almost every chef’s pantry. The 101 pleats on a chef’s hat are symbolic of all the ways a chef should be able to cook an egg. By the late eighteenth century the French had recorded 635 ways to cook eggs. Eggs are used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Eggs are enjoyed on their own, but are often essential ingredients in the preparation of other dishes. Cakes benefit from their ability to hold air, mayonnaises and hollandaise rely on the emulsifying properties of their lecithin, and consommés depend on their skill at clarifying liquids. Even many old style cocktails are made with an egg in the mix.
I personally think an egg can make almost anything better. It is not by accident that Bobby Flay poaches or fries and egg on every Iron Chef America competition he is on. Rest a poached egg on your chicken livers, your hamburger or steak, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, even a salad. If you are making a pizza, crack an egg into the centre of it before you bake it. For a really great club house, sandwich a fried egg between the layers. Use egg yolks to enrich your white sauces. To take French toast to a new level, mix the yolk with milk to dip your bread, then whip the whites into a meringue. Top your fried French toast with meringue and finish under the broiler. If a recipe is good, adding an egg will make it egg-cellent!
Try this, make a simple linguine dish with some smoked salmon, green onions and maybe some green peas or tomatoes. Poach an egg and put it on top. Or this, heat up some salsa in a frying pan. Maybe add a little ham or spicy sausage. Crack a couple of eggs in the pan and cook. Add a little grated cheese. Wrap in a tortilla, quick and easy huevos rancheros. Bring a pot of consommé (home made or store bought) to a boil, and serve into warmed bowl. Crack an egg into each bowl and cover with a plate. Wait 3 minutes for the egg to poach. shave a little parmesan cheese, or other sharp cheese, and crack some black pepper on top. For variations on mayonnaise, try making a remoulade sauce or a sauce gribiche with hard boiled egg. There are dozens of things you can try.
Helpful hint for peeling hard boiled eggs? Add a lot of salt to the water when boiling the egg. It won’t effect the taste, but will make the shell come off much easier and cleaner.
When buying eggs, you really should try to buy good quality eggs. Ideally, you have a few hens in your back yard. If not, make friends with a farmer. When buying store bought eggs, look for free-run, organic or omega-3 eggs. I personally like the Vita or “Nature’s Farm” eggs. A good egg doesn’t cost that much more, but you will find they will have a better colour and more flavour. A good egg will even whip up to greater volume. “What’s the difference between a brown egg and a white egg?” people often ask. “the colour.” So always use the best and freshest eggs you can find.
When it comes down to it, you really can’t beat an egg. Just talking about it, whips me up into a frenzy. All yolks aside, I could fill a photo albumen with egg dishes I have created. And that’s no egg-zageration. So get cracking, shell out some coin, buy a dozen and enjoy. I am sure you will be egg-static. Come on, don’t be chicken, try something new. It will be like a feather in your cap. Is my punning making your brain feel a little scrambled? You know, you are right. Un oeufs un oeuf. So I will stop this silliness and leave you with some recipes.
1 ½ oz gin
½ oz apple jack or apple Bacardi
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz grenadine
1 egg white
Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass
Garnish with a maraschino cherry
Duck Egg custard with Morels in a rice noodle nest
4 duck eggs (can substitute large chicken eggs, but why?)
1 cup heavy cream
¼ lb chopped morels (fresh, or rehydrated dried)
¼ cup white wine (sauv blanc)
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
¼ pkg rice vermicelli
¼ cup canola oil
- Using a knife, crack off top of each duck egg, keeping shells intact.
- Pour egg into bowl. Carefully remove yolks from egg and put in separate bowl. Whisk yolks lightly. (use whites for another recipe)
- Sauté morels and garlic in butter in small sauce pan. Add white wine and reduce. Add cream and heat until just scalding.
- Whisk hot cream into egg yolk, a little at a time.
- Using little cookie cutters, small bowls or ramekins stand egg shells up in a casserole dish. Pour egg mixture into egg. Fill casserole dish, ½ way up the eggs with water.
- Bake eggs in a 350F oven for 30-40 minutes (custard will be firm but still jiggle a little)
- For nests, soak rice noodles in water to soften. Arrange noodles in small nest shapes. let air dry. Heat oil in heavy skillet until just smoking. drop rice noodles in oil. They will poof up very quickly. remove from oil and let drain on paper towel
Presentation: Place a nest on each plate. If you are feeling fancy, use a bay leaf branch to make the nest look like it is in a tree. Place duck egg in noodle nest. Serve. (If you feel really fancy, shave a little black truffle on top, or top with caviar.)
Asparagus Salad with “béarnaise poached” egg
This takes the traditional béarnaise sauce ingredients and re-configures them to create a yummy topping for a spring asparagus salad.
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 head butter lettuce
1 bunch chives, cut into 2 inch pieces
¼ lb manchego (or other firm, medium sharp cheese) cheese cut into 2 inch matchsticks
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp paprika
3 tbsps olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
- In boiling salted water, blanch asparagus. Chill in ice water.
- Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.
- Toss asparagus, chives and cheese together with vinaigrette.
- Arrange butter lettuce leaves on plate. top with asparagus mixture.
“Béarnaise Poached” Eggs:
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup minced shallot
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp salt
2 cups water
- Combine vinegar, wine, shallots and seasonings in small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce by half.
- Add water and return to a boil. Carefully drop eggs into boiling liquid and poach until whites are firm but yolk are still soft.
- Remove eggs from liquid and place on top of asparagus salad. drizzle a little liquid on top of salad.
Baked Egg with Ham, gruyere and spinach
6 thin slices of whole wheat bread, crusts removed
6 slices good quality ham
6 slices gruyere cheese
1 lb spinach
salt and pepper
- Grease a 6 cup muffin container
- Spread slices of bread with mustard. line each cup with one slice of bread, mustard side up.
- Line each piece of bread with one slice of ham
- Wilt spinach (in frying pan or microwave) and squeeze out excess liquid. place a spoonful of spinach on top of ham.
- Crack and egg, and place on top of spinach.
- Place slice of gruyere on top of egg.
- Bake in a 450F oven for 15 minutes. Egg white should be firm, but yolk still soft.
- Garnish with a dollop of mayonnaise and fresh chopped parsley.