According to culinary lore, the number of folds on a chef’s toque — that tall pleated hat most French chefs wear — signify the number of ways he can cook an egg. The best have up to 100, but even lowly staff have a repertoire of dozens.
If you think about it, eggs play a role in everything from traditional baking to modern molecular cuisine. They bind, raise, flavor, emulsify. But more than that, they have a symbolic meaning in this season of new beginnings, reminding us where life truly starts.
Scrambled, coddled, fried, poached, puffed or even preserved (ever tried a thousand-year egg?), eggs are staple of nearly every culture. Eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between, here are a host of incredible, edible ways to yolk it up.
There’s a growing movement toward pasture-raised eggs — farm fresh with brilliant yellow yolks, they’re the Cadillac of eggs. You can find some of the best at local farm markets. Whole Foods also carries some pasture-raised eggs from RedHill Farms, a favorite of several area chefs. Duck, turkey and quail eggs are also readily available locally, and make for slightly different flavor profiles in baking.Inspired to try some egg cooking of your own? The Fresh Egg Cookbook by Jennifer Trainer Thompson ($14.95, Storey Publishing) extols the virtues of keeping your own flock, along with dozens of well-tested recipes for quiches, cakes, hashes, stews and simple instructions for the perfect poach, scramble and fry. Chicken and The Egg by Janice Cole($24.95, Chronicle) documents a year of one woman’s backyard chicken coop adventures with recipes for both eggs…and chicken.If you’re thinking of keeping your own chickens within Santa Rosa city limits, it’s still technically illegal although plans are in the works at the city level to change that in the coming months.
Deviled Eggs: Once the lowbrow appetizer of potlucks and picnics, deviled eggs are having their 15 minutes as chefs doll them up with everything from truffle salt and crab to olives. Rocker Oysterfeller’s features them with tarragon and crispy ham chips ($7, 14415 California Hwy. 1, Valley Ford) while Zin does ‘em with bacon and pickled carrots ($8, 344 Center St., Healdsburg). At Monti’s, crab deviled eggs.
63 Degree Egg: The holy grail of egg cooking is the mystical 63-degree egg, slow-cooked in a water bath until it reaches a custard-like consistency. You’ll never again look at poached egg the same way. Madrona Manor chef Jesse Mallgren is a devotee, serving it on his tasting menu with onion veloute, vinegar and Parmesan (1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg). At Petite Syrah (205 5th Street, Santa Rosa), the egg is nearly always on the menu, though in changing forms. Currently it’s with grilled asparagus, quinoa, mandarins, rosemary and yogurt.
Chilaquiles: A tried-and-truer hangover remedy you’ll be hard-pressed to find. Fried tortilla chips get a morning simmer in either salsa or mole until they’re pliable. Scramble in some eggs, top with cheese, sour cream, avocados and a side of beans. Most taquerias serve them for breakfast (and even into lunch), but two favorites: La Texanita (1667 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa) and Gypsy Cafe (162 North Main St., Sebastopol).
Raw Egg Caesar Salad: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a dinner menu without this salad, oft attributed to restaurateur Cesar Cardini. But most are wan, mayonnaise-laden abominations ladled from an industrial-sized jug.The real deal are Romaine leaves drizzled with an emulsified raw egg, oil and lemon mixture. Plus a whole lot of garlic. Find it at Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar, 53 Montgomery Dr., Santa Rosa.
Scrambled Eggs: Gently coaxed into the creamiest, softest egg curds, Willowood’s’ French Folded Eggs never see the bottom of a pan. Instead, they’re steamed in a double boiler, until set, then mixed with fontina cheese and fresh herbs. 9020 Graton Road, Graton).
Egg Salad: Any chef with the chutzpah to think they make it better than grandma’s is deluding themselves. The key here is perfectly hard-boiled eggs, lots of Best Foods mayo, a little dried mustard, serious whipping of the yolks and lots of love. The restaurant that gets it closest: Della Fattoria. Served up on toasted sourdough wedges, it’s as comforting as an old bathrobe. Petaluma. Also, Tuna Egg Mayo at Cafe Citti (9047 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood).
Eggs Benedict: Eggs play a critical role in this brunch-time favorite, both binding the Hollandiase and serving as the poached main attraction. Dungeness Crab Benedict’s addicting at Bruno’s on Fourth (1226 Fourth St., Santa Rosa), and gets a southern twist at Jeffrey’s Hillside Cafe (2901 Fourth St., Santa Rosa) with a buttermilk biscuit and orange-scented Hollandaise. Stretching the tradition English muffin, poached egg, ham and Hollandaise lineup is the Country Benedict at Dierk’s Parkside Cafe (404 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa), a crispy baguette covered in scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, spinach, oven-dried tomatoes, hash browns and Hollandaise.