Eggstatic!

You bought the chickens; now you have the eggs.

By Jeanne Ambrose

Photography by Mitch Mandel

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Eggs are breaking out of their shells and finding their way into all kinds of dishes beyond fried or boiled. True, eggs are most often experienced as the unseen underpinning of cakes, sauces, custards, and the like, but today's chefs are serving them in free-range fashion: showcased in an appetizer, or for lunch or dinner, as the star of the show. Maybe this is because they're so proud of their homegrown hens' fresh produce. Why not? Eggs—chicken, duck, quail, or goose—are not only beautiful but also plentiful, sustainable, inexpensive, nutritious, and versatile. Just about the perfect food, and one that the medical community is reconsidering too, after years of banishing eggs from the heart-healthy diet. But, as in so many other matters medical, research has altered opinions and it is now thought permissible to consume up to four fresh eggs a week as part of a healthy, balanced diet. (For more information on their nutrition and health benefits, read "The Good Egg" at OrganicGardening.com.)

Perusing menus across the States reveals eggs in considerable glory: In Birmingham, Alabama, acclaimed local chef/restaurateur Frank Stitt features organic eggs in several of his most popular dishes. Stitt's love of eggs began in France, where, encouraged by his mentor, Richard Olney, Stitt savored all sorts of appetizers that included local farm eggs. In tribute to Olney (one of America's most respected chef-authors and an early advocate of fresh local foods, simply prepared and presented), Stitt's restaurants always include savory egg-based appetizers. Often the eggs come from his own farm, where, he notes, "the freshly laid eggs from Araucana, Rhode Island Red, Dominicker, and Buff Orpington hens are stunningly good."

 

So, for example, at his Highlands Bar and Grill, an appetizer of poached farm eggs with sautéed chicken livers, red onion marmalade, and red wine gets top billing. And at Chez FonFon there's Croque Madame—a griddled ham and Gruyère cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg. There's also the Grilled Jumbo Asparagus with Egg and Herb Vinaigrette that is made with sherry vinegar and has hard-boiled egg sieved and blended into the dressing, resulting in a lighter, deconstructed version of the traditional, butter-heavy hollandaise. Finally, in a time-honored barroom tradition, a rack of perfectly boiled eggs (with a dish of sea salt) is kept replenished on Chez FonFon's bar for patrons' noshing pleasure. Few things go better with a cold brew.

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