This morning at the Orleans Farmers' Market I received a most unusual gift. I swapped a dollar for a bundle of garlic chives with Ben Chung, East Orleans dentist and backyard grower, and he reached into his van to pull out a surprise. Carefully, he tucked a tiny speckled quail egg into my palm.
With any luck, he told me as I walked away, he and his kids would be selling them by the dozen in two weeks time. The family started keeping them for meat, but soon became too attached to the birds to use them for slaughter. Instead, he said, they bring in about 20 speckled eggs every day. As I bartered for bib lettuce and rhubarb and spring onions, I tucked the miniature gift into my sweater pocket for safe keeping. By the time I made it to the car, I had all but forgotten it.
At home when I reached into my pocket to retrieve the remembered treat, the shell was crushed. The weight of the plants or perhaps my own hand against my hip had broken it to pieces, much to my disappointment. But just as I began to peel the mess from my pocket, I realized that it wasn't such a disaster after all. Ben had given me the quail egg hard-boiled, ready to peel. Crushing it had just begun the process early.
I sat down to a salvaged snack of hard-boiled quail and chicken egg salad with sautéed spring onions and toast. While the taste of the two egg types is fairly similar, the miniature version has more yolk in comparison to white and seemed a bit richer. Different or not, the size and beauty of the shell are tempting enough. I'll be back in two weeks looking for more.
QUAIL EGG SALAD
Soft boil 11 quail eggs. Peel and drop into a medium sized bowl.
In a separate bowl, begin making mayonnaise. Crack remaining raw quail egg and add 1/2 teaspoon cold water. Mix well with a whisk or fork. Measure out 1/2 cup olive oil. Emulsify by adding very slowly—drops at a time at first—to egg mixture, whisking constantly until it turns opaque. At this point start to add oil slightly more quickly, continuing to whisk constantly, until the mayo reaches the desired consistency. Add 2 finely chopped spring onions with greens and stir well.
Mash hard boiled eggs. Add mayo and stir together. Add mustard, salt, and pepper to taste.
Enjoy on toast, with several pieces local bib lettuce.