Celebrate spring with eggs every way — from the perfect jammy egg for your ramen to breakfast eggs benny — and learn more about this perfect package of protein.
Words and photos
By CINDA CHAVICH
The egg is the symbol of spring — rebirth, new life and holidays.
Hens stop laying eggs in the darkest days of winter, so before egg barns and artificial lighting, brighter spring days meant a new supply of fresh eggs, which was definitely something to celebrate.
Eggs figured in early pagan rituals tied to the spring equinox, and then morphed into a variety of religious traditions including the Christian faith, and is why the day Easter is celebrated changes with the phases of the moon.
So whether you celebrate Easter, Nowruz (Persian New Year) or Jewish Passover, there are certainly lots of eggs on the menu, coloured and hidden around the garden, or “bounced” to see who can pick the winning egg from the basket.
I remember that Easter tradition in my grandmother’s house — hard cooked eggs dyed in a rainbow of colours, then tapped against each other in the game of egg knocking (aka cracking, pacqueing, boxing or jarping), until just one would emerge with a round or pointy end unscathed.
Apparently, it’s a folk tradition that dates to medieval times in central Europe, but it was always part of the fun in our Serbian/Ukrainian/Irish household, where eggs were also artfully decorated in the elaborate wax-resist “Pysanka” tradition, and or simply dyed to stud around wreaths of braided Easter breads.
And today eggs are in vogue year-round — the “put an egg on it” trend popular in anything from Korean Bi-Bim-Bap bowls to Lyonnaise salads, ramen noodles and avocado toast, never mind the classic bacon-and-egg breakfasts or devilled eggs for a picnic.
WHICH EGGS TO BUY?
These days it can be hard to pick an egg without a program with free range, free run, organic, vegetarian grain-fed, Omega-3 and commercial and small farm eggs vying for market share.
The colour of the egg —whether white, brown, pale blue, blue-green or even pink — doesn’t affect the flavour. It’s a function of the breed of chicken, with white hens usually laying white eggs, and other breeds lay eggs of different shades. Tiny brown mottled quail eggs and extra-large duck eggs are also available.
In my opinion, the nicest, eggs come from small organic farms, and “free range” chickens that are allowed access to outdoors, eating a variety of plants and bugs (free range and organic) vs hens that have “free run”, usually in a barn, with commercial feed. If that feed includes flax seed and/or fish oil, you get an Omega-3 egg (with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids but a somewhat fishy flavour).
Though egg farmers in Canada have committed to transitioning away from conventional “battery” cages for hens by 2036, according to the SPCA, 57% of laying hens in Canada and 50% of laying hens in B.C. are raised in conventional cages, which is an ongoing animal welfare concern.
Organic free range eggs tend to have nice deep yellow yolks (that’s due to the higher levels of beta carotene in the diet) and IMO, better flavour, than commercial eggs.
Though some eggs are labeled Grain Fed or Raised without Antibiotics, this is essentially just marketing, all chickens in Canada get feed that is 85%+ grain, and the Canadian egg industry has banned Category-1 antibiotics (illness may be treated with antibiotics). Hormones and steroids are also illegal in Canada and not used in the egg industry, but feed may contain protein from meat meal (animal by-products) in conventional eggs, unless labelled “vegetarian feed.”
Choosing “higher welfare” eggs — labelled Animal Welfare Certified, Certified Humane, and Organic (or even the nonregulated free-run, free-range or cage-free eggs) — helps to ensure laying hens are not confined to small cages.
It really pays to read the details on the egg carton before you buy and buying the best eggs you can find. Though issues ranging from bird flu to feed costs have raised the price of eggs this year, eggs are still a bargain, and paying a little more can mean a lot to a local organic egg farmer.
Luckily, there are plenty of small farms on the island where you can buy fresh, free-range eggs at the farm gate, or through grocers like The Root Cellar in Victoria.
Egg marketing boards like to say that the egg is the perfect package, and it really is hard to beat, nutritionally speaking.
One large egg has just 75 calories, but nearly 7 grams of protein, just 5 g of fat (1.6 g saturated) and lots of vitamins, minerals and carotenoids (the colourful healthy stuff in vegetables like carrots).
At one time, eggs had a bad rap because they’re also high in cholesterol. But it’s consuming saturated and trans fats (hydrogenated oils) — not cholesterol — in foods that actually raises blood cholesterol.
So eating an egg or two a day is perfectly fine for most people.
BOILED AND COLOURED
I can’t let a holiday pass without hauling out the food dyes to colour eggs. It’s so easy (and you can even get fancy by marbelizing your eggs in several colours by adding oil to your second colour dip).
But it’s important to boil your eggs properly first, so they’re cooked and easy to peel.
I’m a big fan of using the pressure cooker to hard-cook eggs. It’s the way they’re done in the egg pickling business, because the pressure magically makes the cooked eggs peel perfectly.
Just place your large eggs in a steamer in the pressure cooker with a couple of inches of water, bring up to high pressure over high heat, then reduce heat and steam 5-6 minutes, release pressure quickly and place the eggs into cold water until cool, then refrigerate.
For smaller quail eggs — lovely for mini devilled egg appetizers or mini scotch eggs — steam for just 2 minutes jammy yolks.
Otherwise, you can put your eggs into a saucepan, cover with at least an inch of cold water, cover and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat, and keep the pan covered until your eggs are cooked — 3-5 minutes for soft boiled, 10-15 minutes for hard boiled (2-3 minutes for quail eggs).
Either way, when the time’s up, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to quickly chill.
Some also recommend using older eggs (close to their Best Before date) for easier peeling, or adding a tablespoon of vinegar (or half a teaspoon of baking soda) to the cooking water, but I find the pressure cooker is the only sure fire solution to the peeling problem. Start at the round end and crack the egg all over to peel – peeling while running under water can help ease off the shell, too.
Don’t panic if your boiled eggs have a dark or greenish tinge around the yolk. It just means they were boiled too long and is purely aesthetic.
You can also store your boiled eggs in the shell — just dry, pop back in the carton, and dot with a marker to identify them as boiled vs raw. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for a week.
The hottest way to cook a perfect, soft-cooked egg is low and slow, using the sous vide method.
But you can make a perfect jammy egg without any specialized equipment.
Just bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Using a slotting spoon, lower eggs into the water (you can do six at a time), and cook for 5 minutes, just maintaining a very low, gentle boil.
After 5 minutes, use tongs to lift each egg out of the water and into a bowl of ice water to chill for 2 minutes (longer if you’re not serving the eggs right away).
To serve warm, crack the eggs and peel, starting from the air space at the round end.
Cut in half lengthwise to serve on a bowl of ramen noodles or atop a lightly dressed arugula salad.
Or keep up to three days in a bowl in the fridge, just covered in water, then reheat with a dip in boiling water to serve.
Undercook your boiled eggs slightly when making Scotch eggs to keep the yolks jammy, as you'll be cooking them twice.
PERFECTLY POACHED EGGS
If a soft egg atop a bitter endive salad or runny egg topped with hollandaise for breakfast is the goal, poaching is the way to go.
There are several ways to poach an egg. A special egg poacher has divided cups so you can essentially steam several eggs until soft cooked.
But all you really need is a saucepan of boiling water that’s lightly acidified with a touch of vinegar, and a carton of super fresh eggs.
Break each egg into an individual saucer. If you want to eliminate all of the feathery bits of egg white, consider putting each egg into a small sieve to strain away the water part first.
When the water is boiling, use a spoon to stir it into a swirling vortex, then slip the egg into the boiling water (cooking eggs one at a time). The stirring helps keep the egg whites from spreading out too much (super fresh eggs makes it easier, too, as older eggs have watery whites). Then, when the egg is nicely cooked, and still soft and runny in the centre (at about the 3-minute mark), use a slotted spoon to lift it out to serve immediately, or place in ice water to cool, chill and serve later.
Otherwise, just bring a deep saute pan of water to a boil with a splash of vinegar, break eggs into saucers, and carefully add them to the water. This way you can cook 4 eggs at a time.
Pre-poach eggs and keep them in the fridge in a bowl of ice water when you’re cooking breakfast for a crowd. Simply use a slotted spoon to lower the soft poached eggs into a pan of very hot (not boiling) water to reheat for 30 seconds, then set on your toasted bread or English muffin, with some ham or salmon, and topping with hot hollandaise sauce.
SCRAMBLED UP OR FRIED
The secret to perfectly scrambled eggs is quitting when you’re ahead.
Whisk fresh eggs in a bowl with salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of cream or milk. Melt butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat and add the eggs, stirring them around with a spatula to scrape the cooked bits up from the bottom of the pan. Stop stirring while the eggs are still a bit runny, then remove from heat, cover the pan and let stand 5 minutes. Throw in some minced green onions and grated cheese if you like.
To perfectly fry an egg, melt some butter or bacon fat in a non-stick pan, break in the eggs and cook over medium low heat until the whites are firm, but the yolks remain soft. You can cover the pan for the last minute to cook the tops, or flip them over quickly in the pan for “over easy” eggs, to serve on toast with bacon and fried potatoes.
The real test of a great egg is straight up, poached, boiled or fried, for breakfast.
But you just can’t cook or bake without eggs in the larder. Eggs are the tie that binds many dishes — whether you’re baking a cake or a soufflé, whipping up a meringue or a custard.
So be a good egg and buy a good egg. You’ll never regret serving this perfectly convenient little package of protein.
SPICY MISO DEVILLED EGGS
These devilled eggs have a spicy kick as well as great umami from the addition of white miso. A recipe from BC Eggs and Eggs.ca, created by Chef Lynn Crawford. To save time, buy Furikake Seasoning from a Japanese grocery.
3 tbsp mayonnaise
½ tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tbsp white miso
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp Sriracha
Furikake seasoning, for garnish (see recipe below)
Bonito flakes, for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce heat to low to ensure the water is no longer boiling and use a skimmer to place the eggs in the water.
Increase the heat back to high and set a timer for 12 minutes. While the eggs are boiling, prepare an ice water bath and set aside.
Remove the eggs from the water and place in the ice water bath after 12 minutes.
Once the eggs have cooled completely, peel them and slice in half lengthwise.
Remove the yolk and spoon it into a small bowl. Place the egg whites on a plate.
Mash the yolks with a fork and add the mayonnaise, mustard, miso, lemon juice, garlic powder, soy sauce and Sriracha. Stir everything together.
Use a spoon to add a portion of the devilled egg mixture back into the hole of each egg white. Sprinkle furikake seasoning and bonito flakes for garnish.
½ cup toasted white sesame seeds
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
4 sheets nori
¼ cup packed bonito flakes
2 tsp Maldon sea salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp shichimi togarashi, Japanese seven spice
For furikake, place sesame seeds, bonito flakes, nori, sugar, sea salt and togarashi in food processor. Pulse only until mixture is blended.
Store in tightly covered jar in cool, dry place up to 1 month.
Makes about 3/4 cup.
DEVILLED EGGS ON BABY ARUGULA
Anybody can boil water and if you’ve got some eggs in there when it boils, you’re halfway to deviled eggs. Everyone loves them and they’re classic finger food. They make a perfectly spring-y first course, perched upon a plate of spicy arugula and drizzled with buttermilk dressing. Also a great way to use up all those hard-boiled oeufs you colored for Easter.
From The Guy Can’t Cook, by Cinda Chavich
Buttermilk Dill Dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1/4 tsp salt
6 large eggs (older are better than super fresh)
3 Tbsp fat-reduced mayonnaise
1 Tbsp fat-free sour cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley, preferably Italian
1 Tbsp minced fresh chives
6 cups fresh baby arugula (and/or watercress leaves)
To make the salad dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon, sugar, and lemon juice. Add the chopped dill and salt. Chill.
Place the eggs in a pot large enough so they all fit in a single layer. Cover with cold water, 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the eggs. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Just as the water hits a full, rolling boil, remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let it stand for 15 minutes.
Drain off the hot water and add cold tap water to cover the eggs. Throw in a few ice cubes to make sure the water gets really cold. Tap each egg on the wide end to crack the shell and put it back into the water to cool. (Don’t forgo this step—the water will seep in under the shell and make the eggs infinitely easier to peel.)
Roll each egg between the palms of your hands to loosen the shell. Peel and discard the shells. Slice each egg in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. In a small bowl, mash the yolks with the remaining ingredients, reserving a little parsley or chives for garnish.
Heap or pipe the filling back into the egg whites. Serve devilled eggs as appetizers, or perch two deviled eggs alongside a small pile of baby arugula and drizzle with a little buttermilk dill dressing. Makes 12 deviled eggs, enough for six salads.
· To make this salad even nicer, start with hard boiled quail eggs. The small spotted eggs taste the same as regular eggs. Find them in Asian markets.
· Hard-boiled eggs also make a yummy spread for crostini toasts. Just put the peeled eggs into the food processor with the rest of the ingredients (above) and pulse to create a chunky spread. If you like, add a little curry powder for color and spice. Spread the egg mixture on crostini or pipe into hollowed-out cherry tomatoes. Devilishly delish.
· Buy free-range or organic eggs from chickens fed only vegetable feed—they taste far superior.
POTATO AND SPICY SAUSAGE FRITTATA
A frittata is kind of an all-purpose egg dish, and this is one of those “mother” recipes, a technique you can learn and modify to suit what’s in the fridge, especially when there are leftover potatoes around.
Always bake or boil and extra potato or two on the weekend, and you’ll have the basis for a fast frittata during the week (or substitute a cup or two of frozen hash browns). Use any kind of cheese you like and add mixed vegetables like sautéed mushrooms or steamed asparagus, or different meats like ham or prosciutto.
Baked in tiny individual silicon molds or mini muffin tins, this frittata also makes a great tapas-style appetizer.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large potato, cooked, chilled and thinly sliced or chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, slivered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound fresh spicy Italian or Chorizo sausage, removed from the casings and crumbled
4 ounces grated old Fontina cheese
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
spicy salsa (to serve on the side)
In a large, non-stick, oven proof frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons/25 ml of the oil over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and saute for 5 minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes more, until the onions start to colour. Then add the slivered peppers, garlic and sausage, cooking until the meat is no longer pink.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and pour over the ingredients in the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Stir the mixture, until the eggs begin to set, then reduce the heat to low and let the eggs cook on the bottom, shaking the pan to keep the mixture loosened.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. When the frittata is nicely browned on the bottom, remove the pan from the heat. Top with grated cheeses and place the pan under the broiler. Broil for a minute or two, just until the top of the frittata is set and the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
Let the frittata stand for a couple of minutes to cool, then cut into four wedges. Serve with salsa on the side. Serves 4.
SPINNAKERS WEE HEAVY SCOTCH EGG
The chefs at Spinnakers Brew Pub in Victoria shared this recipe for Scotch eggs with me for a Robbie Burns Day feature a few years back.
While most Scotch Eggs recipes use ground pork, this recipe features ground beef, and is served with vegetables pickled in their own Spinnakers malt vinegar.
Perfect with a pint of one of their hand crafted ales.
5 free run eggs
For the beef mix
0.75 lb raw ground Highland beef
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely diced fresh rosemary
1 heaping teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pinch red chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch fresh cracked pepper
For the breading
¼ cup All Purpose flour
2 to 3 raw eggs whisked
½ cup bread crumbs
Cover eggs with cold water & bring to a boil. Turn down heat & simmer for exactly 4 min then put straight into a bowl of iced water & let cool for at least 10 minutes.
Peel the eggs. Put the flour into a small bowl and roll the eggs until dusted all over.
Put the ground beef into a bowl. Add all the ingredients of the mix together, combine well. Divide the beef mix into golf ball sized pieces.
Place a piece of the beef mix into the palm of your hand and flatten it slightly. Place the floured peeled egg into the middle of the mix in your palm, slowly push the mix out and around & evenly wrap egg. Roll in the rest of the flour to cover. Put the whisked eggs into a small bowl & the bread crumbs into another separate one. Dip the wrapped egg into the whisked egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs until fully covered.
Pre heat your oven to 350.
Pour enough canola oil into a deep sided flat bottomed pot (which will comfortably fit all the egg) so that the oil will just cover the eggs. Heat the oil to 300 F/150 c or until a drop of water will sizzle when added to it. With a slotted spoon carefully add the wrapped eggs. Fry the eggs all over by gently stirring them every 30 seconds or so until they are evenly golden brown & crispy. This should take about 4 min. Carefully remove with the slotted spoon and place on paper towel to absorb some of the excess oil. Load in the oven for approximately 5 min. Remove, cool for a couple of minutes and then slice in half. The meat should be fully cooked through & the yolk should be just a little bit runny. Don’t fret if the yolk has set, your eggs will still be delicious it just means that the oil was a bit too hot.
Serve with your favorite mustard, fresh baguette and some malt vinegar pickled onions or cabbage (recipe follows).
Malt Vinegar Pickled Vegetables
1 cup thinly sliced BC grown red onions or red cabbage (or both)
¼ cup water
¼ cup Spinnakers Malt Vinegar (my favorite is IPA vinegar, it’s bright & a bit citrusy, but choose your own favourite)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 pinch salt
Bring all the ingredients to a boil and simmer until the onions are transparent and the cabbage is soft, stir occasionally. Cool and serve.