Saturday | April 25, 2015
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Eggs labeled top restaurant trend for 2014

Eggs 101

Nutrition: Recent USDA studies give eggs a better nutritional profile than a decade ago. With about 70 calories, a large egg contains 187 mg of cholesterol, about 14 percent lower than previously measured. Eggs are rich in vitamin D (41 IU per egg) and protein (6 grams). Eggs also contain choline, which has been linked with preserving memory, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which might protect against vision loss.

Selection: Look for unbroken, uncracked shells and uniform shape. Check the date on the carton. If harvesting your own eggs, they should be cleaned before storage. But don’t put them in cold water to soak. When submerged, the eggshell can actually draw bacteria inside the egg. Preferably, "dry clean" the egg by gently rubbing off any dirt or bird droppings with sandpaper, loofah or an abrasive sponge. Sanitize the cleaning tool after use. If dried egg is stuck on the outside of the shell, clean it off under running tap water. Do not let fresh uncooked eggs stand in water.

Egg safety: Food poisoning is a real concern when handling eggs, which are subject to bacterial contamination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 10,000 eggs could contain salmonella. That danger is why food safety experts recommend always cooking eggs before consumption. Pasteurized eggs or egg products are treated to kill bacteria, so they can be used in dishes that are uncooked or only lightly cooked. Here are other egg safety recommendations from the American Egg Board:

• Wash hands with soap and warm water before handling eggs.

• Avoid pooling and combining eggs from different dozens.

• Use clean and sanitized utensils and equipment.

• Keep eggs chilled and take out eggs from the refrigerator only for immediate use.

• Never stack egg flats near a grill or stove.

• Never leave egg dishes at room temperature more than one hour (including preparation and service time).

Perfect hard-boiled eggs: Older eggs are easier to peel than very fresh eggs when hard boiled. According to experts, eggs 7 to 10 days old are ideal. Place eggs in a saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. Add cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. On high heat, heat water and eggs just to boiling. Remove pan from burner. Cover the pan. Let eggs stand in hot water about 12 minutes for large eggs (9 minutes for medium eggs; 15 minutes for extra large). Drain immediately and serve eggs warm. Or, cool eggs completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water and refrigerate until ready to use or eat. To peel, gently tap cooled egg on countertop until shell is finely crackled all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell. Start peeling at the large end, holding egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off.

Eggs are popping out all over — and not just from spring chickens.

They’re showing up fried on burgers, baked atop casseroles and poached on pasta. Any time has become egg time as this versatile ingredient has gone far beyond breakfast.

It’s enough to make the Easter Bunny’s head spin.

“Actually, eggs have been labeled the top trend for restaurants; they’ve declared 2014 the ‘Year of the Egg,’” said Jenny Englert, representing the American Egg Board. “We’re seeing lots of eggs in dishes you would never think of — like on top of pizza — but it’s really good.”

Restaurant.com president Christopher Krohn echoed that sentiment. He put eggs atop his current trends report.

“You won’t be asking which came first, the chicken or the egg,” Krohn said. “If you’re like many Americans, you’ll be seeing and eating a lot more huevos in restaurants in 2014.”

Krohn credited chefs with starting this trend by topping favorite foods with eggs, such as burgers, pizza, sandwiches, casseroles, pasta, salads and stir-fries. Eggs also moved onto the dinner menus of America’s top-tier restaurants as comfort food with a twist.

“The ‘breakfast for dinner’ craze and increasing popularity of regional specialties such as Korean bibimbop and Mexican huevos rancheros will accelerate this trend,” he said. “Plus, there’s an emerging sense from the scientific crowd that eggs are healthier than perhaps you previously thought, which will feed consumer interest in this farm-fresh favorite.”

With its hard-boiled egg traditions, Easter ranks as the apex of egg time. Egg purchases nearly double the week before Easter, which this year is Sunday. Last year, Americans bought 161 million eggs that week.

“For several years, we were seeing Easter egg (popularity) declining,” Englert noted. “People had turned to plastic eggs (for egg hunts). But in the last two years, egg sales have skyrocketed for Easter.”

Egg experts credit that comeback to renewed interest in crafting — and sharing: There’s been a resurgence in creatively decorating eggs, then posting the results online for others to see.

As for recipes, pre-Easter downloads trend toward brunch favorites — make-ahead meal makers such as frittatas and quiche.

“There’s also a lot of interest in deviled eggs with a twist,” Englert said.

But eggs go way beyond Easter.

About 9 out of every 10 households regularly buys eggs. On average, we each eat nearly 252 eggs a year. And there are plenty to go around. American chickens produce more than 77 billion eggs a year. With almost 19 million laying hens, California egg production ranks behind (in order) Iowa, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Once scorned for high cholesterol content, eggs now are much more favorably viewed by nutritionists.

“Eggs are lower in cholesterol than previously thought,” Englert said. “According to the USDA, people even at risk of heart disease can safely consume two a day. Their protein content is really important, too.”

But it’s eggs’ culinary assets that have cooks cracking.

Sacramento, Calif., food expert and author Elaine Corn has been cooking eggs for all meals for decades. Among her cookbooks is “365 Ways to Cook Eggs” (HarperCollins, 1996). This classic is still available on Amazon.com. For dinner, she cites two old favorites: spaghetti carbonara and egg flower soup.

“Eggs are the acrobats of cuisine,” said Corn, who also writes the World Eats column in The Sacramento Bee’s new Feast section. “They perform feats no other food can claim. They emulsify, thicken, poof, puff and fluff — from the appetizer course to dessert.”

Corn always has eggs on hand and notes it’s easier now that more of her neighbors have chickens.

She sees eggs’ nutritional profile as a bonus.

“One egg has all nine amino acids,” she said. “It’s a perfect food. It’s great that they’re nutritious, but I eat them because I love them and they’re simple to cook.”

About a quarter-million egg recipes are featured on Foodily, the popular recipe website and app.

“That number is not surprising to me at all,” said Foodily co-founder Hillary Mickell. “… What’s surprising is the changing dynamic; there’s definitely a shifting dynamic of eggs where it’s moving across all meals. Breakfast, lunch, dinner; people are getting really creative.”

With more than a half-million regular users, Foodily usually sees a surge in egg searches right before Easter, Mickell noted. “Those usually break down into breakfast and what I’d call ‘fancy eggs’ (brunch recipes). But now, the emerging (egg) trend is everyday meals beyond breakfast. Eggs in sandwiches are way up. We’re seeing a lot of savory egg recipes such as baked eggs for dinner.”

Among the most popular recent recipe downloads from Foodily: a chickpea, kale and sausage casserole baked with an egg on top.

Added Mickell, “As an egg lover, I think (this trend) is fabulous.”

Get online

• For more egg recipes and tips, visit the American Egg Board site at www.incredibleegg.org.

 

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