17 April 2019

Confessions of an Egg Maniac

by Marilyn O’Connell

Napa Valley Register

I am a self-proclaimed egg-o-maniac. I love eggs. I adore the petite speckled quail egg and I savor the hearty duck egg. There is no better start to my day than cracking open a beautiful farm-fresh egg and seeing that orange orb.

Some might say I am a little egg obsessive, but there is so much to love. Eggs are a nearly perfect food. Not only are they one of the most versatile forms of protein on the planet, they are dense with nutrients (Vitamin D, choline, lutein) and delicious. They are also the original fast (and healthy) food.

It takes six minutes to make a soft–boiled egg, and not much more to scramble up a meal. A hard-boiled egg with a little aioli makes a perfect snack on the go. A lovingly poached egg transforms a simple bed of greens to something decadent and delectable.

The Napa Farmers Market, which is now open both Tuesday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., offers a growing list of farm-fresh egg providers, including A-4 Farms, Farmer Joy’s Eggs, Long Meadow Ranch and Sun Tracker Farms.

At a recent Napa Farmers Market, Robert Hines of Sun Tracker Farms in Capay Valley had goose eggs for sale. These gigantic gems dwarfed everything around them. As I discovered at home, the yolks of goose eggs are enormous — much larger proportionally than chicken egg yolks. While you could scramble goose eggs or make a one-egg omelet (really), I would suggest you fry up your first one to fully appreciate its yolky magnificence.

Food cultures around the world have honored eggs by coddling them (British breakfast), whipping them (French soufflés) and blending them into savory custards (Japanese chawanmushi). But one of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh farm eggs is simply soft-boiled on a seasonal salad. Dorie Greenspan has a great recipe where the egg crowns spring greens and asparagus, garnished with bacon and hazelnuts. While this recipe calls for chicken eggs, try it with a fried goose egg. It will serve a crowd.

Kids Activities at the Napa Farmers Market: Bring your youngsters to the market’s Education Station on Tuesdays and Saturdays for Story Time at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Harvest of the Month: Through April, enjoy a comparative tasting of strawberries and asparagus at the market’s Education Station at 11 a.m.

Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil (optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the salad:

4 large fresh eggs, chilled

20 asparagus spears, preferably thick, trimmed and peeled

6 bacon strips

3 handfuls mixed salad greens of your choice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

To make the vinaigrette: Place all the ingredients in a small jar, cover and shake to blend. Set aside and shake before using.

To make the salad: Bring a medium saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil. Gently place the eggs into the water and let them boil for exactly 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the eggs by placing them in a strainer and running cool water over them. Fill the pan with cold water and leave the eggs in the water until needed.

Bring a large skillet of salted water to a boil and place the asparagus into the pan to cook for 4 minutes or until you can pierce the spears with a paring knife. Transfer the spears to a plate lined with a towel and pat them dry.

Lay the strips of bacon in a skillet and cook over medium-low heat, turning as needed until the bacon is golden and crisp on both sides. Cool the bacon on paper towels. Leave two tablespoons of bacon in the pan. Later, cut the bacon into one-inch pieces.

When you are ready to serve, carefully shell the eggs. Warm the bacon fat over medium heat. Season the greens with salt and pepper and dress with three-quarters of the vinaigrette. Toss the asparagus with the remaining dressing and arrange over the greens.

When the bacon fat is warm, gently slip the eggs into the skillet and roll them around in the fat for a minute or two, to coat them with fat, heat them slightly, and give them a little color. Place an egg on top of the asparagus, scatter the bacon and toasted nuts over the salad and serve immediately.

Serves 4