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Last week, Ophelia, my barred Cochin chicken, celebrated her first birthday.

Actually, celebrate might not be an accurate depiction of her day. Did she realize that the extra peanuts she was slipped were in honor of her birth? Highly unlikely. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I celebrated her first birthday.

Ophelia, who a year ago looked more like a tiny penguin than a future hen, has grown into a gorgeous bird, a big fluff-ball of black, white and gray feathers that extend down her feet. Her hindquarters look like a feather duster on steroids.

The other barred Cochin in the flock looks nothing like her. The chicken that I call Eustacia, after the protagonist in Thomas Hardy's "Return of the Native," whom she resembles, has black feathers on her head and neck; her other feathers are a deep gray. She is a beauty.

There are just eight girls in the flock; originally there were nine chickens, but when one began to crow at dawn, he was whisked away to an undisclosed location.

Five are from Dawn Russell's Ranch Hag Hens in Petaluma. Unfortunately, at least for those who have been hoping to start or add to a flock with Ranch Hag's superior chicks, there aren't any available. According to the ranch Web site, Dawn is at work on her book about chicken care and behavior, which will be published late this year or early next year.

Not long after our hens began to lay, one of the girls went broody, sitting in her egg nest all day and not eating. It was Dawn who saved the day with helpful instructions.

The benefit of having chickens, other than their considerable entertainment value, is, of course, having good eggs. Eggs from chickens that live free, in pastures and gardens and such, have more and better nutrients than eggs from hens confined in their tiny cages under 24-hour artificial light.

The taste of these eggs is so far superior to other eggs that it almost defies description.

A sure sign of spring is that good eggs are abundant again, at farmers markets and here and there along our back roads.

Chickens who live in a natural environment go through a down period, when they either lay fewer eggs or don't lay at all for several weeks. As the days lengthen and warm, they return to fulfilling their hen destiny, producing beautiful little packages of priceless protein.

If you see a sign that says "fresh eggs," consider stopping. Today's recipes — inspired by recipes in "Eggs" by Chef Michel Roux (Wiley & Sons, 2005) — should be made only with superior eggs, the kind with rich, deep yellow or orange yolks.

Eggs that are simmered gently for three to six minutes are called "mollet eggs," a term one does not see very often.

Even so, it is good to know it, just in case you come across it. This dish makes a lovely spring lunch or breakfast on a leisurely morning.

Soft-Cooked Eggs with Spring Greens, Dry Jack & Creamy Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

6tablespoons Creamy Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

4 large eggs from local pastured chickens, at room temperature

3 handfuls spring greens (a mix of arugula, young sorrel, miner's lettuce or baby lettuce leaves), rinsed and dried

— Wedge of Vella Dry Jack

First, make the vinaigrette.

Fill a medium bowl with cold water and add a few ice cubes.

Set the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover generously with water. Set over medium heat and the moment it boils, reduce the heat to very low.

Simmer the eggs gently for just 3minutes. Immediately transfer the eggs to the ice water and let cool for about 7 minutes. Tap the shells with the back of a spoon to crack them.

Carefully peel each egg, beginning at the rounded end of the shell. If there is resistance, hold the egg under a slow stream of cool water; it will drip between the membrane and the egg white, helping to loosen the shell.

Meanwhile, divide the greens among four plates and season lightly with a pinch or two or salt.

Carefully cut each egg in half lengthwise and set on top of the greens. Drizzle each portion with about a tablespoon and a half of dressing.

Using a vegetable peeler, make curls of the cheese and scatter three or four over each portion.

Serve immediately.

Creamy Vinaigrette

Makes 2/3 cup

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, crushed and minced

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons cream

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

6tablespoons mild olive oil or peanut oil

2tablespoons white wine vinegar, such as Vinaigre de Banyuls, or lemon lemon

Put the shallot, garlic, egg yolk and cream into a small bowl and whisk vigorously for about a minute and a half. Season with salt and pepper and whisk again. Slowly whisk in the oil.

When the oil is fully incorporated, whisk in the vinegar or lemon juice. Taste, correct for salt and pepper, cover and set aside.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Celery root that has been cut into thin, even julienne has a wonderful texture that enhances its earthy flavor. In this dish, it is combined with a luscious vinaigrette and serves as a foundation eggs and crab, a combination that is perfect in the spring, before the end of crab season.

Slow-Cooked Eggs

with Celery Root, Dungeness Crab & Creamy Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

— Creamy Vinaigrette (see recipe, this page)

1 celery root, about 1 pound

8 to 10ounces freshly picked Dungeness crab meat

—Juice of ? lemon

4 large eggs from local pastured chickens, at room temperature

1 butter lettuce, inner leaves only

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

2tablespoons minced Italian parsley

Make the vinaigrette.

Use a sharp paring knife to peel the celery root, leaving only the white interior. Cut into small julienne, preferably on a mandoline. Put the julienned celery root into a medium bowl with about about 4 tablespoons of vinaigrette, toss, cover and set aside.

Put the crab into a medium bowl, drizzle with the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, cover and set aside.

Set the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover generously with water. Set over medium heat and the moment it boils, reduce the heat to very low.

Simmer the eggs gently for just three minutes. Immediately transfer the eggs to the ice water and let cool for about seven minutes. Tap the shells with the back of a spoon to crack them.

Carefully peel each egg, beginning at the rounded end of the shell. If there is resistance, hold the egg under a slow stream of cool water; it will drip between the membrane and the egg white, helping to loosen the shell.

Working quickly, divide the celery root among four plates, piling it off center. Mound the crab alongside near the center of the plate. Cut the eggs in half crosswise and set on top of the crab.

Set the lettuce leaves alongside the crab and egg.

Spoon dressing over each egg, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Here is a light and satisfying dish for a light supper on a spring evening. Serve it with a crisp sparkling wine alongside. To fully appreciate this dish, you must use excellent eggs, not standard supermarket eggs.

French Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Asparagus, Leeks

& Dungeness Crab

Makes 4 servings

8 very thin leeks, washed and trimmed, leaving about 4 inches of green part

—O live oil

16fat asparagus stalks, hard stems snapped off

— Kosher salt

4 tablespoons butter, preferably local and organic

6 to 8large eggs, from local pastured chickens

8 to 10ounces freshly picked Dungeness crab meat

— Black pepper in a mill

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the leeks in a large bowl, drizzle with just a bit of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Cut each asparagus stalks into three pieces, cutting diagonally.

Toss the asparagus with just a bit of olive oil and arrange alongside the leeks. Season lightly with salt and cook until tender. Test the asparagus after seven minutes; if it is still firm, continue to cook. Test the leeks after 10 minutes and continue to cook if they are not very tender.

Remove the asparagus and leeks from the oven and keep warm.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy saute pan set over very low heat; if your burners are unreliable, use a double boiler instead of a saute pan.

Break the eggs into a medium bowl, beat lightly with a fork and tip into the pan with the melted butter. Cook over low heat until the eggs are just set; use a wooden spoon to gently move the eggs constantly as they cook.

Just before the eggs are done to your liking, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and season with salt.

Immediately divide among four warmed soup plates. Top with crab meat. Add two leeks to each plate and scatter asparagus over all.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@ micheleannajordan.com.