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November 5, 2007
This morning, as I was having coffee with a friend (yup, more coffee!), my neighbor Marinette knocked on the door and handed me a small plastic bag from the pharmacy. In it were six eggs. Six farm eggs. Marinette bustled back home and I continued on with the coffee conversation but I confess, my mind was elsewhere. It was on soft-boiled eggs. Farm-fresh eggs are too rare in my life (since I don’t have a passel of chickens scratching around in some backyard) and too good to let pass unnoticed—or use for baking. They’re too good for an omelet, even, and while a fried egg might just come close to doing them justice and a poached egg would work great, nothing beats the speed and simplicity of a soft-boiled egg where you can taste the rich, orange, super-flavorful yolk.
Because that’s what farm eggs or free-range eggs or whatever you want to call them are all about: the yolk. For visual confirmation of this, check the color of the yolk of a store-bought egg versus that of a farm-raised egg. The store-bought yolk will be an anemic yellow. The farm egg, however will be a bright, deep almost fluorescent orange. If I were to use these eggs from Marinette for a cake, they would turn the batter a golden yellow Duncan-Hines can only dream of. But like I said, you don’t want to be making a cake with farm eggs. What a waste.
Soft-boiled eggs as much a part of French cuisine as fine wine or stinky cheese. So much so that when the national baker’s association mounted a huge campaign to get people to eat more bread during the mid-nineties, massive billboards went up with a single, beautifully-styled soft-boiled egg sitting in an egg cup. The words below the photo read, “Si on ne mange pas de pain, un jour il n’y en aura plus.” Translation: “If you don’t eat bread, one day there won’t be any more.” In order to decipher that reference, you have to understand the ritual of soft-boiled eggs in France, which requires not just a spoon, but a steady supply of mouillettes: pre-buttered, pre-cut strips of bread that you dip into the egg. For the French, bread and soft-boiled eggs go together like peanut butter and jelly (ooh…it’s been a long time since I had a PB&J…guess that’s on the menu for tomorrow.) And since they only take 3 minutes, they’re the perfect stay-at-home lunch when you want something warm.
—Mary Margaret Chappell, food editor