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Which Came First, Breakfast or the Egg?

Which Came First, Breakfast or the Egg?

America’s obsession with eggs is a long-standing tradition, and it shows no signs of slowing down. We take a look at its evolution.

While eggs have been consumed by humans for millennia, it was those inimitable French chefs who realized the incredible functionality of this humble gift of nature. Patrons were delighted with soufflés that mysteriously rose high above the pan rim; creamy mayonnaise that emulsified right before their eyes; and pâte á choux—the divine pastry used for cream puffs, profiteroles and eclairs.

Legend has it that the traditional tall chef toque has 100 pleats to signify 100 ways an accomplished chef can prepare eggs. Today, there would likely be at least one thousand pleats, since chefs now put eggs atop and within countless menu items at all dayparts. It would be difficult to name a food item with more beneficial attributes. Eggs are inexpensive, nutritious, readily available and versatile. They are also a fantastic carrier for other ingredients.

According to the American Egg Board, the United States produces 75 billion eggs each year, about 10 percent of the world’s supply. Sixty percent of that 75 billion are used by consumers, nine percent by the foodservice industry, and the remainder is turned into egg products used in foodservice and food manufacturing.

While trailblazing chefs across the country are revolutionizing breakfast, eggs still play a major role. Breakfast is no longer just a daypart; in some operations, it has moved into all dayparts. Ingredients for breakfast dishes are becoming more and more sophisticated, with ancient grains, seafood, specialty meats, fancy fruits and vegetables and all manner of savories and sweets. But today’s breakfast menus are still peppered with eggs and egg-based dishes, both classic and contemporary.

At the Atlanta Breakfast Club in Georgia, the zesty Spanish frittata is loaded with three eggs, chorizo sausage, tomatoes, scallions and cheddar cheese. The Terrace Room in the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh serves a croque-monsieur for breakfast. It is a sandwich on sourdough that features grilled country ham, gruyere cheese and fried egg (which technically makes it a croque-madame). The hotel’s Baltimore Benedict is made with poached eggs, a jumbo lump crab cake and hollandaise.

The lobster hash at New York’s tony Oceana is topped with poached eggs and lobster bearnaise. And Oceana’s Italian fried eggs come with cured sardines and cherry tomatoes, served with a potato-tomato-onion gratin.

Brennan’s, that New Orleans bastion of breakfast, uses more than 450,000 eggs a year in dishes such as eggs Hussarde (Benedict with marchand de vin sauce); eggs Sardou (crispy artichokes, parmesan creamed spinach); and eggs a la Turk (soft scrambled eggs with roasted foie gras).

“We’re very particular about our eggs,” says Christian Pendleton, Brennan’s general manager, “because our reputation depends on them. The yolks are sunset orange, and the flavor is rich and luxurious. We procure them from a local co-op, and spend about $80,000 per year over regular eggs. It’s that important.”

According to the American Egg Board, the United States produces 75 billion eggs each year.

10% of the world's supply

60% are used by consumers

9% is used by the foodservice industry

The rest is turned into egg product.

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