After a long and painful molt, our chickens are laying again! I thought I’d celebrate with a revision of an old blog on how to best enjoy the fruits of their labor.
My mother was not the greatest of cooks. Sorry Mom…and so I always thought that a hardboiled egg had these grey chalky centers only worth feeding to the dog or throwing in the compost bin. Now that I raise my own chickens I know this isn’t true. It is so far from the truth that I have come to know that one of the greatest pleasures in life is the quiet enjoyment of a well-cooked, farm fresh egg. Those sunny yellow, firm centers are heaven sent!
FARM FRESH EGGS COME FROM HAPPY CHICKENS
Here, at Stony Ridge Farm, we have about 50 layers. They are mixed heritage varieties of hens that lay brown, green, pink and blue eggs. A dozen of our eggs is as pretty to look at as yummy to eat. We feed them generously with local feed from New Country Organics. Their coop is roomy, safe from predators, and has access to a large chicken run. They live with Cagney and John Deere, our Tennessee Fainting Goats.
THE LOST ART OF COOKING WITH FRESH INGREDIENTS
Now, you may think that you know how to cook a fresh egg, but I tell you that most Americans are so far removed from fresh whole foods that very few people know how to cook an egg. As a matter of fact, I was working with a local chef at a farmers’ market who complained that my eggs were too fresh and the yolks too large. They were going to have to go back to white eggs from the super market. No response was adequate to the scene. Sigh…we local producers have a long way to go in educating our market.
There are many resources for those of us learning how to get the most flavor and nutrients from local foods. My favorite is Alice Waters of Chez Panisse restaurant. After reading her first cookbook and then experimenting on my own I have come to the following process to create the perfect hardboiled egg. I hope you try it and then report back on your experience!
THE PERFECT HARD BOILED EGG
You will need one dozen local eggs, fresh water, and an ice bath. If you can, buy a dozen fresh, local eggs and set them in the fridge for a week before following this method. Fresh eggs have a strong membrane under the shell that makes them hard to peel. This little bit of preparation will remedy that problem.
Place your eggs in a stainless steel or enamel pot, cover them with cold water, place on the cooktop and bring to a rapid boil. This allows the eggs to rise to the same temperature at the same time. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let steam for 9 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pot and place directly into an ice bath. Let rest for another 10 minutes. Peel and enjoy, maybe with some J.Q. Dickinson salt!
THE PERFECT FRIED EGG
Use a 6’’ cast iron skillet. Place over a medium flame and place a tablespoon of fresh butter in the pan. As soon as the butter has melted enough to cover the pan (while the pan is still relatively cool) break the egg into the center. Once the white begins to set, gently move the egg over the butter with a spatula to ease any sticking. Then, shake the pan to gently move the egg around the pan and replace back on the flame. When the white is firm and the yolk is not, shake the pan and then flip the egg. (Don’t worry, you’ve got this!) Salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the flame and let the egg get to the firmness you prefer and then tilt the pan to ease the egg onto the plate.
While you may be tempted to plate this egg on some very nice toast, but I recommend trying it over a fresh lettuce mix with a touch of balsamic vinegar.
Now, I’m hungry!