When I was little, we kept summer chickens. In the fall, we sent our laying hens away to become soup, and we continued to eat our own eggs, laid in the late summer and fall, for much of the winter. Not very fresh eggs, you think? But our eggs -- even six, eight, or twelve weeks old -- were still superior to supermarket eggs, partly because our chickens lived better than industrial layers: They ran free in the meadows behind the barn and under wild farm shrubbery, eating grass and bugs. This produces a deep yellow yolk, rich in vitamin A that the chicken makes from the carotenes in pastures, and rich in omega-3 fats that the chicken gets from bugs. Industrial yolks are pale yellow by comparison.
Our eggs stayed fresh for another reason: they wore a protective film, designed to keep the yolk fresh for the developing chick, a film we did not wash off. I still don't wash our own eggs, and I prefer to buy unwashed eggs from farmers, too, though in practice we eat them very quickly. Fresh eggs have one disadvantage, however: They don't peel easily. It has nothing to do with how you cook or cool them. When you want a perfectly smooth peeled egg, just use older eggs. Keep the eggs in the fridge for three or four weeks or at (a coolish) room temperature for a couple of days. They will still be plenty fresh and will peel easily.
Say, how old are supermarket eggs, anyway? The expiration date must be no more than thirty days from the date the eggs were packed. Most eggs are packed within one week of being laid. So the typical store-bought egg may be a month old on the day you bring it home.
Serves any number
1 egg per person
1 T mayonnaise or crème fraîche (or both) per egg
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard per egg
splash of olive oil to taste
sprinkle of paprika
pinch of cayenne (optional)
Lay the eggs gently in cold water (if you start with cold water, they seem to crack less), bring it to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Let the eggs cool and peel the shells carefully.
Cut the eggs in half in either direction and remove the yolk.
Mash the yolk with the mayonnaise or crème fraîche and the mustard. I like a little olive oil, too. Make it perfectly smooth. Salt to taste.
Fill the whites with the yolk mixture and sprinkle with paprika. Those who want the cayenne pepper know who they are.
From The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks by Nina Planck. Available for pre-order now. Release date: Jun 10, 2014.