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Cookbook Review: ‘The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook’

Spice up these cute little pots de crème with fresh and crystallized ginger. (Adriana Janovich)
Spice up these cute little pots de crème with fresh and crystallized ginger. (Adriana Janovich)

Quick look: Chicken keeping isn’t for everyone. This guide gives would-be hen owners an education in egg-laying and provides more than 100 fairly simple egg-centered recipes – from classics like scrambled eggs and eggnog to elegant asparagus with poached eggs and smoked salmon.

What’s inside: This book is divided into two parts.

The first discusses the care and feeding of chickens, featuring a purchasing guide that discusses the differences between free-range, cage-free, organic, pastured, farmstead, brown, white and blue-green eggs. Here’s a hint: Don’t judge an egg by its eggshell. “The color of the eggshell has nothing to do with quality or flavor.”

The how-to section also discusses the pros and cons of keeping backyard chickens and offers a chart for quick and convenient side-by-side comparison. The life cycle of a hen is also charted as is the cost breakdown of setting up a small coop – anywhere from about $600 to more than $3,300. Other practical information includes choosing breeds, pecking order, predators, vermin, cold-weather care, hot-weather care, and the dangers of cracked corn and over-feeding.

Author Terry Golson, a chef, has a degree in animal science and has been keeping chickens for nearly two decades. She lives outside Boston with 17 hens. Golson and her “girls” have been featured in The New Yorker and appeared on “The Martha Stewart Show.” Her sixth and latest book is done in the color of most eggshells: brown and white.

The second half is a collection of recipes organized in chapters by type of egg dish or entrée: scrambled eggs, fried eggs, hard- and soft-cooked eggs, poached and shirred eggs, omelets and frittatas, savory and sweet custards and puddings, mayonnaise and sauces, meringues and soufflés, sweet pies and tarts, breads and popovers, cakes and cookies, and savory quiches, tarts and stratas.

Recipes are uncomplicated and easy to follow, and Golson shares personal notes about each one. She also includes encouraging words for some of the trickier dishes, like custard, meringue and angel food cake. “Egg whites are almost pure protein, and yet they whip up into magic,” she writes. Each chapter has a short introduction, too.

Look for savory items like vegetable fried rice, croque madame, huevos rancheros, steak and eggs with shallot-garlic butter and sweet onions, poached eggs in twice-baked potatoes, Italian egg soup, and apple and brie omelet. Desserts include ginger pots de crème, chocolate-walnut meringue cookies, lime tart, peach-lemon chiffon pie and pistachio-apricot biscotti.

What’s not: There are not quite two dozen pictures to accompany the book’s slightly more than 100 recipes. So if you like to see a lot of food photographs accompanying recipes, you might be disappointed in that particular element.

Italian Egg Soup

From “The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook.”

Terry Golson created this recipe, reminiscent of classic Italian stracciatella. “This soup is thick, deeply flavorful, and easy to prepare, and it uses ingredients that I always have on hand,” she writes.

6 ounces baby spinach

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup cubed pancetta

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup arborio rice

6 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

4 large eggs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Crushed hot red pepper flakes

Wash spinach. Discard any mushy leaves. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Toss in the pancetta and onion, and cook until the pancetta begins to brown and crisp and the onion softens and turns golden. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add spinach to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes, until wilted. Stir in rice. Pour in broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook at a low simmer for 20 minutes.

Using a fork, stir the cheese and eggs together in a bowl until well combined. Take the pot off the heat and, if desired, pour the soup into a serving tureen. Immediately stir in the egg-cheese mixture. It will cook when it hits the hot soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with hot red pepper flakes.

Yield: 6 servings

Ginger Pots de Crème

From “The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook.”

“The end result is a smooth, flavorful custard,” writes Terry Golson, who also noted crystallized ginger and salt enhance the delicate flavor of the fresh ginger.

She suggests baking filled ramekins for 30 to 40 minutes. I did the full 40 minutes, but the centers were still a little too wobbly for my liking. Next time, I will opt for at least 45 minutes for a thicker custard.

One 2-inch piece of ginger

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger

2 eggs yolks

2 large eggs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

6 small pieces crystallized ginger

Peel the fresh ginger and slice it thinly. Put it in a pot with the milk and cream. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat. Pour it into a bowl and let it steep for 30 minutes to develop flavor. Let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to boil.

Put six 6- to 8-ounce ramekins in a baking dish (Golson uses a roasting pan because the handles make it safe to move from oven to counter). Distribute minced crystallized ginger evenly among ramekins.

In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks, eggs, sugar and salt. Pour the milk mixture into the eggs. Gently whisk (don’t make bubbles) until combined. Strain this mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup or bowl with a lip. Discard the fresh ginger. Pour the mixture into the ramekins.

Place the baking dish in the oven. Pour the hot water around the ramekins until it comes halfway up their sides.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until custards are set but slightly wobbly in their centers. Take the baking dish out of the oven and carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath. Place a piece of crystallized ginger on top of each ramekin. Let cool on a wire rack, cover the plastic wrap and refrigerate. These will keep for 2 days.

Yield: 6 servings

Peach-Lemon Chiffon Pie

From “The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook.”

Out of season, Terry Golson recommends using frozen peach slices from the supermarket. In season, she writes, “It’s worth going to the messy trouble of peeling and slicing fresh, juicy peaches for this pie.” Use a deep-dish pie plate; this is a tall pie.

2 peeled and sliced peaches (thawed if previously frozen)

1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored powdered gelatin

1/4 cup water

4 large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pre-baked 9- or 10-inch graham cracker crust (recipe follows)

Puree peach slices. Measure out 1 cup of puree for this recipe. Sprinkle gelatin over the water and let soften for a few minutes.

In a small, heavy saucepan, whisk egg yolks and 3/4 cup of the sugar. Place over medium heat and whisk constantly until foamy and hot but not boiling. Stir in gelatin mixture. Whisk for 30 seconds and then remove from heat. Scrape into a bowl. Stir peach puree, lemon juice and zest into the egg yolk mixture. Refrigerate for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until it becomes the consistency of thick applesauce.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until peaks form. With the mixer running, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until stiff.

Gently stir 1/2 cup of the peach mixture into the egg whites. Then fold the whites into the bowl with peach mixture until combined. Mound the filling into the crust. Chill for several hours before serving.

( Note: The federal government advises that consuming raw or undercooked eggs increases the risk of foodborne illness.)

Graham Cracker Crust

From “The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook.”

10 large graham crackers

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Use a food processor to turn the crackers into crumbs. You will get about 1 1/4 cups of finely ground crumbs. Add brown sugar and pulse. Add butter and pulse until mixture looks like wet sand. Do not let the machine run. Turn out the crumb mixture into a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Press the mixture along the bottom and up the sides to make a firm and even crust. If prebaking is called for, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes. The crust can be made a day ahead.

Yield: One 9- or 10-inch crust

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