If my kitchen were to suddenly become deficient in goat cheese, mushrooms or oatmeal, I’d be sad. But if my kitchen were to suddenly become deficient in eggs, my ability to cook would nearly come to a halt. So integral is the egg to culinary pursuits that one can easily compile a list of 100 Ways to Use Eggs.
It should be no surprise that this package of healthy fats and dozens of proteins and other nutrients meant to create a life and sustain its early development is so full of energy. According to Harold McGee, author of the esteemed On Food and Cooking, “An egg is the sun’s light refracted into life.” Especially if a hen actually got to eat the green grass and the wiggly worms that the sun grew!
The eggs sold in most grocery stores are inferior to pastured eggs in almost every way. Many chefs agree that eggs from hens who get to graze pastures and eat bugs have better flavor and texture. Mark Newsome, head chef at the Joshua Wilton House in Harrisonburg, Va., loves the eggs he gets from pastured farming expert Joel Salatin’s farm.
“We love Polyface Farm eggs because of their flavor and consistency,” he says. “The yolk is always vibrant and the white is never watery. We have had guests ask if we put yellow dye in our scrambled eggs! The texture is firm and creamy, and the flavor is rich, never bland.”
“An egg is as close as you can get to a perfect food,” says Ken Baker, chef-owner of Pachamamas in Lawrence, Kan. He uses pastured eggs, including quail and duck eggs, from several area farms in his egg recipes. “Pastured duck eggs are just so mind-blowingly rich and flavorful,” Baker says. Chef Cal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va., uses pastured goose eggs for their high protein levels, which lend a silky texture to custards. (To find a favorite egg recipe from each of these chefs, keep reading.)
The richer flavor of true free-range eggs is paralleled by their superior nutrition. Studies commissioned by MOTHER EARTH NEWS in 2005 and 2007 found that, compared with industrial eggs, pastured eggs have less saturated fat and cholesterol but more beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, D and E.
To ensure your eggs are truly pastured, buy them directly from a farmer or find out your grocer’s source and call to investigate. As an added bonus, according to Salatin, consumers need not fear the safety of eggs from grass-based farms with sane practices.
“What pastured poultry producers are doing is restoring the biological balance to the egg ecosystem,” he says. “Whole foods are not supposed to make us sick. But whole foods, living foods, must be raised with a full understanding of the ecological balance sheet. If the requirements for hygiene are met, eggs will be as pathogen-free and wholesome as nature intended.”
Author Jennifer Trainer Thompson, who keeps a flock of chickens in Massachusetts, included a number of raw egg recipes in The Fresh Egg Cookbook because she does not fear pathogens in the fresh eggs she collects from hens on her own property.