THE WASHINGTON POST – Fried eggs are Lisa Steele’s default dinner “when I don’t have anything defrosted and we haven’t been grocery shopping in a while”, she writes in her delightful The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook.
I’m with her on this. So many nights, I’ll pull a few eggs from the refrigerator and fry, scramble or steam my way to a quick, easy supper.
As she noted in a recent telephone interview from her farm in rural Maine, “An egg is almost neutral, so you can add different cheeses and herbs to them, and it will taste completely different.”
“When I was writing this book, I just wanted two chapters, sweet and savoury. I don’t like pigeonholing a recipe into breakfast or dinner,” she said.
Her theory: “Eggs are a breakfast food because chickens lay their eggs in the morning, so you go out, milk the cows, collect the eggs and so, of course, you’d just cook them up for breakfast. But I think they are great any time of the day.”
Her publisher, of course, pushed her to give the book a bit more structure, so you’ll find 10 chapters featuring Steele’s takes on classic egg dishes, such as frittatas, vanilla pudding and cheesecake, but also some unexpected ones, including a new-to-me Swedish Egg Coffee, Marshmallow Cream and a labour-intensive recipe for making your own colourful sprinkles.
Steele, who about a decade ago left a Wall Street job for farm life, takes pride in being a fifth-generation “chicken keeper”. This cookbook grew out of her popular Fresh Eggs Daily blog, which began with her chronicling her chicken-raising efforts.
In the book’s introduction, she offers a picturesque take on that farm life, explaining how she rises early and pulls on boots, picks up a basket and heads out for fresh eggs just laid in the straw by her favourite hen Miranda. That idyllic scene quickly leads into an efficient, nuts-and-bolts guide to selecting, handling and cooking eggs gleaned from the thousands of eggs she’s prepared herself.
As I read along, I found myself gleefully highlighting information I wanted to remember.
HOW FRESH ARE YOUR GROCERY STORE EGGS?
Steele said look for a three-digit number, from 000 to 365 (or 366 in leap years), stamped on the carton. That tells you the packaging date. So, if February 22 is the 53rd day of the year, you want that number as close to 053 as possible. This little nugget went viral when she posted it on social media.
Why are eggs sometimes different sizes in a single carton?
Eggs are graded by size, but they are sold by weight, she wrote. A dozen large eggs should weigh 24 ounces or an average of two ounces per egg. As long as the total weight is 24 ounces, the individual egg size may vary with some slightly larger and some slightly smaller, she writes. (The average large egg contains two tablespoons of white and one tablespoon of yolk, she writes.)
CAN YOU FREEZE WHOLE EGGS?
Steele freezes them separated and whole. To freeze them whole, she coats a flexible, silicone ice cube tray with cooking spray. She cracks one egg in each compartment and then freezes the tray. Once the eggs are frozen, she pops them out and stores them in a freezer-safe container. She defrosts them in the refrigerator and then uses them to make fried eggs, egg sandwiches and in baking.
“There are times of year you have so many eggs that you don’t know what to do with them all,” said Steele, who has 18 chickens, 10 ducks and two geese.
The goal of her blog and book is to encourage people to think about eggs more broadly in their cooking, and to buy the freshest eggs they can from smaller farms, if possible. She encourages shoppers to look for eggs labelled “certified humane raised and handled” when possible.
“I hope that they will think about where they are buying their eggs and what kind of eggs they are buying, whether they are fresher or the chickens are happier,” she said.
I tried several of her recipes, but the one I’ve made several times is the Cream-Fried Egg.
“Who doesn’t have a little bit of heavy cream left in the bottom of the container,” Steele said. “They seem so simple, but when you make them, it’s surprising how good they are.”
You swirl the cream in a skillet, crack the egg into the cream and then cook until the water evaporates from the cream, leaving just the fat, which then caramelises a bit.
Sprinkle them with fresh herbs, if you like, and serve them with a salad and toast or biscuits.
This little dish is a great example of how simple can be just right on a weeknight.
Two to four servings
The next time you’re frying eggs, skip the butter, oil or grease and reach for the cream. After simmering in the dairy, the eggs will have a creamy, tangy flavour from the cream that reduces and caramelises a bit. Serve them on their own, or with toast, biscuits and/or a salad dressed with a light vinaigrette.
The dish works well as a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner – and even celebratory brunch. It also is a great way to use up that last bit of heavy cream lingering in your refrigerator.
– Half cup heavy cream
– Fine salt
– Freshly cracked black pepper
– Four large eggs
– Fresh thyme leaves, for serving (optional)
– Toast or biscuits, for serving (optional)
– Green salad, for serving (optional)
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the cream and swirl the pan to cover the bottom. Lightly season with salt and pepper and heat until the cream starts to boil, about one minute.
Carefully crack the eggs into a small bowl and gently slide them into the cream. As the eggs cook, the cream will boil, start to evaporate and the butter fats will start to caramelise around the edges. Watch carefully, and turn down the heat if the cream begins to burn.
Cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still a little runny, five to eight minutes (a couple of minutes longer, if you want firmer yolks.)
Remove from the heat and use a spatula to separate the eggs and slide them onto plates. Scoop up any caramelised cream bits and add them to the plates.
Lightly season with more salt and/or pepper, sprinkle with the thyme, if using, and serve with toast or biscuits and/or a lightly dressed green salad, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving (one egg), based on four | Calories: 174; Total Fat: 16g; Saturated Fat: 8g; Cholesterol: 227mg; Sodium: 156mg; Carbohydrates: 1g; Dietary Fibre: 0g; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 7g