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Will Bake Bread for Eggs

May 6, 2010

My friend Green J.keeps chickens, and regularly finds himself with the happy problem of having too many freshly laid eggs.  Even more happily, he finds the concept of bartering as appealing as I do.  Whenever Green J. finds himself with an excess of fresh eggs in his backyard, he delivers them to me (in an environmentally friendly, re-usable egg carrier designed for camping), and I bake him a fresh loaf of bread.

Green J. found his Rhode Island Reds on Craigslist.  That’s right — in Iowa, you can find livestock on Craigslist.  Fresh, free-range eggs are a no-turning-back proposition.  Once you crack one open and see its cohesive white, with the bright orange yolk standing proud, it’s just depressing to crack open a pale-yolked supermarket egg and watch the runny white spill out.  And taste?  I used to dress up my scrambled eggs with cheese and other add-ins, but now just freshly scrambled eggs with a smattering of salt and freshly cracked black pepper is all I need to find flavorful bliss.

There are lots of sound intellectual arguments advocating free-range eggs over the large-scale production of the mainstream poultry industry, but you won’t hear them here.  All I’ll say on the topic is this: use your eyes and your taste buds — that’s all the convincing I needed.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy the taste and texture of free-range eggs is in this recipe, adapted from the classic Salzburg souffle, which my best friend and I used to make regularly as kids growing up in New England.  (Give a 12-year-old her own subscription to Bon Appetit magazine, and that’s what can happen.  Thanks, Mom!)

Lemon Souffle with Strawberry Sauce

4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature

1/3 c. sugar

2 Tbsp flour

grated peel of 1 lemon

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp butter

1 (16-oz.) bag frozen strawberries, thawed

2-3 Tbsp sugar (to taste)

juice of 1/2 a lemon

(a splash of something sweet wouldn’t go amiss here — I like to add 1 Tbsp port)

For the strawberry sauce: Puree the thawed strawberries with 2-3 Tbsp sugar, juice of 1/2 a lemon, and optional Tbsp port or brandy.  Cover and set aside.

For the souffle: Preheat oven to 350 F.  Melt butter and swirl it in the bottom of a glass or ceramic pie dish.  With a whisk or electric mixer, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form.

In another bowl, beat the yolks until slightly thickened and glossy.  Stir in the flour, lemon peel, and lemon juice.  Gently fold in the beaten egg whites one heaping spatula at a time.  Spoon souffle into the prepared dish in as many mounds as you would like to have servings (4 works well).  Bake until set, and top turns golden brown, about 20 minutes.

To serve, spoon the sauce onto serving dishes.  Carefully separate the mounds of souffle and place one on each dish.  Serve immediately, while still warm.

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