Each spring brings another flock of backyard chicken books. Sometimes they're how-to's, or memoirs, but there's usually at least one cookbook. This year's "The Fresh Egg Cookbook" comes from Jennifer Trainer Thompson, a Berkshires-based cookbook author. It's got anecdotes, pictures, and a smattering of advice on raising your own hens. But mostly it's a straight-ahead cookbook, and quite a capable one.
Although Thompson makes a mouthwatering case for fresh eggs, not having any fresh eggs of our own (not yet, anyway), we used what everyone else can buy. Even so, the recipes mostly turned out with rich, surprisingly satisfying, flavors.
Scrambled eggs Indian-style starts with a base of onions and tomatoes. With a lively assist from ginger and garlic, this scramble is surprisingly hard to stop eating. A classic egg salad, though unremarkably constructed, is pure satisfaction served cold on multigrain toast. What Thompson calls "Greek lemon-chicken soup" offers a hearty variation on avgolemono, these eggs and yolks smoothly emulsifying the broth for a creamless velvety texture.
A sausage bread pudding with shiitakes hits several flavor buttons at once and sets up into a savory, carb-happy custard. Creme d'epinards au gratin is cream of spinach, as opposed to spinach with cream. Its single egg collaborates with a generous dose of cream and Gruyere, resulting in a puffed, golden mass that's very tasty, though not that green.
In a few cases, recipes fall short on accuracy or precision. Although baked crepes with prosciutto calls for 1 tablespoon of butter for the pan, it needs to be added in bits for consistent crepes, and the crepes would be a thousand times easier to turn if you had a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch in the egg-and-water batter.
A potato and corn frittata recipe neglects to say how big the potato dice should be, which could be a real problem since they only steam for 10 minutes before the eggs go in. I erred on the safe side and diced them small, and the frittata was delectable. And delicately old-fashioned nut wafers yield double the estimate, which is a minus that is really a plus, unless you're pressed for time.
But such oversights aren't the rule. And even if some of the recipes were neither new nor particularly eggy, it's hard not to succumb to the book's easy, you-can-do-this-too storytelling style.
By the time I'd finished testing, the chicken mania had come to roost at our house. We filled out our order form for chicks with the same mix of nervousness and hope Thompson describes. We won't get eggs for months. This summer, our hens will simply be assistant gardeners in charge of pest control.
But when those coveted eggs arrive, we'll know where to turn to prepare them.
T. Susan Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org