The Eggs Come Before the Chicken

Eggs from pastured chickens are seasonal food at its most spectacular.
colored eggs

Ask ten people to name ten seasonal foods each and I bet eggs and chicken will not be on anyone’s list. But the kinds of chickens and eggs you really want to eat—the spectacular ones, raised on pasture, eating what they like—are only available when it’s warm enough for chickens to live outside. Most growers wait until the danger of frost has passed and then buy day-old chicks (you can order them by mail) and turn them loose. That means that, around New York, egg season starts in late May and chicken season around July. While I’m waiting for the chickens I’m going through a dozen eggs or more a week. Compared to what’s sold in the grocery store, any egg from a local farm that lets their birds run free is a revelation. At the Union Square Greenmarket my favorite come from Paul at Violet Hill Farm, whose mixed flock yields shells in a beautiful mix of blue, brown, and white. They are some of the tastiest eggs I’ve ever eaten, with deep yellow yolks that stand up proud from the white and a deep, complex flavor. Because they’re so good we eat a lot of them. Some we devour casually—I hard-boil a few every week for Tara to eat as snacks (feeding Baby burns a lot of calories), and make ice cream when we have people over. At least once a week, though, we’ve been having eggs for dinner. Not long ago I turned nettles, mint, and green garlic into a soufflé: I blanched the nettles and puréed them with butter-softened garlic and the fine-chopped herb, then added this mix to a béchamel before folding in the yolks and whites. That was fun (and it gave me a chance to refer to Mastering the Art…) but more frequently I’ll just serve eggs with a pile of the week’s vegetables, scrambled together or as a frittata, and let the richness of the yolks tie together the crisp brightness of spring. It’s the kind of cooking worth doing over and over when the ingredients are perfect.

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