Chickens and Eggs
Last winter a small box arrived in the mail that had the faintest sounds coming from it. When I held the box in my hands it was warm and seemed to vibrate. Inside were our 22 new baby chicks, two days old, huddled together in clean sawdust, peeping and keeping each other alive. We ordered them through the mail because we wanted something more than the generic brands our local feed store offers year after year. We wanted something exotic. And we got it.
Anconas, Barred Rocks, Red Caps, Silver Leghorns, and Minorca are just some of the varieties we received. They are stunning — white, black, red, cream and multi-colored, long feathered and short. For the most part they are friendly and seem to like us – enough to let us pick them up and “pet” them after they stray a bit too far from the pack.They don’t fight or peck one another, which seems almost unnatural when you consider that three of them turned out to be roosters — big, bold, macho birds (with feathers that rival a peacock’s) that strut their stuff around the barn like Muhammad Ali in the ring.
After a long, cold winter of making sure their water wasn’t frozen and they weren’t frozen, we are finally getting the pay off. Each morning I tromp out to the barn with my little basket and collect anywhere from 8 to 11 eggs.
These chickens live well, they are allowed to roam free, eat bugs (especially ticks), grass, and all the kitchen scraps they like. They seem to especially like beet peelings, heels of old French bread, and wilted, slightly soggy spinach leaves. A nice life, I’d say. In return they provide us with eggs that look like a small child colored them for Easter, but didn’t bother to leave them in the dye long enough. They are the colors of a subdued rainbow — white, beige, tan, light pale blue, turquoise, a subtle ocean green, and a strange almost forest green color. The yolks are a brilliant sunflower yellow and the flavor is so pure and rich and deliciously eggy that I can never imagine eating commercially-raised eggs again.
Despite cholesterol warnings from my physician, I have been cooking with lots of eggs. Deviled eggs. Egg salad. Cakes. Muffins. Soufflés. I have been whipping up frittatas and all variety of omelets, but this morning’s ultra-simple breakfast treat may be my favorite egg dish of all. It’s nothing more than an egg fried in hot olive oil (so much better than butter!) and then drizzled with some fresh spring chive oil that you can whip up in a food processor or blender in a few minutes.
The yellow yolks, set off by the crispy brown edges of the egg whites (thanks to the olive oil) and the bright green chive oil is so gorgeous you may have troubling settling down and actually eating this dish. Crusty bread, lightly toasted, and drizzled with some of the aforementioned chive oil is a great addition. Oh, and strong coffee with steamed milk. Spring never looked so good.
Fried Eggs in Olive Oil with Fresh Chive Oil Drizzle
Look for the freshest, local eggs you can find. Farmers market. Health food store. You know those people down the street with the chickens running around in their yard? Knock on the door and ask if they would be so kind as to sell you a dozen eggs. It makes a huge difference. This is the ultimate breakfast treat, but it’s also delicious placed on top of a bowl of raw spring greens lightly dressed with olive oil and good wine vinegar, or sautéed spinach, kale, or chard, or even a bowl of steaming hot linguine.
The Fried Eggs:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 very fresh eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chive oil, see below
Toast or crusty bread
Heat a medium-sized heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Add the oil and let it get hot, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add a speck of salt to test to see how hot the oil is; it should sizzle up. Carefully crack one egg into the pan and then the other. Let cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until the whites are set and the edges are just beginning to turn a golden, crispy brown. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon chive oil on top of each egg. Gently flip the eggs over, drizzle each egg with another teaspoon of chive oil, and cook another minute, depending on how runny or firm you like your yolks. Serve hot with toast or crusty bread drizzled with a touch more chive oil. Serves 1 to 2.
In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup fresh chives with ½ cup good olive oil and whirl until the chives are almost smooth. The mixture will look like a thick green oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the chive oil in a plastic squeeze bottle (the kind you see in diners with ketchup in it) or a small covered jar. The chive oil will keep, refrigerated, for about 1 week. It’s also excellent in salad dressings, drizzled over grilled meat or poultry, grilled or sautéed fish or shellfish, or on top of pasta.
Kathy Gunst is a cookbook author and her commentary is featured on WBUR and National Public Radio member stations.