posted on August 02, 2004 00:00
Quail eggs: Good for your brain, heart and parts south
BY LINDA BLADHOLM
When stockbroker Jaime Correa relocated his family from Bogotá to South Florida five years ago, he couldn't have guessed that quail farming was in his future. Today, though, he is the operations manager of Quality Quail Eggs, working from his Doral home office with his wife, Margarita, while his partner, fellow Colombian immigrant Andres Ospina, handles day-to-day management of their farm in rural Palm Beach County.
Available in South Florida supermarkets, quail eggs are a gourmet item in the United States, but in parts of Latin America they're considered an aphrodisiac, ''Viagra in a shell.'' Brazilians alone consume over half a million of them a day.
The eggs come from the Coturnix or Japanese quail, native to Asia. They were domesticated in the 11th century as songbirds in Japanese courts. By the early 1900s, quail and their eggs had become popular for eating, and production had spread to other Asian countries, the Middle East and Europe.
Quail eggs are lower in fat and cholesterol than other eggs and are rich in vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids. In Japan they are considered brain food and are packed into children's school lunches.
Quality Quail Eggs' Huevos Campesino (''Country Eggs'') Farm near Loxahatchee houses 8,000 birds. In one shed, 2,000 fertilized eggs are rotated in an incubator for even temperature until they hatch after 17 days. The tiny chicks stay in training cages for a few weeks, then are moved to another shed with larger cages.
Within eight weeks, the females begin laying eggs, fueled by a steady diet of organic feed. The colors and speckles on each egg matches the feather patterns of the bird that laid it, creating a sort of signature egg ranging from white with a chalky blue tint to dark brown. Workers hand-collect about 5,500 eggs every day. After inspection, they are packed into small plastic trays for supermarket sale under the Q.Q.E. label.
Five quail eggs can be used in place of one chicken egg in omelets, crepes, pancakes and baked goods. Try them fried sunny side up on toasted French bread with a paper-thin slice of prosciutto. For parties, serve them hard-cooked, speared with a toothpick for dipping. They scramble up soft and creamy, delicious with asparagus tips and lobster or lump crab. Try adding halved, hard-cooked quail eggs to pasta or potato salad.
In Asia, peeled, hard-cooked eggs are breaded and fried (good with hot mustard) or added to curries, hot pots, soups, stews and stir-fries, often with baby corn, shrimp and straw mushrooms. They're also nestled inside steamed pork buns and skewered with chicken and veggies to make yakitori.
Raw quail yolks top tuna tartare and sushi, especially oyster, smelt roe, sea urchin and salmon roe. Unagi yamake is broiled eel on a bed of marshmallow-soft yama-imo (mountain potato) with raw quail yolks for mixing in.
Quail eggs are also good with sukiyaki. Each diner cracks several into her bowl, lightly beating with chopsticks and using as a dip for pieces of meat and vegetables fished out of the communal pot. Try adding hard-cooked quail eggs to Thai coconut milk soups with chicken or tofu or poach several tiny eggs in the broth of instant ramen.
For a Colombian perro (hot dog), top a frank with pineapple jam, chopped onions, chips, mayo, hot sauce, bacon, red beans and a hard-cooked quail egg. Or go get one at Antojitos de mi Tierra Colombian Restaurant on the Beach.
Q.Q.E. quail eggs are $2.39 per carton of 10 at Publix, Winn-Dixie, Sedano's and Milam's. For more information, call 305-648-1434 or 786-853-9647. Colombian hot dogs are at Antojitos de mi Tierra, 710 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-0912.