Nutritional bombshells

GRAHAM HAWKES
Last updated 08:25 12/03/2014
Skillet egg and potato breakfast
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
Skillet egg and potato breakfast.

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A s kids we called them "googie eggs" (sorry I have no idea why) then as we moved on to our early misspent youth years they were referred to as "bum nuts".

If they weren't from our own fowl house then they were from our grandparents' very open hen run. When I think about it, our hens originated from our grandparents' hen run one way or another - either as fertile eggs that were slipped under a sitting hen in our fowl house or the young pullets were transferred from our grandparents' Otatara farm.

No food would be more versatile than the egg.

They can be cooked in the shell or out, simply or lavishly solo or with something sweet or savoury. Where would we be if we didn't have eggs to leaven our angel food cake or souffles, colour and thicken sauces, bind the croquettes, emulsify mayonnaise, clarify aspic, give batter its crisp, fragile crust, glaze baked goods, smooth icecreams and candies and enrich the flavour of everything. High in vitamin and mineral content, the egg is low in calories and, because of their near perfect protein, they claim the title of "nutritional bombshells".

When it comes to cooking, hen eggs are not the only ones suitable although we do tend to overlook those from other fowl, such as duck eggs - which are delicious especially if the ducks have been swimming on clean ponds.

Duck eggs are also very useful and, in fact, interchangeable with large hen eggs when it comes to baking.

Eggs from geese are also very useful; simply replace the weight of hen eggs with goose eggs for any recipe replacement. Quail eggs are also useful but generally served as a garnish, poached or fried rather than as a substitute for hen eggs. This week, let's make a real tasty breakfast or brunch style dish, very American and very satisfying.

SKILLET EGG AND POTATO BREAKFAST

For 4 portions

8 slices streaky bacon

2 cups diced cooked potatoes

1 small peeled and very finely chopped onion

4 eggs

3/4 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Method

Cook the bacon until nice and crisp in a heavy based skillet, drain on paper towels.

Pour off all bar a couple of tablespoons of the dripping in the pan then brown the potatoes and onions in the pan for about 10 minutes over a moderate heat.

Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste then break the eggs over the potatoes spacing them evenly. Turn the heat to low and cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the eggs are done to your liking.

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Lightly sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper and a cheese and the chopped bacon over the top and it is all ready to serve.

HOW TO HANDLE EGGS

  • Separating an egg - break the egg catching the yolk in half of the shell and let the white fall into a small bowl. Transfer the yolk to the empty shell letting the white drain into the bowl. Place the yolk in a separate bowl.
  • Removing a speck of yolk from white - the merest dot of yolk will keep whites from whipping. Scoop up with a piece of shell or paper towel.
  • Removing shell fragments - simply scoop out with a piece of the shell.
  • Beating whole eggs - the point is to blend whites and yolks so that eggs will mix more quickly with other ingredients or to make the eggs fluffy and to uniform colour.
  • Beating whites - for the best results bring to room temperature and beat just before using. Beaten egg whites quickly break down on standing. Professional chefs use unlined copper bowls and a balloon whisk to get the best volume from beating egg whites. The next best is a whisk and conventional bowl. While electric mixers do work they tend to break down the beaten whites. Most recipes call for egg whites to be beaten to soft peaks. This is where you must take care not to overbeat the whites. If they look dry you have beaten them too far.
  • Beating yolks - they need not be at room temperature. When used to thicken sauces or custard yolks, should be beaten lightly, just to blend. Further beating weakens their thickening power. Cake recipes often call for beaten yolks until thick and lemon or light coloured or also quite often beaten with sugar until the mixture makes a ribbon.
  • Folding in beaten egg whites - easy does it. Once whites are beaten they must be combined with a base mixture so that very little volume is lost. The gentle over and over folding motion is the best technique and a rubber spatula or flat whisk the best tool to use.
  • Adding eggs to hot mixtures - eggs or yolks are often blended into soups, sauces or cream dishes shortly before serving. This is to thicken them and add flavour and colour. Not a difficult technique except that eggs curdle easily. Simply beat the eggs lightly and quickly blend in a little hot mixture, about half a cup is the norm then return to the pan or pot and stir briskly.
  • To rescue curdled egg mixtures - strain through a fine sieve or double thickness of cheese cloth. If the mixture is thin re-thicken with additional egg taking every precaution.

- The Southland Times

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