After it became trendy to put a perfectly fried egg on everything from hamburgers to Brussels sprouts, enterprising chefs were faced with a challenge: reinvigorating such a common, everyday ingredient.
The answer, for a handful of local cooks, is to replace the chicken egg with a duck egg. The typically larger duck egg is revered by those in the know for its seriously creamy yolk, which is why you’ll find it topping savory dishes across the city.
“When I first had a duck egg, I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ It’s the richest thing ever,” says Brendan L’Etoile, chef at Petworth’s Chez Billy. L’Etoile has been on the duck-egg bandwagon since he took a chance on them through a former supplier. He fried it, tried it, and hasn’t looked back.
He brings the duck egg to the masses at Chez Billy with his take on the mushroom tartine ($12). Three types of mushrooms — shiitake, oyster and hen-of-the-woods — are cooked in duck stock, white wine and sherry vinegar to form a rich broth. This is poured over grilled country bread and then topped with a crispy, sunny-side up duck egg.
L’Etoile says the dish is all about the mushrooms, though the duck egg yolk serves to cut the acidity of the stock. He now sources his duck eggs from D’Artagnan, a specialty food provider and the source for another D.C. duck-egg champion: Birch & Barley.
There, chef Kyle Bailey serves a fried sunny-side duck egg on his corned beef hash ($15), which also includes Yukon Gold potatoes and Peppadew peppers. Bailey notes that the whites of duck eggs cook up fluffier than those of hen eggs.
He says duck eggs fit in well on his brunch menu, a blend of relatable dishes and slightly offbeat selections.
“When we first started serving them, it was something not a lot of people had had,” Bailey says, adding that the hash is a good meat-centered option for Birch & Barley diners on dairy-free, gluten-free diets.
A vegetarian’s best bet for duck-egg dishes is Kangaroo Boxing Club’s Veg ’n’ Egg breakfast ($10). Seasonal vegetables such as carrots, beets and zucchini are roasted and plated with sauteed spinach (rolled in a bit of quinoa) and topped with a yolk-up fried duck egg. The dish is finished with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and vegan barbecue sauce.
KBC chef Trent Allen started using duck eggs after spotting them at the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace from Twin Post Farm in Princess Anne, Md. Allen cites the duck egg’s giant yolk as the linchpin of the dish.
“It has a richer flavor,” he says. “We really liked the way the yolk broke and mixed in with all the veggies.”
Only time will tell if chicken eggs get overtaken now that culinary types are warming up to duck eggs. But at least we’ll always know which of the two came first.
It’s What’s Inside That Counts
So exactly how are duck eggs different from hen eggs? The contrast in taste is “definitely noticeable,” says Steven Kirk of Washington’s Green Grocer, a D.C.-based meat and produce delivery service (washingtonsgreengrocer.com). He cites the lower water content of duck eggs as the primary factor, as that means they have more protein and fat.
Though duck eggs do contain more than double the cholesterol, they have higher levels of vitamins D and A, and good levels of vitamin K-2 and minerals. They are preferred by bakers because the higher fat content delivers a higher rise and richer taste. Kirk warns, though, that duck eggs can become rubbery if not fried correctly — so watch that skillet if this is your preferred method. a.b.