Eggs are one of nature's most perfect foods, and they're a snap to prepare.
They're loaded with enough protein and fat to fill you up, but no empty sugars to weigh you down. Vitamins and minerals (including the highly-coveted omega-3 fatty acids) abound. Best of all, they have a mild flavor that lends itself well to a variety of flavors -- sweet, salty, spicy, simple -- but is also delicious on its own, with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
The happier the chickens, the better the eggs. Left to their own devices, birds love to peck at the ground, eating bugs, worms and grass in addition to whatever feed their owners provide. These carnivorous tendencies are what lead to the startlingly dark orange yolks and thick, whippable whites about which locavores are wont to rave.
There really is no comparison; I encourage you to do a blind taste test between a pale yellow or white supermarket variety and a bright orange, speckled egg from the farm. You'll taste the rich, full flavor of the farm variety right away, and you won't be able to return to the blandness of mass production anytime soon!
Eggs are also a great way to get clean, local protein at a fraction of the price per serving of grass-fed beef or organic chicken, and a nice option for nonviolent vegetarians -- chickens can continue to live blissful, protected lives as we enjoy the fruits of their labors. (Well, until they stop producing, that is ... but I digress.)
Finding local eggs can be tricky. The best way, as always, is to know somebody who raises chickens. These people are not too hard to run into, as they're prone to public fits of ecstasy; you may have had the misfortune to stand in line next to one and been treated to a lecture on the virtues of backyard poultry.
Another surefire way to discover suppliers is to visit a farmer's market or grocery store that deals with local farmers, such as MOM's or Atwater's (nationwide chains Whole Foods and Wegman's also claim to stock local goods, and will at the very least hear your requests for them.) Often you can learn just as much from the other customers as from the employees, and you may get a tipoff from a backyard farmer if you play your cards right.
If you've thoroughly exhausted these venues, try calling one of the farms listed below. Though most are out of "errand" range for central Marylanders, many sell at markets or restaurants and might even arrange to deliver if you can drum up enough business in your neighborhood.
Here's a hint: woo potential customers with one of the dishes below, and before long they'll be as vocally pro-egg as the chickens who laid them first.
Local Eggs in Maryland:
- Breezy Willow Farm (West Friendship)
- Evermore Farm (Westminster)
- Ferguson Family Farm (Parkton)
- Fischer Family Farms (Annapolis)
- Fox Hollow Farms (Gaithersburg)
- Grand View Farm (Forest Hill)
- Jehovah-Jireh Farm (Dickerson)
Recipes to Showcase Fresh Eggs:
- Asparagus Carbonara: Perfect for this time of year, when asparagus is starting to put in an appearance -- just toss with bacon, Parmesan and fresh pasta.
- Caramelized-Onion Quiche: Really just a vehicle for loads of caramelized onions, the eggs lend a silky backdrop to this dish.
- Coddled Eggs: if you've never tried this English specialty, you're missing out. The special equipment is well worth it: just butter the cups, crack an egg into each and season with salt, pepper and a tiny splash of cream. Slide into boiling water, wait a couple of minutes and be rewarded with perfect tenderness.
- Easter Bread and Cheese: two of my favorite recipes from the Caucasus mountains, these sweet delights make lovely Easter gifts.
- Eggs in a Nest: adapted from this wonderful book, this recipe is even better when drizzled with homemade hollandaise (but really, what isn't?)
- Orange Flan: wiggly, jiggly flan is perfect for breakfast, dessert and anytime in between!
- Vegetable Frittata: an excellent use-up-whatever's-in-the-fridge choice, and as a bonus it looks much more classy than frugal.