By definition an Egg is a roughly spheroid object produced by the female of the species that contains the germ of a new individual.
Eggs are a pretty massive subject, clearly the supreme contender of foodstuffs. So great that for hundreds if not thousands of animals it is the first life giving food.
Given the culinary classification of Eggs, those of Hens only, I will only concentrate on one type of egg. To call upon all eggs would just be plain unfair on everyone else who has turned up for the debate. Historically eggs have been an incredibly important source of energy for human beings and have been eaten worldwide for ever.
Eggs come wonderfully pre-packaged; the membrane beneath the shell is an awesomely effective barrier against bacteria. They can keep for up a month having been laid. The shell is a wonder of nature, push at either end of a healthy egg and it is nigh on uncrackable.
In terms of harvesting & yield nothing comes close to the egg. Hens are among many birds that lay cumulatively until they have enough eggs in their nest, remove the eggs and clucky will keep on pushing them out.
I haven’t even started on how essential they are to our culinary culture. They are the most versatile ingredients we have. A prime ingredient in pasta, custards, emulsions, batters, doughs, cake mixes…. I won’t bore you with going on and on.
They have the strength of character to stand alone in utterly delicious dishes yet are noble enough to sit in the background as building blocks for mighty recipes. Without them we most certainly wouldn’t be the people we are today, nations are built on eggs. The Italians with their pasta, the French croissant the full in English, the Spanish tortilla, the oh so on trend Scotch egg, Ben and Jerry would be screwed with out eggs. I certainly would be able to tell you who Anna Pavlova was if it wasn’t for the egg and I haven’t even look to the Far East yet.
Harold McGee’s book ‘On Food and Cooking’, the bible of the science in the kitchen gives a full 27 pages to eggs alone. This is more than double given to any other ingredient being fought for. If that isn’t testimony enough to the supremacy of the egg an ingredient.
Let’s just look at the stunts it can do in the kitchen. We can all agree that the egg on its own is a tremendous thing to eat, boiled, fried, scrambled or baked. But what qualities lay beyond this? Eggs are the bed rocks for much of kitchen chemistry. Mayonnaise should never be bought, in three minutes and emulsified yolk with one or two supporting acts can be turned the world’s best condiment. It goes even deeper then this, mayonnaise can then be used as an ingredient in its own right; we are talking about the pure foundations.
Another example of this is their ability to clarify. Stocks and wine are both clarified by egg, the impurities get bound up with the whites’ protein. Eggs are am important in wine production! That’s pretty massive! So flexible is the egg that there use goes beyond detection as a central ingredient.
Eggs have the uncanny ability to thicken liquids in to solids, make light and foamy textures, they can stabilize mixtures…This is alchemy people! Light delicate meringues and soufflés work because the proteins stands unfurl when beaten and can support air bubbles. And the heating up of this foam sets it into a solid. We need to respect the egg above all other ingredients as it can always be your friend, but is can also be a tricky bugger, one wrong move and its all over.
I've split sauces, curdled custards, broken yolks, over cooked them….. so respect eggs above all else that they will be good to you!
Eggs is Eggs...