Recipes for cooking with eggs. Lia Crowe photographs

The (not so) Humble Egg

Recipes for cooking with eggs

  • May. 31, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Words by Ellie Shortt Photography by Lia Crowe

Fragility. Fertility. New life. New beginnings. Springtime. Sustenance. What comes to mind when you picture an egg? What kind of egg do you picture? Is it still in its shell or cracked open? Raw or cooked?

I think of my childhood. I recall comforting meals of omelettes with side salads or scrambled eggs on toast—more often finding their way into our dinner rotation than breakfast routine. I see the Passover Seder spread and feel my teeth sink into that satisfying first bite of a hardboiled egg after waiting so eagerly for those precious first courses. I’m transported to the kitchen table of my friend’s house, making pysanka—carefully poking a hole in the bottom of the shell, getting sore cheeks while blowing out the innards and meticulously dotting with wax, dipping into dye, wiping it down and repeating with patience and pride as I complete my delicate masterpiece. I hear the catchy jingle of those energetic “Get Cracking” commercials of the ‘80s.

There are seemingly endless associations with eggs and equally endless things to do with them. Is it going to be part of a cake? An ingredient in a salad dressing or sauce? Or an over-easy buddy to some bacon? Sweet, savoury, brilliant or bland, there is a world of possibilities all starting with the modest egg.

But these perfectly wrapped gifts from nature are anything but basic. At the beginning of any great foundation of appreciation comes the art of understanding, and for so many of us we crack, whisk, fry and poach without much awareness as to what has gone into this culinary staple, arguably the very “staple” of life as we know it—for without the egg, the ovum, the seed and the kernel from which all things spring forth…there isn’t life.

Let’s start with the shell. Made almost entirely of calcium carbonate crystals, an eggshell is surprisingly a semipermeable membrane, which means that air and moisture can pass through its pores. However, the shell also has a thin outermost coating called the bloom or cuticle that miraculously helps keep out bacteria and dust.

Fragile yet somehow resilient, an eggshell is almost unbreakable when squeezed from top to bottom, but a mere tap can crack open the armour exposing the contents within. This gooey core is cradled by inner and outer membranes, which provide further defence against bacterial invasions. The egg white is also known as the albumen, and contains about 40 different types of proteins, many of which are otherwise tricky to find in such bioavailable capacities.

Then there are the chalazae—opaque ropes of egg white, which hold the yolk in the centre of the egg like little anchors, and attach the yolk’s casing to the membrane lining the eggshell. Finally we reach the yolk, the most nutrient-dense and, in my humble opinion, tastiest part of the precious package.

Held together by the vitelline membrane, the yolk contains less water and more protein than the white, some fat and most of the egg’s vitamins and minerals. These include iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, phosphorus, calcium, thiamine and riboflavin. The yolk is also a source of lecithin, an effective emulsifier so your body can better absorb the fabulous fat within. The colour ranges from just a hint of yellow to a magnificent deep orange, according to the feed and breed of the hen. Ideally we want our barnyard birds running around free and chatty on a farm, eating all sorts of yummy delights, including bugs and the like (nope—chickens aren’t supposed to be only veggie-fed), which not only provides a happier existence for our fowl friends, but offers us more delicious and nutritious eggs.

Of course, this is all regarding the most commonly consumed egg in our western culinary paradigm, but there are many different eggs to explore, including duck, quail and ostrich, all of which present distinctive flavour and nutrient profiles. For example, duck eggs are notably rich, excellent in a fresh pasta recipe, for example. Pickled quail eggs make for a lovely little pop-in-your-mouth treat. Hard to acquire and lavishly priced, ostrich eggs are often eaten on their own, soft-boiled for an hour (yes, an hour), chiselled open and seasoned simply before offering a most-indulgent dipping pool for your bread. But many adventurous cooks will attempt mega omelettes and scrambles with these monstrous capsules of extravagance.

From a nutritional perspective not all eggs are created equal. Duck eggs tend to contain higher amounts of many nutrients than chicken eggs, including folate, iron and vitamin B12 (as much as 168 per cent or more of the daily recommended dose of B12). Quail eggs contain more fat and protein by weight than chicken eggs, double the iron and riboflavin, about one-third more vitamin B12, but less choline. Ostrich eggs are richer in magnesium and iron than chicken eggs, but contain less vitamin E and vitamin A.

Perhaps one of the most versatile and adaptable, yet under-appreciated applications of cooking an egg is that of the perfectly executed and timed boil. There are as many different methods and opinions on this subject as there are sizes and colours of eggs, but I personally stick to the simple method of placing an egg in boiling water for the allotted time and carefully relocating it to an ice bath for a couple minutes before peeling (or cracking in half as is the case for a soft boil). A slotted spoon, small sieve, or mesh basket with a long handle can really help in safe transfer in and out of the water, but aside from that, you just need a pot, a timer and your eggs.

See method below.

And where you take your boiled egg from here is up to you! For soft-boiled, I’m a big fan of the quaint yet refined minimalism of salt, pepper and some toast sticks. Medium goes marvellously on a bed of greens, and there’s nothing quite like a hard-boiled egg salad to enjoy with crackers, or sandwiched between two slices of a rustic loaf.

Wherever your egg adventure takes you, perhaps take a moment to pause and appreciate the structural brilliance, the nutrient density, the gorgeous visuals, the rich flavours and the culinary possibilities of the (not so) humble egg.

Rainbow Breakfast Bowl

Prep time: 20-30 minutes (including cooking and boiling time)

Yield: 2 servings

There’s nothing quite like beginning your day with a splash of sunshiny colour, and this vibrant dish is sure to start you on the right foot. Satiating and sustaining, this abundant bowl of nutrient-dense goodness keeps me full and satisfied for hours. Prep all the ingredients ahead of time to expedite the assembly process during your early morning routine.

Ingredients

For the salad…

1 cup roasted sweet potato cubes (see instructions below)

2 medium-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half

4 slices of bacon, cooked to your liking

½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 cup cucumber, peeled, cored and sliced (you only need to peel and core it if it’s a field cucumber)

½ avocado, sliced

½ cup blueberries

1 cup shredded purple cabbage (I like to use a mandoline to get it extra fine)

4 cups mixed greens

Sprinkle of hemp hearts

For the dressing…

½ cup olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp fresh orange juice (or just more lemon juice)

1 tsp maple syrup

1 clove garlic, minced

1⁄3 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (I did about ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper)

Directions

For the roasted yam or sweet potato…

Preheat your oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel and cut the sweet potato into small cubes. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss the sweet potato cubes with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Spread the cubes evenly on the baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Set aside to cool.

For the dressing…

Add all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined (you can also combine the ingredients in a small blender and whir for a few seconds until integrated).

To assemble the salad…

In two separate dishes, divide the greens and sweet potato mix, creating a base for each bowl. Arrange the other ingredients evenly on top of each base, drizzle with desired amount of dressing, sprinkle with a bit of hemp hearts and enjoy!

Egg Salad with Fresh Herbs and Grainy Mustard

Prep time: 15 minutes (including boiling time)

Yield: 2-4 servings

Ingredients

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise or aioli

1 tbsp grainy mustard

½ tsp paprika

1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, mashing and stirring to fully integrate them all together, and enjoy!

Can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.

How to Boil an Egg

While there are many differing opinions and methods, I find this simple approach to be efficient and effective, and most importantly, easy to peel! While it’s best to enjoy a soft boil fresh out of the water so that it’s still warm and lovely, the medium- and hard-boiled eggs are a great make-ahead option, and should keep in the fridge for a few days.

Directions

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a slotted spoon or small sieve with a handle, carefully lower your eggs into the boiling water one at a time. Set desired time (3-4 minutes for soft, 6-7 for medium and 10-12 for hard), adjusting heat to maintain a gentle boil. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and chill until just slightly warm, about 2 minutes.

Gently crack eggs all over and peel, starting from the wider end, which often contains the air pocket.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

FoodRecipes

Just Posted

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation planning ground analysis of land near former residential school

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Free boxes of fresh produce are currently being provided in Quesnel by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Northern BC thanks to a donation from West Fraser Mills. (File photo)
Fresh produce available for those in need in Quesnel

Donation allows Canadian Mental Health Association to provide free fruits and veggies

Elizabeth Pete is a survivor of St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
WATCH: Kamloops bound convoy greeted by Canim Lake Band along Highway 97

Well over two dozen members of the Tsq’escenemc people (Canim Lake Band) showed up

Five rehabilitated grizzly bears were released this month into the Bella Coola area. The Northern Lights Wildlife Society will also be delivering 36 black bears to areas across the province where they were previously found. “They’re ready to go and they’re already trying to get out,” says Angelika Langen. “We feel good when we can make that possible and they don’t have to stay behind fences for the rest of their lives.” (Northern Lights Wildlife Society Facebook photo)
People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Most Read