Chef Meg's Egg-Cellent Tips and Recipes

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/26/2012 2:00 PM   :  27 comments   :  13,270 Views

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To take a vacation from all the egg laying.  Funny to me and you but not the chickens. 
 
When chickens first became domesticated animals, the only time you actually ate then was if a hen stopped laying eggs or on a holiday when no meat could be found.  If you ate an egg-laying  hen, you ate the business. 
 
My family has a long history of raising chickens for eggs. Back when my great-grandmother was raising hens, the birds--omnivores by nature--ate grain and roamed outside to peck for proteins in the form of bugs and worms.  Times certainly have changed from Ma's day. 
 




My cousin's daughter lives in a small town in England and started her own coop a couple of years ago at the tender age of 12.  What success she has had with the egg production! 
 
I have pleaded with my dad, who is a farmer, to help me get started with raising some at our house in northern Kentucky. I feel like a child asking a parent for a dog. 
 
All I hear in response is that they are too much work, roosters are loud, and the worst--you will be so upset when a fox or hawk decides to eat them from supper.  So for now, like most people, I pick up my eggs from the grocery store or at the farmers market.
 
Since we all can't raise chickens for egg production, what should we as consumers look for when buying eggs?  

I buy an all-purpose egg, which is a grade A, size large egg.  What that means is that the egg does not spread too much when place into a skillet to fry, the yolk is firm, and the shell is clean without cracks or blemishes. The chalazae, which is a cord that suspends the yolk in the center of the egg is prominent but not as large as in the Grade AA egg.  Whether you choose brown or white eggs, it makes no difference. It varies based on the breed of chicken.
 
Freshness is key, except when simmering eggs.  OK, I can now hear everyone talking to their computers. "What? Is she crazy?  What is a simmered egg, and why would a chef not want to use fresh eggs?" 
 
Well, I'm not crazy, at least not at this moment, according to my family. 
A simmered egg is what we know colloquially as a boiled egg. Do you often try to boil eggs and end up with cracked shells and a mess in your pot? Rapid boiling will crack the eggs in the cooking water before they are set. A simmer keeps the eggs in the shell until you're ready for the two to part ways.


Speaking of eggs and eggshells, a slightly older egg will peel much easier than its fresher counterpart.
 
Not only does boiling an egg often damage the shell, but it often causes that unsightly gray-green ring around the yolk from overcooking. The egg ends up tough and rubbery, too.
 
The best way to cook an egg in its shell is to place your eggs in a saucepan of cold water.  The water should cover the eggs by one inch. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover and set the pot aside for 15 minutes.  The eggs will love this moist sauna and give you a set yellow yolk without any green layer between the yolk and the white.
 
Prefer your yolks softer?  Try the slow simmer method.  Add enough water to a saucepan cover eggs by one inch, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. The water should just be at a slow simmer, with tiny bubbles rising to the top of the water.  Using a slotted spoon, carefully slide the eggs into the water.  Cook 4-5 minutes for soft, runny yolks, or 7-8 minutes for a medium-set yolk.   Drain the water from the saucepan, then shake the cooked eggs in the dry pan to crack the shell.  Peel under running cold water. 
 
This is where the "older" egg helps you.  Really fresh eggs are harder to peel because the air pocket inside is smaller. That's why a fresh egg will sink, a still-OK-to-eat egg will hover in the middle, and an old egg will float in a glass of water--that air pocket increases as the egg ages.   
 
 
How do you know if your eggs are set? 
  • Spin the cooked egg on its side on the countertop.  If it spins fast it's done; if it wobbles it still needs some more time in the water.
  • Shake it!  If you hear liquid moving around on the inside, it's probably not set.
 
 
Eggs are egg-cellent anytime! I love to flip-flop meals, serving eggs for dinner instead of breakfast.  Eggs are a fast, inexpensive, and nutritious way to add protein to your meals any time of day.  You can keep it simple with a traditional egg meal or add seasonings, plenty of veggies and low fat meats and cheeses to the eggs.  Try these simple dishes for your next evening meal, no recipe needed.

Tired of plain boiled (simmered) eggs?  Try my infused eggs for an added layer of flavor.  They are great over salads, vegetables, or even as part of an antipasto platter.
 
Vegetable Egg Strata:  Layer thin slices of whole wheat bread, tomatoes, and leftover roasted vegetables in a casserole dish.  Add egg whites, season with herbs and spices, and bake at 350 until the eggs are set.
 
Bunny in a Hole:  Cut two 1-inch holes in a slice of whole-wheat bread, spritz the bread with nonstick cooking spray then place in heat nonstick sauté pan to toast.  Once the bottom is toasted, flip the bread, and add egg substitute, diced ham and cheese into the holes.  Cook until the egg is set.
 
If you want to make eggs a bit fancier, serve Chef Meg's Eggs Nested in Tomatoes.
 
How to tell if your eggs are OK? How do you keep them safe?
  • The USDA requires egg cartons display a use-by date. Learn how long eggs are safe to eat after purchase.
  • Keep eggs in the cartons.  The shells are porous and will absorb orders from other foods.  You don't want your eggs tasting like last night's Vindaloo supper.
  • Keep eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is usually in the center shelf toward the back.
  • Unsure if it's fresh?  Place an egg in a glass full of cold water.  If it floats, throw it away.
 
More recipes and videos:
Chef Meg's Deviled Eggs
How to Make an Omelet
How to Poach an Egg
How to Tell If an Egg is Fresh
 
What is your favorite breakfast-for-dinner egg dish?
 
Want more healthy recipes from me and fellow SparkPeople members? Be sure to subscribe to SparkPeople's Recipe of the Day email. Click here to sign up!
 
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Like this recipe? Then you'll love "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight."
 


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Comments

  • 27
    I love eggs cooked any way. Thanks for the tip. - 4/5/2012   9:05:11 AM
  • 26
    I like my eggs in the morning after my workout - 4/4/2012   8:53:01 PM
  • 25
    I love egg sandwiches for dinner! - 4/3/2012   9:17:36 AM
  • 24
    Eggs are an important part of our food here. The humble cackleberry or bumnut as they are called here in Australia are natures fast food. Omelets and scrambled eggs are often cooked for dinner when the cook is tired and poached eggs are a constant for breakfast. I too am "old" enough to remember when chickens were not as plentiful as they are now and to have a roast chicken was partaking in a rare and special meal. Thanks for the great article - 4/3/2012   3:13:47 AM
  • 23
    Great article; there's a lot of good information here! - 3/31/2012   9:40:49 AM
  • 22
    Thank you Chef Meg! I have learned more about eggs today than I ever have. I was planning on boiling some eggs today and will give your method a try. Mine has always been hit or miss and the eggs always crack. - 3/28/2012   9:17:01 AM
  • GMAGEE
    21
    Thanks for the simmered egg tips. Will try them next time we have 'boiled' eggs - which will be soon!

    One of our neighbors has chickens - the latest fad in NJ suburbs. Not crazy about the noise (there are already plenty of barking dogs), or the ramshackle coop he keeps them in (no free-range there!), or the family of raccoons it has brought into the area - but to be honest, I don't like that neighbor either! - 3/28/2012   9:13:41 AM
  • 20
    I have read that if you put a little salt in the pan it will keep the eggs from cracking while they are simmering; and if you add a little vinegar it will keep cracked eggs from leaking their contents in the pan of simmering water. I don't know if this is true or a wive's taile, but I've been cooking hard boiled eggs this way for years. - 3/27/2012   11:44:31 AM
  • 19
    One way to foil flying predators is to put a "roof" of chicken wire over your chicken yard in addition to the chicken wire around the yard. - 3/27/2012   11:38:08 AM
  • 18
    I love bunny in a hole I have had since i was a kid - 3/27/2012   8:34:51 AM
  • 17
    I often make a veggie fritatta for dinner - my fave is with pan grilled asparagus and some parmesan cheese, but diced broccoli and parm is also a good combo! - 3/27/2012   8:29:31 AM
  • 123ELAINE456
    16
    Awesome Blog. We raised our own chickens, rabbits and beef when I was growing up. Also had own fruit trees, berries and put in a garden most years. Those was the good old days. Have't had those days since. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. - 3/27/2012   4:30:02 AM
  • 15
    Now that we know why the chicken actually crossed the street, can you answer another question I've been dying to know the answer to? Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

    I love eggs cooked just about anyway. My favorite way is what you called Bunny in a hole. I call them one eyed Jacks. I've also heard them called picture in a frame. - 3/27/2012   2:16:24 AM
  • TOOBIGTOFAIL07
    14
    I have 7 hens who provide me with enough eggs for my family and the neighbors too! My young grandsons are fascinated by the "girls" and know which ones lay what color egg (brown, white, or pale green). They can tell by the cackling when eggs are being laid and will rush to the coop to inspect! Yea for eggs - 3/26/2012   9:14:12 PM
  • 13
    I don't really have one (except for my angry sandwiches) but I do recall getting fresh eggs from my Grandpa's farm and from my Uncle's farm. They were relatively cheap ($1 a dozen) and free range so I know that they were healthy. - 3/26/2012   8:51:49 PM
  • 12
    Absolutely Egg-xellent. I will definitely try out some of these. - 3/26/2012   8:43:45 PM
  • 11
    that omelet looked DE-lish - 3/26/2012   8:37:33 PM
  • NIFTYATFIFTY8
    10
    Very informative, thank you - 3/26/2012   7:13:04 PM
  • 9
    I raise 5 chickens, and it's so easy. You don't need a rooster, and while the Ladies get a little loud on occasion, it's no worse than a barking dog. If you build (or purchase) a proper coop and and run, you don't have to worry about predators. There's a book called "Keep Chickens" and it has a good amount of information on raising chickens. For me, it's super awesome- I'm teaching my kids about self-sufficiency and where their food comes from. With 5 chickens, we get about 2 1/2 dozen eggs a week, and we barely keep up, I have to tell ya! I give my eggs away, just so they don't go bad!

    And the best part is what an easy breakfast eggs are. If I'm in a hurry, 2 eggs scrambled with a little salsa is so delicious! - 3/26/2012   7:09:52 PM
  • 8
    I'm an omelet girl. I LOVE a good veggie omelet with swiss cheese. I've even tried--and somewhat enjoyed--an egg white omelet recently.

    (And thanks for the tip on testing eggs for freshness. I always wondered how I could tell when eggs were bad without finding out the hard way!) - 3/26/2012   6:18:42 PM
  • 7
    My favourite egg for dinner dish is a vegetable frittata. I use a little evoo to stir fry fresh chopped onions and peppers, then add a few left over cooked potatoes and some canned sweetcorn. Then I pour over the beaten eggs and cook until almost set. I sprinkle cheese over the top and melt it under the grill, then serve in wedges with a salad. - 3/26/2012   5:23:53 PM
  • 6
    Thanks! You taught me! - 3/26/2012   4:23:47 PM
  • 5
    I love this article! I raise chickens for the eggs. We have about 80 layers right now and they are a lot of fun to raise. We'll be getting some peeps in about two months. We eat eggs all the time and bake with them too. They taste so good. Thanks for spreading the love about eggs! - 3/26/2012   4:10:15 PM
  • 4
    Great article. The Veggie Egg Strata sounds amazing. - 3/26/2012   3:54:12 PM
  • 3
    I take some cooked rice, add pepper, Mrs. Dash seasoning, parsley, a little turmeric and stir in some eggs. It cooks up into a yummy, filling meal that's good hot or cold anytime. Sometimes I mix in leftover vegetables or meat. - 3/26/2012   3:48:35 PM
  • 2
    I am not a major fan of eggs until I realized it was the yolk giving me the blues. Since my daughter and I joined SparkPeople, she makes awesome scrambles with egg whites. I am fortunate enough to live near folks who have organic farms and free range eggs. I feel like I should patronize them for being so awesome.

    I have always made awesome omelets and deviled eggs that folks would rave about, but they just wouldn't stay down for me. I hated that the 'simmered' egg was such a perfect food I couldn't enjoy. I never could figure out the way to KNOW when a boiled egg was perfect. Now I know!

    Thanks, too, Chef Meg, for sharing your personal story. I grew up in a suburb of New York but spent Summers in Arkansas where when I was six years old I saw my grandfather kill a chicken with an ax to the neck between two nails protruding from a tree stump -- I swore that headless chicken chased me for 2 or 3 minutes! But I gained an appreciation for the chicken and the entire process to get it to our tables.

    Thanks again for your awesome innovations, recipe swaps and antidotes. - 3/26/2012   3:22:20 PM
  • 1
    Wow! Thanks for this article! I learned a lot from this! - 3/26/2012   3:10:06 PM

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