The past thirty years have been rough on the almighty egg.  Shunned as a shell covered cholesterol haven, the egg took a back seat in the culinary world, maintaining a quiet role as a mainstream (but necessary) ingredient in a variety of dishes.  That, and its association with anything Deviled (think Southern funeral).

Symbolically, the egg stands for renewal of life.  And before the year comes to an end, I’d like to raise a toast to this incredible, edible delight.  If you’ve made your restaurant rounds this year, you may have noticed that eggs have begun to ascend the culinary ladder, landing themselves as a highlight and feature dish on a number of reputable menus.  And I’m not talking about your standard omelet or Caesar salad (although these have received quite the resurrection as well).  Scan the menus of some of America’s most famous restaurants, and you’ll find a bevy of delicately gourmet entrees with our fragile friend as the key embellishment.    A burger just isn’t a burger anymore without a fried egg on top.  Poached eggs are finding their way atop Momofuku’s show stopping noodle bowls, and alongside Eric Ripert’s delicate caviar.  Soufflés abound, quiches unite, and brunch friendly Benedict (and all of its varietals) are popping up by the dozen.  Walk into the nearest trendy blind pig or speakeasy, and you’ll find the bartenders slipping egg whites back into their traditional Whiskey and Pisco sours.

Aside from its revelation in the foodie world, I must, as a registered dietitian, award this delectable protein with its deserved nutritional bragging rights.  While it is true that the yolk does in fact carry a good bit of cholesterol, it’s not necessarily something we should all jump ship and abort.  Extensive research, including several Harvard studies, has shown that the total mix of fats in the diet has a far greater influence on the amount of both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the bloodstream, more so than the amount of cholesterol that you absorb from food.  Your body actually makes more cholesterol on its own than the amount it can absorb from food.  While there is still a relationship between the amount of cholesterol consumed and the amount found in your bloodstream (important for heart disease), it is a weak one for most.  There are, however, still a number of people whose blood cholesterol levels rise and fall very strongly in relation to the amount of cholesterol eaten.  (For that reason, it is important that we still keep cholesterol consumption in check.)   

On the upside (or shall we say sunny side), eggs contain a number of other reputable nutrients that may actually help reduce the risk of heart disease.  Rich in protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, riboflavin, choline, folate, and sometimes omega-3s, it’s hard to deny this edible egg’s “incredible” title.  Delicious, versatile, and (in today’s faltering economy) cheap… how can you not embrace this eggcellent choice?

I recently had a fabulous egg experience at The Breslin, a trendy brunch spot in New York’s uppity Ace Hotel.  Poached egg with spiced lentils, Greek yogurt and cilantro… not only well balanced, but delicious indeed. 

Embrace the egg this holiday season.  At only 70 calories and over 6 grams of protein per egg, I’m planning to carry on the symbolic tradition and revive my nutritional routine with this palatable protein.  I’m thinking about the Libanais Breakfast in our upcoming January/February 2011 issue, as well as our Walnut-Breadcrumb Pasta with a Soft Egg (shown above) – two guaranteed crowd pleasers for your holiday guests.

Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, and a Partridge in a pear tree. Well, one thing is for sure about the Twelve Days.  That’s a lot of eggs.