There they were at the Grove Green Market. Even on a table filled with hot-pink dragon fruit and spotted beans, they catch the eye of everyone who passes by. Maybe it's because they look so surreal.
Green from a distance, the objects are speckled with blue hues upon closer inspection. These emerald giants barely fit into the palm of your hand and look more like props from a Harry Potter movie, where a farmer would sell dragon or griffin eggs at the local market. But these are real and of our world. They're emu eggs.
Though popular in Australia, emu eggs are a rare sight in Miami. But they shouldn't be.
Nick Bernal of Seasons Farm Fresh gets them from a local farmer who raises the giant birds (which can grow taller than six feet), and offers them at the Grove Green Market, held each Thursday afternoon.
The eggs are expensive ($15 apiece), but for good reason. Each yields about two cups of liquid goodness -- eight to ten times that of a chicken egg. They also have less saturated fat but a higher yolk concentration than a chicken egg, which makes them taste richer.
Emus are also less proficient layers than their smaller barnyard cousins, with each bird laying only one egg every three to four days.
I purchased an "emu fruit" and immediately had no idea what to do with it, although Bernal said to use it like an extremely large standard egg from a megachicken. He also suggested drilling a hole in the shell, instead of cracking it, to save it afterward.
A text to a chef friend (who shall remain nameless) proved fruitless. Usually pretty good with kitchen tips, he replied, "Ouch. No idea." I was on my own.
Because I had no drill, I improvised with a Phillips head screwdriver. I carefully made a hole on the top and bottom of the egg and blew out the inside, much like you do for Easter egg prep. Surprisingly, this was pretty easy to do, although I had to shake the egg, causing the yolk to break.
That's a really big pasta bowl, by the way.
My dreams of a giant fried sunny-side-up masterpiece were shattered. Onto Plan B: The ultimate emu omelet.
I added a little milk, salt, pepper, fresh mushrooms, and diced tomatoes and peppers to the egg; poured everything into a hot, buttered pan; and then added cheese. The first time was a learning curve because I didn't have an oversize flat skillet, and the egg began to brown too much for a moment. But the result was fluffy and plentiful (more than enough for two people for dinner).
It's hard to describe, but the experience was like eating an egg for the first time in color after you've downed countless breakfasts in black-and-white -- like when Dorothy travels from sepia-toned Kansas to Technicolor Munchkinland. The taste was that much richer and eggier. Plus, I now have a giant green egg hanging from a tree in my garden!
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So if you ever spot an emu egg at a market, go for it. One egg will feed two to four people and make a wonderful lunch with a side salad. Plus, you can always sell the shell on eBay for $15 (thus recouping your investment).