Lisa Steele and Miranda LISA STEELE PHOTO

Great egg-spectations: Maine farmer pays tribute to humble food



ELLSWORTH — How to peel fresh eggs is the most common question that Maine home chicken eggs-pert and author Lisa Steele gets from her nearly 1 million social media followers.

The secret is to steam farm fresh eggs, not boil them, the Dixmont chicken farmer said.

Steele is the author of six books about raising poultry, mainly chickens, in the backyard.

Her first cookbook, “The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook,” named after her website, will be released by Harper Collins in February.

“Just before COVID, I decided I wanted to write a cookbook,” said Steele, who has lived on a small farm in Dixmont for the past seven years with her husband. “I really wanted to write an egg cookbook.”

The chicken keeper had been in a contract with a medium-sized publisher who wasn’t crazy about her idea. Not only did Steele want to write an egg cookbook, she had a vision of the manuscript being produced as a beautiful hardcover with gorgeous images.

“My publisher didn’t have the budget for that, so they let me out of my contract,” she said.

“I hired an agent who loved the idea. Then COVID happened. Everyone in the world had started raising chickens.”

And many had started cooking at home.

Steele said three publishers made an offer on her cookbook, which Harper Collins won.

“So basically, I spent all of COVID cooking and baking and trying recipes,” said Steele. “Thankfully, it gave me something to do, while we were stuck at home.”

“My recipes are a blend of my Scandinavian background (‘both sets of grandparents came from Finland thus my affinity for cardamom and dill’), my New England upbringing and my current home in Maine,” Steele wrote in her introduction. “I cook fresh, local and seasonal as much as possible. And we eat a lot of eggs. Naturally.”

Eggs can be underappreciated.

“You get into a rut,” Steele said. “You scramble, fry, maybe make an omelet. Maybe make a cake.”

“Eggs are interesting because the yolk and the white are two different foods,” she said. “You can make meringues out of the egg whites — the yolk you can make curd. I think a lot of people don’t realize you can make marshmallow fluff. You can make sprinkles. I started making all these things that are good ways to use up eggs. I had trouble cutting it down to 100 or something recipes.”

Steele does cover the basic ways to cook eggs in the book as well as how to store them and preserve them.

And there are recipes for toad-in-the-hole, quiche and frittatas.

But, Steele also includes recipes for sauces, desserts, appetizers and pasta. If you like to cook, you’ll find her cookbook useful, even if you aren’t wild about eggs as a main dish.

“The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook” boasts a recipe index specifically by number of eggs needed as well as an index for recipe by name.

Just as Steele envisioned, the book is packed with bright, lovely images of eggs and her coop as well as her recipes.

“The photographer and the stylist had done books for Rachel Ray, Giada [De Laurentiis], Martha Stewart,” Steele said. “It was a top-notch team.”

Steele, a Massachusetts native, is the fifth generation in her family to raise chickens.

After graduating with a degree in accounting and working on Wall Street and owning a used bookstore in New York, she fell in love and married a man who was in the Navy and stationed in

Sugar cookie recipe from Fresh Eggs Daily cookbook

Florida. When the pair settled in Virginia in 2009, Steele said she wanted to raise goats. Her husband counteroffered with chickens. The rest is history.

What’s next for the Maine Master Gardener?

Steele said she’d love to write another cookbook.

Meanwhile, look for her on PBS TV.

Steele hosted a 30-minute country lifestyle show called “Welcome to my Farm” on the NBC affiliate, News Center Maine, which won three 2021 Telly awards and was nominated for 2020 and 2021

Regional New England Emmy Awards. “Welcome to my Farm” will begin airing nationwide in April on PBS.

Steele’s most recent chicken-centric book, “DIY Chicken Keeping 40+ Projects for the Coop, Run, Brooder and More!” by Voyageur Press, was released in February of 2020. She started her book career with the eponymous “Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy Healthy Chickens Naturally” back in 2013.

Steele has been featured in the Farmers’ Almanac, Wall Street Journal, Country Living, Country Woman and American Farmhouse Style magazines and on “Dr. Oz,” “The View,” HGTV’s “Martha Knows Best,” the “Hallmark Home & Family Show,” NPR, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Style, Great Day Houston and Good Day Sacramento, among others.

To learn more, visit www.fresheggsdaily.com. Lisa Steele provided the following recipes from “The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook.”

 

Baked Eggs in Butternut Squash Rings

Makes 6 servings

 

1 large butternut squash

Olive oil for brushing

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 eggs

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh sage for garnish

 

Lisa Steele says this recipe is a “fun way to use squash. I am partial to butternut, but acorn or spaghetti squash would work equally as well. Roasting the squash before adding the egg ensures that the squash is tender and slightly caramelized, while the egg is cooked to perfection.”

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash the squash and cut crosswise into six ¾- to 1-inch slices. Scoop out the seeds and hollow out the middle of each slice to allow room for an egg.

Arrange the squash on the baking sheet and brush each ring with olive oil inside and out, then season with salt and pepper. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 20 minutes, until the squash has softened. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and gently crack and slide 1 egg into the center of each squash ring. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and return to the oven. Bake about 8 minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolks are firm but not fully set.

Use a spatula to slide the squash rings onto plates. Top with Parmesan, garnish with fresh sage, and drizzle with olive oil.

 

Orange Brandy Olive Oil Cake

Makes 12 servings

If you’ve never had olive oil cake, you’re in for a treat! This recipe uses olive oil instead of butter, so keep it in mind if you’re ever out of butter. Brush some boozy glaze on top, and you have a winner that will stay moist and deepen in flavor the longer it sits. Lisa Steele uses Grand Marnier in the glaze, but it tastes delicious without the liqueur too.

 

1¼ cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan

1¼ cups sugar, plus more for the pan

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. kosher salt

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup milk

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup orange liqueur

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

 

Orange Glaze ingredients:

¼ cup orange juice

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. orange liqueur, optional

 

For the cake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch-round cake pan with olive oil, then cut a circle of parchment paper to cover the bottom. Set the parchment paper in place, brush it with some oil, then sprinkle with sugar.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the olive oil to a large mixing bowl and add the eggs one at a time, whisking well between each addition to incorporate and emulsify the mixture. Whisk in the milk, orange juice, and orange liqueur.

Slowly pour in the sugar, whisking to incorporate, then whisk in the flour mixture until just combined but not lumpy. Be careful not to overmix the batter. It will be thin, like pancake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is evenly dark golden brown, about 65 to 70 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 1 hour on a wire rack.

 

For the glaze:

In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice and confectioners’ sugar until no lumps remain. Add the orange liqueur, if desired, and whisk to combine.

 

To assemble the cake, run a butter knife around the outer rim of the cooled cake and invert the pan to remove the cake from the pan. Peel off the parchment paper and set the cake right side up on a wire rack. Brush the top with half of the glaze, then allow the cake to cool for another 1 to 2 hours or cover to cool overnight in the refrigerator. To serve, dust the cake generously with confectioners’ sugar, slice it into wedges, and place the slices on plates, with the remaining glaze on the side for pouring. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to a week.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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