A Most Eggs-cellent Taste
Having been born and raised in San Francisco, I’m a big-city girl. I sheepishly concede that really shows sometimes, too.
When I was a summer intern at the Portland Oregonian newspaper way back when, my editors sent me to the county fair to write a story. Any story.
When I arrived, I noticed the dairy cow competition was about to begin. Admittedly, growing up in cramped, congested San Francisco, I never even lived anywhere that had room for grass in the yard. Not surprisingly, my experience with cows was limited to seeing them grazing off in the distance as I rode in a car on the freeway. Getting up close and personal with one was novel, to be sure.
I walked up to a young man at the fair, who was tending his cows. “Excuse me, Sir?” I asked. “Are you in the dairy cow competition?”
The young man looked at me, looked at his cows, then looked at me again: “Ma’am, these are beef cows.”
Ohhh, right. The cows were dark as coal, muscular, and rather hefty, I realized on second glance, as I slinked off in complete shame.
So it goes without saying that I grew up getting my eggs from supermarkets, too. Sure, I’d read and heard people say that farm-fresh eggs were so much better. But I had been content to take the easy route, just picking up a carton of 12 on my regular trips to the grocery store.
But a few weeks ago, my husband’s co-worker, who raises chickens, gave us two dozen of his farm-fresh eggs. They were about two days old, with shells that ranged in hue from alabaster to biscuit to bronze.
My husband, who also had never experienced fresh eggs, was eager to try them, too. The next morning, he cracked two open for sunny-side up eggs with toast. The difference was immediately apparent. The yolks were orange, not the standard yellow. Some say the more vivid color is due to the chickens being less stressed; others say it’s because farmers feed marigolds to the poultry to purposely attain that color in the eggs. And still others say the color comes from the farm chicken’s natural diet of grains, leaves and bugs, in contrast to the commercial chicken, which is usually fed soy and fish meals.
Because fresh eggs have a stronger yolk membrane, the yolks also looked firmer and plumper. The whites were thicker, too. The taste? Richer somehow. And yes, more egg-y in a way.
That weekend, we couldn’t wait to try them out in homemade spaghetti noodles. As I mixed flour, water, salt, and our friend’s eggs in my mixer, I noticed the dough was a tad more golden than usual, but not dramatically so. As we ran the dough through the pasta cutters, the long strands came tumbling out.
I simmered my “posh pantry” sauce to toss the pasta in. I call it that because it’s special enough for last-minute guests, and because I usually have most of the ingredients on hand already, with the exception of the smoked salmon, which can easily be picked up in any grocery store. Smoked trout or good quality oil-packed tuna works just fine here, too. Leeks are a nice twist to the usual onion, as well. It’s an easy, forgiving sauce that comes together quickly, and can be tinkered with on a whim.
I tossed the pasta with the sauce, and we dug in. Fresh pasta always has a more pronounced egg taste than dried, so I’m not sure we detected an even stronger one from the fresh eggs. Still, it was good stuff. And we ate till we couldn’t manage another bite.
In this day and age, so much of our food comes prepackaged in neatly wrapped plastic containers that kids sometimes don’t realize that a pork chop or steak was once part of a real animal. And that’s a shame because we lose respect for that animal then.
You can be sure I’ll be picking up more eggs at the farmers’ market rather than just from the refrigerator shelf at the supermarket. I’ve learned to value the humble egg. It’s nature’s most perfect package, at once strong yet fragile. Experience it at its best, when it’s farm fresh. You’re never too old to appreciate something like that — not even if you’re a big-city girl who’s a bit animal-challenged.
My Posh Pantry Pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow or red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup white wine (such as Chardonnay)
3 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams
10 ounces or so of smoked salmon
2 tablespoons capers, or to taste
Zest from 1 lemon
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Handful of fresh chopped parsley or basil
1- 1 1/4 pounds fresh pasta (spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccini)
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter. Add onion, and sauté until golden. Add garlic, and stir until softened. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Deglaze pan with white wine; let simmer until slightly reduced. Add broth from cans of clams, reserving clams to add later. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce slightly.
Add salmon to the sauce, flaking it into bite-size pieces. Stir in capers, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add clams, and turn the heat to low, keeping sauce warm but not boiling it so that the clams toughen.
Add pasta to pot of boiling water. Cook until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving about ¾ cup of the cooking water in a mug.
Add pasta back to empty large pot; add sauce and a little of the cooking water if the pasta mixture gets too dry. Stir in fresh parsley or basil. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil before serving. Italians may think it blasphemous to add Parmesan cheese to seafood pastas, but I leave the decision up to you. Personally, I like it in this dish.
I love fresh eggs! Stay fresher longer too. They are a little more expensive but oh SO worth it!
Too bad that the egg season’s coming to a close….in any case, if you haven’t already, get a hold of some Marin Sun Farms eggs in the spring. You might be surprised in how much eggs can be different depending on the season. In addition to being farm fresh and pastured, they also rotate the hen houses around the pasture a la Joel Salatin. I happen to believe that this added step is one that not only is better stewardship, but one that affects the flavor of the eggs. It’s only a bonus that Dave raises some Aurucana hens in the mix. Those are a treat in and of themselves.
I know that there’s at least one other farm that uses mobile hen houses…but the name escapes me at the moment….In any case, any farm fresh eggs (whether from stationary or mobile hen houses) are always a treat! And as you’ve already noticed…your pasta will never be the same!
So am I correct in assuming that the ramekin on the left holds the supermarket egg and the one on the right holds the fresh egg? Judging by the yolks’ color, that’s my guess. The pasta sounds wonderful. (And thanks for permitting us to use fresh store-bought… I haven’t made pasta by hand in ages, though I very well may soon.)
Carolyn, I was a city girl that moved to a farm in junior high. I was absolutely wowed by eggs with color and the occasional two yolk egg! I recall being wide eyed as my mom turn cucumbers into pickles. Let alone being in charge of the zuchinni and picking at morning then returning at night finding monstor sized ones that earlier were too small to pick. Little natural miracles hidden from so many of us city dwellers. By the way did I miss when to add the clams in this recipe?
AJ makes a good point – because hens lay less eggs during the winter, doesn’t that mean the price of a dozen eggs goes up accordingly? I wonder, how does that compare with factory farm egg prices?
You should enter your recipe in Presto Pasta Nights.
Hi Sharon. Thanks for catching that. The clams have been added into the directions. And nice to know that you’re a city-girl like me who discovered how incredible farm-fresh eggs can be.
AJ: I will have to look for the Marin Sun Farms eggs at the farmers markets. The seasonal aspect has me intrigued. But that makes perfect sense. After all, cheese and butter taste differently at different times of the year, depending upon what the cows are eating. So is there a particular season that is your favorite for a particular way the eggs taste?
Cheryl: Yes, indeed, the egg on the left is the supermarket one, and the egg on the right is the farm-fresh one only two days old. What a difference, huh?
And Nate: Oooh, Presto Pasta Nights? Haven’t heard of that. But I do love pasta, so you have me curious about what that is.
Presto Pasta Nights is a weekly roundup of pasta recipes from all over the food blogosphere.
Find out who’s hosting this week by going to http://www.prestopastanights.com/
Wow, there are some really creative pasta dishes on that site. Thanks for spreading the word about it, Nate. All carb lovers like myself are indebted to you.
Absolutely….production goes down with the reduction in daylight, but I think that the taste of the eggs also suffers a bit as green pasture (and its attendant activities) gives way to brown landscapes. There’s definitely something to the expression of a Spring Chicken (and egg) as that’s my favorite time of the year for both! (Cornish Cross meat birds, with their short growth timetables, have a tough time surviving even in Northern California’s winter cold without climate controlled facilities. And if you don’t have any pasture for them anyway…what would be the point?
I will make a note to myself then that come spring 2009, I MUST buy some farm-fresh eggs. Can’t wait to try making more pasta with those!
I’ve been buying farm fresh eggs from my local farmers market for quite a few months now and they are so much better than the store bought. The lady I buy from changed the cost of her eggs at one point because she said something about “new layers” and the eggs were smaller than the first batches I bought. Still, small or large, great tasting eggs.