You can add this to the many statements that I never imagined I would make.
I am a chicken person.
What I mean, of course, is that I am a big fan of chickens. The animal, more than the meat they provide, although I appreciate that, too.
I enjoy chickens. I love watching them peck around my backyard. I love how frantic they get when a I throw them corn. I love the way that they run across the yard when they see me, like little Velociraptors. I love the way they squat to get petted.
I love them as babies, too. I love their soft, down-covered bellies. I love their cartoonish cheeps. We have four chicks right now. They’re almost three weeks old. Our kids get to name most of the chickens, as it inspires them to care for them. For the first time recently, I picked my own chicken and named it. I call her Attila the Hen.
I started this journey, although I didn’t realize it at the time, when my oldest was just a toddler, and my daughter was still a baby. We decided to buy our first house and we wanted a big yard. The rental we lived in at the time barely had a patio and we wanted our kids to have space to play outside. We ended up in a small house on 7,000 square feet of land. That doesn’t sound like much to many Americans but in the mind of most Las Vegans, that is practically an acreage.
When my oldest son turned three, we had a petting zoo come to the house for his birthday. Seeing all those goats and chickens running around my backyard gave me ideas. I wanted desperately for my kids to connect with nature but that’s challenging in a large city. We went to the park, we went to the mountains for hikes when we could but it wasn’t enough. It was surprisingly easy to convince my husband to go along with the idea of keeping chickens. We ordered a small coop online, assembled it and went to the closest feed store to pick up chicks. That was five years ago. My kids no longer remember a time when we didn’t have chickens.
When we moved to our new house, there was already a structure in the back that resembled a coop so we added roosting bars, mesh doors and a ramp and now our chickens have more room than they know what to do with and the babies get the tiny coop we started with. Our hens spend most of their time free-ranging in among the weeds. They make compost for my garden, which was kind of pathetic before having chickens. They till the garden soil for me between seasons. They eat all the bugs in our yard and a lot of the food scraps that would overload our compost. They make me happy. The biggest benefit to having chickens though is the eggs.
We get so many eggs. We select breeds that are good layers but not so prolific that they can’t sustain a normal life. I don’t butcher my chickens when they stop laying because I can afford that luxury. A benefit to having a backyard flock, instead of operating a farm is that I’m not trying to make a living through these chickens. They are more farm animal to me than pet but as a reward for a lifetime of laying eggs and bringing me joy, I let them live out their days with the rest of the flock. My hens are healthy, happy and well loved. My dear friend Christina loves to tell people that if she is ever reincarnated, she wants to come back as a Krikorian chicken.
We get about one egg a day, per chicken. Currently, we get four eggs a day, which even for a family of five adds up. We give eggs as gifts, I serve them en masse at G Street to our hungry friends, on occasion I sell them but mostly, we just eat a lot of eggs. We have eggs for breakfast, even on some weekdays. My kids love quiche and hard boiled eggs, which is lucky for me. My oldest son even requests eggs on his burgers sometimes. “Breakfast” foods are not a thing in our house. My youngest is eating a ham, egg and cheese burrito for lunch as I type this. I host Easter every year for my extended family and even for an Easter brunch, eggs are plentiful.
In my perpetual search for egg recipes, I have learned a few things that are worth sharing.
First, baking eggs is the simplest way to prepare them for a crowd. The stove top limits how many servings you can prepare at once, even if it is the most versatile option. Crockpots are handy but they’re slow and I don’t love the texture of eggs prepared that way.
Second, and I cannot stress this enough, use tin foil in the oven. If you don’t wrap your oven racks normally, this might seem strange. In general, wrapping your oven racks in tin foil is a good way to avoid messes and stickiness but when you cook eggs in the oven, it is imperative. Whether it’s a tray of scrambled eggs, make ahead egg sandwiches or a quiche, it takes one slosh of raw egg to ruin your meal. Learn from my mistake here, and you won’t spend the first half an hour of Easter brunch explaining to your guests that your house isn’t on fire, you just spilled some eggs in the bottom of the oven.
Lastly, always use a deep pan. You should try to leave a solid inch or two from the top of any dish you are using to bake eggs. They rise and flow over the sides or they turn too brown. This is also important if you push your pan into the oven with too much force. The extra room in the pan may save you from making a mess.
With those tips in mind, I am sharing with you a very simple recipe for oven scrambled eggs. It is great for a large brunch but just as great to serve to the hungry on G Street. With so much protein and flavor, I can’t serve eggs fast enough in the chow line.
Oven Scrambled Eggs
8 T butter
3 C Milk
1 T Salt
1 t pepper (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a deep 9×13 pan. Melt butter in oven completely. Remove the pan and tilt as needed, to make sure that butter is spread evenly around the bottom of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the other ingredients. Pour into your pan.
Bake eggs in the oven for ten minutes. Remove and carefully scrape the bottom of the pan to mix. Solid pieces of partially cooked egg will float to the top. Replace in oven for an additional ten minutes and repeat. Continue two more times or until eggs are fluffy and no liquid remains. Use spatula to break egg into smaller pieces.
Serve hot and enjoy.