A few years ago I began buying cage-free hen eggs that were fed an organic vegetarian diet, and were not injected with hormones etc. The eggs I presumed would be healthier and would taste better. I didn’t find anything remarkable about these eggs. Pale yellow yolks, the usual whites. There was a subtle taste difference I thought, or maybe it was all in my mind.
Last summer, we were at the now-closed IGA grocery store in Red Hook buying last-minute groceries for breakfast. In their egg aisle, I found boxes of eggs from a farm called Feather Ridge. The box with its purple label proclaimed lots of things – more omega-3, quality & goodness from the Hudson Valley, fresh from the family farm — but I weary of labels, of wading through phrases and sentences that had to be researched further and that may or may not stand up to their claims, didn’t pay too much attention. I returned home with that box and cast it into the refrigerator.
When I cracked open an egg the next morning as early sunlight slanted into the kitchen, I blinked several times. The yolk that was sitting on the black cast iron pan was a large, brilliant, quivering golden-orange orb. The whites were thick and firm. I couldn’t even begin to describe the taste of that egg. It tasted delicious, wholesome, fresh and I suppose just like a normal, healthy hen egg. Later I found a write-up that described how Feather Ridge fed its hens a diet that included ground flaxseed. I also found the following mentioned on Locanda Verde’s menu: We use organic eggs from Feather Ridge Farms in Elizaville, NY. I pestered my local store to carry the eggs. Michael Sobsey began making a weekly trip to the Tribeca farmer’s market to source these eggs for the Hoboken market. He reported them as a best-selling product in the store. I reasoned that once you had tasted this egg, you just couldn’t go back to a regular supermarket egg.
Since, I’ve become terribly interested in farm-fresh, local eggs laid by healthy and happily roaming chickens. I’ve taken myself to Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills where Agastya found a precious egg nestled in the grass as we wandered around their huge flock of chickens. I’ve also found very fresh, bright yellow yolk eggs laid that same morning whenever we’ve visited Sprout Creek Farm.
My recent visit to find eggs at Kinderhook Farm in Ghent, NY was an experience of a sublime sort. Lee, the kind resident farmer, took me all around his breathtaking property. It was a misty afternoon, sheep were scattered about nibbling tender green grass. I could see cows in the distance on the gently sloping hills. As we walked out to the fields, scores of colorful, plump, healthy and (am I really saying this?) sweet-smelling chickens came running out. One bold bird stood so close to me, waiting to be fed, that I reached out and ran my hand down its firm, feathery back. Lee showed us where the eggs were laid, in the front hatch of the red small barn-like egg mobile. A raising of the hatch revealed a nesting hen and eggs of all colors – blue, speckled, green, beige, brown and white. I peppered Lee with questions, while I plotted how I could get these eggs back in Hoboken. For who could contemplate going back to eating an egg not freshly laid by a free-roaming, grass-worm-insect eating hen? Especially once you’d rubbed the soft back of one.
I like to eat my eggs very simply – usually fried on one side in a small pat of butter, preferably in a cast iron pan. This way I can taste both the yolk and the white separately, and the yolk remains slightly runny, bright yellow drenching my toast as I bite into an open sandwich of toasted bread and egg, topped with a few crumbly bits of cheese. I’ve also discovered that any cheese – blue, soft, semi-soft, firm, and made with any type of milk and aged for any length of time – tastes great with egg and toast.
To make a fried egg: heat up the butter on high/medium heat and break open your egg over the pan. Turn the heat to low and let the white set. Remove when the egg unsticks itself from the bottom of the pan. Flip over if you want a more firmly cooked egg.
I also love an easy unda roti, which is an egg roll or wrap that makes good use of leftover Indian-style flatbread from the previous night’s dinner.
To make an egg roll: Whisk an egg and set aside while a dob of butter heats in a flat pan. Pour in the egg and let it cook for a few seconds before placing the roti on top of the still-runny egg. Cook over a low flame for a few more seconds till you see the sides of the egg setting around the roti. Flip over, cook for another few seconds and turn onto your plate with the egg side up. Heap thinly sliced onions tossed in lime juice, add some finely chopped green chillies and sprinkle of chaat masala if you wish, and roll up the egg roti. Serve with plain or spicy Maggi ketchup.