What do I have to offer as a family food blogger? At the end of fifty-two weeks I’ll have a Koch family recipe book! That would be helped by other family members sending in their best recipes. You send them in. One at a time. I’ll make them and add comments.
As a blogger, I also should sift through the deluge of information available on food today for interesting articles and arcane tidbits of information. You could find this stuff out yourself, but why bother? And I can tell a few personal stories that may amuse you. Today I’m looking at eggs.
I once raised chickens at 7,500 feet in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. They are easy to raise. They provide a lot of food. The hens give you eggs and the roosters go into the soup stock. All except one, of course. Watching a flock of chickens tells you a great deal about flocks of people. Weak hens get pecked to death and a rooster can pick up a hen’s come-on from across the barnyard. It’s not a nice world, but a flock of chickens is a good metaphor for one side of human nature, I’m, afraid.
My chickens were raised free range. I had a roost for them at night in a barn they shared with a mule I used for plowing. During the day they roamed the barnyard and ventured out into the fields, keeping a wary lookout for their two predators, coyotes and hawks. We never lost a chicken to either, but I came upon this juicy tidbit on a cooking blog.
“In Ghana they dye all their chickens shocking pink which stops the birds of prey as they don’t go for anything shocking pink… I don’t know how they dye the birds though… so not sure if this is humane or not, but its very funny seeing shocking pink chickens all over the rural villages.”
I grew up next to a working farm in New York State. We had fresh milk, butter and “free-range” eggs in abundance. My mother loved cooking with eggs. We had eggs every day for breakfast and many nights in puddings for desert. We had cheese soufflés and Yorkshire Pudding, eggnogs and homemade mayonnaise, eggs cooked and eggs raw. Here’s a recent statement from my CSA on the importance of chickens on their organic farm.
“THE ROLE OF LIVESTOCK ON OUR FARM “We are primarily a vegetable, fruit, and flower farm. We adamantly free-range the 200 laying chickens we now have, believe that humane treatment of farm animals is the best moral path for people in our profession, and publicly and privately argue that factory livestock production is a travesty in every sense and should not even be called “farming”. We are much closer in ethics to the animal rights advocates than to those who defend concentrated animal feedlot operations. But we also believe in the ancient agricultural tradition of integrating small numbers of animals with many acres of pasture and vegetable production. Our hens eat all the crops that aren’t pretty enough or fresh enough for our human customers. Our hens supply small amounts of manure that we spread in the winter to help the next season’s tomato plants thrive. Our hens eat lots of insects and grubs, many of which would otherwise eventually find the crops. And our hens provide eggs of amazing quality to our family and to many customers. We ask any potential new CSA members who are closer to the PETA position than are we to refrain from arguments that oppose farm animals.” Brett Grohsgal, of Even’ Star Organic Farm.
Eggs and Health
My reading suggests that an egg a day is okay for anyone. Eggs are a miracle of energy and vitamins, their reputation somewhat tarnished by high levels of cholesterol. But a study published in Mother Jones reports that eggs from free range chickens have: ¼ less saturated fat, 2/3rd more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times vitamin E and 7 times more carotene. Eggs also are one of the few food sources with naturally occurring vitamin D. Free range eggs have 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as your typical commercially grown egg. Read more at:
Recipes – Eggs are fast and easy to make.
Hard boiled eggs – If you are taking eggs directly from the refrigerator, put them into a saucepan and cover generously with cold water. This should keep the shells from cracking as they gradually heat up. Cook them over a medium-high heat until the water begins to boil, then reduce the heat to keep the eggs simmering and cook for 12 minutes. When the eggs are done, plunge them into cold water and keep them there until the eggs cool completely to room temperature. This usually ensures that the eggs are easy to peel. Start at the flatter end and crack by tapping the egg on a hard surface. With luck, the shell will come off easily.
A bowl of hard boiled eggs sat on the counters of most bars in American once, a free food provided to drinking customers. Eat hard boiled eggs with salt and freshly ground pepper. They are great in a lunch bag, as a quick snack or even an emergency breakfast!
Fried Egg Sandwiches – breakfast on
the run. – This is my savior on many a morning. Put a small dab of butter in a pan and when the pan is hot add the egg. Fry on one side and turn over. Puncture the yolk and add salt and pepper to taste. When the yolk is almost firm, put the egg on a piece of bread and return to the pan. Add another piece of bread on top. Brown on both sides, put the sandwich on a paper towel, and run out the door. You can eat it in the car!
Deviled Eggs – my mother called them. A popular party food. Cut the eggs in half on the long side. Pop out the yolks and put them in a bowl. Add enough mayonnaise to moisten, and smush it all together. (Some people use sour scream, but I think it overwhelms to eggs) I start with a fork and end with a scraper that lets me pulverize the small pieces. Eggs have a wonderful affinity with anchovies, so I always add a few dashes of fish sauce and then salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the yolk mixture back into the egg whites and sprinkle with cayenne pepper or paprika for a colorful dish. You can add many different ingredients to the yolk mixture to take it up a notch.
- Curry powder is a standard.
- Crab meat makes this a very elegant dish.
- Dry Mustard (just a touch)
- Chicken Liver Pate
- Chopped ginger and cream cheese
- Smoked salmon
- Roquefort cheese
- Fresh herbs
Poached Eggs – The right size saucepan is essential. The eggs should fit in with a small amount of space between them, not stacked on top of each other. Crack open the eggs and put them into a bowl with a little water at the bottom, This will keep the eggs from sticking, Bring the water to a boil and swirl with a spoon. This will help the eggs form a nice shape and keep the eggs from sticking to the surface of the pan. Gently slip in the eggs. Keep the heat high until the water boils again. Some white albumen will appear on the surface of the water. Skim it off and reduce the heat but keep the pot at a low boil. The eggs are done when the whites are firm and yolks are runny. Serve on toasted bread. My mother would lather the bread with butter. I fry up a thin slice of ham and put it on the bread as a healthier butter substitute. Please don’t use margarine!
Shirred Eggs – or baked eggs. Another of my mother’s favorites and still a staple in our house. You want to make these in small, shallow ramekins. I use the same kind my mother did. They are dark brown, five inches across with about an inch lip. Put the ramekins into the oven with a small dab of butter and pre-heat the oven to 320 degrees. Remove the ramekin, spread the butter evenly over the bottom, and put in one or two eggs. My mother would pour a tablespoon of heavy cream over the eggs. I put in a generous tablespoon of Greek yogurt instead. Sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of capers and season with salt and pepper. You can also add chopped, cooked spinach or greens around the edges. Return to the over and bake until the whites are solid and the yolks are still runny, about twelve to twenty minutes.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the marvelous egg. Next week, more egg recipes. Let me know if you have a favorite or are looking something specific!