First egg of the season


Lest anyone feel compelled to remind me that this is not a food blog, there will be tarragon, a useful if mangy-looking plant, mentioned by the end of the post.

Last Sunday night, I threw the first dinner party I've thrown in many a moon.  I wanted to make a curried mayonnaise for boiled shrimp with drinks.

Mayonnaise is made with raw egg.  There's always a danger of salmonella, so frankly, I'd rather make it with a egg produced by a chicken whose diet largely consists of the organic and grass-fed scraps from my table.  Also, the quality of the egg matters in mayonnaise.  It's just got a more jellylike consistency when made with one of my hens' rich, orange-yolked eggs.

The only problem?  My chickens molted in early November and stopped laying.  Nature intends this.  Commercial egg factories speed up the process cruelly by depriving molting birds of food and water. 

Then, even as my hens grew a nice lofty set of feathers for winter, they were still not laying.  Nature intends this hiatus, too, in the low-light days.  You can get hens to lay through winter with artificial light.  But I don't bother.

Still, the days are getting longer.  I've been noticing buds on the trees and thinking I could even do a little pruning.  And I had a dinner party.  So I went out and gave my three hens a stern talking to.  "Ladies," I said.  I have a carefully calibrated three hens.  Just enough to produce sufficient eggs for a five-person family, without triggering much annoyance from the neighbors.  "Time to get to it.  I need an egg!"

That afternoon?  The first egg of the season.  My chickens are certainly the most cooperative–and some will argue, most useful–members of my household.

Curried mayonnaise:

Put an egg in a blender.  Blend.  Then, slowly, allow corn oil to trickle onto the egg as it's whirring.  (Olive oil won't do–too heavy.) 

After about a cup of so of oil, you will notice that you've made an emulsion, which has paralyzed the blades.  Stop adding oil at this point!

Pour in white vine vinegar or lemon juice to taste.  Add a shallot for flavor.  Add salt to taste, maybe a pinch of sugar, and a teaspoon or so of curry powder. 

Pour into a bowl.  I then like to add chopped tarragon, for its sweet licorice taste.

I think this would be excellent, also, as a dressing for chicken salad with peas.  But don't tell my darling hens.


  1. I have Buff Orpingtons. I highly recommend them for any urban or suburban area, because they are quiet and calm and not given to ripping each other to shreds, like the Red Sexlinks I once had.

    Buff Orpingtons are also very winter hardy. And they take confinement without a lot of protest, though they do like being let out of their yard and into mine in the afternoons.

    This chicken chart is really worth looking at before you decide on a breed:

    My vine is sweet autumn clematis. Fantastic plant.

  2. Good for you with your chickens – that’s one of the nicest things you’ll ever do for your family. Fresh eggs are important! I wish more people were as smart as you!

  3. Our hens started laying again this week too!

    FYI: The first year, we kept the heat lamp on to “bypass” the eggless period — don’t even bother, because our hens just took the summer off!

  4. I now know more about the habits of chickens than I did five minutes ago. Cool post!

    Buds on trees?! Hard to imagine being buried in snow right now.

    Also, I love making mayonaise. I’ve done it for years with free-range eggs from the co-op, and never had a problem. I usually make rouille, which is mayo with lemon and lots of cayenne. I serve it on top of a soup that is a vegetarian boullabaise. It makes that soup something special!

  5. I refuse to make home made mayonnaise. Not because it is difficult, but because it tastes sooooo good. Which means I fine excuses for eating things that require mayonnaise. And in my world that is any sandwich except peanut butter. I learned this at a very early age when my mother made a batch and I gained 5 pounds in one week. And this was when I was young and active.

  6. I agree on the buffs for urban living. I think they’re my noisiest layers though!

    I have a couple of them, a couple black australorps (also very sweet-natured), and a couple rhode island reds.

    The orpingtons and australorps make these great ‘buuuuuh buh buh buh buh’ noises deep in their throats.

    Having chickens beats the heck out of tv at the end of the day. I let them out for recess before it gets dark, watch them so they don’t get into trouble (they like to make a break for the compost pile) and then they put themselves inside when it’s time to roost for the night.

  7. Glad to know that 3 chickens are enough for a family of 5. I was wondering how many to get for my little tribe of 4! How many eggs do you typically get a week during laying season?

  8. Always wanted chickens. Someday!! Your ‘stern talking to’ was reminiscent of my stern talking to that I had with my bulbs a few weeks ago, begging them for a fabulous spring in the PNW. I think it’ll work out…so mild this year…I say this, of course, with rain and wind beating on my windows.

  9. I have made and eaten the most delicious mayonnaise made with fresh eggs and olive oil.

    In fact, you cannot eat fresh white asparagus just about anywhere in the Mediterranean without an accompaniment such as that!

    *I wonder if you meant “heavy” as in flavor or “heavy” as in weight vs the corn oil.

  10. Oh! I forgot to mention, re the chickens. If you are about to set off on chicken husbandry, make sure that your local zoning ordinances allow “farm animals” or “livestock” in your neighborhood before you build your coop and place your first order for chicks. This can save you a lot of expense and grief. Even here in still rural Johns Island, South Carolina there are rules that address such things.

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