Unscrambling the Egg

by Mark R. Vogel

            Which came first, the chicken or the egg, asks the ancient and proverbial question.  Men have pondered this seemingly simplistic, yet intriguingly paradoxical query for time immemorial.  Why?  Because the real answer is neither, (assuming that “egg” refers only to chicken eggs).  Chickens evolved from more primitive birds whose ancestral lineage emanates from the dinosaurs.   There is no specific point in time hallmarked by the first chicken but rather a gradual evolution of wild fowl culminating with the modern chicken.   

            The egg is a complex, biological powerhouse of nutrients with innumerable culinary uses.  One large egg contains 70 calories, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, (of which only 1.6 grams are saturated), and at least 14 vitamins and minerals.  Most of the nutrients and 45% of the protein are in the yolk.  The white contains mostly protein.  Egg protein is one of the highest quality proteins on the planet, second only to breast milk.  And while one large egg contains 213 mg. of cholesterol, it is saturated fat consumption that is more related to serum cholesterol levels than actual cholesterol consumption itself.  Thus, with only 1.6 grams of saturated fat, eggs are not as unhealthy for your heart as generally supposed.

Fast Facts:

1) Eggs are graded, in descending order, AA, A, and B.  Grades are based on quality which is influenced by the egg’s freshness.  Grade A is the most common grade found in supermarkets. 

2) Brown eggs are no different than white eggs in terms of taste or nutrition.  They merely signify a different breed of hen.

3) Store eggs in their carton.  Eggshells are porous and absorb surrounding odors inside your fridge.

4) It is easier to separate the yolk from the white with a cold egg.

5) To whip egg whites to maximal volume, start with room temperature whites, ensure there is no yolk in them, and use a copper bowl.  Copper bowls produce the most stable and voluminous whipped egg whites because of the interaction between copper ions and proteins. 

4) To determine the freshness of an egg submerge it in water.  Eggs have an air pocket that grows with time.  Fresh eggs will lay flat on their side in water.  As they age the one end will start to rise.  If your egg floats, don’t eat it. 

5) For scrambled eggs, heating the pan before adding the eggs will reduce sticking.

6) Egg whites lose their integrity with age.  Thus, fresh eggs are best for poaching since the white will disperse less.  Adding vinegar and/or salt to the water will further reduce its diffusion. 

7) Older eggs are best for hard-cooked eggs.  (Culinary professionals avoid the term hard-boiled since the eggs are not actually boiled).  The higher pH of older eggs allows the shells to peel easier.  Thus, don’t add vinegar to the water for hard-cooked eggs.  Over cooking causes greenish blemishes, the result of a reaction from the iron in the yolk with the sulfur in the white.  For perfectly hard-cooked eggs, warm the eggs in hot tap water.  This reduces the chance of them cracking.  Then place them in cold water and bring to a boil.  The instant it boils remove them from the heat and allow them to steep, covered, for 12-13 minutes.  Then submerge in cold water to stop the cooking. 

            Tired of the usual methods for preparing eggs?  Try a frittata, i.e., an Italian omelet.  Unlike a French omelet where the egg is folded over the ingredients, the ingredients are actually mixed into the eggs. 


8 eggs
½  cup sour cream
1 cup milk
salt/pepper to taste
1 portobello mushroom, stem removed, sliced 1/4" thick
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
½  pound prosciutto, diced
2 plum tomatoes, diced, seeds removed
2 teaspoons chopped basil
1 teaspoons chopped oregano
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
            Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Vigorously whisk the eggs, sour cream, milk, salt, and pepper and set aside.  Sauté the mushroom in two tablespoons of olive oil until browned and set aside.  In a 10", non-stick, oven proof skillet, sweat the onions in two tablespoons of olive oil until softened but not brown.  Add the ham and sauté two minutes.  Arrange mushrooms on top on ham/onion mixture and then sprinkle with chopped tomatoes.  Stir herbs into the egg mixture and pour it over everything in the pan. Cook on top of stove slowly, lifting the edges to let uncooked egg run under. Do not brown the bottom. When almost set, sprinkle on the cheese and place in oven until cheese melts and browns slightly. Remove from oven. Loosen around the edges and slide onto a serving platter. Serves 6-8.

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