By Mary Ann Ebner
When happy hens lay their eggs, there’s no better time for the rest of us to rise, shine and whisk up a dozen — the fresher the better. And forget shelf life when it comes to fresh eggs. The just-laid delicacies taste so flavorful that they simply don’t even have a chance to age.
Twelve precious eggs may not top the list of typical hostess gifts, but I’ll happily accept them any day of the year. My friend Diane recently shared a collection from her backyard chickens and when she arrived at an impromptu give thanks gathering in November carrying a paper egg carton, I found myself giving all kinds of thanks for her thoughtful and nourishing gift. We used the eggs to make a favorite meal, our super-simplified version of Tex-Mex migas, an egg scramble skillet dish adopted during our years living in Austin.
In Texas, we sampled several iterations of migas (similar to chilaquiles). A smoked jalapeno pepper version drenched in spicy tomato sauce proved a little too hot. But hot or mild, with fried tortilla bits smothered by a chef’s choice of ingredients, the one-pan preparation can be made your own way. Any eggs will do for these migas, but starting with the best ingredients means picking up a decent dozen. The supermarket may work in a pinch, but with access to eggs in the Hudson Valley from farms like Glynwood and vendors at our local farmers’ markets, we can all choose a better egg. My latest dozen came from The Cat Rock Egg Farm in Garrison. Lydia JA Langley, the owner, raises her pet hens with love and attention and the hens in return turn out eggs that can make cooking and eating omelets the highlight of a weekend.
“The freshest eggs you will find come from a local provider,” Langley said as she gathered eggs from her hens on a warm December morning. “One of the great things about buying eggs from someone like me is that there’s a variety but the taste is consistent.” Such a fresh egg doesn’t exist in commercial production. Some supermarket eggs may age from weeks to months in transit from the laying stage before they ever make their way into grocery carts. And even though supermarket cartons may be marked “organic” or “freerange,” it’s hard to know what’s in an egg. A yolk may look like a yolk, but still may not have much of a taste.
The flock at The Cat Rock Egg Farm lives a better life than its commercial cousins, and there’s no need for a “best by” or expiration date on great-tasting eggs. Quality draws followers and the colorful ovals are attracting locals (and a few customers beyond the Hudson Valley) almost as fast as the hens can lay them. “They’re our pets and they live with us their whole lives,” Langley said. “It all goes into their lifestyle, letting them out, having access to bugs and grasses.”
The flock includes everything from Leghorns to Marans and they spend their days outside from dawn to dusk. In addition to the natural diet that the chickens nibble on in the yard, Langley feeds her flock non-GMO (genetically modified organism) food. Roosters and hens squawk about in the yard and Langley calls them by name as easily as she identifies the eggs from each by color, from a soft green to a deep terra-cotta shell. She makes rounds and collects eggs, finds herself quickly filling orders to deliver to customers, but of course, reserves her own family supply. “We came home late from the city few nights ago and had eggs for dinner,” Langley said. “Eggs and toast with polenta.”
She prefers her eggs not quite though not exactly scrambled: “I like call them frambled.” Morning, noon or night, for your egg-based meal, framble your own fill a skillet with migas. Though we migas covered in grated cheese, we’re skipping the cheddar for now to let natural flavor of the eggs shine. Just a splash of good salsa to perfectly complete the dish.
1 dozen eggs
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup tortilla bits or crushed
1 medium avocado, cubed
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
8 flour or corn tortillas
salsa and grated cheese (optional)
1. Crack eggs into a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in skillet and add tortilla bits. Cook until crisp over high heat 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Pour in eggs and whisk around the skillet. Crush sea salt flakes over eggs. Add avocado, cilantro and scallions (or your choice of vegetables and herbs) and fold into egg mixture. Cook on medium heat until egg appears lightly firm and not runny.
3. Dish this right out of the pan at the table or serve a heaping spoonful atop a toasty tortilla with salsa and cheese on the side.