During the past year I was searching for a good local source to obtain duck eggs. What interested me is their richness and volume compared to chicken eggs and I wanted to explore their use in my kitchen, especially when making frittatas and fresh pasta.
Although I cannot recall all the details, I found a local farm via an online search only to learn they were not raising ducks any longer. However, they were kind enough to connect me with another small local farmer who was. Unfortunately my timing was off because her ducks don’t lay eggs in the winter. Who knew?
When the weather warmed up after this oddly mild winter I checked to see if the ducks had decided to go back to work but I was still a little early. Then one day, to my surprise, I received an e-mail alerting me that the ducks were laying again and asking if was I interested in purchasing three dozen. But of course!
So I made arrangements to go to the farm early on a Saturday morning. It’s located just a few miles from my former home in New Jersey and I probably drove past that farm several hundred times giving it no notice except for a passing comment about the odd-looking cattle grazing in the front field adjacent to the road. They are very hairy and have long curled horns–you can’t miss them.
So there I was in my recently washed MB pulling into a very long dirt and gravel driveway that led up to a house set well off the road. No one appeared to be home, so I called and was told by my duck egg person that her farm was on the property immediately next door. I proceeded to slowly and carefully back up the long driveway; I just about reached the end and saw that a large tree was in my path. Obviously, I did not want to hit the tree so I maneuvered away to my left but the driveway was so narrow at that point that I felt the car tilt and fall off the side of the road. I tried to right myself and move forward but it was no use—the wheels spun in the soft dirt on one side and the loose gravel on the other and the next thing I knew my car was off the road, tilted at a 45–degree angle and stuck on a road marker stake imbedded in the gravel.
Man, all I wanted was a couple dozen duck eggs and instead I had to call for a tow truck. “Be there in an hour,” I was told. Plenty of time to assess if there was any damage to my car (fortunately there was not), so now it was time to refocus and get my duck eggs.
I now had to walk up another long driveway, although this time it was almost all dirt and very muddy. Along with that, I faced those unusual cattle staring at me from the front field on one side of the drive and a large white dog who apparently was fenced in (a good thing) with the cattle, was barking very enthusiastically as I approached. Further along, on the opposite side of the drive was another area with several pens and small outbuildings where apparently the ducks and other farm creatures are kept. And two more large white dogs were also barking their heads off. And I was doing all of this for duck eggs??
A small, frail woman met me as I reached the house. She reassured me that the dogs weren’t a threat and that I was welcome to come in and select my duck eggs. I told her about my car and she offered to tow me out with her tractor, but I declined since my tow service was on the way. We made our exchange and I left with three dozen eggs, back down that long muddy driveway, dogs still barking, although this time a little less enthusiastically since their owner was accompanying me.
She wanted to see the car and show me the small shed at the end of her drive where a cooler is stashed—she would place the eggs there in the future (easier access!). She also placed her sign out on the road, which, if it were there in the first place I may have never driven up the wrong driveway, but I digress!
As I waited for the tow truck the owner of the home where my car was hung up, pulled in. After our introductions he helped me free the car from the stake on which it was stuck because that would make it infinitely easier to tow the car out properly. Shortly after that the tow truck arrived, a state-of-the-art flatbed with all the lights, bells, and whistles one would need in any towing situation. As I walked up to vehicle, the driver’s side window rolled down and I looked up at a young fellow with a punk-style haircut. He was puffing away on a freshly lit cigarette and without skipping a beat he asked, “Weren’t you watching where you were going?”
I was in no mood to answer that question since I was simply there to buy a few dozen duck eggs. Nonetheless, he proceeded with great efficiency to pull me out and then in two simple moves I was back on the road headed to a car wash and then home with my new find: three dozen freshly laid duck eggs. (All in a day’s outing at the farm stand I guess.) I will definitely use the cooler in the little shed the next time!
So now what to do with those duck eggs? First I used six to prepare a frittata, consisting of a sauté of sweet onions, a mix of fresh herbs, and a chèvre new to me, Capriole O’Bannon, which I purchased online from my friends at Earthy Delights. I was pleased with the results of my first duck egg frittata, although next time I may whip some of the whites and fold them into the mix to lighten the overall finished dish. It just so happened that we were meeting our friends Kim and Dave for dinner that night, so, I thought why not share some duck eggs? It turns out they made a frittata for breakfast the next day.
The next dish I tried was a fresh pasta. I prepared a pound of roasted Kabocha squash gnocchi sauced with brown butter and sage. Delicious! Duck eggs make a very rich pasta dough, so the next batch will most likely be a mix of chicken eggs and perhaps a duck egg yolk or two.
Now for something unusual for me, I don’t make it very often, although it is fun and easy to do. My godkids used to call them “Eggs McDante,” and whenever I gather with some of the grandkids I usually whip up a batch for breakfast. You may recognize this dish as “Toad-in-the-Hole,” although I have seen dozens of other names; for example, One-Eyed-Jack, Egg-in-a-Basket, Frog-in-the-Pond, Popeye, Cowboy Egg, and Hen-in-the-Nest, to name a few.
The recipe uses few ingredients, is easy to prepare and assemble, can be dressed up or dressed down, and always seems to be a crowd pleaser. So here is my take on “Toad-in-the-Hole” prepared for two.
2 thick slices of bread, (an artisan white, a Challah, or pumpernickel) cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
2 large eggs (in this case duck eggs)
Salt and pepper
Optional spice for serving: Green Tabasco or the Japanese spice mix Shichimi Togarash
With a round cutter or mold, remove the center from each slice of bread and set aside. Lightly butter both sides of the slices.
In a large sauté pan heat a tablespoon or two of the olive oil over medium to high heat and once the oil is hot but not smoking place the bread slices in the pan. Immediately crack an egg and place it in the hole in the center of each slice. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and once the eggs have set, flip the slices over and cook on the other side. Cook as long as needed to get the texture and doneness you prefer.
While the eggs are cooking, pop the two cutout rounds into the toaster to brown them lightly and set aside.
For this dish I decided to dress it up a bit, so I prepared a quick fennel, orange, and olive salad, and on top of the toasted rounds I placed a spoonful of my green tomato and lemon marmalade to provide a sweet and savory accompaniment to the cooked egg dish.
Plate the Toad-in-the-Hole with the salad and the toasted round along side. If you would like to punctuate the toasted egg just a bit more, either splash a few drops of the Tabasco over or sprinkle with some of the Togarashi. If you have never tried the Togarashi I would recommend buying a jar—it pairs quite nicely with eggs as well as other dishes.
I plan to continue to explore cooking with duck eggs. I find them richer than chicken eggs and because of their harder shell they have a longer shelf life. Since the shell is much harder than a chicken egg use a quick tap with a knife to make a clean crack.
My research on duck eggs has taught me that compared to chicken eggs they have a higher fat content (good fat), higher protein, more cholesterol (the good kind), and contain more vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids.
If you have never tried them it is worth it just once, even if you simply scramble a couple for breakfast one morning. Although try not to drive your car off the road when you are picking up your first dozen!
Eat well. Be well.
We can simply treat food as nothing more than fuel or instead enjoy and appreciate its every quality.
Newtown, PA 18940
Phone: 215 968 4532
Cell: 609 306 6698