Side Dish for April 5, 2012

Connecting chicken, egg from yard to table

Eggs have long been associated with spring and with Easter — a time of renewal, rebirth and new life. What better symbol for the holiday, which celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from a sealed tomb, than an egg in which life springs from a sealed shell?

So, with that thought, it seems appropriate to take a look at “The Fresh Egg Cookbook: From Chicken to Kitchen” by Jennifer Trainer Thompson (Storey Publishing, $14.95 paperback) which includes “Recipes for Using Eggs From Farmers’ Markets, Local Farms, and Your Own Backyard.”

Thompson and her family raise a small flock of chickens in the backyard of their Massachusetts home. She likes that her two children know where their eggs come from. She notes that when she was a child, she ate a lot of hard-boiled eggs in the summer but “it never occurred to me to connect the dots to the food source. They came from the refrigerator.”

She also likes the thickness of a fresh egg’s whites, the deep orangey-yellow color of the yolk and, most importantly, the rich taste.

Thompson’s family has joined what she calls “something of a fad, with a cult following that borders on obsession.” Backyard poultry fans are raising chickens in the city and the country.

Thompson wrote her latest book — she’s the author of 11 cookbooks — to provide home cooks with delicious ideas of what to do with the fresh eggs they get from their own backyards, farmers’ markets or local farms. In “The Fresh Egg Cookbook,” she delves into why fresh is best, answers some chicken basics such as “you don’t need a rooster for a hen to lay an egg;” an egg’s color is determined by the chicken’s breed, not by its diet and no matter the egg color, the taste is the same.

The 183-page book also includes lots of full-color photos, including those of Thompson’s 10 favorite chicken breeds for backyard chicken raising, along with plenty of humorous stories and practical information the author has learned from almost 10 years of chicken keeping. She also includes info on egg safety and how to tell if an egg is fresh.

There are recipes for the classics, such as mayonnaise and egg nog; recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner; recipes for using an excess supply of eggs — think pickled or deviled eggs; vegetarian dishes and desserts. Anyone who loves eggs will enjoy this cookbook.

Decorating eggs

Decorating eggs for Easter or making deviled eggs? Here’s how to prepare hard-cooked eggs, according to instructions at http://www.incredibleegg.org: Place eggs in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add enough cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch; heat on High just to boiling. Remove from burner and cover pan.

Let eggs stand in hot water for about 9 minutes for medium eggs, 12 minutes for large eggs, and 15 minutes for extra large eggs.

Drain immediately and serve warm, or cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water, then refrigerate.