Longer days mean softball at Mashashimuet Park, school budget debates, and the grand re-opening of Bay Burger. But that’s not all. They also signal the availability of local free range eggs. Farmers may not be harvesting vegetables in late April, but that doesn’t mean they’re not open for business. Abundant daylight is stimulating Hamptons hens to step up production. This week, I saw eggs for sale at Bette and Dale’s on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike and at Cavaniola’s on Division Street, where a village source has begun to make deliveries. Eggs are also available at North Sea Farms in Southampton and Iacono’s in East Hampton.
Do our farmers and yourself a favor and pick up some eggs this week. In addition to supporting local agriculture, you’ll be gaining significant nutritional benefits by eating local free range eggs. Studies have shown that pastured organic eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol and ¼ less saturated fat than eggs from large industrial egg farms. They also have more Vitamin A and E, and extra heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. And organic, pastured eggs have seven times more beta carotene than commercial eggs, which explains the vivid color of their yolks.
When you buy fresh and local eggs you don’t have to worry about bacterial contamination so common in eggs from industrial farms. Unlike chickens at large poultry plants, free range chickens are raised in sanitary and spacious coops where they are unlikely to pick up salmonella. Additionally, farm stand eggs have a natural protective coating hasn’t been washed away as part of the sterilization process that takes place at egg factories. This coating, called the cuticle, acts as an extra barrier against contamination and helps preserve freshness. Unlike commercial eggs, which lack this coating and are thus more porous and open to spoilage, pastured organic eggs will stay fresh for a week (my friend who grew up on a farm in France says his mother left eggs in the pantry all winter) at room temperature. In the refrigerator, they will keep for a month or longer.
I was so excited to eat the first eggs of 2013 that I decided on the quickest cooking method possible, scrambling. I’ve found that milk makes my scrambled eggs watery, so I use heavy cream instead (come on, 2 tablespoons of cream won’t kill you). The famous debate between Jacques Pepin and Julia Child about whether to salt eggs before or after cooking rages on. Jacques said that pre-seasoning eggs will toughen them, while Julia maintained that eggs salted after scrambling would be bland no matter how much you salt you sprinkled on at the table. I’m with Julia on this one. For a fluffy texture, I whisk the eggs, cream and salt vigorously before cooking. And then I cook them over a low flame. If they get hot too quickly, the proteins will seize up and squeeze a puddle of moisture into the bottom of the pan. A nonstick pan is a must for cooking the eggs without any scorching or browning. A nonstick silicone spatula is helpful for turning eggs gently without breaking them up too much.
To flavor your eggs, you could add chopped herbs or fold in some grated or shredded cheese during the last few seconds of cooking. I was in the mood for something exotic, so I cooked some cumin seeds (“blooming” the spices helps bring out their flavors) along with garlic, ginger, shallot, and a chili pepper in butter before adding the eggs to the pan. Freshly griddled Indian flatbreads would have been nice, but in their absence a couple of pieces of toasted and buttered baguette did just fine as an accompaniment.
Indian-Spiced Scrambled Eggs
4 large eggs
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 mild green chili, seeded and finely chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1. Whisk the eggs, yogurt and salt together in a bowl until frothy.
2. Melt the butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chili and cook 2 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, shallot, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Turn the heat to low. Add the eggs and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Then gently push sections of cooked egg from the edge of the pan to the center, letting the liquid egg flow to the hot bottom of the pan. Continue to cook and push until the eggs are just cooked through. Off heat, add the cilantro and give the eggs a few more turns to complete cooking. Serve immediately, with buttered whole wheat toast or baguette.