Newspaper articles will scream at you again and again to fear eggs–They’ll give you high cholesterol! They’ll give you salmonella! Type 2 diabetes is in your future should you consume! Don’t eat more than one per week or you’ll get heart disease! Except that I’ve never eaten a raw egg, I rarely pay attention to it. I mean, I’m not a big time egg consumer. I don’t have one every morning. I treat the media scare stories pretty much like a fireside ghost tale—they’re meant to give you frisson of doubt and fear but they shouldn’t rule your life. They’re theories and theories are not proven truths.
I’ve yet to find too much in the way of oogy-boogy scare tactics about eggs in older cook books. Eggs seem to be everywhere, actually. The only thing that seems to stand out as warning about eggs is to not eat so many egg-based foods if you are trying to trim your weight. And that seems perfectly reasonable given how often eggs show up in older cook books, especially desserts. Since they aren’t shy about egg recipe, I surely don’t know why I shouldn’t have more egg-based recipes promoted here.
I don’t mean this blog to be simply about recreating recipes from the White House Cook Book, although it certainly has its share of egg dishes. I do mean to delve into other cookbooks mostly from before the Depression. One awesome little book I found during my summer vacation was “Mrs. Fryer’s Loose Leaf Cook Book”, circa 1922.
I’ve been playing around with a few recipes from there including an egg dish that intrigued me as simple but not something I was used to—Birds’ Nests. I found nearly the same recipe in another cook book I picked up called the “Blue Ribbon Cook Book” from 1906 under the name “Egg-In-Nest”, the temperature and seasoning being the only difference. I figured I’d give it a try as it is a pretty easy recipe to recreate (since my fight with the Bavarian Cream continues, so far with less success than I’d like). The result was delicious but startling. Because the eggs are whipped up to a froth but it is seasoned with salt, you get the feeling of eating a dessert that has the wrong taste. Well, at first it does but you do quickly get used to it. It might be a different approach for people who aren’t so keen on the sensation of poached or fried egg whites.
Modern Form version:
4 slices bread, home-made preferably
4 eggs, separated (For ease, place each yolk in its own small dish)
pepper, freshly ground
Set oven to 390°F. Toast the slices of bread. While bread is toasting, whip the whites of the four eggs in a bowl until they are stiff. Set aside.
Butter the hot toast to your taste.
Take the whipped whites and place equal amounts on each of the four slices of toast. With a spoon, shape the whites in a bird’s nest shape—rounded with a deep depression in the center.
Place the bread with nests on a cooking sheet, tin-foiled if you prefer. Gently take each yolk in a small spoon, or from each dish, and place it in the center depression of the nest of whites.
Season each egg yolk to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place about a ¼ of a teaspoon of butter gently by each yolk.
Place birds’ nests in oven for about 15 minutes, longer if you prefer harder yolks. Take care to watch the whites if they are cooking longer than 15 minutes so they don’t over-colour.