With Easter and spring approaching, eggs are a bargain.

If you have a carton of eggs in the refrigerator, you can have a nutritious breakfast, lunch or dinner for pennies. Protein foods are the most expensive items on the food budget, and when you compare the cost per serving to other protein foods, the egg comes out a winner.

If a dozen large eggs cost $1.09, multiply the cost by 2/3 to compare the cost per pound to other protein foods, according to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. That’s 72 cents a pound.

Eggs are so basic, we sometimes forget all the great things they do. Eggs give structure to baked goods (cakes, muffins, pancakes) as well as savory foods like meatloaf. They work as a leavener, thickener and binder in sauces like hollandaise and mayonnaise, and they give smoothness to everything from custards to truffles. On top of all their undercover work, eggs are nutritious and delicious on their own, whether poached, fried, scrambled, or made into an omelet or frittata, according to Fine Cooking.

When hard-cooked, eggs make great egg salad or deviled eggs. But a common complaint from cooks is that green ring around the yolk, which is a sign of overcooking. Cooks who boil eggs often opt for electric egg cookers, which eliminate the need to watch the clock while boiling or poaching eggs.

Chef’sChoice has an egg cooker that allows users to cook eggs to various degrees of “done-ness” in the same batch. Eggs can be combined to cook some as soft, others medium or hard-boiled, which eliminates the worry about undercooked or overcooked eggs.

No matter how you cook the egg, it’s best if it’s fresh. At some farmer’s markets, you can pick up local eggs. To check for a nearby farmer, go www.localharvest.org and enter your ZIP code.

According to Sustainable Table, local, organic free-range eggs are super-rich in vitamins and minerals. Some organic farmers are offering omega-3 eggs, which are laid by birds fed organic flaxseed.

EGG SIZES, EGG COLOR EGG CETERA

Here are some tips for making the most of a carton of eggs.

Kitchen math: Eggs are sold in standard sizes: medium, large, extra-large and jumbo. Most recipes call for large eggs; if a recipe doesn’t specify, assume it means large.

1 large egg 2 ounces 3 1/4 tablespoons (1 tablespoon yolk; 2 1/4 tablespoons white)

1 extra-large egg 4 tablespoons

1 medium egg 3 tablespoons

5 whole large eggs about 1 cup

Don’t have it? In recipes that don’t call for a lot of eggs, substituting one size for another is usually not a problem. However, as the number of eggs called for increases, the difference in amount will become more pronounced. When substituting a different-size egg, use the equivalents above to figure out the total volume you’d get from large eggs, then use however many eggs you need to reach that volume.

How to choose: The most common eggs used in cooking are unfertilized hen eggs. Eggs can be brown or white (or even shades of pale green and blue), which is determined by breed. Fresh eggs are your best bet for flavor, and farm-fresh are a great treat. At the supermarket, check the carton for a date. Though salmonella is rare in eggs, people at risk should not consume raw or undercooked eggs. Pasteurized eggs, available at many markets, are a good alternative in such cases.

How to prep: Many recipes call for room-temperature eggs. To warm cold eggs quickly, put them in a bowl of warm water.

How to store: Store eggs in the refrigerator in the carton in which they came. They’ll keep for several weeks, though they’re best used within one week.

EQUIPMENT

Eggs don’t require any special equipment, but here are some things that will make preparation easier.

As a rule, when cooking on top of the range, cooking is more even in heavy-gauge pots and pans. Baking dishes and pans of the proper size are particularly important for items that rise, such as breads, cakes and souffles.

BEATERS

Cooks once had to rely on muscle power to whip eggs. They used an assortment of large and small, flat and balloon-shaped whisks, many of which are still available. A really determined home baker could whip up an angel food cake by separating the egg whites onto a large platter and beating them vigorously with a hickory rod.

In 1870, the rotary hand beater was invented. The rotary beater beat out all competition, along with mountains of meringue, and is still a handy and inexpensive tool.

Today, most cooks use an electric stand mixer or a portable electric mixer. Blenders and some food processors can whip up a whole egg, an egg yolk or a mixture but do not produce stiffly beaten egg whites.

BOWLS

There has long been a great controversy about the merits, if any, of using a copper bowl to produce volume in beaten egg whites. The copper in the bowl reacts with the conalbumin of egg whites much like cream of tartar to stabilize egg-white foam. With the addition of cream of tartar, a stainless steel or glass bowl works just as well, is much less expensive and avoids excess copper in the diet.

Because they tend to absorb fat, plastic and wooden bowls aren’t suitable for beating egg whites. Any film or residue of fat will keep the whites from forming a stable foam.

The size and shape of a bowl is important. When you use an electric stand mixer, use the bowl size, large or small, specified in a recipe. A deep bowl with enough room for expansion is best for a rotary beater or portable electric mixer. For hand-whipping with a balloon whisk, use a bowl that’s rounded at the bottom, at least 10 inches across the top and 5 to 6 inches deep.

Sources: American Egg Board, Fine Cooking and Cook’s Illustrated

EGG TALK – COOKING TERMS EXPLAINED FOR YOU

The following are terms or phrases that regularly appear in egg recipes:

Cook until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Baked custard mixtures are done when a metal knife inserted off center comes out clean. The very center still might not be quite done, but the heat retained in the mixture will continue to cook it after you remove it from the oven. Cooking longer might result in a curdled and/or weeping custard. Cooking less time might result in a thickened custard that isn’t set.

Cook until just coats a metal spoon. For stirred custard mixtures, the eggs are completely cooked when a thin film adheres to a metal spoon dipped into the custard, which happens at 20 degrees to 30 degrees below boiling. Stirred custards should not boil. The finished product should be soft and thickened but not set. Stirred custards will thicken slightly after refrigeration.

Slightly beaten. Beat eggs with a fork or whisk just until the yolks and whites are blended.

Well beaten. Beat eggs with a mixer, blender, beater or whisk until they are light, frothy and evenly colored.

Thick and lemon-colored. Beat yolks with an electric mixer at high speed until they become a pastel yellow and form ribbons when you lift the beater or drop the yolks from a spoon, about 3 to 5 minutes. Although yolks can’t incorporate as much air as whites, this beating does create a foam and is important to airy concoctions such as sponge cakes.

Add a small amount of hot mixture to eggs/egg yolks. When you add eggs or egg yolks to a hot mixture all at once, they might begin to coagulate too rapidly and form lumps. So, stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the yolks to warm them, then stir the warmed egg yolk mixture into the remaining hot mixture. This is called tempering.

Room temperature. Some recipes call for eggs to be at room temperature before you combine the eggs with a fat and sugar. Cold eggs could harden the fat in this type of recipe, and the batter might become curdled. This could affect the texture of the finished product. To prevent curdling, remove eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you use them or put them in a bowl of warm water while you assemble other ingredients. For all other recipes, use eggs straight from the refrigerator.

The following terms or phrases apply specifically to egg whites:

Separated. Fat inhibits the foaming of egg whites. Since egg yolks contain fat, recipes sometimes call for the yolks to be separated from the whites. Beating the whites separately allows them to reach their fullest possible volume. It’s easiest to separate the yolks and whites when the eggs are cold, but whites reach their fullest volume if you allow them to stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before beating.

Many inexpensive egg separators are available. To separate eggs, tap the midpoint of the egg sharply with a table knife. Hold the egg over the bowl in which you want the whites and gently pull apart the shell halves. Let the yolk nestle into the cuplike center of the separator, and the white will drop through the slots into the bowl beneath. You can use the same process with a funnel.

Drop one egg white at a time into a cup or small bowl and then transfer it to the mixing bowl before separating another egg. This avoids the possibility of yolk from the last egg you separated getting into several whites. Drop the yolk into another mixing bowl if you need it in the recipe, otherwise into a storage container.

Add cream of tartar. Egg whites beat to greater volume than most other foods, including whipping cream, but the air beaten into them can be lost quite easily. To make the foam more stable, add a stabilizing agent such as cream of tartar to the whites. Lemon juice works much the same way.

Add sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. When you make meringues and some cakes, you add sugar to beaten egg whites. Sugar serves to increase the stability of the foam. However, sugar can retard the foaming of the whites, and you must add it slowly so you don’t decrease the volume. Beat the whites until they just begin to get foamy, then slowly beat in the sugar.

Stiff but not dry. Beat whites with a mixer, beater or whisk just until they no longer slip when the bowl is tilted. (A blender or food processor will not aerate them properly.) If you underbeat egg whites, the finished product might be heavier and less puffy than desired. If you overbeat egg whites, they might form clumps, which are difficult to blend into other foods in the mixture, and the finished product might lack volume.

Stiff peaks form, soft peaks or piles softly. Whites that have been beaten until high in volume but have not reached the stiff peak stage. When you lift the beater, peaks will form and curl over slightly.

Gently folded. When you combine beaten egg whites with other heavier mixtures, handle carefully so you don’t lose the air you’ve beaten into the whites. It’s best to pour the heavier mixture onto the beaten egg whites. Then, using a spoon or rubber spatula, gradually combine the ingredients with a downward stroke into the bowl, followed by an across-up-and-over-the-mixture motion. Come up through the center of the mixture about every three strokes and rotate the bowl as you are folding. Fold just until there are no streaks remaining in the mixture. Don’t stir because this will force air out of the egg whites. If you have a stand mixer, you can put the mixing bowl on the turntable for easier turning as you fold.

Source: American Egg Board

FOOL-PROOF BOILED EGGS

6 large eggs

You may double or triple this recipe as long as you use a pot large enough to hold the eggs in a single layer, covered by an inch of water.

Place eggs in medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with 1 quart water and 1 tray of ice cubes (or equivalent). Transfer eggs to ice water bath with slotted spoon; let sit 5 minutes. Peel and use as desired.

From Cook’s Illustrated

EGG SALAD

4 hard-cooked eggs

1/4 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup green pepper, chopped

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup mayonnaise, imitation, no cholesterol

1 tablespoon plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Chop eggs into medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide into equal portions and serve in a sandwich or as a salad on lettuce. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 150 calories, 10 g. fat, 180 mg. cholesterol, 311 mg. sodium, 5 g. carbohydrates, 7 g. protein.

From Eggland’s Best
 


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