This beautiful basic is back in a big way
For years, eggs have been the subject of arguments. Eggs are good for you, eggs are bad for you, only eat the egg white, never eat raw eggs. For this quintessentially simple food, there is a lot of misinformation out there. But now experts agree with what most of us knew all along: Eggs are one of the easiest, most delicious and healthiest foods we can eat.
Inside the Shell: The Nutritional Facts
One egg has 75 calories, seven grams of high-quality protein, five grams of fat and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids.
Put an Egg On It
Eggs are ultimately versatile. Because of their naturally creamy mouth feel and fat, they add an unctuous luxury to a variety of dishes. You can put a slow-poached egg over crispy Brussels sprouts; with yuzu ponzu, furikake, basil and scallion, it becomes a whole supper. You can top asparagus with an egg, or slide one onto ratatouille. The classic presentation of beef tartare is with an egg, too.
The Chicken & the Egg
Why are there so many kinds of eggs on the market shelves? To be honest, all the labeling is more about the chickens than the eggs. Let’s sort it out.
“FREE RANGE” is a USDA term that only applies to poultry grown for meat. It has no meaning when it comes to laying hens. (Even then, requirements for the label seem misleading. If a chicken had any outdoor access at all, it can be labeled“free range.”)
“CAGE FREE” means that birds are raised with- out cages, but that doesn’t tell you much either. The chickens might still be raised indoors or in overcrowded factory farms.
“HORMONE FREE” has no meaning on an egg carton, as federal law prohibits the use of hormones on poultry. A label like this is just to make uninformed shoppers think there’s special care taken with these chickens that’s worth a higher price.
The only food label that actually has to meet specific government requirements is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic seal:
- “Organic crops cannot be grown with syn- thetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or sewage sludge.
- Organic crops cannot be genetically engineered or irradiated.
- Animals must eat only organically grown feed (without animal byproducts) and can’t be treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics.
- Animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants (hoofed animals, including cows) must have access to pasture.
- Animals cannot be cloned.”
The color of the eggshell depends on the breed of hen. Brown eggs are not more nutritious or natural than white eggs.
When you crack it open, you can tell whether an egg is fresh. If the yolk rounds up like a dome and the white stays in a close mass, the egg is fresh. If the yolk is flatter and the white runs into a puddle, the egg is older.You can still eat old eggs, but if you have the choice, use them as an ingredi- ent rather than the star.
The color of an egg yolk can range from pale yellow to deep orange—it all depends what the hen’s been eating. The deeper color is due to more carotenoids, the same stuff that makes carrots orange.
What eggs should you buy? The answer is the same as it is for most foods you eat: Local is better.
Heritage Hen is one of the gold standards locally for farm-fresh eggs. It’s certified Animal Welfare Approved—“the most stringent third-party humane standards certification.” The chickens live cage-free on native pasture grasses, foraging bugs, worms and organic nuts, organic berries and organic seeds donated by Whole Foods. Eggs are in limited supplies “since we raise heritage breeds versus production breeds.”You can buy the eggs only through email@example.com. You can harvest your own eggs or grab them from the cooler at You Farm, which also has honey bees, community gardens, sunflower fields, and greens like lettuce, arugula, kale, parsley, chives, basil, cilantro, microgreens, wheatgrass and barleygrass.
16651 Rembrandt Road, Loxahatchee, 561/315-7410.
Many restaurants and produce markets sell fresh farm-raised eggs; just ask.
Your grandmother’s deviled eggs have gone from dowdy to chic; now they’re a small-bite staple on menus all over town. The two- bite morsels are especially popular as bar food.
DRIFTWOOD deviled eggs are smoky wonders which have earned a following; no one goes here now without ordering them immediately. 2005 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach, 561/733-4782; https://driftwoodboynton.com/
YARD HOUSE serves its deviled eggs with candied bacon, spicy tomato sauce, sweet chili and chives. 201 Plaza Real, Suite 1201, Boca Raton, 561/417-6124; https://yardhouse.com/
PARK TAVERN adds sriracha, black truffle oil and grated Parmesan to its deviled eggs. 32 S.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach, 561/265-5093; https://parktaverndelray.com/
Egging you on
Today’s cooks are taking eggs beyond the breakfast fryer and all the way to the dinner table. So why don’t you?
Fried, over easy or sunny-side up, poached, scrambled, soft or hard- boiled, shirred or baked—these are the most familiar ways to cook eggs. But cooks and chefs are coming up with new ways or rediscover- ing old ways to prepare eggs all the time.
Here are some new and old favorites:
SCOTCH EGGS: Soft boil eggs, let cool and peel them. Pat out breakfast sausage into a thin sheet and wrap it around the egg. Dip wrapped eggs in flour, then in beaten egg, then roll them in bread crumbs. You can do this ahead. Fry the eggs in hot oil for five minutes or so.
BUTTER-POACHED EGGS: Melt half a stick of butter in a saucepan—do not let it brown. Slide a cracked egg into the butter and let it cook slowly, spooning butter over the egg as it cooks.
CLOUD EGGS: Separate the yolk from the white and beat the white until stiff. Place a spoonful of whipped egg white on a buttered baking sheet and bake at 450 until barely cooked. Then gently put a raw egg yolk into each mound of egg white, return to the oven and cook until yolks are barely set. Sprinkle with snipped chives, bacon crumbles, Parmesan cheese, harissa.
SMOKED EGGS: Hard boil eggs, then place them on the grate of your grill. Set it at a very low setting, under 200. Let them smoke for about 30 minutes.
WAFFLED EGGS: Beat a couple of eggs, then stir in chopped scallions, chopped mushrooms, grated cheese, diced pepper or whatever you like. Pour the mixture into a well-oiled waffle iron and cook until set.
SHAKSHUKA: This Middle Eastern dish has taken its place beside eggs Benedict as the most popular brunch dish. Here’s a basic version: Saute onions, garlic, chopped peppers and half a chopped jalapeño in oil until onion is wilted. Stir in a can of tomato paste and one of peeled tomatoes, stir well and season with black pepper and cumin, a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are too acidic, salt to taste, and maybe a pinch of cinnamon. Cook until it’s a thick sauce. Crack eggs onto the surface and let the dish simmer until the egg whites lose their translucence.