Eggs, whether from a hen or another bird, have always provided humans with nutrition. This seems logical as humans have always been able to plunder nests.
Even though hens, according to some sources, have been domesticated for over 3,000 years, other eggs were fashionable in some civilizations: ostrich eggs were eaten by the Phoenicians, while blue peahen (the female peacock) eggs were popular with the Romans.
The latter also ate hen eggs and Apicius ensured their eternal popularity. He was the first to serve poached eggs and invented the Tripatina, œufs au lait and œufs spongieux au lait, the ancestor of the crème renversée (baked custard). He left behind many other recipes using eggs, such as rose paste and asparagus Patina, and used egg to thicken sauces.
Christians were forbidden from eating eggs because they were viewed as meat. The tradition of Easter eggs dates back to the 4th century, when the Church encouraged people to offer eggs (preserved throughout Lent in grease, wax, and sawdust) to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
The egg has always been a symbol of fertility and considered a special offering. This is why the Egyptians painted them. This tradition has continued over the centuries with varying degrees of panache; the eggs were sometimes even covered with gold, like those Louis XIV gave to his courtiers.
Eggs have always been an everyday staple and, over the centuries, more and more recipes have appeared using eggs, such as those in the recipe collection Le Viandier by Guillaume Tirel, including dodine blanche, consisting of boiled milk with ginger, egg yolks, and parsley, and another using verjuice.
In the Renaissance, omelets were a staple of every table. Bartolomeo Stefani, chef at the court of Gonzaga in Mantua, reinvented crème renversée and also lait à l'espagnole, which became our crème anglaise. For a long time, this was the star of the dessert world, made even better by other chefs, like Vincente Corrado, who added chocolate, and turned it into crème pâtissière, or pastry cream, by adding fleur de riz (rice flour).
As for mayonnaise, historians still argue about its origin. It is thought that it was probably invented in 1756 by the chef of the Duke of Richelieu following the latter's victory at Port Mahon.
Fresh eggs: sold in cartons of 6 or 12 or in trays of 30.
Egg products: this refers to eggs that have been stripped of their shell and membranes, and includes
- whole eggs that have been pasteurized (plain or salted) or frozen
- the white or yolk in liquid form (plain, salted, or sweet), powdered, or frozen
- eggs that have been hard boiled (whole, or quartered, or in tubes) or poached or frozen and in whole tubes or pre-sliced, devilled, the white or yolk cooked and cubed, omelet cubes, or scrambled eggs, etc.
Egg products are sold to the commercial and institutional catering and food industry. In North America, some are also produced for the general public.
Liquid and powdered egg white is sold in gyms and health-food stores, as egg white proteins are particularly sought after by people who want to build muscles or are on certain diets.
Fresh eggs in a carton: organic or Label Rouge eggs are obviously the best.
Loose fresh eggs: they often dodge labeling requirements. The terms "Œuf coque", "Œuf du jour", and "Œuf de ferme" sometimes used in France have no legal value. These terms do not necessarily mean that the egg is better than a Label Rouge or organic egg. In fact, they tell the consumer nothing about the egg's freshness or origin.
Never buy eggs with a dirty shell, even if it makes them look "natural". The dirt is chicken droppings, evidence of a poorly maintained and dirty farm.
Egg products: they are obviously not made with class A eggs, or any eggs other than those from battery hens.
It is essential to wash your hands before and after touching eggs.
They should be worked in a stainless steel container, broken on a flat surface, such as the flat of the work top and not the edges, and should not be separated through the fingers or broken using only the hands.
Eggs can be cooked in every way possible: poached, fried, baked, cooked in a bain-marie, or used to make a sabayon, etc.
They are essential to all sorts of recipes, ranging from appetizers to desserts, because they can be used equally easily in both sweet and savory dishes. Without eggs, baking would not really exist.
Fresh eggs should always be stored in their original carton, in a cool place (maximum 6°C), for a maximum of 3 weeks from the laying date. It makes sense to limit and rotate stock. They should be stored away from strong-smelling foods since, as their shell is permeable, they can absorb smells.
Discard any eggs with a cracked shell.
Eggs should never be washed.
Despite hygiene controls and the use of antibiotics in chickens, eggs can carry salmonella, bacteria that cause food poisoning and that develop very rapidly at room temperature when eggs are raw or undercooked.
This is why anything made using eggs should always be quickly cooled and used immediately or stored for the shortest amount of time possible in the refrigerator.
Egg products should be stored according to the instructions on their carton.
The egg is an almost perfect food. The white and yolk contain proteins made up of a perfect mixture of essential amino acids, those which help the body make the proteins it needs. Egg protein is also the standard used to compare all others.
The white is made up of water, proteins that are only absorbed by the body when cooked, and minerals.
All of the other nutrients are concentrated in the yolk: lipids made up of saturated, but mainly unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin A; carotenes, which give it its yellow color and whose quantity depends on the hen's diet, vitamin D, lecithin (an emulsifier), and minerals.
Eggs are rich in cholesterol, which is only found in the yolk. This is the reason that egg consumption is often limited or prohibited for those suffering from severe hypercholesterolemia. However, the cholesterol level in the blood of people who do not suffer from this disease is not increased by the regular consumption of eggs.
Unfortunately, eggs are one of those foods that may cause a food allergy. This is very common in both adults and children.
Discover top chefs recipes, with step-by-step illustrations and videos
Learn tips and tricks from the greatest chefs
Master techniques at home with interactive videos