Friday, April 14, 2006
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
For cookbook author Terry Golson of Stearns Street, it was the chickens that came first, and now it is her eggs. She has raised chickens for the past ten years. Her first chicken came from a neighbor when she and her family were living on Sunset Road. "That chicken needed a friend," says Golson, "so we got a couple of chickens at the 4-H Fair [in Chelmsford]." Today, Golson has 11 hens but no roosters living in the chicken house, with a pen situated in her expansive and attractive backyard, easily seen from the kitchen and dining room windows.
My chickens are pets and they all have names," she tells me. "Buffy, Snowball, Tweedledum and Twinkydink. Chickens are the funniest creatures and they are so charming. They are like small children, curious, optimistic, friendly and bossy. They have spats; they are needy and greedy but easily pleased. They are endlessly curious, but unlike some children, they are not fussy eaters."
"I just wanted to have chickens," admits Golson, "but when they started producing eggs, I realized what a great benefit that was." So, for some time now, Golson has been thinking about writing a book about eggs. If she couldn't stop talking about chickens and eggs, why not write a cookbook about eggs, she explained.
A brand-new cookbook
In 1998, she published her third cookbook, 1,000 Lowfat Recipes, and now after a year and a half of writing about this other topic so close to her heart, Golson's book, The Farmstead Egg Cookbook, is about to be published. To be precise, Golson says, "It's being printed at this moment and should be in bookstores by May 11."
But back to the chickens. "There are so many different varieties of chickens," reports Golson. "I covet them all." She and her friends who have chickens, Alison Saylor and Leslie Thomas, have gotten together in the past to order chickens from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. In her present flock, Golson has a bantam white Leghorn, a Rhode Island Red, two Barred Rocks, but, "I don't have a Polish with its large distinctive crest or a Frizzle of any breed," says Golson longingly.
At the moment, Golson's chickens are laying ten eggs a day. She opens her refrigerator door for me to see a number of egg boxes, each dated with the time collected. "The flavor of home-grown eggs versus those bought in the supermarket is so much better. Not just the flavor and freshness, but the white of a fresh egg is far more viscous," she reports. The store-bought eggs have whites that spread out very thin and white, while the home-grown or the farmstead eggs, as Golson now calls them, have whites that barely spread and are pale in color. Golson compares the way the egg white in a store-bought egg fries, compared to that of a farmstead egg white. "The white in the store-bought egg browns before the yolk is cooked the way you want it," she tells me.
Cook eggs at low temperature
The trick is to cook them at low temperature. On Monday morning, Golson cooks up a batch of hard-boiled eggs to eat throughout the week. For those who want to avoid the green sulfur line around the yolk and have eggs that are firm but not rubbery and overcooked, here is her way to cook them: first put eggs in a pot, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Then put a lid on the pot, turn off the heat and set the timer for 16 minutes. When timer goes off, immediately put eggs in ice-cold water and crack eggs by shaking the pan. This will make them easier to peel. Tips like these, as well as 70 delicious recipes and photos can be found throughout The Farmstead Egg Cookbook.
When asked about the controversy over high cholesterol and the eating of eggs, Golson has this response: "For the average person, it's not the eggs themselves but what goes with them — the bacon and the butter. I eat one egg a day. I read and know all about cholesterol. There is no link between dietary cholesterol and blood level of cholesterol. Eggs have so much else going for them. It's the trans-fats, the oils that are solidified, and fried foods that cause the problems."
Although Golson did not have animals growing up as a child in New Jersey, she did have a dog as a teenager and was "into horses" as a college student majoring in animal science at the University of New Hampshire. Early in her twenties she got a job in a kitchen at a health spa in Pennsylvania. "I started cooking healthy foods 20 years ago, before it was trendy, when we ordered organic produce from Mennonite farmers in the area."
A family affair
For Terry Golson, her chickens and her eggs have become a family affair. Her husband Steve helps out in the morning. Daniel, a seventh grader, and Jacob, a second grader, check for eggs during the day. But if you would really like to know what goes on in the Golson chicken house and meet Buffy, Snowball, Tweedledum and Twinkydink, go to the Hen Cam web site at www.hencam.com. That is an experience you don't want to miss.
Shirred Eggs with Spinach and Cream
A shirred egg is simply an egg baked uncovered in a buttered dish, usually with a few other components to give it interest. You have your choice of cheese here. Parmesan is a safe option, but this is a good opportunity to use up that little bit of interesting cheese that is languishing in the refrigerator.
This recipe serves one. If making these for a number of people, simply multiply the recipe as needed. Always bake in individual ramekins, although the ramekins can be placed in a baking dish so that they are easy to handle in and out of the oven. Shirred eggs can be refrigerated for up to an hour before baking.
1 tsp. unsalted butter
2 T. chopped spinach, fresh or frozen
2 T. cream (your choice from light to heavy)
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg
1 T. grated cheese of your choice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put butter in a 6- or 8-ounce ovenproof ramekin. Melt in the microwave on High for about 20 seconds and swirl around to coat bottom and sides.
3. Briefly cook spinach until wilted, squeeze out the excess liquid. This can be done quickly in the microwave. Put spinach in the ramekin. Pour in cream. Crack the egg into the ramekin. Grate salt and pepper onto the egg. Dust on the nutmeg. Top with cheese.
4. Place ramekin in the oven and bake about 15 minutes until the yolk begins to set. Serve hot.
Dates to remember
May 24, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Golson will teach an egg cooking class in her home for 15 people through Concord-Carlisle Adult Education.
June 1, Golson will talk at the Gleason Public Library about raising chickens and hopes to network with other chicken owners in Carlisle. Time will be posted in a future Mosquito.
June 9, Golson will speak about her cookbook at the Concord Bookshop and share food samples.
© 2006 The Carlisle Mosquito