The Egg and I
By Patrick F. Cannon
I recently read all about eggs; only chicken eggs actually. As you may know, people do eat other kinds of eggs – duck, goose, quail, even ostrich; although one wonders if anyone except my son-in-law Boyd has a frying pan large enough to handle “two ostrich eggs over easy, with wild boar bacon.”
Let me immediately dispel a notion held dear by the Birkenstock-wearing crowd – brown eggs aren’t any better for you than white. Same nutrition. Ditto for blue, green, pink and red eggs. Egg color is determined by breed of chicken. I always thought all chickens were white, but boy was I wrong. It seems chicken fanciers – and it’s a growing breed – can get chickens in a wide variety of colors and feather arrangements. One supposes that if you harbored a bunch of different breeds in your coop, you would never again have to color your Easter eggs.
The more exotic colors can only be found at the local farmer’s market; or maybe in your neighbor’s back yard, as raising the birds is now de rigueur with the kind of folks who also plant corn instead of grass in front of their houses. (By the way, raising livestock on your property is legal in most communities. Hearing a “cock-a-doodle-do” of a morning may not be your imagination.)
Your local supermarket is likely to offer only white or brown eggs. Although there is such a thing as Grade B, most of those go to processing plants. There is a Grade AA, but you will mostly find Grade A. As to size, there is one called the peewee, but most of those are shipped to Ireland for sale to the little people. Most people would buy Large, Extra Large or Jumbo. Cooks tell me that Large eggs are the standard for recipes, but you can’t trust most cooks to give you a correct recipe. As for me, I favor Jumbo, because if you’re going to have eggs for breakfast, why stint?
If you want to be right with Mother Nature, by all means buy Organic eggs. They really won’t be more tasty or nutritious, but their added cost will prove you’re a good person. By the way, buying eggs from chickens who are fed only with grains and vegetables is goofy, since chickens are, like us, omnivores. When they’re pecking around on that free range, a lot of what they eat is bugs.
Whatever their grade or size, I find it best to cook the eggs. Dropping a raw egg into a schooner of beer has long been consider a hangover cure, but I find the cure worse than the disease. Boiling eggs is easy, but often doesn’t work. One method is to put the eggs in a pan with water. When the water boils, turn it off and cover. In three minutes, you should have soft-boiled eggs; six will give you medium-boiled; and 12, hard boiled. In the real world, you will get a phone call and when you hang up, notice that the water is boiling – but for how long? You see the problem? If you manage to turn the burner off in time, that’s when the phone will ring, or some idiot will ring the doorbell. While a properly soft-boiled egg is heaven itself, it’s as rare as a hen’s tooth (ha ha!).
Unless you have one of those gizmos that does the job for you, avoid making poached eggs at home. Most breakfast restaurants will do a decent job with them, particularly with Eggs Benedict (named after the saint who favored them of a morning). Another thing to avoid at home is the omelet, unless you’re more than normally coordinated.
Everyone should at least know how to fry and scramble eggs. Do not give into the temptation to fry them with left over bacon fat. You have made bacon to eat; why would you want your eggs to taste the same? Butter is the only fat you should use for eggs. Some would argue for olive oil, but do you really want your eggs to taste like olives?
Eggs should be cooked at room temperature, unless you live in Greenland or England. The reason should be obvious, unless you’re a knucklehead. I find that people overcomplicate when ordering or cooking the standard fried egg – up, over easy, over medium, over hard. If an undone or not quite done egg white makes you queasy, the answer is simple: cover the eggs with a lid while cooking, checking occasionally until the whites are done to your satisfaction. Turning the eggs over to cook the whites is really beyond the capability of most home cooks.
There is only one acceptable way to scramble eggs. Break the eggs into a bowl. For every two eggs, add a tablespoon of heavy cream; or two tablespoons of whole milk. Beat with a whisk (or a fork if your kitchen is too small for a whisk). Turn on the fire under a non-stick frying pan. When hot, add a generous dollop of butter. When melted, add the egg mixture. With a spatula, keep moving the eggs around until done to your satisfaction (not too dry, for heaven’s sake).
I know people who will splatter hot sauce on their eggs. They might just as well eat gruel.
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon