Eggs. To Refrigerate, or not to Refrigerate? That is the Question.

Eggs laid Minutes ago, by my Barred Rock Hens

An existential question here–Should I wash my eggs? I mean, they have been up the inside of a chicken, so there is something strange about that. Who knows what those birds have been doing? I regularly catch mine loitering in my driveway. So naturally, the answer is no, and yes.

NO

My fresh eggs, which I collect a couple of times a day, are said to be safely consumed unrefrigerated for up to three months. They never last more than a week around here, so no biggy with that one. Unwashed eggs have a natural bacteria barrier coating known as the bloom or cuticle. If you buy eggs at a farmer’s market, just ask a seller if they have been washed. A little chicken poop on the eggs is a good sign they weren’t.

YES

The big bad USDA requires that all supermarket eggs be washed, and even steamed. Thus the natural coating has been removed, from even the freest of the free range eggs. Combine that with the fact that most commercial eggs are at least a month old before they hit the shelves. Keep these jokers cold. Moral of this story: No supermarket egg, no matter how expensive, will be as good as a farmyard one. There has to be a lesson here.

DOWN WITH BIG CHICKEN

Chickens of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your coops! Seriously, this goes back to the heart of agri-culture. Know where your food comes from, and all will be well. I promise.

Egg Drop Soup with German Egg Pasta and Oyster Mushrooms

Good Soup in my Favorite Jerry Brown Bowl

Let’s time travel a bit, and go to Mr. Ho’s Chinese Restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, during the 1980’s. My girlfriend Melanie Jane (now wife) and I had only one extravagance–eating at Mr. Ho’s every week. We went so often that the waiters began to recognize us. Here’s one exchange.

Waiter: You two brother sister?

For the record, I had black hair and green eyes, and Melanie Jane is a classic German-American, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Not much resemblance.

Me: I hope not.

Side note: I once wrote for a magazine who had an editor who was something of an expletive. He had a little 3×5 card with one sentence on it, that he would carry around, and he would ask people what was wrong with it. The sentence, that is.

Me: Why do you carry a file card around with you, that has one sentence on it?

Editor: To see if people can tell that it’s missing an antecedent.

Me: In Alabama, we’ve been known to marry our antecedents.

True enough.

Any who, back to Mr. Ho’s. After my “I hope not” answer, the waiter said the following:

Waiter: Hahahahahahaha. All you people look alike to me, anyway.

That joker did not get a tip that day.

Mr. Ho’s is long gone, but I can still make some Chinese-German-Southern light soup for a hot Summer’s night.

Ingredients

Poultry Stock (Chicken, Turkey, or Duck)

Oyster Mushrooms, Rehydrated and Chopped

Oyster Mushroom Water

Fine German Egg Pasta (the brand we use is Riesa)

1/2 Vidalia Onion, chopped and sauteed

One Egg, beaten

Soy Sauce (a few drops)

Salt and Pepper

The stock is the main ingredient. I actually strained the mushroom water through a paper towel this time, a la Marcella Hazan, and all of Italy. The Oyster mushrooms were a freebie from our dried mushroom vendor, after MJ ordered a cartload of Morels for me last Christmas. They are excellent in the soup.

Let the mushrooms simmer while the onion is cooked in olive oil. After those two join each other in holy matrimony, drizzle in the egg while whipping the soup with a fork: hence the name, Egg Drop. Serve with egg rolls if you got them, toast or crackers if you don’t. And try to not marry one of your antecedents.

Soft Scrambled Eggs

A DIY Scrambled Egg Kit

Seriously, a post about how to scramble eggs? I would have thought the same thing a few years ago, before the great English food writer Elizabeth David caught my eye. Jane Grigson, an equally talented writer, gave me my first account of David, in what has become one of my all time favorite books, published under various titles, but now sold as Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery. There, Grigson discusses several of David’s recipes from her book French Country Cooking. I immediately bought a three books in one collection of her work, published by the appropriately named Biscuit Books. I now own four of her books, each better than the last.

David hated overly complex and pretentious food, and instead focused on the real thing, such as perfectly scrambled eggs. Her method is superb, taken from a French country cook. The secret is to cook the eggs at the lowest temperature possible, which is something of an antithesis to the more common get your stove as hot as a flamethrower approach. Here’s my paraphrase. This is a two person version.

Ingredients

2 Eggs, Beaten

Salt and Pepper

Heat up a skillet coated with olive oil–I like these Lodge carbon steel ones. Turn the stove down to minimum temp, and let the skillet cool off for a bit. Then pour in the seasoned eggs, and do nothing. Wait until the egg begins to set, and s-l-o-w-l-y stir the eggs with a fork. I always prefer wood utensils, so I made my own.

The eggs should cook slowly, so it is much simpler to serve it at the soft, creamy stage that is the goal of using this method. After a couple of tries, cooking this way will become second nature. It doesn’t hurt any to begin with quality pasture raised eggs, either.

Morel Omelette

Breakfast is Served

I may be the only person in North America who puts dried mushrooms on my Christmas list every year. First on the list are Morels, as they are something of an extravagance, and are five times more expensive than dried Porcini mushrooms.

I always get Morels from the Left Coast, from Pistol River Mushrooms in Oregon, and the quality is always superb. My two favorite Morel dishes are Turkey Breasts in Morel Cream Sauce, and this Morel Omelette. As it was a holiday this July 4th, why not go for the gold?

Ingredients

2-3 large Morels, rehydrated and chopped

Morel Water

1 sweet Pepper, chopped

3 Scallions, chopped

3 Eggs

1/4 cup diced Ham

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese

Parsley

Salt and Pepper

Diced tomatoes are also great in this, but I forgot to add them. Begin by cooking the pepper and the white part of the chopped scallion in olive oil. Then add the morels. In the meantime, mix the rest of the ingredients together, including the green parts of the scallion. When the veg is cooked, pour in the egg mixture, and have a 400 degree F oven ready. No omelette folding or flipping here.

After the egg mixture has started to set up, throw the whole thing in the oven. Have a cup of coffee and chicory, and listen to Beethoven or Wagner. Then take it out when it’s firm, and serve a couple of people with this. An English muffin goes well with it.

I never use all of the Morel water, as it is always full of grit from the wild harvested fungi. I should start using the method described by Marcella Hazan in the priceless Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. There she describes how Italians will filter dirty mushroom soaking water through paper towels or a fine strainer, and save it for soups and stocks. Now that’s what you call a food culture.

Making Sheet Pasta for Lasagna

Some Nice Pasta

The South is thought of as a fried chicken, hush puppy, and biscuit kind of place, but we also have a long tradition of Italian influenced cooking. In fact, the first reference to the mafia in the US was in the New Orleans Times in 1869, which reported about “well-known and notorious Sicilian murderers, counterfeiters and burglars, who, in the last month, have formed a sort of general co-partnership or stock company for the plunder and disturbance of the city.” Not that I am trying to perpetuate a stereotype or anything, but one of the best restaurants in the city reportedly still has a room reserved just for mobsters.

However, my favorite restaurant was the now closed Corsino’s in Montgomery, Alabama. No room for mobsters there: it was an Italian family run place with diner booths and metal pedestal tables. I don’t get that far south often anymore, but they formerly had two options for buying wine–by the glass or by the jug. We always went for the jug.

Their food was rock solid, and they flew in desserts from New Orleans. Their pizza was great, but their lasagna was the best. Now I’m reduced to making my own. I’ve taught myself how to make fresh pasta.

The secret is the ingredients, and there are only two or three. Bill Buford, in his superb book Heat, gave away the secret. He studied in Italy with one of the most traditional and famous pasta makers, and she said it was good eggs, and good flour. In fact she used bootlegged locally grown eggs, which is an EU story that is too complicated to get into here. Here’s the pasta recipe for one big dish of lasagna.

Ingredients

1 cup Antimo Caputo 00 flour from bella Napoli (Naples)

1 jumbo Egg (I currently have pasture raised)

Water if needed

Pasta Machine

This is an Imperia pasta machine, which is Italian, and not absolutely necessary, but it really speeds up things.

Double Yolk Egg

With an egg this big, no water was needed. Just kneed these two things together, and progressively roll into thinner pieces with the pasta machine. Here’s what you end up with.

Finished Lasagna

Let’s eat!