Baked Eggs

Eggs.  Is anyone else in awe when they stroll down the egg section of the market?  I remember (I am aging myself) when there were three choices, small, medium and large, and they were only offered in the shade of white.  If, one was lucky enough to have a friend who was raising chickens, then you were offered one size in a lovely shade of brown.  Now, there are many choices as well as colors.  So, what is the difference?

Yes, the bottom line is, it comes down to the chicken.  And, an eggs is considered meat, after all, it is the beginning to an adult chicken.  White chickens with white ear lobes lay white eggs, and red feathered chickens with red lobes lay brown eggs, though it may not apply to all breeds.  Some breeds even lay blue or speckled eggs.  Nutritiously, they are all the same.  Now you are scratching your head wondering why those brown eggs you recently purchased cost more?  Well, it is because the chickens are larger and they eat more food, producing a larger egg.  I tend to find the yolks of brown eggs a deeper yellow, so I buy brown eggs.  The color of the yolk depends on the diet of the chicken.  I have heard that some chicken farmers feed their chickens marigolds to produce a deep yellow yolk.  Gorgeous sounding, isn’t it?

Now what about Grades?  The US Department of Agriculture grades eggs by the interior quality of the egg.  I like Grade AA eggs as I like a firm yolk that makes a grand appearance when I am cooking!

  • U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. Grade AA and Grade A eggs are best for frying and poaching, where appearance is important.
  • U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except the whites are “reasonably” firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.

Cage-free, free-range and organic;  the list goes on and on.  How do you choose?  Cage-free eggs come from chickens who are not raised in cages.  Instead they roam open areas such as in a barn.  They have soft bedding on the floor and are allowed to perch, socialize and lay eggs in nest boxes.  Unfortunately, they may still live in close quarters;  but, at least they are not locked in dirty cages.  Free-range eggs are laid from hens who actually get to roam around outside.  They tend to live on smaller farms, and they travel in and out of a barn.  Most of them will spend their entire day outside enjoying weeds, pests and sunshine.  Organic Eggs are laid from hens that normally cage-free, and are fed an organic certified diet.  They do not receive antibiotics.  Genetically engineered crops are not permitted, and hens must be maintained without hormones, antibiotics, and other intrusive drugs.  I am lucky to live in an area where I can purchase free-range and organic, which I prefer to eat and to feed my loved ones.  After all, you are what you eat.

Now that I have shared the skinny on eggs with you, I am going to share one of our favorite ways of enjoying eggs.  Baked!  We are big eat eaters, and not only for dinner.  In fact, we have come up with an entire egg series over at Chez Us.  It will take you from breakfast to dinner by making the perfect egg.  When I am searching for a light meal to serve at dinner, I tend to make baked eggs.  I have a few different recipes I like to use, and this one just happened as the market was out of spinach and pancetta.  I am glad because it came out amazing.  I actually told Lenny, I think I found a new favorite way to enjoy baked eggs.  Normally, I bake the eggs in a bed made of pancetta, spinach, fresh tomatoes and Parmesan.  Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty darn good, but this recipe blew it way.

This baked egg recipe is made of a mixture of leafy kale, brown mushrooms and shallots that are cooked until slightly wilted.  Small baking dishes are lined with two generous slices of baked ham to create a crush, and the kale mixture is laid on top of it.  Finally, the eggs and grated cheddar are added to the dish.  While the mixture bakes, the juices from the ham, mix with the veggies and creamy cheese.  The flavors mingle, like crazy, while baking.  The finished dish was so flavorful, and it is very easy to make.  I had lunch on the table within 30 minutes.

Do you like to enjoy eggs during other meals besides breakfast or brunch?  If so, what are some of your favorite ways to enjoy them?

Denise Woodward believes anything can be made at home as long as you have a little patience, and time.  All of her recipes are made using fresh and seasonal ingredients.  Her recipes have been featured on Eat Boutiquethe Mushroom ChannelSaveur.comFoodies of the WorldPBS and Fine Cooking.  

Denise also creates the recipes on the popular food blog Chez Us.  Saveur has featured Chez Us as one of 50 Food Blogs You Should Be Reading as well as one of the Sites They Love.  Be sure to read more about what they are cooking up over at Chez Us.