On bad eggs

Years ago my chef/farmer friend Catharine taught me to crack each egg individually into a bowl before sending it off to its final culinary destination.  “You never know,” she said, “and egg surprises really suck.”  So I have a small metal bowl handy for just this purpose.  When you eat maybe 18-24 eggs a week as a household like we do it’s best to be safe.

Phyllis, you sneak!  Darned bird:  lying amongst the angelica, these eggs just rot.

Not that my egg-managing skillz aren’t superlative (they are).  But chickens, especially bantams, can be really sneaky in their ovarian habits.  I swear there are a few birds who purposefully cycle themselves so that they can lay their eggs far, far away during their daily release from confinement (AKA Happy Hour).  And I will find their caches, eventually, squirreled away under the shrubbery, well beyond the Eat By date.  (I have learned to gingerly retrieve these eggs, placing them into a bucket half-filled with water…explosions do happen, especially with the weather this hot.  Best it happen under water and thus contain the pain.)

And it has been hot, hasn’t it?  I have been going to great lengths to keep the house cool and avoiding the stove (it’s electric: lots of ill-managed, escaping BTUs).  Yesterday was just such a day.  I cooked a 3-lb. chuck roast in a crock pot on the back porch all afternoon (larded with persillade and poached in tomato chutney, with the day’s volunteer All-Blue potatoes , red onions, and some carrots for color).  Crock pots, how 70s, how…redolent of my childhood; I had avoided them myself until my mom got me one (of course) a year or so ago.  Useful things, I suppose, and they can’t on their own heat up the house like the oven or stove…plus they do a mean turn on tough cuts of meat like this chuck steak.

So I sat in my garden habit, sipping a cold glass of post-garden-rewarding Traminette, flipping through a stack of cookbooks for some inspiration.  Slow-cooked meats yield lots of good juice and good juice needs something to sop it all up, doesn’t that follow?  And no heavy bread, thanks.  SO I picked up a handy Richard Olney tome and beheld Batter Noodles (Nouilles a la Poche).  (Re:  the late Mr Olney:  Iowa has never, before or since, produced such a snippy pretentious bit of bombast in human form.  *Love* that guy.)  “Treated as a gratin, these rich, round, tender eggy noodles are quite astonishing–simply drowned in cream and sprinkled with grated cheese (or liberally sprinkled with meat or poultry roasting juices and cheese…).” (Simple French Food, NY:  Wiley, 1974)

Four eggs, salt, a tablespoon of olive oil, and 1-1/3 cups of flour?  Sold!  You pipe it into gently simmering, salted water from a cone of parchment paper.  I may have to turn on the stove to boil a pot of water for this, but…it’ll be worth it, I thought.

And then the second egg exploded as I cracked it, sending its contents onto me, the counter edge, and the floor.  Yeesh.  But the noodles were quite good!  I had, you see, cracked that befouled egg into that handy little metal bowl.  Better safe than sorry.  Such an annoying truism.

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17 responses to “On bad eggs

  1. Did you send Catharine a telepathic thank you? I usually mock people who bemoan the midwest heat…..this year I’m the loudest complainer.

  2. Another farmer blogger was posting pictures of her sneaky chickens’ eggs under the plants, and I realized, I wouldn’t know how to tell a good egg from a bad one. My eggs have always come from the store. Yet another of those skills lost to modern convenience. Thank goodness there are those among us who are keeping this knowledge -annoying truisms and all- alive 🙂

  3. I was told a horror story involving a fertilised egg only the day before yesterday…. moral of the story was Always Crack The Egg Into A Bowl First!

  4. Oh, goodness. Good reminder, though. I have a lazy habit of cracking straight into the pan. . . probably ought to stop. My hens don’t roam, though, so that helps. . . And what WOULDN’T taste good drowning in cream?

  5. Do you use all of those spent shells in your garden? Feed?

    • I smash them in that water-filled bucket with the flat end of a hoe, DJK, then dump the lot into the compost. Stiiinnnkky. I pour more water on it and throw more compost on top to dissipate the stench. I figure, stinky compost doesn’t care how it smells, I shouldn’t either, yet…I do cover it up. The chickens would love to eat the shells if they found them, fine young cannibals that they are.

  6. My mom grew up on a farm and taught me to always crack the eggs individually into a bowl or mug before using them. It’s more of a ritual than a practical thing to do because I buy grocery store eggs and I’ve never had a bad egg ever. We hope to get chickens someday, so it’s a good practice to have.

  7. What a good writer you are! As for Richard Olney, I love him, ESPECIally Simple French Food. And yes, it always throws me that he’s from one of those far mid-west states. Love your description of him.
    My fave technique from that book is the one for pommes dauphin from the bottom of page 217 to and through 218 (in the Athenium Paperback ed). Love that story./

  8. I simply throw the bad eggs far off into the bushes. Just in case someone here doesn’t already know this, bad eggs float, good eggs sink. The fresher an egg, the faster it will sink. If an egg is not touching the bottom of a bowl full of water, chuck it.

  9. City slicker here also and a few weeks ago I bought a dozen Jumbos from Trader Joes and every other one was a double yolk.Never seen that many in a dozen.

  10. Why do the eggs explode?

  11. I had that happen in a pastry class, I’m thinking it was fertilized, not rotten (organic batch of eggs, and it didn’t small terrible…) Truth be told I jumped back so fast I didn’t want to see! DEFINITELY want to break in a separate bowl in a commercial setting–don’t want to ruin a huge batch of something valuable!

    Also had a Jewish boss that mentioned that for kosher kitchens–they break into a bowl in case of a blood spot. Otherwise eggs are considered parve–fascinating! Which brings me to your noodles, which sound like spaetzle almost!

  12. So what are you doing with that Angelica? I grew some years ago while pregnant and when I pulled it up to tincture the roots, the smell about knocked me out. It’s not bad, really, just unique and strong. Of course pregnancy brings a super sonic sense of smell. At any rate, I ended up bagging the whole thing up and giving to another friend to tincture. I’ve read about candied angelica, but somehow doing anything with hard candy intimidates me.

    • Hah, hard candy scares me too, Amanda. I had heard that about angelica and have put it on the list of things to maybe try. Frankly, I have it because it’s tall, and occupies the center bed of the garden…I actually like the boozy gin smell of it, reminds me of gin and tonics with lime, but, true, I wasn’t woozily pregnant when I first smelled it. But it’s actually a wonderful plant for pollinators. When producing pollen you can easily count 20-30 different species of insect (surprisingly, most look like houseflies) climbing all over the thing. Its downside of course is its extreme self-seeding.

      Incidentally, I have read that the seed does not keep hardly at all and like its relative the parsnip the seed must be planted quickly. Anyone want any fresh seeds? Give me a holler.

  13. Good narration. I liked your second post…maybe ought to try a second batch of things. Cucumbers, cabbgaes, peas….sounds like a plan. Better get to it this weekend. Its like 200 degrees outside : (
    Stay cool…you live by a lake – don’t you?

  14. Hi Pamela, I did indeed. And I should know better it is quite true. Hope you’re surviving the heat; make sure to give the Queen a little extra water this week.

    Mama Bean, I probably should’ve explained how to tell a good egg from a bad but please read Aimee’s recommendation. It does work, *if* you do it; obviously I didn’t check, oops.

    Maria, hah. With time I am horrified by less and less…it’s an evolutionary process I suppose from my former city-girl existence. But I still love a good horror story, especially if I am not in the story myself!

    Stef, yeah, it’s great if they’re contained and lay their eggs in the appropriate places. Sigh. Everything has a downside, but you’re quite right, there’s not much of a downside to smothering something in cream.

    DJK I am now not quite sure if you meant the eggs in the pic or just the spent shells from our meals. The answer to both is yes, usually via the compost…but no I don’t use them to feed back to the chickens (though I know you can do that…it seems like more work to me).

    Lisa, yeah, it is a ritual, isn’t it? And a good one to have, bad eggs can be had from the store too. Just keep it in mind when you become egg wranglers yourselves.

    Thanks, Sharon, you flatterer you. I will definitely need to look up that recipe: and it’s true, it’s his stories that get you (and Elizabeth David’s too).

    Thank you, AImee. Yep, bad blogger, just assuming people (including myself obviously) know already. And obviously I took your advice in this instance.

    John, wow, that’s like getting half off! Doubles come from young girls who don’t have the mechanics worked out right. And ouch, what a way to screw it up.

    Hiya Scott. One word: decomp. Gas is normally released in the decomposition process but in an egg there’s nowhere to go, so the pressure builds until blammo! stink bomb!

    Sara, I had an argument with a Jewish guy once about chickens and parve and all that. He absolutely insisted chickens were vegetarian and that’s why they were kosher…that they wouldn’t drink milk or eat meat and I just wanted to laugh at him but I did not. I merely told him the story about witnessing my first batch of birds discover the contents of a mouse nest.

    Keep cool Mr WF!!! And you’re right aren’t you glad you’re not covered in wool? I planted a 2nd crop of cucumbers just yesterday…it’s helpful, because we eat so many of the things, and cool soups like you just ate are part of it, aren’t they.

  15. ah! Bantam do that, eh? Miss Aretha, a bantam Polish Top Tat, has us looking for her eggs that she does indeed hide in the shrubbery or tall grass. She is sneaky and she’s good!

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