May 20, 2009
What do you get when you cross 750 hard-boiled eggs with five Episcopalian women? (Drum roll, please.) You get 1,300 deviled eggs!
Yes, I was on the Stuffed Egg Committee for the Eight O''May luncheon this year at St. Paul''s Episcopal Church. And, let me tell you, it was a lot of eggs. But it really wasn''t so bad: Once we got cranking, things went pretty quickly. I am, however, still finding bits of yolk in the nooks and crannies of my Robot Coup (a sort of hot rod version of a food processor, big engine, not many bells and whistles).
With eggs still on my brain I have been asking around to see what other people might do to gussy up their deviled eggs. The recipe used for years at St. Paul''s is from "A Grand Heritage," the cookbook first printed in 1983 to raise money for Heritage Academy here in Columbus. It has quickly become one of my favorite go-to places for recipes. So far, every one has been good and true to the recipe, so I trust the book. It is currently available at The Tennessee Williams Welcome Center and at Heritage Academy. The recipe is included with today''s column.
I found that the majority of people I asked go for the straightforward version of this picnic staple, varying only in the area of sweet pickles or no pickles. Some put a dash of the pickle juice in to give some sweetness without the chunkiness of the pickles themselves.
Not realizing there was an official egg recipe for Eight O''May, and not favoring sweet pickles, I used a recipe similar to "A Grand Heritage," with the omission of pickles and the addition of yellow mustard. I wanted to be able to pipe the filling from a bag and felt it should be smooth. Piping the filling saves a huge amount of time and gives you the opportunity to be a little fancy, if you like. Good for parties, maybe silly for family picnics.
Several years ago when I lived in Atlanta, I had a party on the patio of my apartment. Deviled eggs were on the menu. Looking through several cookbooks for ideas, I settled on Julia Child''s recipe. I tell you, it was fabulous; although, true to many of Julia''s techniques, it was a little complicated. However, none of my eggs had that dark ring around the yolk and everyone (maybe not everyone, but some people) did comment on the taste.
The secret to her stuffing is to mash the yolk through a sieve and then add a touch of softened butter to the mixture of mayonnaise and chopped sweet pickle (she does not use "hot dog" mustard, which I think is key to good flavor). Her recipe also is at the end of the column.
Tips for great eggs
What else is key to a good deviled egg? Maybe not key, but darn good -- and truly a sight -- is to use fresh, local eggs. I bought some from Phil Lancaster recently at the Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market; the yolks were so beautifully golden our scrambled eggs were as golden as daffodils. He is at the Market on Saturday mornings with eggs and more.
Something that is key is how to boil the eggs. Julia''s method is close to mine, but with a few added steps. For a scientific (and really interesting) explanation of what happens when eggs cook, check out Shirley Corriher''s "Cookwise." I have been to one of Shirley''s workshops, on baking biscuits, and also have her video on the same subject. She is smart, very funny and interesting. I have tried to learn the background of why things do what they do when cooking (cakes fall, sauces curdle, meats get tough) because I know this will help me to not only spot problems but also to have solutions. Alas, I haven''t gotten very far. So, I keep Shirley''s book on my cookbook shelf for easy reference.
A perfect peel?
At Foodworks, we made an egg salad that became pretty popular. So, every other day we were boiling and peeling four or five dozen eggs. This can become labor intensive (expensive), so it became a priority to find the most efficient way to cook the eggs so that peeling them was easy. Our version was to start them in cold water and bring the water to a boil. Once it hits boiling, immediately turn the water off, cover the eggs and let them sit for 20 minutes (Julia says 17). After sitting, immerse the eggs in icy water. The "Great One" also pricks her eggs before boiling. You choose.
When peeling eggs at church I had the good fortune to have Gail Laws in the kitchen. She showed me her peeling trick, which I say is the only food trick I''ve been told or shown in some time that works -- it really worked! OK, take a teaspoon and tap the back of the spoon all over the eggs, cracking it well. Then take the spoon and gently insert it just under the shell at the big end. It takes practice. The shape of the spoon will sort of nest with the egg. Run the spoon under the shell all around, and the shells just fall off. Trust me, I was peeling eight dozen eggs that morning, and it worked.
Have fun on your picnics. If you have any egg recipes or tips to share, please pass them on.
EASY DEVILED EGGS
Eight large eggs
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
Salt, pepper and paprika
Source: "A Grand Heritage" Cookbook, Heritage Academy
SIMPLE STUFFING FOR HARD-BOILED EGGS
Servings: 24 stuffed halves
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons chopped sweet pickle or piccalilli
Salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
Parsley or pimento to garnish
OTHER STUFFING IDEAS
Anne Freeze, a self-professed foodie, was a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Columbus. She is a volunteer for The Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market in Columbus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.