The Perfect Food…

Peter Cottontail, a.k.a. the Easter Bunny has come and gone (well, not for us gardeners); leaving hideously sweet treats behind.  I never cared for Peeps (even stale) or coconut eggs but I do admit to a love of black jelly beans. Brach’s candy even packages just this flavor for us freaks of nature ~ oh go on!

In any case, a time-honored tradition, even at my ripe middle age, is to dye hard-cooked eggs at Easter.  The deeper the hue the better and as we did growing up, rubbed with vegetable oil for a brilliant shine.  What to do with all of those hard-boiled eggs you ask?  Old standbys of egg salad, eggs geometrically sliced for presentation on a green salad and, of course, deviled eggs are always a hit.  (Deviled is a food term, most often associated with spicy or zesty food.  I must confess that I have had some pretty bland hard-cooked eggs in my time!)  I will share a few of my own suggestions to spruce up ordinary deviled eggs at your next gathering as well as some other dishes using eggs that you can prepare for any occasion, not just a holiday.

There are multiple suggestions on how to cook the perfect hard-boiled egg.  My method is to prepare them the following way:  bring eggs to room temperature – they don’t want to go directly into a boiling hot bath!  Cover eggs with about an inch of water in a saucepan, bring to a rapid boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, let eggs rest a few minutes as the water cools.  Run the eggs still in the pan under really cold water then refrigerate for at least 20 minutes prior to peeling.

Now, a few years ago, my friend Miriam gave me a contraption called an egg piercer that pokes a microscopic hole in the bottom of the raw egg.  Somehow this hole prevents the egg from cracking AND is easier to peel  ~ not sure what law of physics this is.  I did discover though that if you are going to dye an egg with that hole in it, then the white of the egg will absorb some of the dye color.

egg piercer

 

In any case, my basic egg mixture includes the yolks of 6 eggs, 2-3T. mayonnaise and 1T. Dijon mustard mashed to the desired consistency then salt and pepper to taste.  Pipe egg mixture with a pastry bag or plastic freezer bag with a hole cut in the corner into the hollowed egg white for a lovely presentation ~ no special skills required.  Top an egg half with an ingredient in the egg mixture or a fresh herb.

The following list includes some ingredients that I often use to take my eggs to another level but the possibilities are endless.

1. Diced smoked salmon, capers, red onion, topped with sprig of dill.

2. Minced sweet dill or bread and butter pickles, minced chives, topped with chives.

3. Chopped fresh anchovies or anchovy paste, chopped oil cured fresh dried plum tomato, red pepper flakes and a smidge of fresh lemon juice topped with sprig of fresh oregano leaf.

4. Wasabi paste and ground ginger topped with pickled ginger slice.

5. Curry spiced eggs with smoked paprika, topped with parsley leaf.

And to think as a child I would not eat deviled eggs!

Eggs seemed to be served with everything these days but I just can’t fathom a fried over-easy egg on a salad…I just can’t!  One of the easiest recipes to make for breakfast or brunch for a crowd is a casserole.  It is prepared the day before and placed in the oven while your guests are perhaps having coffee or a mimosa while admiring your floral arrangements.

Ali’s Sausage, Asparagus and Spinach Strata

Ingredients:

  • Large baguette, cubed
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1/2 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 8 oz. halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. country sausage with herbs (I have also used pancetta)
  • 2 cups Gruyère cheese
  • 12 eggs
  • 3-1/2 cups half and half
  • Salt/pepper to taste

All of the measurements for vegetables are approximate.  The recipe changes each time I prepare this dish according to vegetables in season and how the strata ‘looks’ (you certainly want it to be visually stimulating!).

Preparation:

1. Spray 9×13 in. casserole dish.

2. Layer bottom with half of the bread cubes.

3. Saute onion and spinach.

4. Roast clean, cut asparagus and tomatoes x 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

4. Brown meat.

5. Whisk eggs and half/half in large bowl.

6. Continue layers with half of vegetables, meat and cheese.

7. Second layer of same ingredients, ending with cheese.

8. Pour egg/milk mixture over layers.

9. Refrigerate overnight.

10. Cook 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees.

11.  Remove from oven and allow to set for 10 minutes.

When fresh crab meat is in season in Maryland – April through October, the next recipe is a go to for out-of-town guests.  It can either be prepared on a popover or English muffin.  Your guests may not ever order this in a restaurant again.

Ali’s Crab Benedict

Ingredients:

  • 8 thick slices bacon (NOT Canadian)
  • 1 lb. jumbo lump Maryland blue crab meat (sounds like too much but in my book there is never too much crab)
  • 3T. butter
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 T. vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 t. salt
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Preparation:

1. Fry bacon slices.

2. Sauté crab meat in butter and Old Bay seasoning.

3. Bring water to a gentle simmer in a medium skillet.  Add vinegar and salt.

4. Crack each egg into a small dish, using caution not to break the yolk, and slide into the simmering water.

5. Cook 3 minutes.

6. Remove egg with slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Hollandaise sauce is smooth and creamy without any hint of separation in this rich, buttery sauce that has a tang from the acidity of lemon juice and/or the vinegar.  It is best served warm but not hot.  Hollandaise is to be considered one of the five ‘mother sauces’ in French cuisine.  Its name is believed to imitate a Dutch sauce prepared for the King of the Netherlands on a state visit to France.  Who knew?  Wherever the name was derived, it is French in my book.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 T cream
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Pinch each of salt and sugar
  • 1 T. white vinegar

Preparation:

1. Combine all but vinegar in a double boiler.

2. Whisk until thick, approx. 3 minutes.  Do not reheat or cover pot – if need to thin out use a little bit of chicken stock.

3. Stir in vinegar.

The lemon juice and/or vinegar is used to acidify the egg yolks and acts as an emulsifier.  I suppose you could use a packaged powder mix to create the sauce (would you dare?) but this recipe is simple and not time-consuming at all.  AND oh so delicious.  One alternate sauce could be a “faux” Béarnaise.  Add capers, tarragon and a pinch of cayenne pepper to Hollandaise sauce ~ this would eliminate the need to clarify butter and this method creates a thicker Béarnaise sauce.

Ali’s Popovers – see archive dated April 25, 2013 post on Ali’s Epicurean Gems

To assemble this egg dish, cut popover in half vertically.  Cut each bacon slice in half and place over each popover half.  Layer crab meat over the bacon.  Lay one egg over each half and cover with Hollandaise sauce.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Serve immediately.

Fresh cut fruit is all that you need to complete either of these meals.  Filling and quite satisfying…

Welcome Spring!

Bon Appétit!

Ali

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5 comments

  1. Miriam Zijp-Koedijk · · Reply

    I haven’t died eggs in years and thus forgotten that the dye bleeds into the egg white when you use the piercer. Great blog; as always I can hear you speak! I am taking some frozen crab meat to Bas and will reserve some for crab eggs benedict! Sounds terrific! hug, Miriam

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  2. Carole J. Bendler · · Reply

    Thanks so much for the yummy recipes!

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  3. Ellen Higgins · · Reply

    Lovely, my friend. I am going to make the strata! Missed you today at Master Gardeners! Hugs. Ellen and Molly

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  4. All of those hard egg fillings are wonderful! I’ve had them! I would like to order the strata for breakfast Sunday. 7:30 works for me.

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  5. Willem Zijp · · Reply

    This truly a great one! I like all recipes, and the suggestion wait for the meal with coffee and a mimosa, but most of all the deviled eggs. Deceptively simple, and like you, I have had pretty bland ones, with mainly cheap mayonaise. I love the wasabi/ginger combination, the salmon/capers and the anchovies/dried tomatoes.

    Holland has been great! The owners of my small marina are just so very nice! They knew I was coming, and wanted to polish the outside of the boat. When they realized it was going to rain, they put the boat inside a big workshop for me to get going! They also kept a whole collection of cruising guides of England and the Baltic for me. Yesterday the boat was launched and the mast stepped. I still have some small things to do, but being on board in the water, with all my stuff stowed makes it much easier and more pleasant.

    Today I went to a neighbouring town where the National Tugboat Day was being celebrated. It is a jamboree of many scruffy guys and their tugboats, mostly antique (one even a steam engine driven tug) and ranging between 15 and 60 feet or so. Some even much bigger. The day started at 10 with a eardrum shattering hooting of all these lovingly restored ex-professional boats. They are polished to an incredible degree, and these guys walk around constantly with an oily rag in their back pocket. But a wonderful day, also given the glorious weather I have enjoyed after the first rainy day. Temps in the low 70, blue skies and a white cloud just so, as a Dutch Master would have painted it.

    Heard that Gloria in in CC again, and am thinking of all of them. I also heard from Miriam just now while she had lunch, so she is halfway.

    Miss you already, and hope you are feeling better. Hugs,

    Willem

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