Copyright Sandra Gutierrez, 2009, All Rights Reserved.
Easter is here and eggs are on the menu! These beautiful, organic eggs came from Celebrity Dairy in Siler City, NC and I purchased them at the Carrborro's Farmer's Market.
The egg is a symbol of life. Often taken for granted in these modern days when more ingredients are lauded as exotic and as "new discoveries", the little darlings of the culinary realm seem to relegate eggs to the background. Despite this, eggs continue to yield their magic, without any fanfare and with very little recognition . Perhaps, when juxtaposed with the modern ingredients of exotic, faraway lands, the egg is viewed as just a simple staple in our kitchen. Not so quickly, my friends. Have some respect for the egg.
To me, the egg is the food that most symbolizes Spring. Its perfectly spherical shape represents the commencement of life (and has since the times of Ancient Greece). Without the egg our culinary lexicon would be very different. We would have no creme brulee, hollandaise sauce, croquettes, quenelles, crepes, souffles, quiches, breads, cakes, puddings or custards.
Imagine a world without eggs. Nothing to bind meat loaves and forcemeats together, or to make bread crumb coatings stick. What would you replace the egg in eggnog with? Pancakes and waffles, mayonnaise and pastry creme, meringues, lemon curds and cheesacakes would not even exist. Imagine a world without genoise, sponge cakes and angel food cake (cholesterol-free and a wonder made with eggs).
Can you imagine a chef's toque blanche without its one hundred pleats (each is said to represent the a different way a chef can prepare eggs)? Just because eggs can be scrambled, baked, pickled and poached, fried, boiled and stuffed doesn't mean they are only to be relegated to breakfast fare (not that there is anything wrong with eating them at breakfast, by the way). Rather, the egg is that quietly miraculous ingredient in our kitchens that provide airy lightness to souffles and smoothness to flans, that thickens custards and creme anglaise. They add crispness and height to profiteroles, eclairs and gougeres.
Eggs are the glue,the matchmaking liason, that binds crab cakes, meatballs, gnocchi and croquettes together and the leavening power in cakes. They emulsfiy mayonnaise and ice cream, and provide the shiny glaze on perfectly baked goods. Eggs are at the base of fresh pasta, dough, batters and sauces.
It is inspiring to me that within such a small food, protected solely by a fragile shell, could hide the secret that ultimately produces so many foods. The egg is just too important to be ignored. So my friends, this Easter and Passover Season, I wish you meals rich in eggs and lore.
Now, start experimenting and find out how many pleats you can add to your own chef's toque!
As a gift to you, I offer an egg of a different kind. Made with polenta and shaped like eggs, these make the perfect side to your holiday repast.
Polenta Easter Eggs
6 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound yellow cornmeal (coarsely ground) or polenta
2 tablespoons butter (unsalted, natural)
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
In a large and heavy-bottomed pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt; lower the heat to medium and slowly, in a stream, begin to add the cornmeal, all the while stirring with a whisk. Continue to add the cornmeal until all is incorporated. You will notice the mixture beginning to thicken. When the polenta gets too thick, switch to a wooden spoon and continue stirring often. If the polenta is sputtering too much, you can lower the heat slightly (the trick is to keep stirring). Cook polenta over the heat for 20 minutes, all the while stirring. Once the polenta thickens, it will begin to pull away from the sides of the pot. Remove polenta from the heat and stir in the butter and the cheese. Brush a jelly roll pan with olive oil and pour the hot polenta on the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Allow the polenta to cool completely--this makes it set. Once it is cool, cut the polenta using an egg-shaped cookie cutter, into the desired number of eggs. These may be kept in the refrigerator, in one layer, for up to 24 hours (cover them well so they won't dry out). When ready to serve, heat the olive oil to 1/4 inch depth, in a non stick pan and saute the polenta eggs on both sides until they are golden brown and heated through. Serves 6.
Copyright, Sandra Gutierrez, 2009; All Rights Reserved.