Friday, June 11, 2010

Freshly Laid

Photo Courtesy of Paul Christopher Williams

From the beginning, I’ve made my love for eggs of all kinds no secret on this site. Quail egg toasts have become one of my favorite signature hors d’oeuvres, and I’ve shelled out a small fortune for spring-hued Araucanas. Needless to say, I’ve been spending a lot of time around a certain egg farmer lately–at his stand at the market and not at his stand at the market (if you catch my drift)!

It all started with those damn Araucanas.

I was attracted to my farmer’s baby blues–his eggs and his eyes! Week after week I visited his stand, learning about his chickens’ diet of newly sprouted springtime grasses, which gave their yolks that distinctly orange hue and unrivaled richness. I told him about my passion for seasonal eating and the ways Erin and I try to incorporate local farmers’ market foods into all of our Dinner Belle menus. After nearly a month of farm talk scattered with laughter and what I hoped was veiled flirtation, he invited me out to his land to see his prized chickens for myself. Only an hour away by train, how could a self-proclaimed Food Maven resist?

That’s how I came to find myself in Grand Central last weekend, boarding a train out to the country like I was visiting a farm for an elementary school field trip. Butterflies were tearing apart my stomach at the idea of seeing my farmer outside the market, and oh yeah, I was genuinely excited about checking out his chicken coop too.

Before I knew it, I was walking down the train platform to find my effortlessly assembled farmer holding a single wild daisy in his well-calloused hands. I believe I blushed. After a short but bumpy ride in his “picture perfect” rusted red pickup, we arrived at his home with acres of grassy fields punctuated by livestock. The strong smell of pasture and animals managed to surprise my New York-trained nose, and I relished hearing the sound of crunchy hay with every step I took. Mostly, though, I was focused on how my farmer’s eyes and floppy hair matched the bright blue sky and golden grass.

We toured the homestead, visited the hens and settled on his porch, me nestled in a large wooden rocker as he brought out strong coffee in earthenware mugs. We talked for hours and nibbled on hunky sticks of beef jerky he’d been experimenting with as a possible new product line for his market stand. As the sky began to turn fiery shades of pink and orange, I realized I should start making my way back to New York. He nodded, and told me to wait by his car while he got something back in the house.

While I was contemplating a permanent move to the countryside, he returned with several small wooden boxes. “These are for you,” my farmer said, smiling. “But you have to promise you’ll let me sample what you do with them.” I opened the boxes as fast as I could without rattling their precious contents. Eggs! My farmer had just gifted me over $50 worth of freshly laid Araucanas. There were dozens of public pool blue, rosy pink, and caramel hued eggs nestled in neat little rows, and they were all mine!

Photo Courtesy of Paul Christopher Williams

For the next week, my fridge was flooded with box upon box of gorgeous spring produce. I thought tirelessly about what eggalicious dish I would cook up for my friendly farmer. Scrambled with fresh dill and creamy goat cheese? Too simple. Poached atop a bed salmon rillete on shredded fingerling potato latkes? Too complicated. How about croque madame, a rich grilled cheese with imported French ham crowned by a perfectly fried egg? Too much. It would come to me, and until then, I would savor my breakfast: a simply fried egg sunny side up on crusty sourdough garlic toast. With every bite my memory returned to my farmer, and I tasted the brief kiss we shared as I boarded the train back to the city.

By the end of the week I was jittery, knowing he’d be ringing my buzzer in a matter of minutes. I had decided on baking a quiche, but as it was 90 degrees and humid as hell in my New York nest, I opted to cut the crust and fix a simple skillet frittata on the stovetop instead. My farm inspired filling was a final ode to spring as summer begins to sneak its sultry self upon us; I jam packed the pie with mascarpone cheese, jumbo lump crabmeat, fiddlehead ferns, tender watercress, earthy morel mushrooms and spiky garlic chives, all suspended in a bright yellow batter, stained by my farm fresh eggs.

To be sure, we feasted on frittata al fresco on my rooftop Friday night, with plenty of leftovers for my farmer and me to munch on Saturday morning!

To be continued

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One Response to “Freshly Laid”

  1. Thom

    Here’s another egg idea…


    I haven’t tried it (yet), not sure what it would entail; maybe an Italian meringue folded into a nice malty milkshake. Sounds like you’ll need two straws.

    Let me know if you try it.

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