Credit: Julia Thiel

The Chef: Justin White (Small Bar)

The Challenger: Nick Lacasse (The Drawing Room)

The Ingredient: Ostrich Egg

The average ostrich egg is the size of 24 chicken eggs—which is all well and good, Justin White says, but what do you actually do with an egg that big besides make an enormous batch of corn bread? You can cook it whole and serve it that way, but “how many people is it going to take to eat that egg, and how enjoyable is it going to be? Because too much egg is too much egg.”

White decided to hard-boil his eggs, which he found took two hours and eight gallons of water per egg. Ostrich eggs are slightly different from chicken eggs in taste and texture, White says, but not in a good way. “The exterior has more of a translucent gray appearance, as opposed to the white that you would expect. The yolk, however, looks exactly like you would expect but smells like you had just opened up a sulfur bomb . . . it’s very potent.” White was working in an upstairs prep kitchen when he opened the first hard-boiled egg, and says that the cooks downstairs could smell it.

He wanted to serve the egg in a way that showed its original size, by cutting it in half, deviling the yolk, and slicing off sections after filling it back in. But as soon as he cut the egg in half, the white collapsed. “The membrane is really so gelatinous it breaks, like a jelly would. It was so heavy I couldn’t keep it together, so I just built big cubes out of the whites and basically we’ve got an egg and bacon salad,” White said.

He counteracted the sulfurousness of the yolk by passing part of it through a strainer and drying it out on the stove top to make it crispy, on the theory that extra cooking would help. The rest he deviled, whipping it with aioli, creme fraiche, caramelized onion, paprika, and Aleppo pepper. “I really think I kind of backed that away a little bit,” he said. “It still has a more gamy flavor to it than you’d expect out of a regular yolk, however.”

In addition to the egg and house-made pancetta, White threw in some fried black kale, which “has a real nice earth tone,” and pea shoots, which “allow for a little vibrance in the flavor, because we do have some dark tones here with the pancetta and the kale.” He served the salad on grilled bread, topped with fried tobacco onions.

Tasting it, White called the dish “surprisingly fantastic.” He’s still not a fan of ostrich eggs, though, noting that he could do the same thing with chicken eggs. White isn’t sure if ostrich eggs are usually eaten in places where ostriches are indigenous, but has some advice: “I say just let the ostrich grow.”

Who’s Next:

Jeffrey Hedin of Leopold, working with rabbit lungs. When Nick Lacasse was deciding what ingredient to assign White, he texted him to ask about the most disgusting thing he could think of, and White’s top pick was lungs. Lacasse was too nice to actually make him work with lungs, but White had no qualms about assigning them to Hedin. He says he didn’t do it to be mean, however: “I would have much rather had a lung than an ostrich egg at this point.” 

YouTube video

Video by Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon

Deviled ostrich egg with egg white and pancetta salad on toast

Hard-boiled ostrich egg

1 ostrich egg

Bring eight gallons of water to a boil and gently set egg in bath. Turn water down to a simmer and cook at a rolling boil for two hours. Remove egg from water and set in an ice bath for 30 minutes. To crack shell, forcefully knock it with the back of a heavy knife until you can flake it off by hand. Once the shell is removed, rinse egg under cold water and pat dry.

Deviled ostrich egg yolk

¼ hard-cooked ostrich yolk

1 cup aioli

½ cup creme fraiche

1 T jalapeño vinegar (or any pepper vinegar)

1 T smoked paprika

1 T Aleppo pepper

½ T salt

¼ T ground black pepper

Place yolk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, set to medium and whip for one to two minutes or until crumbled. Turn mixer to low and add aioli, creme fraiche, smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, salt, and black pepper. Switch mixer to high and whip mixture for four to five minutes or until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Scoop mixture into a pastry bag and place in refrigerator until ready to plate.

Crunchy ostrich egg yolk

½ cup hard-cooked ostrich egg yolk

Pass yolk through a mesh bowl strainer into a medium aluminum mixing bowl, and place on a double boiler over medium heat. Toss yolk with a rubber spatula while drying. It will turn bright yellow and crunchy after about 20-25 minutes of cooking. Remove crispy yolk kernels from heat and set aside until ready to plate.

Ostrich egg white and pancetta salad

½ cup ostrich egg whites (cut in ¼-inch cubes)

¼ cup rendered pancetta (cut into ¼-inch cubes)

juice of half a lemon

pinch kosher salt

pinch ground black pepper

5 sprigs pea shoots

Combine ostrich egg white, pancetta, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Mix and adjust seasoning if needed. Reserve pea shoots until ready to plate.

Crispy tobacco onions

cup cornmeal

cup all-purpose flour

½ T paprika

1 t cayenne

1 t kosher salt

¼ cup thinly shaved Spanish onion

Combine all dry ingredients. Toss onions in the mix, then shake off any excess. Fry in 350-degree oil for two minutes. Remove from oil and dry on paper towel. Set aside until ready to plate.

To plate:

Brush a one-inch-thick piece of crusty bread with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then grill over medium heat until toasted on both sides. Cut in half and place next to each other on plate. Pipe deviled yolk onto plate between the slices of toast. Toss reserved pea shoots with egg whites and pancetta and arrange salad on top of deviled yolk. Garnish with crispy onions and crunchy yolk.