Porcelain Egg Cups & the Apostle Island Sled Dog Race

9 Feb

This past Saturday well before dawn, I hopped into a trusty four-wheel drive with my friends Chuck and Bruce, and we  headed north, north, north – all the way up to Bayfield, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Superior, within view of the Apostle Islands. 

I had been to Bayfield in July a few years back, and remembered it as a bustling resort town, its hotels, restaurants, coffee houses and gift shops crowded with sailors, hikers, sea kayakers, and tourists who were content to sit on a balcony and absorb the magnificent views. The sun had been blinding as it bounced off the open water, and the shoreline shimmered as light hit the dense green canopies of deciduous trees and pines.

cityofbayfield.com

This time, the town was still crowded, though its colors had changed: from blue to white, from green to brown – the sun still blinding as it bounced this time off open expanses of snow and ice.  

Bayfield in snow and ice.

The crowds were different, too.  The sailors, hikers and sea kayakers had been replaced by countless mushers, trainers, breeders, and curious spectators, all gathered for the 17th Annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog race.   And of course, there was the cacophony of the dogs – hundreds of them, tails wagging, yelping in excitement, eager to stretch and run full-out on the snow-packed trails.

The participants came from all over the Midwest and from as far away as Oregon.  The more experienced mushers commanded teams of six to eight dogs, and completed 60- to 80-mile courses.  The youngsters, some not more than 8 or 9 years old, commanded two dogs and covered between six and eight mile loops.  My favorite was a little musher who was so small and light that the dogs, sled and rider all came careening out of the starting gate so fast that the sled’s runners seemed to barely skim the snowy surface.

Young musher flying from the starting line.

My friends and I clapped and cheered and took way too many photographs and then, after the last dogs had left the starting gate on Sunday afternoon, we headed back home.  We had a long drive – and Chuck wanted to stop at his brother David’s house, which stood on 15 wooded acres some miles south of Bayfield, inside the Ashland city limits.  David’s location meant he could enjoy the pleasures of deep country living without forsaking conveniences like running water, public electric and gas, and city sewer lines.

When David first bought the house a few years ago, he found a run-down chicken coop in the yard.  To help pass the long winter, he slowly repaired the coop, read all about chickens, and bought his first rooster and hens.  Now, he has 60, give or take a few.  He lets them free-range in the warm months, but keeps them close to home in winter, protected from the ravenous weasels, wolves, coyotes, and bears that come hunting.

David invited us to accompany him out to the coop, where he gathered a basket of eggs – their shells shades of brown, pink, blue and green.  Handing them over, he reminded us that fresh eggs are good for frying, not boiling – trying to peel a very freshly laid boiled egg is nearly impossible because the shell’s membrane hasn’t yet deteriorated and clings to the egg-white.

He also promised that when we did crack his eggs into our frying pan back home, the whites would hold together – they wouldn’t spread out in a thin layer that could burn easily and turn quickly into a rubbery mess.  And the yolks, well they would be plump and a deep, beautiful yellow.

And just like that, I flashed back to Yiayia’s kitchen, and remembered for the first time in years the little porcelain egg cup in which she would serve me a soft-boiled egg, its yolk plump and a deep, beautiful yellow. 

Over the years, I have lost the taste for soft-boiled eggs, but mainly because I can no longer stomach the runny, slimy whites.  Those yolks, however, I still love. So now, I bake my eggs, firming up the whites and keeping the yolks flowing. 

But I have been eating supermarket eggs.  I can’t wait to crack open one of the pale pink, or green, or blue eggs given to me by David and his hens, the best souvenir (other than our photographs) from our Bayfield Dog Sled adventure!

Baked Eggs (one serving)

two eggs, butter for greasing gratin dishes, salt, pepper, sprinkle of freshly chopped chives or thyme, baked beans & toast for serving

Preheat the oven to 424 degrees F

Butter an individual gratin dish. Break two eggs into the dish.  Season with salt, pepper and some chopped fresh chives or thyme.  Sprinkle with about one tablespoon of heavy cream. 

Bake for 5 minutes, until center starts to set.  Raise heat to “Broil” and broil for two minutes, until whites are starting to firm but yolks are soft.  Be careful to NOT overcook the eggs — they will continue to cook once you pull them out of the oven.

I have been taught by a wonderful Englishwoman to eat these with baked beans-on-toast!

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6 Responses to “Porcelain Egg Cups & the Apostle Island Sled Dog Race”

  1. Michael February 9, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Liz;

    My friend Anita, the Vermonter, who has her own group of chickens, usually about 6, informed me last year that the color of the egg has to do with the breed and sometimes the color of the chicken. She has a white spotted chicken that makes green eggs. Most of her chickens are brown and lay brown eggs. Anita usually gets 1 egg a day from each chicken during the summer and a little less than half that amount during the winter.
    What does David do with all the eggs he must get? Anita eats hers, and gives many away 🙂

    • KuZina February 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Hi Mike! David also said the color depends on the breed — he has Rhode Island Reds and I forget the second breed. Beautiful pink, blue, green, and amber shells. David said he sells quite a few to co-workers to help cover the cost of the feed, and then he gives some away to lucky folks like me who happen to drop by for an unexpected visit!

  2. Brian February 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Can’t wait to try this recipe, Liz; sounds so simple yet great!

  3. Kathe February 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Liz, your stories are such a delight to read. Now I want to experience at least one dog sled race. Bayfield, Wisconsin looks like a wonderful place, summer or fall. Also, those eggs from family and friends, like David, are great!

  4. Norman March 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Liz

    Dave is a friend and co-worker of my wife. We have been getting eggs from Dave for quite some time now, nothing like a firm fresh egg. Their like golden jewels for feasting. We raised 50 – 100 chickens ourselves for 5 or 6 years sometime ago and loved having all the different varieties. An interesting tidbit on the variety of the color of eggs is that the color of a hens egg does have something to do with what breed it is, but mainly it’s determined by what color the hens earlobe is. Thus if the earlobe is white, green, blue, pink, brown, etc, that determines the color of the shell. Well enough of Egg Color 101, love your blog 🙂

    • KuZina March 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      So, is ear color a breed-specific trait, or can you find two hens that are different breeds but have the same earlobe color — let’s say green –, and so both lay the same color eggs???? (I love this blog, too, because of people like you who take the time to respond and I learn all sorts of interesting things!!!!!!!!!!!)

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