What would we be without eggs? I will argue that this simple, elegant food is more versatile and more critical to our cuisine than any other. The complex and unique protein make-up of eggs allows for tremendous culinary feats. Eggs can bind, emulsify or thicken and can render dishes fluffy or creamy or chewy.
There are many sophisticated foods that could not be without egg. Meringue, souffle, mousse, zabaglione, custard, sabayon, mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce are a few fine examples.
But eggs are also critical to more humble dishes. Most casseroles call for eggs as a binder, and most baked goods call for egg. Here’s a fun bit of baking trivia for you: when cake mixes were first introduced to the market the egg was already included in the mix in a dehydrated form. They were a failure, not because the product was inferior to those which now call for the addition of a fresh egg, but because housewives of the ’50s felt inadequate making a “just add water” convenience food. The directions were changed to require the addition of that one simple, wholesome ingredient, and the women suddenly felt that they were involved in and responsible for the resulting cake. To this day cake mix is a grocery staple. Such is the power of the egg.
I haven’t yet touched on the pure egg preparations. Fried, scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, coddled, roasted or baked, as an omelette or a plain frittata, a simple egg well prepared is a delight all on its own. Chef Michael Romano claims that French Chefs will test the mettle of a new cook by asking them to prepare eggs “sur le plat”; a deceptively simple baked egg dish which calls for no more than butter, salt, pepper and shelled eggs with yolks intact.
The ubiquity of eggs helped me very much these last weeks. My first egg dish in thinking about the blog was a variation of Endives a la Flamande, a tasty combination of braised belgian endives and hard-boiled eggs with a lemon parsley butter sauce. It wasn’t very pretty, so there aren’t any photos. But I hope you’ll enjoy these other pics, many of which are of breakfasts my lovely friends prepared during our trip to the Sasquatch music festival this last weekend.
Finally, I will add that there is a great deal of symbolism attached to eggs in different cultures. Beyond the birth and fertility and resurrection of Christ and pretty easter eggs and all that, there are some fascinating beliefs attached to eggs. Have you ever heard of Oomancy; the practice of divining the future by reading the patterns of tendrils of boiled egg whites? Or the old slavic and german practice of rubbing raw egg on your garden hoes to render your soil more fertile? foodtimeline.org (http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodeggs.html) has plenty more intriguing examples. And if you want a really juicy example, just ask Di about the Collectivo driver who likes his wife’s eggs spicy!
‘Til neggst time,