cucina bene;mangia bene (Put some air in your eggs)
When I was in Italy last year, I had the opportunity to visit a farmer in Tuscany whose eggs have become quite popular (and quite expensive) in both Italy and here in the US. The farmer: Paolo Parisi feeds his chickens goat milk, as part of their diet, and is able to sell his eggs, to those who will pay the price, for about $4.00 per egg USD. I wrote a blog post about the Tuscan trip last year and have included the excerpt regarding the farmer: Paolo Parisi:
Our next stop was near Pisa at the Azienda Le Macchie. Paolo Parisi is very famous for his eggs. He feeds his hens goat’s milk in addition to their natural diet; the eggs sell for 1 euro a piece (I think that is wholesale). We got to try one that was cooked in a type of water bath at 62 degrees Celsius (about 156 F). Cooking the egg at this temperature does not coagulate it as eggs start to coagulate at about 65 degrees Celsius (actually egg yolks and whites coagulate at different temps, which is why you can fry an egg, cook the white and still have a runny yolk). Anyway, we tried one of these ‘special’ eggs served with black pepper, capers, and olive oil….it was good–but it was still an egg and tasted like one. We were fed some other specialty products of Paolo’s: smoked lard, a sort of veggie smoothie, homemade fennel salami, and trofie with pesto, potatoes, and green beans. We had another lesson on herbs (both cultivated and wild), enjoyed some nice red wine and coffee, and were on our way back to Colorno by 8:45 PM (we arrived home at midnight).
If you are interested, you can read the entire post here, and I’ve also included a link to an article that was recently published in La Cucina Italiana about the same farmer:
I brought a copy of the article to Sandra, the local farmer we get our eggs from, and asked her about the goat’s milk in the chicken feed. She told me that she feeds her chickens goat’s milk whey which is a byproduct from the goat’s milk soap she produces. I’ve already mentioned that Sandra’s eggs are exceptionally delicious, but I don’t think they are worth $4.00 a piece! Fortunately, Sandra doesn’t think so either.
I’d like to wrap up the discussion about eggs with sabayon which is the base for Hollandaise, Béarnaise and the magnificent Italian dessert: zabaglione. Sabayon is a bit tricky to make as it requires cooking egg yolks (without curdling them) on the stove with a liquid such as water, wine, or stock in a double boiler to 160 F while whisking the entire time. Your arms will get a bit of a workout, but you’ll be happy with the results.
We are going to focus on Zabaglione (also spelled Zabaione) which is a simple dessert and can be served warm or chilled and is traditionally served with fresh fruit in Italy. Zabaglione is believed to have originated in Northern Italy during the Renaissance period; some say during the Medici dynasty. It is a type of custard that incorporates air during the whisking process to create a light and fluffy result. Wine is the traditional liquid and it’s usually Marsala, although I have used Madeira, Port, and Sherry all with success and relatively little compromise in flavor.
The following recipe is how it’s traditionally made in Italy where the measurements are in eggshells:
Ingredients (serves 6):
12 Egg Yolks
12 Half Eggshells of Sugar
12 Half Eggshells of Marsala, Madeira, Port, or Sherry
Put a pot of water (as part of a double boiler) to simmer on the stove. Off heat, whisk the egg yolks (in the top half of the double boiler) with the sugar until the mixture is frothy and has become a light yellow color. Add the wine, whisk to incorporate, and put on top of the simmering pot of water. Whisk continuously until the mixture begins to thicken (this will happen at about 160 F), remove from heat and serve immediately with amaretti cookies or biscotti, or chill and serve with fresh fruit such as strawberries, figs, pears, or peaches. Either way, Zabaglione is another alternative to a heavier custard or pudding and clearly demonstrates the versatility of the egg. Buon Appetito!