Country Egg, City Egg
by Gayle Pirie and John Clark

2000. 117 pages, 60 recipes.

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"The yearning for basic pleasures, like eating well, takes on more urgency in our complex and technological world. Individuals, couples, and families long to slow down their hectic pace and savor the moment that a simple delicious meal affords. It was this thought that inspired us to write Country Egg, City Egg. Eggs are the ultimate and purest fast food on the planet, and when we peruse the refrigerator and discover a dozen eggs, how rich we are! Nourishment is just a few minutes away, the meal possibilities are endless."

Ale and Cheddar Omelet

Balsamic Fried Eggs


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The egg has been the Hurricane Carter of the food world: wrongly accused, convicted, and incarcerated. As you recall, the egg's crime was assault and battery on countless human arteries. The weapon: its cholesterol-loaded yolk. The egg's case was re-visited within the last five years when new evidence surfaced, showing that it was innocent of any wrong doing. We (that is those of us who didn't have cholesterol problems) were free to enjoy their nutritional prowess and culinary charms once again.

Unfortunately, the exonerated egg still is shadowed by its previous bad-guy reputation. I know that I have had a hard time breaking my mindset of treating the egg like a controlled substance which I should ingest at my own risk. It's been hard for me to get used to giving myself permission to go beyond two eggs a week.

Now along comes Country Egg, City Egg, a charming little book which should go a long way to restoring our fond feelings for the little ovoid. Created with affection and illustrated with the whimsy of a children's book (think Humpty Dumpty), the authors make this a pure celebration of its culinary delights, rather than a nutritional tutorial.

Authors Gayle Pirie and John Clark cooked at San Francisco's illustrious Zuni Café for seven years. Their specialty was brunch, so they know from eggs. But their book goes beyond the realm of brunch. Divided into two sections, the first is devoted to "Country Eggs" which, in the authors' words, "convey ease, comfort, and rusticity of country life". Here you'll find Scrambled Egg Burrito, Macaroni and Egg Omelet. The recipes in the "City Eggs" section "are a bit more urbane…" such as Eggs with Gruyere, Mustard, and Wine; Asparagus Egg Gratin. In some instances their method of categorization can seem more whimsical than logical. I don't know… Eggs in Duck Fat sounds like it belongs with City Eggs, not Country Eggs. And to my mind Bread Crumb Fried Eggs seem too rustic to be among the City Eggs.

Like a performance artist, the star of a single-subject cookbook had better be really good if it's going to hold the attention of its audience. Country Egg,City Egg is a fine showcase for the egg's multi-faceted talents. There's a smattering of international fare like Persian Egg and Rice Cake and Japanese Egg Custard. There are new takes on old favorites like Balsamic Scrambled Eggs (a pleasing combo of smooth and tart). There are plenty of classics like French Toast, Chocolate Soufflé and Popovers. Popovers! I hadn't thought about popovers for years! I don't think I'd made them since Ronald Reagan was president. It's not that I don't like popovers (which is more than I can say about the former president), it's just that I usually don't make dishes twice, driven on to try the untried, muttering "so many recipes, so little time." Anyway it was nice to make popovers again and to be reminded how good these glossy-on-the-outside, custard-on-the-inside creations are. I hope I won't wait another two presidencies before I make them again.

The first section of the book covers some of the techniques that are recurring themes in egg recipes. There are tips on making omelets, poaching/steaming eggs, hard-boiling and scrambling eggs. (Here's your chance to learn how to make hard-boil eggs without that thin gray edge on the yolk.)

I've always been intimidated by poaching. My one attempt long ago yielded a wreckage of ragged egg wisps floating in hot water. With Pierie and Clarks' guidance I was game to try again. I made the Poached Eggs in a Potato Nest and was amazed to produce a full-fledged, intact poached egg. Granted it was not a poached egg worthy of a Gourmet photo shoot, but it was definitely legit. And when I punctured the yolk and let the brilliant viscous yolk ooze onto the potatoes, I was reminded of similar childhood pleasures in my grandmother Nammie's kitchen when she made my cousin Chug and me poached eggs on toast.

The egg is the most elegant fast food I can think of (pasta is up there, too). Now that I have re-programmed myself to be freer with my use of eggs, I am wallowing in the pleasure of quick weeknight dinners like Ale and Cheddar Omelet which has three eggs in it (gasp!). Country Egg, City Egg was just what I needed to fully welcome the good egg back into my life.