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The backyard omelet: the local foods movement has progressed to include backyard barnyards full of feathered friends.

Lately, I have found myself wanting chickens in my yard and fresh eggs on my counter. I thought this chicken fixation was a phase that I was going through along with my sister, who keeps a menagerie of animals at her home in the country. She even has a turtle farm that allows inhabitants to go from glass aquariums to miniature fenced-in patches under the shade of a large oak tree. Some might think a turtle farm is a bit out there, but not in my family. There were times when the family Chrysler, flying down the highway, screeched to a halt for Cindi to rescue a crossing turtle, and his life would never be the same. We would paint his shell with fingernail polish and turn him loose in the backyard.

When Cindi decided last summer to add a chicken coop to her collection, it seemed normal (and possible) for her, but not me because I live in a covenant-laden neighborhood. After a little research, I realized it is possible for me, or anybody, to have a flock of chickens. Across the country, there is a surging passion for raising chickens at home. Chickens seem to go hand and glove with a reclamation of other lost domestic arts such as quilting or canning, and they are a declaration of self-sufficiency. Raising chickens, it seems, is as enduring as pearls or old loafers. The local foods movement is here to stay with flocks of chickens, sustainable gardening, and ordinary composting.

The trend is so strong that, in the past two years, more than 500 towns and cities have revised their laws to allow urban folks to keep their own chickens. And what about those eggs!

In 1982, Martha Stewart published her first book, Entertaining, and introduced us to her rare-breed chickens producing pastel-colored eggs. As only Martha could do, she ventured on to introduce her first paint collection based on these egg colors. She made chickens seem more useful and companion-like creatures, rather than livestock. She knew the value of raising her own chickens and the difference between store-bought eggs and fresh, organic eggs. After cooking a few recipes with my first basket of fresh eggs, I, too, understood the difference and wanted more. A fresh egg stands up with its deep golden yolk crowning a mound of shiny, translucent white, where a not-so-fresh egg rapidly spreads. The flavor is richer and more pronounced. Some markets sell fresh eggs, so try them and taste the difference.

The Internet is loaded with websites on how to raise your own chickens--including information on coops, organic feeds, and choosing breeds. Murray McMurray Hatchery (, based in Iowa, helps you select chickens that are most adaptable to your region and climate and will mail a box of chicks straight through your local post office. lets you choose your chickens based on the color of eggs.

Eggs are good for you, and they are one of the most versatile foods for any meal or dessert. Moving toward a sustainable lifestyle is good for all of us. Even if you can't raise your own chickens, try and locate some fresh eggs to cook with. It might be all you need to become part of a movement that is edible and timeless. Picture "Green Acres" minus the evening gowns, broken equipment, and Arnold the pig, of course!

12 eggs
1 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeno (fresh or jar)
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese, divided
12 (6-inch) flour tortillas
2 to 3 tablespoons butter, divided

Using a whisk or rotary beater, mix eggs, milk, and remaining
seasonings in a glass bowl. Stir in jalapenos and one cup of cheese and
set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, melt one tablespoon butter.
Place tortilla in hot skillet and cook for 30 seconds, flip and cook
for 30 seconds. Repeat with remaining tortillas and keep warm. Melt
remaining butter in skillet, and when butter is foamy pour in eggs.
Using a spatula or wooden spoon, cook eggs until just set, gently
stirring. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and
heat oven broiler to medium. Lay tortilla on a flat surface, and spoon
1/2 cup of cooked eggs in center of tortilla. Gently fold over one side
and then the other, covering eggs. Place stuffed tortilla seam side
down in baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and sprinkle
remaining cheese on top of tortillas. Place baking dish under broiler
and cook until cheese is bubbly and melted. Serve immediately with Pico
de Gallo.

Yield: 12 servings


4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely minced
3 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
Juice of 3 limes
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill for several hours. Check seasonings and

Yield: 1 1/2 cups


This was a favorite recipe of my mother's, and it is wonderful for brunch or a special breakfast.
6 eggs, boiled and peeled
1 (1 1/2-pound) ham, sliced
1/2 stick, plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2-2 cups half-and-half or cream
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
3 English muffins, split in half
1 cup fresh chives, chopped

Cut boiled eggs in half, gently scoop out yolks, and place in a
separate bowl. Finely dice cooked whites and set aside. In a
medium-sized skillet, lightly fry ham in 2 tablespoons of butter. Set
aside and keep warm. Add remaining butter to skillet and heat until
foamy. Add flour and whisk until mixture is smooth. Slowly add
half-and-half or cream and continue whisking until sauce is silky and
completely of lumps. Reduce heat; add chopped egg whites, hot sauce,
salt, and pepper. Toast English muffins and place on a plate. Top with
several pieces of ham. Pour white sauce over ham and muffin and top
with egg yolks that have been pushed through a fine sieve. Sprinkle
with chopped chives, and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings


6 eggs, boiled, peeled, and chopped
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
1/2 cup Spanish olives, chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and hot sauce to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise mixed with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Leaf lettuce
12 white or wheat bread slices, lightly toasted

In a glass bowl, mix eggs, capers, olives, and celery together. Gently
blend in seasonings and mayonnaise, adding more or less as needed.
Place lettuce leaves on 6 slices of bread and top with scoop of egg
salad. Place remaining bread slices on each sandwich and slice in

Yield: 6 sandwiches



Enjoy a little twist on the classic brunch dish.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 large eggs
8 to 10 cups torn lettuces
4 slices Canadian bacon, cooked and chopped roughly
4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Paprika for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar. Season dressing with
salt and pepper to taste. Bring 6 cups water and a pinch of salt to
simmer in saucepan over medium heat. Crack egg and gently slide into
pan of simmering water. Poach each egg until the white is just set,
about 2 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon; keep warm. Toss
lettuces with vinaigrette and divide among four plates. Top each with
bacon, radishes, and red onion slices. Place a poached egg on each
salad, and drizzle Hollandaise Sauce. Dust with paprika.

Yield: 4 servings

3 egg yolks
Juice of 2 lemons
1 stick butter, cut into 8 pieces

Place egg yolks and lemon juice in top of a double boiler, and bring
water in bottom pot to a simmer. Whisk eggs continuously until mixture
is thick. Reduce heat and add butter 1 piece at a time, stirring after
each addition. Keep warm until ready to use.


1 quart half-and-half or cream
2 cups sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split
8 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar

Heat half-and-half or cream, sugar, and vanilla bean over medium heat
in heavy-bottomed saucepan. As soon as mixture begins to boil, reduce
heat to low simmer until ready to poach meringues. Beat egg whites with
salt until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup sugar slowly until all is
incorporated and whites are stiff. Working in batches, form egg whites
into egg-shaped mounds, using 2 large serving spoons. Gently spoon
meringues into hot cream mixture. Poach for 2 minutes on each side,
turning with slotted spoon. Remove meringues from cream and place on
paper towels to drain. To make custard, beat egg yolks with remaining 1
1/2 cups sugar until light-colored and very thick. Strain cream mixture
into another saucepan over medium heat. When mixture begins to bubble,
add 1/2 cup to egg yolks, whisking constantly to keep eggs from
curdling. Pour yolks into hot milk and stir constantly with a wooden
spoon, scraping bottom of pan to make sure it is not cooking to fast.
The custard is cooked when it coats back of spoon evenly. Remove from
heat and strain to remove lumps. Chill until ready to serve. Spoon
custard into balloon-shaped goblets or parfaits and place a meringue in
each glass.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings






photography by tom beck
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Author:Burgess, Emily Hines
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2011
Previous Article:John Wayne Casserole.
Next Article:Gilding the egg.

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