What the Heck Do I Do With . . . Ostrich Eggs?

A video series in which we ask professional chefs to show us how to use those crazy ingredients we normally shy away from at the grocery store.

When we found California-raised ostrich eggs at Whole Foods in Alexandria, the first thing we wanted to do was cook one. And the second was ask someone how. The massive orbs—ostriches are the world’s largest birds—clock in at roughly three pounds, pack the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs, and cost around $30.

We asked Westend Bistro chef Joe Palma to take on the ostrich-egg challenge. Instead of a simple scramble or hard boil—the American Ostrich Association says the latter takes 90 minutes—he concocted a rich ostrich-egg custard with goat cheese, served “on the half shell” with a toss of chorizo, oyster mushrooms, potatoes, and spring garlic. The combination was tasty enough to earn a place on his upcoming brunch menu with chicken eggs.

Cracking the fortress-strength egg shell isn’t easy. If you don’t have a hand saw, try a hammer. In this recipe (below the jump), Palma uses one ostrich egg, which makes 24 six-ounce custard portions. You can store the mix in the fridge up to three days, or Palma says, the same custard formula makes a tasty quiche: Pour the mix into a two-inch-deep store-bought pie crust and bake it in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Ostrich-Egg Custard Scented With Herbes de Provence

Make the custard:

Yields roughly 24 6-ounce portions

1 ostrich egg, separated into 1½ cups yolks and 2 cups whites (excess can be reserved for another use)
2 quarts heavy cream
1 tablespoon finely ground herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon espelette powder (a chili pepper from France, available at Whole Foods)

4 ounces fresh, firm goat cheese, such as Wabash Cannonball from Whole Foods
Salt to taste

Combine the yolks and whites and whisk well to fully incorporate. Add the cream and whisk well until smooth. Whisk in the herbs, espelette, and salt.

Allow the custard mix to settle for 20 to 30 minutes, then skim any foam off the top using a ladle or by gently laying a paper towel on top, then slowly peeling it back.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Ladle the custard into 6-ounce ramekins and loosely crumble the goat cheese on top of the custard.

Place the ramekins into a pan filled with water so that the bottom ¼ of the ramekin is covered. Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and cook for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue cooking another 20 minutes, or until the custard is lightly set.

Make the salad garnish:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups cured Spanish chorizo, chopped
4 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, lightly boiled for 45 minutes, peeled, and diced into ½-inch-square cubes
1 cup watercress
½ cup spring garlic or green part of scallions, sliced thin
2 cups oyster mushrooms
Salt to taste
½ lemon, juiced

In a medium-size pan over medium heat, lightly sauté the chorizo in a small amount of olive oil until the meat releases some juices. Add the potatoes and mushrooms and sauté until golden brown, adding more oil as necessary. Remove from the heat and add 1 cup watercress and sliced spring garlic, tossing quickly to gently wilt the watercress.

Season to taste with salt and lemon.

Assemble the dish:

1 cup watercress lightly dressed with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to taste

Gently unmold the custard into the middle of a medium-size plate. If using a tall custard mold or ramekin, slice the custard in half horizontally. Arrange the salad around the custard, then garnish the plate with any remaining oil from the pan and top with additional cress.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.