cucina bene; mangia bene (eggs: a super food)
Eggs have been getting a lot of attention lately. Our mass marketing food industry has decided that eggs are good for us now and we should eat more of them. You have all kinds of selections in the grocery store: brown eggs, white eggs, eggs with extra omega 3, eggs that are lower in cholesterol, pasteurized eggs, processed egg products, and so on. In our house we eat local farm fresh eggs from Siletz: Rooster Plow Farm. Sandra Knuckles raises many different breeds of chickens for her eggs, and they are delicious eggs. The yolks are orange in color which means they are loaded with nutrients that the chicken acquired naturally through it’s varied diet. When you talk to Sandra about her eggs, her whole face lights up and she gets very animated. She loves her chickens and it shows in the quality of her product. I love breaking open an egg and seeing the bright yolk and thick albumen (or white). No flat yolks or runny whites with Sandra’s eggs. That’s what freshness gives us: better quality, flavor, and more nutrients.
Eggs are an amazing food and their uses are endless. We use eggs when we bake (name one recipe that doesn’t contain eggs), we use eggs as binders in meatloaf and crab cakes, we scramble, poach, fry, hard-boil, soft-boil, baste and bake our eggs. If you think about it, eggs are used in many kitchens all over the world in some form or fashion every day.
My egg discussion is not about what you can do with them for brunch or breakfast, but what you can do with them in a sauce. Egg sauces are rich, luxurious, and a little tricky to make as there is no room for error as overcooked or undercooked sauces are unpleasant to eat. The most common sauces from classic French Cuisine that are made with eggs are hollandaise, béarnaise, and mayonnaise. They are all great sauces and I could devote separate posts to each one as I did with mayonnaise; however, I would like to talk about a Greek egg sauce: avgolemono. Avgolemono is made with lemon juice and eggs and reserved cooking liquid. The eggs are first beaten and lemon juice is mixed in, then hot liquid is added a little at a time to temper the eggs. The mixture is then cooked on the stove until very thick. it must be served immediately and cannot be reheated. One can add a little cornstarch to the mixture to stabilize the eggs which will allow the sauce to be reheated without curdling. Since I‘ve already provided the method, here are the ingredients:
2 eggs, juice of 2 lemons, salt and pepper to taste, and 1-2 cups of hot liquid (cooking water, broth, stock, etc.)
Avgolemono can be served with lamb, chicken, fish, over asparagus or potatoes, as a dip for artichokes, with stuffed cabbage or grape leaves (very traditional Greek), or in soup. I like to make a soup that I call “Greek Lemon Chicken Soup” which is a combination of chicken, garlic, and avgolemono soup. I published the recipe on a different blog (Dinner with Pati and Bruce) a few years ago and have included the link to it here. It’s a delicious soup and is easily re-heated since it has cornstarch in it to stabilize the eggs, and it can be made without chicken or chicken stock for a vegetarian version. Just substitute tofu and veggie stock instead. I hope that you will be inspired to try making avogolemono, with or without cornstarch, it is a delicious sauce that truly highlights a very common but key ingredient in all of our kitchens. A Presto!
“I have had, in my time, memorable meals of scrambled eggs with fresh truffles, scrambled eggs with caviar and other glamorous things, but to me, there are few things as magnificent as scrambled eggs, pure and simple, perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned.”
James Beard, ‘On Food’ (1974)