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.
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).
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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!
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).