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The Good Egg

(article, Marie Simmons)

h3. From Chapter 6: "Broths, Stews, and Braises"


h1. About the book and author

We like the premise of this book: That eggs are not only a perfect shape, they're also a perfect food. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients, they're relatively quick to prepare, and they're easy on the grocery budget. 

Unfortunately, too, eggs have gotten a bad rap. For years they were said to cause high cholesterol, but recently it's been shown that, for people who don't have a predisposition to coronary disease, eggs are part of a healthy diet. (Ask your doctor if you're unsure whether eating eggs is healthy for you.)

In The Good Egg, Marie Simmons collects more than 200 ways to cook eggs — from breakfast to dessert. Find out more about Simmons, a columnist for the Contra Costa Times, on her website.

Excerpt reprinted with permission of Houghton Mifflin (2000).

Some people need a hunk of meat or something similarly solid and chewy to make a meal, but I can be perfectly satisfied with a bowl of soup for supper, lunch, or even breakfast on occasion. I think this is because I was nurtured on soup as a baby — specifically the eggy broth which is known in our family as Nana’s Baby Soup. My grandmother’s creation is as simple as it is wonderful — fragrant chicken broth, thick with pastina (tiny pasta), rich with grated Parmesan and studded with soft golden bits of instantly cooked egg. It’s fair to say that this soup has made me who I am — hale and hearty, with a culinary perspective shaped by my grandmother’s Italian home cooking.

Almost since eggs were first gathered, they’ve been added to simple broths to lend nourishment, substance, texture, and flavor — and as a means of stretching one or two among several diners. But what began as a frugal measure in peasant cultures evolved into a luxuriant style of cooking in which robust meat stews thickened with egg yolks boasted of their own richness — and of that of their creators! Cuisines of countries as diverse as Portugal, Italy, Greece, and China all feature these egg-enriched brothy dishes. It wasn’t easy to choose between them, because a whole book could be written about soup cookery with eggs.

In the simplest form of this type of soup, beaten eggs are drizzled or stirred into hot broth, where they form tender morsels as they cook almost instantaneously in the liquid. The effect is different depending on whether the eggs are stirred or not as they are added. Stirring produces delicate threads throughout, as in Nana’s soup. In Italy, the eggs are often beaten with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, then stirred into beef or chicken soup to form stracciatella, or “little rags.” In Chinese egg-drop soup, on the other hand, the eggs are added without stirring, creating ethereal puffs on top of the soup, which are then ladled into individual bowls.

Poached eggs make a wonderful soup enhancement; broth ladled over a piece of sturdy bread and a poached egg is traditional in many cuisines. My recipes are a little fancier: I’ve slipped poached eggs into savory tomato broth and into bowls of Asian chicken-and-rice porridge.


h1. Featured recipe


I also garnish my soups with eggs in more unusual ways, cutting thin pancakelike omelettes into strips to make flavorful “noodles.” For a special first course, I make a luxurious custard with cream and Parmesan cheese, cut it into elegant diamond shapes, and float it in crystal-clear chicken consommé.

Nothing, however, makes a soup, stew, or sauce silkier than the addition of beaten egg yolks. The beguiling combination of egg yolks and lemon juice called avgolemono is the basis for many famous Greek dishes, including a lamb stew that satisfies the urges of soup lovers like me and all those who want more substantial “hunks” for dinner.

reference-image, l