Friday, March 30, 2012

Hard Boiled Easter: 7 Things You Need to Know About Eggs

Part of the bunny collection I started as a kid!

Here it is, Easter being just a little more than a week away, and I’m going to admit something. Unless there are small children involved, I don’t dye eggs. I say it’s because I prefer organic eggs, and most of those easily available are brown and don’t take color well, but really it’s because I’m lazy. It makes a bit of a mess to clean up, and it doesn’t enhance the eating part of the hard cooked egg in any way at all. 

I am going to hard cook a batch because I love them. There are so many fabulous things you can do with hard cooked eggs other than bore yourself having egg salad every day for a week. They make such good eating I don’t know why there don’t seem to be many recipes around for anything other than deviled eggs. Notice I’ve been saying hard cooked, and not hard boiled.  So:

1. Buy your eggs now if you plan to dye hard cooked eggs next weekend. The fresher the eggs, the harder it’ll be to peel off the shell and not lose a lot of white. An eggshell is porous, and there isn’t much airspace between the shell and the membrane when the eggs are new. When they age a bit, while they are still fresh, that airspace increases and the membrane will come away from the shell much more easily when you go to peel them cooked.

2. Don’t hard boil your eggs. Hard cook them. Boiling eggs a long time will make the whites rubbery, and the yolks dry and grainy. Don’t. What to do is place your eggs in a deep saucepan that has a lit, put water in it to cover the eggs by an inch or so, and put it on medium-high heat uncovered. As soon as it just comes to a boil, slap on the lid and remove from the heat. Let the pan sit undisturbed for 12 minutes if you like your yolks done but creamy, 15 minutes if you like them fully hard. While the eggs are “cooking” fill a big bowl with half ice, half cold water. When the time is up, remove the eggs gently with a slotted spoon to the ice bath. The easiest time to shell them is now (under running cold tap water as they’re HOT), and then drop them back into the ice water to finish cooling. Or if you want to dye them, leave them in the water until fully cooled. Either way store your cooked eggs in the fridge.

3. Pretty as your dyed eggs may be, or even if they are your toddler’s masterpieces, don’t leave them unrefrigerated for more than a few hours. Same goes for those that make it to your lunch bag. Eggs are perishable, and so are you, if you end up with food poisoning.

Now that you have two or three dozen hard cooked eggs and there is cellophane Easter straw all over the rugs, what's next?

4. While I am happy with just salt on my hard boiled egg, get creative with what you put on it –try truffle salt, gomasio (a mixture of ground toasted sesame seed and salt), smoked paprika, a bit of curry powder mixed with salt. You get the idea, look in your spice cupboard for things you like, and you can carry your seasoning in a little bag or jar to work to dip the egg as you eat.

5. Think beyond regular deviled stuffed eggs. You know, the ones with the yolks mixed with mayo and mustard.  Although they are probably the fastest way to dispose of hard cooked eggs. Take a platter to work, and all the folks who didn’t make eggs for Easter will scarf them down in the blink of an eye. Try mixing some Thai curry paste into the yolk-mayo mixture (omit the mustard), regular curry powder works, too, or  take out the yolks, and set aside.  Mash or puree some ripe avocado with a little lime juice, some cayenne pepper and a little dab of mayo. Stuff or pipe it into the whites, arrange on a platter and sieve the yolks over the top to decorate. Fancy, huh?

6. In my Mother’s 1943 edition of Fannie Farmer’s “ The Boston Cooking School Cook Book” there resides a recipe for creamed eggs. While the original recipe is a little bland by modern standards, a tweak or two can turn hard cooked eggs into a wonderful meal. Make a basic white sauce (B├ęchamel, Google it!) dollied up by adding some onion and / or minced garlic to the butter and cook until golden before adding the flour. Add chopped egg, perhaps some leftover Easter ham, or cooked asparagus or some Parmesan and serve it over rice or toasted English muffins for a quick meal with a salad or fruit.

7. A step further, make a baked casserole, and the sky is the limit. Slice them in an egg slicer, and add between the bread layers of a strata with some smoked salmon. Make a B├ęchamel, add some cheese to it ( Sauce Mornay). Put cooked wild or brown rice, or sliced cooked potato in the bottom of a buttered casserole dish, layer on some smoked meat or cooked bacon, cooked spinach or cooked broccoli, chopped, layer on the sliced eggs, cover with the sauce, sprinkle with more cheese and bake at 350° until bubbly.

Maybe you might want to buy more eggs than you planned?

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