March 2010: Your Kitchen

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Eggs are in fashion, and in season

 

Eggs were a symbol of springtime, fertility, and rebirth long before Christianity sanctified the celebration of Easter. Our modern Easter Bunny is a hybridization of two older harbingers of spring—the notoriously prolific bunny and the neatly packaged egg, literal and figurative symbol of life. The yolk of an egg has also been likened to the sun, which overtakes and outshines nighttime hours beginning at the spring solstice, on or around March 21—perhaps not coincidentally, right around Easter. 

Modern egg production is inextricably linked to the sun. As daylight hours and temperature increase, hens put their energy into creating the next generation—or the next omelet. 

Eggs serve to thicken and bind sauces, to leaven baked goods, and a custard simply is not a custard without an egg. On the table they are synonymous with breakfast, but also appear in salads and salad dressings (classic Caesar dressing is made with raw yolk), prepared spreads like mayonnaise, fresh pasta and pasta sauces (carbonara, for one), soups, and even the occasional drink. In short, eggs are a miracle tool and a terrific source of nutrition—if they are produced properly. 

There is a profound difference between the “battery” egg and the “free range” egg. Battery eggs are produced in chicken houses, notorious for overcrowded conditions and highly processed, corn and soy-based feeds. The resulting eggs are pallid in color and flavor, with an inferior nutritional profile to boot. On the other hand, chickens that roam outdoors and enjoy a varied diet (like bugs, worms, grass, and other vegetable roughage) produce eggs with higher nutritional content, most notably a balanced ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. The true proof is in the pudding, as they say, because higher quality eggs boast a rich, velvety flavor and a sunny, orange-yellow yolk color.

Central Virginia is still steeped in the rural tradition of backyard poultry, and even Charlottesville City residents are fighting for their right to keep chickens at home. Good eggs are easy to find, and even the highest priced, highest quality eggs ($6 per dozen retail, at last price check) are delivering great flavor and a clean conscience at 50 cents per egg.

 

Pull your quiche out of the oven while there’s still some jiggle in the middle, as the eggs will continue to steam themselves firm. 

Perfect frittata and quiche

The frittata is a simple, frugal Italian solution for leftovers—cooked potatoes, savory bits of meat, cheese and some fresh herbs and dinner morphs into lunch. The secret to delicious frittata (and quiche) is to have your filling items all warmed up and ready to go, including seasoning with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs, before the egg mixture is poured over top. If your filling is exuding any moisture be prepared to drain it prior to final assembly—that moisture will adversely affect the consistency of the finished product. 

A quiche is baked entirely in the oven, while a frittata is started stovetop and then finished in the oven, often under the broiler. In either case, pull out your egg-stravaganza while there is still some jiggle in the middle, as the eggs will continue to steam themselves firm.

Our kitchen columnist, Lisa Reeder, is a chef and local foods advocate and consultant. Read more about her at http://alocal notion.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Stovetop Egg Tech 101

Crack eggs into a small cup rather than directly into the pan or pot—this makes it possible to slide eggs into a hot pan, or to extract pieces of shell if necessary.

BOILED EGGS

Cook time after eggs in water come to boil:

Soft Cooked: 1-2 minutes 

Medium Cooked: 3-5 minutes

Hard Cooked: 10 minutes

Choose older eggs, and chill after cooking, for easier peeling of hard boiled eggs.

FRIED EGGS

Sunny Side Up: low heat; eggs are not flipped, but cook until white is completely set but yolk is still soft and runny.

Over Easy: medium heat; eggs are flipped and taken immediately off heat; yolk is soft and runny.

Over Medium: medium heat; eggs are flipped and cooked briefly until yolk is mostly set.

Over Hard: medium heat; eggs are flipped and cooked until yolk is completely set.

Soft Scramble: medium low heat; beaten eggs are gently stirred in pan until just set and still tender.

Hard Scramble: medium low heat; beaten eggs are gently stirred in pan until all moisture is gone.

POACHED EGGS

High heat; eggs are gently dropped into simmering water (just before boil) until just set, then pulled out with slotted spoon. A dash of vinegar in the poaching water will aid in keeping egg whites together.

Pull your quiche out of the oven while there’s still some jiggle in the middle, as the eggs will continue to steam themselves firm.

 

 

 

 

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