The Egg Stands Alone

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Just a dozen pretty faces, that’s all I thought they were.  For months I walked right past the display of quail eggs thinking: impractical, gimmicky, too cute to be true, too small to be useful, and other similarly erroneous disparaging thoughts.

Then, un beau jour, one fine day, I bought some.  I had no plan, no reason to buy them, and no idea what to do with them.  I took them home, stashed them in the fridge, and then ignored them.  They nagged at me a bit, reminding me of their existence mainly by taking up shelf space in our smallish fridge, but they never said “cook me.”  They became somewhat of a household joke, in fact, as well as an excuse to order pizza.  When ransacking the cupboards in a semi-futile search for dinner I might say something like “well, we have sardines, beets, and quail eggs” knowing full well that the result would be a hasty order called in to Rapido Pizz.  Let me just say for the record that although its very name caused us to make lots of Rapido Pizz jokes initially, when you call them a guy on a scooter will bring a quite decent pizza to your door in 15 minutes flat, which is not to be sneezed at.  Not to mention that they never ever laugh when we order “une végétarienne et une carnivore.”

Back in eggland, there was even a time when, wanting to bake but finding myself without any proper eggs, I momentarily considered cracking them all into a bowl and using them to make a cake.  Even I knew that was going too far, but the eggs were taking up valuable real estate and might have been on the verge of expiring, for all I knew.  So I boiled them.

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Aha, a major kitten magnet, that’s one thing they’re good for.  Alas, as soon as I obligingly shelled one and offered it to Zazou she lost all interest.  I think she loved them for their beauty, just as I did.  Or maybe it was the salt on their shells.

But our neighbor was joining us for dinner, which I’d promised would be extremely simple and casual, and the little eggs seemed like a great way to demonstrate aperitif nonchalance.  “See, I really didn’t fuss, I just boiled up some adorable miniature eggs.”

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And in fact, with the addition of a heap of salt and pepper and a skewer, voilà, an instant and original snack to offer with a drink.  I’ve gone quickly to being a complete believer, and now I’m starting to think that I should always have some in the fridge for occasions, like this evening, when the doorbell rings and friends spontaneously descend.  Having some decorative, conversation-starting, and ready to eat quail eggs to set out can’t help but bridge that little moment of surprise.

In fact, I think that having an assortment of things to dip the eggs in would make a fun Quail Bar.  I’m casting my mind over my pantry again, imagining small dishes of sesame oil, smoked black pepper, harissa, tapenade, mayonnaise, pesto, and the like, all surrounding a heap of bite-sized eggs.  Because you know what?  In this world there’s always room for another pretty face or twelve.

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5 Comments on “The Egg Stands Alone”

  1. Ray Says:

    great idea Abra….hard-boiled eggs with assorted dippings…beats the labor-intensiveness of those tirelessly popular devilled eggs by a longshot…..


  2. We went to a very elegant dinner party a number of years ago, and the hors d’oevres were tiny basket egg nest made of fried potato julienne each with one poached quail egg. I found it apalling on some level, but nevertheless, delicious.

  3. Heidih Says:

    They look almost too pretty to crack open. Looks like yours peeled well. I have had some stubborn ones with lots of losses to the dog. Any tips? Also cooking time?

  4. Abra Bennett Says:

    Heidi – I peeled them under running water, and it was quite easy. Although a lot of recipes for quail eggs say to boil for 3 minutes, as I usually do with eggs, I put them into cold water, brought it to a simmer, turned it off, and let them rest in the hot water. Mine were in for 8 minutes, but a minute less might have been equally good. Then I plunge them straight into cold running water, of course.

  5. Wendy Says:

    Abra, I like using quail eggs! I’ve halved hard boiled ones and laid them on blini and topped them with a dollop of caviar. I’ve also just halved hard boiled ones and topped them with various things like tarragon leaf, parsley leaf, half anchovy, etc and arrranged them on a platter. Also fried or poached on a frissee salad is really cute!


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