While we're on the topic of eggs....
Several years ago at our farmers market, N and I spied one of our favorite farmers, Lee of Tierra Vegetables, surreptitiously slip a small carton of eggs into a customer's canvas bag. Our curiosity was piqued. Neither of us had never seen a sign advertising fresh eggs at Tierra! My eyes widened and my jaw started to drop. N, sensing an opportunity, cast a sharp sideways glance at me that wordlessly communicated that I had better bite my tongue and not make a spectacle of myself. This situation required finesse.
We sidled up to the displays of dried and smoked peppers and feigned interest in the jars of spicy pepper jams even though our cupboards were already filled with them. Now within earshot, we overheard Lee tell the grateful customer that her brother Wayne had gathered the eggs that very morning. The customer prattled on about freshness and flavor and how these were the best eggs ever...blah blah blah.
My heart began to race and I turned Araucana green with envy. Must. Have. Eggs. Now. N gave me another one of her looks, this one saying "Let me handle this." I bit my tongue until it damn near bled.
As soon as the lucky bastard had left with his stash of eggs, N mustered up all her charm and made her move.
I watched with my usual sense of awe as N wove one of her masterful stories, using her astounding powers of persuasion and innate emotional intelligence that, were EQ as highly regarded as IQ would surely place her on a par with Einstein. Were my memory as gifted, I would share every detail with you. Suffice it to say that she somehow turned Lee's initial "No, I only have a few eggs for special long-time customers" into a "Yes, just this once."
At the time, no other farmer at our market was selling eggs from truly free-range chickens. (I remember how shocked I was when I first learned that poultry ranches could use the term "free-range" even if they debeak their hens and stack cages one atop the other. If I understand correctly, all they need is occasional access to the outside). Wayne's tiny flock of chickens actually get to roam around a yard and blissfully peck at weeds and grubs and slurp up the occasional worm. Like a scene out of Chicken Run (minus the evil chicken pie machine).
We carried our treasure home, nestled between bunches of herbs and spinach in our basket. Although I may not have remembered every detail of N's story, I do remember every detail of lunch that day. We fried our eggs in fresh butter, sprinkled them with coarse fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper, and plopped them on top of thick slices of toasted country bread from Della Fattoria. The yolks were as dark orange as a tangelo and we were convinced the eggs had the distinct taste of freshly roasted chicken.
Today, of course, it is much easier (for you local San Francisco readers at least) to find true farm fresh, free-range eggs at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. They'll set you back a few bucks, but they are worth every penny. While I don't think Lee still brings eggs to the San Francisco market (you can buy them at her stand in Healdsburg), on Saturdays Eatwell Farms sells eggs from Three Wise Hens (see Sunday's post) and Marin Sun Farms sells their own chickens' eggs, while Nash sells eggs at the afternoon FP market on Tuesdays and across town at the Alemany market on Saturdays.
Below are instructions for how to fry an egg Spanish-style in olive oil, which is (perhaps not surprisingly) my new favorite way to devour these culinary jewels.
Diego Velázquez's "Vieja Friendo Huevos" (Old Woman Frying Eggs), 1618, hanging in the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
I was intrigued to read in one of Penelope Casas' cookbooks that her Spanish husband's favorite meal, the one he requests every year on his birthday, is fried eggs. Here's a guy married to the author of a half dozen Spanish cookbooks and a culinary/travel guide to Spain, a man who could presumably request any number of gastronomic delights, and he desires fried eggs? My initial thought was "what a yokel!" (pun intended). But then I noticed each of my Spanish cookbooks includes a recipe for fried eggs. And each one waxes as rhapsodic as Penelope Casas' husband about how beloved the fried egg is in Spain. Still skeptical, I felt compelled to test how deep this passion ran during my last 2 trips to Spain. Nearly everyone I asked grew flushed with excitement as soon as I raised the topic of the huevo frito! Yet another reason why the Spanish are my kind of people.
Naturally, I sampled fried eggs whenever I could during my travels (which in Spain is any time but breakfast), including a memorable one that was perched atop an embarrassing quantity of the most delicious foie gras I have ever had (served as a lunch-time appetizer at Mantequeria Can Ravell in Barcelona). I also learned how to master the simple art of the huevo frito, which as you will learn, is the best farm fresh egg you can buy quickly fried in generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Guess what I'll be making for myself every year on my birthday from now on (although probably for breakfast or brunch)! Who's the yokel now?
extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 egg per person
coarse sea salt, preferably Maldon
toasted bread (optional, but highly encouraged)
Pour enough oil in non-stick pan to come to a depth of about 1⁄4-inch. Turn flame to medium-high and heat until nearly smoking. Break the egg into the pan without breaking the yolk (or, if you're the cautious type, break it into a saucer or teacup first, and then slip it into the pan). Quickly turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for no more than a minute, all the while using a metal spoon to baste the top of the egg with the hot oil from the pan. The white will puff up and get a bit crunchy and golden on the sides and the yolk will remain gloriously runny. Use a slotted spoon to lift the egg out of the pan and shake off any excess oil. Plop your egg onto your plate or toast, sprinkle with salt (and freshly ground pepper if you like), and imagine yourself at an outside terrazza somewhere in Spain on a warm sunny day.
Salvador Dalí's "Velazquez Dying Behind the Window on the Left Side Out of Which a Spoon Projects," 1982