Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quail Eggs

As a child, for me Easter was characterized as a time of milk chocolate shaped like rabbits and ornately carved eggs, palm branches in church on palm Sunday, hot cross buns on easter Sunday morning, and lunch when aunts, uncles and cousins would come to our house for a meal centered around fish or seafood of some kind. My favorite was a freshwater crayfish stew made by my aunt whom I had fruitlessly entreated to prepare again for me and has to this day not obliged. I'm sure she wanted to but that lunch was the last notable easter we spent together as a family before we all started to migrate from Trinidad. My uncle left first, then my grandmother, followed by an aunt and her entire family, then the crayfish aunt, then me.

Subsequently,for a long time, Easter has been very low key for me. As it continues to be. It is more a time of reflection but still is a time of cooking. Enter: Minneapolis. This city is a bounty of fresh, new and seasonal ingredients (although not as diverse as, say, New York or Toronto, but who's complaining? ) I am able to try a new ingredient on a regular basis. The newest being quail eggs, unintentionally fitting at the beginning of spring. (Though spring has been teasing us here in the city. Three weeks ago, the lakes started to melt, the temperature rose to the mid forties. One week later, it was freezing. This week, we are expecting temperatures also in the mid forties. Hopefully, spring will play nice and stay for a couple months, like nature intended. )

For the first time in my life I saw real quail eggs. I had seen them only in magazines. They may not be the bright pink and blue eggs that are synonymous with Easter but there is an "awe " factor to these miniature, bespeckled ovoids. Quail eggs are the smallest eggs consumed in America, but are also relatively new to mainstream cuisine. Traditionally, they have been used in Japan and other Asian countries for centuries before being introduced to Europe and the Americas within the past few decades. However, they are sold mostly at specialty food stores and some Asian supermarkets which was where I made my first purchase. To my surprise, they were not as pricey as I had expected for such a relatively exotic food.

The size of a quail egg next to a chicken egg.

Having purchased the eggs, I was now left with the challenge of how to cook them. As any curious, twenty first century mind would do, I "googled" it. Apparently, quail eggs are very popular in the UK evidenced by the numerous relevant articles on the BBC's website. They can be boiled ( hard and soft) or fried, poached or even made into an omelet; cooked in the same way as you would chicken eggs. Interestingly, the taste is also quite similar.

Now, what do I think about quail eggs? In my opinion, to truly enjoy food, we need to be riveted by more than just our sense of taste; the sight, smell and texture of what we are eating all need to be taken into account. Simply put, I enjoy, first of all, the novelty of having this type of egg for breakfast, and secondly, because of its size, I can imagine incorporating it into many dishes. Novelty and flexibility are two winning attributes of the dainty quail eggs.

How to boil quail eggs:
1. Set a sauce pan with enough water to cover the number of eggs you want to cook over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.
2. Place eggs in pan and boil for three to five minutes (three minutes for soft to medium boiled, five minutes for hard boiled.)
3. Remove from pan, cool, peel and season with salt and pepper. Serve with toast.

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