People have been eating eggs since the dawn of the human race. As far back as time can be traced, eggs have been a staple in the human diet. In historical times, ancient Romans at peafowl eggs while the Chinese enjoyed pigeon eggs and Phoenicians dined on ostrich eggs. Today, quail eggs have become a featured gourmet food in the United States as well as Japan.
Although ostrich and chicken are the most common, plover, partridge, gull, turkey, pelican, duck and goose eggs are consumed daily across the globe. Turtle eggs, although controversial in the United States, are highly prized in other areas of the world. In situations where starvation has been an issue, even alligator eggs have been relied upon for a healthy source of sustenance.
Eggs symbolically embody the essence of life. People from ancient times endowed them with the mystical power to create life. They became the symbol of birth and were believed to ensure fertility. They also came to symbolize rebirth, longevity and sometimes immortality. Some myths likened the egg with the sun. Together they were said to be the source of all life as the universe was hatched from an egg.
Eggs are laid with a thin film around them that creates a perfect barrier, preventing them from being porous. This coating keeps water and oxygen in while keeping bacteria out. In America, the act of washing them before selling has been perfected over the years to prevent the spread of salmonella. Washing eggs before selling them in Britain is illegal because it removes that essential outer coating.
The tradition of selling eggs by the dozen can be traced to Elizabethan times. No one is certain why the number of 12 eggs became the standard at that time, but the argument had been made that eggs should be sold by weight because eggs are not all created equal. Those who produce eggs take this into account. Therefore, eggs are now sized, graded and sold accordingly.
In America, the most popular eggs are chicken, duck, and ostrich eggs with chicken being the most common. The poultry industry began the separation of chicken eggs by size and grade. This has made recreating recipes much easier for bakers. Before the grading standard, recipes listed the weight of the eggs instead of the number of eggs to be used in a recipe. Today eggs are conveniently separated by size and then graded. Separation by size puts them into categories ranging from small (18 oz.) to jumbo (30 oz.). Grading the eggs tells the consumer how perfect (AA) or imperfect (B) the eggs are in the carton.
The color of eggshells varies from olive green to blue or white. Most American grocery store shelves are filled with white shelled eggs. This is because most factory farmed eggs are laid by Leghorn chickens. Leghorns are an easy choice for factory farming because they tolerate the crowded conditions better. Different breeds of hens will lay a variety of colors. The color of the shell is determined by the genetics of the hen from which it was laid.
Just like the color of the shells can tell you about the genetics of the bird, the color of the yolk can tell you about the diet of the hen. If you crack open your egg to discover a dark yellow yolk, the hen was probably fed green vegetables. A medium-yellow yolk would indicate a diet of corn and alfalfa while a light-yellow yolk could be the result of eating wheat and barley. Neither the shell color nor the color of the yolk changes the nutritional content of the egg.
Different birds lay different sized eggs. The largest egg from a bird is the ostrich egg. It takes two dozen chicken eggs to equal one ostrich egg, and one ostrich egg can weigh anywhere from 3.5 to 5 pounds! This large egg packs an average of 2000 calories, 144 grams of protein, and 120 grams of fat. It is not likely that any one person can fully finish one ostrich egg in a single sitting, but if you would like to tackle one, it takes about 40 minutes to hard boil one egg.
Duck eggs are a little bit more difficult to translate into chicken egg recipe counts as they vary in size and content. The rule is generally one duck egg to one chicken egg, unless the duck egg is considerably larger. Then, the exchange would be one duck egg to two chicken eggs. Duck eggs are higher in protein, calories, fat, vitamins and minerals, and dietary cholesterol. Duck eggs also have a slightly different flavor that can be considered gamey to those who are used to eating only chicken eggs. Duck eggs are favored in cakes and baked goods as they make a fluffy batter that leads to a lighter texture for cake recipes.
Eggs are loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and many more trace nutrients. A large egg contains only 77 calories with 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of high quality protein. One egg also boasts all 9 essential amino acids. They are rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5. Egg yolks are one of the few foods that are a natural source of good quality vitamin D.
The 6 grams of high-quality protein packed into one little shell is why eggs remain popular as a favorite choice for breakfast. A breakfast packed with that kind of protein helps sustain mental and physical energy throughout the day.
Choline is a micronutrient that is also found in eggs. Choline promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. It’s also key in the development of memory function.
The only thing that limits you with the cooking of an egg is your imagination. To help you we have listed a few amazing recipes to get you started.
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the crème brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the crème brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the crème brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped (about a half cup)
1-15 ounce can whole or crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1/2 of a 6 ounce can diced green Anaheim chiles
Chipotle chili powder, adobo sauce, or ground cumin to taste (optional)
4 corn tortillas
4 fresh eggs
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
To make the sauce, sauté the onions in a little olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Once the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes and their juices. Add chopped green chilies. Add additional chili to taste, either chipotle chili powder, adobo sauce, regular chili powder or even ground cumin. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and let simmer while you do the rest of the cooking, stirring occasionally. Reduce to warm after it has been simmering for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste if needed.
Prepare the tortillas: Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high, coating the pan with the oil. One by one, heat the tortillas in the pan, a minute or two on each side, until they are heated through, softened, and pockets of air bubble up inside of them.
Fry the eggs: Using the same skillet as was used for the tortillas, add a little butter to the pan, about two teaspoons for four eggs. Heat the pan on medium high heat. Crack four eggs into the skillet and cook for three to four minutes for runny yolks, more for firmer eggs.
Assemble and serve: To serve, spoon a little of the sauce onto a warmed plate. Top with a tortilla, then a fried egg. If desired, top with more sauce and sprinkle with cilantro.
Quiche with Asparagus and Ham
Pie Crust Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons cold water*
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups leeks halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup asparagus with tough ends removed
8 ounces of thinly sliced ham
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese or gruyere cheese
Pie Crust Instructions
Combine flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle with water and blend until mixture holds together. Shape the dough into ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Line a 9 x 9 square baking dish with the pastry. Turn edges under and crimp as desired.
*Add 1 additional tablespoon water as needed.
Quiche Filling Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium. Add the sliced leek and sprigs of asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook, occasionally stirring, until asparagus is crisp-tender and bright green (about 5 minutes). Remove from pan and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, salt, pepper and chopped chives. Wrap each sprig of asparagus in one slice of ham. Pour leeks on top of crust and spread evenly across the bottom. Layer ham wrapped asparagus and then sprinkle with cheese. Finally, pour the egg mixture on top.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Quiche is done when a knife or toothpick can be inserted into the center of the dish and come out clean. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Traditional Egg Drop Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
2 tablespoons water (optional)
4 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)
In a small saucepan, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce and sesame oil, and bring it to a boil. Stir together the cornstarch and water to dissolve cornstarch. Pour cornstarch water into the boiling broth. Stir gently while you pour in the eggs. Season with chives, salt and pepper before serving.