Discover a world of eggs beyond chicken with recipes and cooking tips for duck, goose, ostrich, and quail eggs by Lauren Salkeld
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E ggs are versatile, easy to prepare, and pretty delicious. They're also nutritional superstars. As Rose Carrarini of Paris' Rose Bakery declares in the introduction to her new cookbook, How to Boil an Egg, "The egg is nature's multivitamin and mineral supplement, and is full of protein." In short, eggs fill you up with everything good and then keep you full for hours. What's not to love?
There's more good news. Thanks to the increasing availability of non-chicken eggs, home cooks can branch out to the duck, goose, ostrich, and quail varieties, too. While you're unlikely to find these more unusual eggs at the average supermarket, they are popping up with more regularity at farmers' markets, gourmet shops, and ethnic grocery stores; some non-chicken eggs are even available online or by phone order. A good place to start is LocalHarvest.org. Note that you can expect to pay a premium for these rarer eggs.
Duck, goose, ostrich, and quail eggs have their own characteristic colors, shapes, and sizes, but perhaps not surprisingly, most people think they taste like chicken eggs. In fact, according to Ariane Daguin, founder of culinary retailer and restaurant purveyor D'Artagnan, "what makes a difference in the taste is really what the animal eats."
When shopping, avoid eggs with visible cracks or off odors. Always store eggs in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to three weeks, though it's important to check the "use by" date to ensure freshness. If you purchase eggs at a farmers' market they may have a little dirt on them, but that can easily be washed off. In How to Boil an Egg, Carrarini recommends waiting to wash eggs until you're ready to use them: "The shell is porous so it should not be washed before storage as this will make it permeable to smells such as garlic."
You can prepare non-chicken eggs in many of the same ways you would chicken eggs, including scrambling, frying, and poaching—though poaching an ostrich egg would be unwieldy given its size. You can also make omelets, quiches, soufflés, and frittatas, and bake cakes, cookies, and other custard-based desserts, with any type of egg. However, due to differences in size and volume, one-to-one recipe substitutions won't always work; it's best to rely on weight instead. A large chicken egg (the type called for in most recipes) weighs between 2 and 2.5 ounces, so use a kitchen scale to weigh "alternative" eggs and use the weight equivalent of what's called for in the recipe.
Read on for more information about chicken, duck, goose, ostrich, and quail eggs, including how to cook with them and recipes to try.
Characteristics: Consumers have many options when it comes to buying chicken eggs. White or brown eggs? Organic, free-range, cage-free, or pasture-raised? Omega-3-enriched or soy-free? The variety can be confusing, but ultimately, which egg to choose comes down to personal choice. Carrarini says she always shops for organic eggs, because the label assures her of the eggs' source. But she is also aware that what you buy very likely depends on what you can afford. If high-price organic eggs are not an option, Carrarini recommends free-range eggs as the next best option. She also stresses the importance of reading the "use by" date: "The fresher the better." Availability: Chicken eggs are available just about everywhere, including farmers' markets, supermarkets, and superstores such as Target or Costco—you can even pick up a dozen eggs at most convenience stores. Egg prices can range from $1.90 to $6 per dozen. Nutritional Information: One large, whole, fresh, raw chicken egg (50 g) contains 71 calories, 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 211 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, and 70 mg sodium. Recipes to try: · Egg in the Middle · Poached Eggs with Roasted Tomatoes and Portabellas
Characteristics: Joyce Quattro of Quattro's Game Farm in Pleasant Valley, New York, describes duck eggs as about the size of a jumbo chicken egg with a smooth, beige-gray shell. The shell is thicker than that of a chicken egg, so you need to hit it a bit harder to crack it, but it's not difficult. Once you do crack a duck egg, you'll notice that the yolk is very large. This, Quattro explains, is why duck eggs have a higher fat content and a creamier texture than chicken eggs, adding that, "bakers like
Characteristics: Quattro describes goose eggs as "huge" with a "really funky, intense eggy flavor." Goose has become very popular at the holidays, so Quattro's Game Farm doesn't always have any birds left over to lay eggs. When they are available, Quattro's goose eggs are roughly equivalent to two jumbo chicken eggs and have a white shell; they tend to sell out quickly, even with their $3-per-egg price tag. She recommends frying goose eggs or using them to make omelets (but bear in mind that goose eggs are particularly high in cholesterol). Availability: Look for goose eggs at farmers' markets or high-end specialty gourmet shops. Sales are seasonal, with goose eggs primarily available in the spring. If they're unavailable locally, try online sources such as Lake Meadow Naturals ($60 for 6 eggs) and Tuckers Turkey Farms ($30 for 6 eggs). Nutritional Information: 1 whole, fresh, raw goose egg (144 g) contains 266 calories, 19 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 1,227 mg cholesterol, 20 g protein, and 199 mg sodium. Recipes to try: · Fried Egg and Sausage Ciabatta Breakfast Pizzas · Cauliflower and Feta Omelet
Characteristics: An ostrich egg is "a chicken egg on steroids," says Todd Appelbaum, owner of Roaming Acres ostrich farm in Andover, New Jersey. Each giant ostrich egg is equivalent to about 24 chicken eggs. The shells are thicker and a little tougher to crack than a standard chicken egg. Appelbaum uses a butter knife to crack them open, but says that many people like to drill a hole, drain the egg, and use the shell for crafts and home decorations. He describes the taste of ostrich eggs as very similar to chicken, and recommends scrambling them, adding that whatever you don't eat can be frozen. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York City and also Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, New York, uses ostrich eggs to make fresh pasta. Their high-protein content, explains Barber, makes for firm noodles that "soak and glaze well with sauce." Availability: Ostrich eggs are mostly limited to farmers' markets—Roaming Acres, one of the few ostrich farms in the U.S., sells their eggs, when they are in season from April to September, for $30 each at New York City's Union Square Greenmarket. Indian Point Ostrich Ranch sells ostrich eggs online for $43 per egg, though sales can be limited by seasonal availability. Nutritional Information: 1/4 cup fresh ostrich egg contains 83 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 11 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, and 0 mg sodium. Recipes to try: · Soft Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Ricotta and Chives · Fresh Egg Fettucine
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Characteristics: At only 9 grams each, quail eggs are significantly smaller than the average chicken egg (a large chicken egg weighs approximately 50 grams). Quail eggs have a high yolk-to-white ratio and are sometimes described as "gamy," but according to Daguin, they taste almost exactly the same as chicken eggs. She finds quail eggs "visually more attractive" for their freckle-like brown specks, adding that their popularity is "all about the attraction of the miniature size." As long as you make adjustments for size, quail eggs can be used interchangeably with chicken eggs. Caterers and party-planners take note: Daguin suggests that "it's very impressive to do little things like a open sandwich, such as croque madame," or to serve hors d'oeuvres topped with a quail egg. In other culinary cultures quail eggs have already found their niche: They're served with steak tartare in France, marinated in soy sauce in Korea, and paired with chorizo and toast for Spanish tapas. Availability: Quail eggs are available at farmers' markets, specialty food shops, Asian markets, and some supermarkets. D'Artagnan sells quail eggs year-round in retail shops and on their Web site ($9 for 15 eggs); Renaissance Chicken ($12 for 20 eggs) and Turnbull Farms ($6 for 12 eggs) also sell quail eggs online. Some Whole Foods Markets in the South and Mid-Atlantic regions also offer quail eggs. Nutritional Information: 1 whole, fresh, raw quail egg (9 g) contains 14 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 76 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, and 13 mg sodium. Recipes to try: · Truffled Quail Eggs · Quail Eggs with Toasted-Sesame SaltPhotos: Karl Newedel/the food passionates/Corbis (ostrich, chicken, and quail eggs); Dorling Kindersley (duck egg); David Murray (goose egg) Read more about seasonal ingredients: