Egg yolks are one of the more magical of foods. Chefs all over the world wax poetic about them, but it’s hard to understand why when all you might be exposed to are the wan, watery, factory-farmed yolks you see in most supermarkets. A golden treasure they are not.
You can only understand the joy — lust, even — over an egg when you finally see (and taste) a real egg, eggs from chickens raised on grass and bugs and whatever else it is that a hen loves to nibble throughout the day.
Before I’d encountered such eggs, when I saw pictures of Italian egg pasta, I thought they were retouched: Their pasta is always bright yellow. As much as I tried, I found it impossible to duplicate with eggs from the supermarket. I talked to Italian pasta makers and they said you need yolks of a truly golden, almost orange, hue. That’s what gives you that pretty color.
I came into possession of such eggs from my friend Teala’s father, who raises ducks and geese in my neighborhood. It’s what I prefer to use for my pasta, and, just like the Italian pasta pictures I swooned over, the photos on this post are not retouched. This is precisely how yellow they actually are.
Not too long ago, Teala’s dad gave me two goose eggs along with the duck eggs. I was amazed at their size. I cracked one open and made an entire batch of pasta with that one egg. I was shocked at how orange the yolk was — brighter even than the duck eggs.
I wanted to capture that color, that richness. I’d known about salt-curing egg yolks for a few years; my friends, Chefs Brad Cecchi and Oliver Ridgeway at Grange in downtown Sacramento has first clued me into it. Basically you bury the yolks in salt, then dry them out until they are like a very hard cheese. This is exactly how you use them — as a golden, eggy, über rich substitute for grated cheese over pasta or rice.
Brad and Oliver never explained to me exactly how to do this, but fortunately Chef Jeffrey Weiss does in his remarkable new book Charcutería: The Soul of Spain. You will be seeing a lot of this book in the months to come. I am mildly obsessed with it and have already made a half-dozen or so of its recipes, ranging from salami to sausages to cured fish and now, here, cured egg yolks.
If you’ve never cured anything in your life, this would be a good place to start. It’s really easy and comes together in about 2 weeks. And once you’ve made the cured yolks, you can use them over pasta for months.
What else can you do with cured egg yolks? Not sure. I eat a lot of pasta. What would you suggest?
Grate your egg yolks over any of these pasta recipes.
- Egg yolks
- Get yourself two containers: One for the whites, so you can do something with them later, and one to cure the yolks. You will need to lay down a half-inch layer of kosher salt in the bottom of your curing container; you can go a little deeper if you want. Make little depressions in the salt to hold the egg yolks.
- Crack the eggs and separate them. Gently lay the yolk in one of the depressions and repeat until you have all your eggs in the container. Now bury them in more salt.
- Keep the yolks buried in the salt for a week in the refrigerator. Take them out -- the yolks will be firm and a little tacky still -- and carefully brush off the salt. You might need to remove the salt with a damp paper towel.
- Wrap the yolks loosely in cheesecloth and hang them in the fridge until they are dry, about 7 to 14 days. Store in the cheesecloth in a closed container in the fridge.
Prep time does not include curing time. Once made, these cured egg yolks will keep indefinitely in the fridge.