Monday, March 2, 2009

Duck Eggs? Anyone for Duck Eggs?

Raise your hand if you've eaten scrambled duck eggs. Until this past weekend, mine would be in my lap. But I've been waiting for the opportunity and it came last week in the form of Specialty Produce, a wonderful warehouse in Middletown that sells farm fresh products, often from the Santa Monica farmers market, to local chefs and caterers. They had invited me to come over and sample some of their farmers market items so I was on the website to see what looked interesting and found they had these hard-to-find gems. The eggs, along with green garlic, were on my list.

Just a note about Specialty Produce: This isn't a place to do your regular marketing, but if you're having a hard time finding a specific ingredient for a recipe you're making, they're happy to help. Just know it's a warehouse, not a store. You're competing for floor space with fork-lifts loaded with pallets. The best advice I have is to scan their website to check what's available and go over in the afternoon when it's usually a little less hectic. Bring your own shopping bags.

Back to the food. Duck eggs are a tad larger than chicken eggs, with more fat in the yolk and more protein in the whites. Because I wanted to get a sense of both their flavor and how they cook, I decided to keep it simple and try them scrambled and incorporated in muffins.

I added a little low-fat milk to the eggs before whisking them for the scramble. That's it. And, I just slightly undercooked them because I'd heard they get firmer than chicken eggs. I sprinkled a little lavender salt to finish with some chopped Italian parsley from my garden. Tasting them, you'd have thought I'd added cheese to the eggs. They were much richer than any scrambled eggs I'd ever had with a denser, thicker consistency. Very flavorful but you'll fill up on them much faster than with chicken eggs.

The duck egg I used in the lemon blueberry muffins worked just fine. There was no discernible difference in the texture or flavor of the muffins. From what I've read, they basically can be interchanged with chicken eggs, even in baking.

The green garlic was a treat. I'm still waiting for spring's garlic scapes, those wondrous green curly cues of garlic magic, but green garlic is a lovely ingredient to work with -- essentially, the garlic plant before the bulb takes shape.

As you can see, they look remarkably like green onions or scallions. But if they were in the ground that white end would begin to swell and form a bulb. I've had them at this stage before and in the very young garlic bulb stage. As the plant matures, the flavors also evolve. Right now, from March to May is when you can enjoy the garlic in this phase of life -- both the white and the stems. Just know that its flavors will be much more delicate than pungent (although you'd never know by the scent).

Again, I like to keep things simple, so one of the first things I did when I got them into my kitchen was make a vinaigrette.

Dijon Green Garlic Vinaigrette

1 stalk of green garlic, mince the white section
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup olive oil

Whisk together all the ingredients but the olive oil to blend. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Let sit for at least an hour to let the flavors come together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Note: For a stronger flavor, use aged Sherry vinegar and Spanish olive oil.

So, that evening I had decided to make lamb chops and thought I'd marinate the chops in some of the vinaigrette. I also had brought home lovely baby Anzious artichokes from Specialty Produce. Those would be quartered, blanched for three minutes and then roasted at 400 degrees with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and both the whites and the greens from the green garlic, chopped.

And, I had this delicious rice mixture I bought at Mitsuwa -- black rice, purple, barley, hulless barley, rye berries, MG red rice and short grain brown rice. It's nutty and tastes like the wilderness.

It was a very easy dinner. After marinating the lamb chops for an hour, I broiled them for about five minutes on each side, roasted the artichokes and the rice went in its little rice cooker. I topped the lamb chops with a couple of dollops of chimichurri I'd had left over from another dinner I'd made. A delicious meal for one.

Also, on my "to try" list were the prettiest little French heirloom potatoes. They're a petite red oblong tuber, about three or four inches long, and when you cut inside, the flesh is a very dainty yellow hue. These were going to be served at brunch with the scrambled duck eggs and muffins. Instead of roasting them, which I love to do, I sliced them and boiled them briefly, then tossed them with the Dijon Green Garlic vinaigrette, sliced kalamata olives and, yes, the greens from the green garlic. The dressing soaked into the potatoes, giving them both a terrific consistency and pronounced flavor from the garlic and mustard.

I served the eggs, muffins and potatoes with something a little different and refreshing, slices of watermelon radishes. I love these; just noshing on them is great. A buff white exterior leads to this springlike surprise inside when you slice them. I'd like to try pickling or sauteeing them.

Next up, a charming head of Piret lettuce -- it has the shape of butter lettuce but in ravishing greens and purples. And broccoli Spigarrello, a wild-looking green with a flavor as dramatic as its looks. Stay tuned!

Specialty Produce is located at 1929 Hancock St. in San Diego.

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  1. Great write up on this! I truly enjoyed my visit to Specialty Produce and am amazed by the unique variety and quality of the products. I can tell you enjoyed sampling as much as we did with your array of dishes. Delicious!

  2. Thanks, Kelly! I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventure with your products.

  3. Specialty Produce is my go-to fall back if I can't find something here at the local farmers' markets (we try to support them first). Just FYI: Schaner Farms at the Little Italy Mercato Saturday farmers' market has duck eggs and turkey eggs right now, chicken eggs of course, and huge teal-colored emu eggs.

  4. Hi Catt:
    I love Schaner Farms and buy their chicken eggs all the time. But they haven't had anything but them for months because the others haven't been laying. So, when I saw that SP had them, I jumped on it. Are they selling them now?

  5. Wow, I've been wanting to try duck eggs. I kept hearing how fantastic they are. Thanks!

  6. The duck eggs sound wonderful! If they make a rich scramble, they might make delicious French Toast.

  7. My teenage daughter wanted a pet duck, and we ended up with 3. I love them -- so funny to watch and interact with. But the eggs were an after-thought. I was afraid we wouldn't like them, and then I'd be stuck choking down eggs I didn't care for. Surprise! We love them! They are great hard-cooked, and they make for the best brownies and baked goods. The shells colored just as well as chicken eggs for Easter. So yummy! And I love raising my own source of protein!