How’s this for a double-blessing? I have neighbors and co-workers who keep chickens, and that means a steady supply of farm-fresh eggs in my kitchen.

A comparison between the eggs you buy in a supermarket and those directly from the coop is unfair. Fresh eggs have it all over processed eggs as far as flavor and color. But these little protein powerhouses should be enjoyed however you manage to get them on your plate. Penny for penny, they are a nutritional steal.

So it was with abject appreciation that I picked up Michel Roux’s cookbook, “Eggs – The essential guide to cooking with eggs.” A Frenchman, Roux has been operating three-star Michelin restaurants in Britain for decades. Additionally, as a renowned chef, he has appeared on many food shows and written several books.

At first I thought the title was a little inflated – “essential guide” for a food I’ve been eating for 60 years?

But as it turns out, I learned a lot about eggs from this book. The first section explains varieties of eggs and the qualities of each (here’s an unexpected Roux tidbit: “Pigeon eggs are perfectly pleasant, but nothing special. I think a pigeon tastes better than its egg.”).

Then there’s a section on basic preparation techniques: how to properly boil, poach, soft-boil, fry, scramble, bake and use eggs in more than 100 recipes. Who knew you’re supposed to use a small knife to cut off the excess white from a poached egg to neaten its shape before serving?

It’s that kind of instruction that gives “Eggs” just the slightest snooty tone. If Julia Child did her best to open French cooking to the masses, Roux, perhaps unintentionally, reinstates intimidation. His instructions for pate sucree (sweet pastry dough) begin like this: Put the flour on a work surface (preferably marble) and …

Hmmm, the only marble in my kitchen is the kind that runs through chuck steak.

Still, the cookbook is beautiful in its photography and organization. There are recipes that made me salivate: Vanilla & mango souffles with passion fruit coulis; Choux buns with coffee and Drambuie mousse; cherry clafoutis; crunchy fried eggs in a nest of grilled aubergines; plus standbys you’d expect like eggs Benedict and crepes.

A section in the back offers instruction on making classic French egg-based sauces, such as Hollandaise and sabayon. I tried my hand at making a beurre blanc sauce to spoon over eggs that was delicious (who doesn’t love an excuse to have wine at breakfast?)

Lemon tart Carol Coultas

But the real test was a lemon tart that took the better part of a morning to make and then earned only modest praise from my test crew (husband and neighbors). Despite following the recipe almost to the letter, there was too much filling for the pan, and the texture of the filling once baked was a little mottled. I would have preferred more bite from the lemon and less heft from the dough. C’est dommage.

But “Eggs” is the kind of cookbook that will draw me back time and again to try my hand at other classic French cuisine. After all, how fun is is to transform the humble egg into “Eggs en cocotte with girolles?”

 

 

 

 

Oeufs sur le plat with parsley beurre blanc

The simplest of recipes, says our tester Carol Coultas.

Serves 4

8 eggs

1/4 cup softened butter to grease the egg dishes

FOR THE PARSLEY BEURRE BLANC:

1 ounce shallots, chopped

Scant 2/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1/4 cup butter, diced

2 tablespoons snipped flat parsley leaves

Salt and ground pepper

First, make the beurre blanc sauce. Put the chopped shallots in a small pan and add the white wine. Bring to a boil and reduce over a medium heat by two-thirds. Add the cream and let bubble for a few moments. Whisk in the diced butter, then take the pan off the heat and add the snipped parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Brush four egg dishes with softened butter, break two eggs and slide them into one dish. Repeat with other six eggs. Cook the eggs to your liking (following Roux’s suggestion I cooked them, two to a ramekin, over indirect heat on the stovetop by using a diffuser. Cook the eggs for three to four minutes until done.)

Spoon the parsley beurre blanc over the eggs and serve immediately.

 

 

 

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