Saturday, 10 May 2008

Pheasant eggs: the verdict

In honesty summary: slightly disappointing.

I arose this morning with a spring in my step and sashayed brightly into the kitchen, where I knew my treasure awaited: six cute pheasant eggs, nestled in the cool protection of the fridge.

Retrieving the box, I placed it on the countertop, and began the serious business of pondering the most bestest way to enjoy this rare treat: how to savour the full glory of the egg?

In a flash of inspiration, I had my answer: frying and poaching.

Poaching, as any fool knows, is probably the finest method of egg preparation. Done correctly - a trivially simple procedure - the egg emerges with delicately cohesive white and succulently runny yolk. A brief prob with a knife - or, better, fork - and the gold within is released to ooze luxuriously out. Oh!

I set the pan of water on the stove and rummaged for a frying pan.

A fried egg is, of course, a British classic; a staple of the breakfast table. I've not been a great fan of them myself, not until quite recently, when I discovered how to cook them properly. Nowadays my enthusiasm is not, shall we say, unbounded. But I have learned to enjoy a fried egg from time to occasional time. Today was just such an occasion, not least because I rather hoped the small fried eggish circles would resemble some fried quail eggs I saw on sale in a Bangkok market. Oh indeed!

Giggling quietly to myself with suppressed excitement, I found an omlette pan - a pan that I bought to make tiny Spanish tortillas, and now use exclusively for eggy dishes omlettes, scrambled or fried eggs and pancakes (whatever would Larousse have to say about that?!) - and set to.

A little oil, a little heat, a little egg - and a brief stumble. It would seem that the shell of a pheasant egg is unusually tough. A sharp rap on the edge of the pan was not sufficient to crack the shell neatly - and I was in fear of rupturing the yolk. So much so that I resorted to using a knife to breach the container and reveal the delights within.

My first glimpse of the workings of the object was unremarkable. I had read that the yolk is proportionately larger than that of a chicken's egg, but did not discern this fact myself. I watched carefully as it reached the just-hot-enough oil and turned the egg of my wooden spatula to the delicate and necessary task of scooping. I am not fanatical about scooping - the process of moving hot oil and cooking egg white back on itself in order to facilitate cooking, and better shape the final product. Rather, I tend to regard it as an aesthetic endeavour rather than an essential part of the cooking. Today was clearly an artistic day and I spent a little time shaping the setting egg into the most attractive ellipse.

In short order -shorter than you might believe from the length of this narrative - I deemed my little fried wonder to be ready, and slid it with due ceremony on to a waiting plate. After but a moment's reflection, I attacked the whole with a fork, tasting and savouring with an expression as closely similar to that of a Favourite TV Cook as I could approximate.

The first nibble tasted like fried chicken egg, as did the second. The third only confirmed the hypothesis, and the fourth and final morsel suggested nothing more pheasant-like than the previous triplet of tastings. It tasted like chicken egg.

Smacking my lips thoughtfully, I turned to the pan of now-boiling water and selected another egg from the waiting box. A quick application of knife, and once again, delicate eggstuff was dispatched, this time into the waiting swirling roiling water.

As with my method for producing fried eggs, my poaching technique benefits as much from artistic whim as from scientific method. On this occasion I had omitted to include vinegar in the poaching water, choosing instead to swirl furiously - but not too furiously - the water as the egg was added. The result, scant seconds later, was quite satisfactory: a jolly looking little clump of wetly-gleaming egg, perhaps the size of the first joint of my thumb, sitting neatly on the plate and awaiting the hovering fork.

Let us skip to the approaching climax: when fork descended, prongs ready, the egg spilled its golden delights very satisfactorily and I greedily guzzled away. But not so greedily that I did not spend time attempting to extract further pheasantish flavours from the warm little morsel.

Again, I could taste nothing other than chicken egg.

As you may be aware, duck eggs have a distinctly ducky flavour, as indeed do eggs laid by geese. Even turkey eggs have a particular flavour, reminiscent of - you guessed it! - turkey. But pheasant eggs, my dear readers, offer little more than an amusingly pointed tip, a novel colour scheme, and a familiar taste.

And that is all I have to say about that.

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