Last night, I was having supper with my folks and long-time family friends Bonnie and Will. The conversation turned eventually to chickens – specifically, egg-laying hens. Bonnie has had a flock of hens for several years, and typically has several dozen beautiful, fresh eggs in her refrigerator as a result.
Eggs are one of the reasons I have never switched over to veganism. They are amazing things, packed full of healthy proteins and less-healthy fats. I can make them over easy, or scrambled, or fry them up with vegetables for an omelet. They are the base of many desserts, from meringues to ice cream to mousse to pound cakes. Boil them up, and they are sources of fast protein, or the start of an egg salad sandwich. Eggs are appropriate for some aspect of any meal, at any time of the day.
While keeping hens doesn’t seem like an activity that works well with going to college, Bonnie makes it sound easy. They let them out when it’s warm enough, and make sure all the chickens get back in the coop at night. The hens are like a garbage disposal, eating leftover scraps of fruits and vegetables. And they are prime entertainment.
People say chickens are dumb, Will said. “But personality? Boy, do they have personality.”
Their chickens will “talk” – lots of clucking and other chicken noises. There will be long, elaborate discussions over things that only chickens could understand. Personally, I think the most entertaining aspect of chickens is watching them move. The way their neck rocks forward with each step, or the gait of a running hen. They are awkward and amusing at once.
The flock that Bonnie and Will have now includes three types of heirloom hens. Heirloom breeds mean that they are varieties that have been around for a long time, and can be recognized from generation to generation by their characteristic traits. The heirloom types that Bonnie and Will have are Araucanas, Barred Rock, and Rhode Island Reds. The latter is a pretty brown hen. Barred Rocks are black with white bars across their feathers. Araucanas, Bonnie said, look exactly like little owls when they’re babies, and produce blue eggs.
Blue eggs. Well, not exactly robin’s egg blue, but very pretty. It’s tempting to just call them Easter eggs and be done with it. Although, according to Bonnie, some people refuse to take them. I suppose they’re not exactly the typical eggs I’d find in the grocery store. Still, an egg is an egg, and
I am happy to cook them.
Bonnie sent us home with a dozen eggs fresh from her hens. Four pale blue ones, and eight brown.
Fresh eggs, especially from birds that are getting out and about in the backyard, have dark yellow yolks. Sometimes the yolks are so dark they are closer to orange. To me, this means that these are eggs that shouldn’t be mixed into a cake batter. Instead, I’m going to be having eggs for breakfast all week.
Three Ways to Fry An Egg
My Mother’s Favorite: Semi-Poached
Use a stainless steal pan with a drizzle of canola oil. Over medium heat, crack two eggs into the pan. When they begin to turn white, add a teaspoon of water and cover. Turn off burner. For soft yolk, leave on stove for two minutes. For hard yolks, leave on stove for three minutes.
My Dad’s Way: Sunny Side Up
Place a cast iron pan over medium-low heat. For an oil, use bacon fat. Crack two eggs into the pan, and sprinkle liberally with freshly cracked pepper. Cook until whites are opaque but yolks are still yellow and runny.
My Way: Over Easy
Pick whichever pan you have on hand. I like small ones for a more round shape. Heat some oil, butter, or bacon fat of your choosing. Over medium heat, crack open two eggs into the pan. Once you can see the bottoms of the whites have turned completely opaque and edges are a little crispy, flip the eggs over. I do this with a spatula, but it’s possible to use the pan to flip them over. You use a motion that is down and out, followed by a jerk backwards. I would recommend practicing with dried beans or something that is easy to clean up.
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