I really like the jingle the Egg Board is using to promote eggs, “The incredible, edible egg.” Not only is it catchy, it’s true. No other single food is such a complete package, literally and nutritionally. Milk in any form is close, but it doesn’t come in a neat, sterilized container. One that packs a wallop of nutrition, it turns out.
Have you noticed that, on the nutrition front as elsewhere, what goes around comes around? This is particularly true of the much-maligned egg. Warnings such as “Don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched” and,” don’t put all your eggs in one basket” have been joined by “one to two eggs per week, max, for heart health.” The yolks are the main culprit because of their high cholesterol content. Now studies have finally proven that they are not bad for you when eaten with the white, which contains high amounts of lecithin, counteracting the cholesterol in the yolk. This theory was around decades ago, but only recently re-examined and found to be true. In addition, eggs are low in calories, cheap, and supply ample amounts of vitamins B2 and B12 as well as vitamin K. The minerals supplied by eggs—selenium and choline—protect against cancer and improve brain function. If that weren’t enough, eggs are among the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, whose importance to our health has only recently been rediscovered.
Wild bird eggs must have been one of the first foods early man learned to use. They were relatively easy to obtain, and as we’ve been saying, so nutritionally dense. The package allowed for short storage periods as well. The domestication of fowl, around 2500 BC ensured a more reliable supply. The springtime is the most plentiful time for eggs, so it is easy to see how they became synonymous with Easter, the renewal of life and hope.
I left the egg’s versatility in cooking for last but definitely not least. “All cookery rests on the egg. The egg is the Atlas that supports the world of gastronomy.”—Henry Stacpoole (British author and gastronome). If you doubt that, think about how many different recipes call for eggs. And how many different ways there are to cook them: fried, scrambled, poached, baked, basted, shirred, coddled, hard boiled. Here’s a fast, easy, elegant and different recipe to try:
Elegant Champagne Eggs
1 fennel bulb
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups champagne
One-half teaspoon salt
2 Tbsp. butter kneaded into 2 Tbsp. flour
1 ounce shredded Swiss cheese
Cayenne pepper (optional)
6 toasted and buttered French bread slices or English muffin halves
White pepper to taste
Finely mince shallots and fennel bulb by hand or in food processor. Sauté in 2 Tbsp. butter slowly in skillet about 8 minutes; do not brown. Add champagne. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time by slipping them carefully into the simmering sauce. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes until yolks begin to look opaque. Remove from pan with slotted utensil to plate and cover. Turn heat up and boil mixture until it reduces about a third (takes about 3 minutes). Strain. Discard solids and clean skillet. Return sauce to skillet and add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn to medium heat. Add the butter-flour mixture to pan and stir constantly until mixture is smooth and thickened. Place one egg on each toast or muffin half, cover with sauce, sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. Swiss cheese and dust with cayenne pepper. Serve.
This week when you are dying your eggs, consider my Latvian mother-in-law’s recipe. When she lived with us, she taught me to dye them this way. They’re truly beautiful and something different to delight the children or grandchildren. You will need:
Spring flowers and leaves
Onion skins, purple and yellow
Layer flowers and leaves on eggs in attractive patterns. Wrap in onionskin and then in clean layer of cloth, twisted and tied with twine. Ease into boiling pot of water and boil gently for 8 minutes. Let cool and unwrap. Dry completely and buff with vegetable oil.
Of course, you can use the traditional methods of food colors to dye your hard-cooked eggs. One idea to dress them up is wax-resist. Just use a crayon to draw designs or personalize the eggs when they’ve cooled to room temperature. Submerge in dye, let dry for 10 minutes and they’re done. My kids loved to marbleize the eggs—also easy. Dye them any color; prepare another bowl of dye (different color) to which you’ve added 1 tablespoon cooking oil. Run a fork through this mixture, creating swirls. Place dyed egg in and roll it once around to pick up the oil streaks; remove and blot with a paper towel (gently). Let dry for 30 minutes.
Now, what to do with all those leftover hard-cooked eggs? In addition to your egg salad sandwiches and plain eggs as snacks, peel four or five and immerse them in a jar (mayonnaise size) of pickled beet juice. You can leave the beets in there, too, if you want to. Leave them in the refrigerator for at least 3 days and you have a Pennsylvania Dutch treat.
We’ve only scratched the surface of egg lore and cookery. The Egg Board should find a cute way to say, “The incredible, nutritional, economical, symbolic, edible egg.”