Saturday, October 01, 2005

Oeufs Diaboliques*

So good, you'll have to go to confession.
Let's start with one of the common misconceptions about deviled eggs, as displayed in the following exchange between me and my partner this evening.

V: What are you doing?
A: I'm boiling eggs.
V: I see that. Why are you boiling eggs?
A: I'm making some deviled eggs.
V: Oh. Why are you making deviled eggs?
A: Because I want to eat them. (At this point, I may have given him one of my looks that I use when I don't want to say "duh" aloud, but there were no witnesses, so we can't be sure.)
V: Well, usually, people only make deviled eggs for a picnic.
A: Don't try to make me play by society's rules!
V: Are we going to go through this on every anniversary of James Dean's death, or only every fiftieth?

Anyway, eggs generally and deviled eggs particularly have been on my mind recently. These preoccupations are likely due to this post and this post, respectively, but it really takes very little to make me want to cook eggs. I could easily wax sentimental about the eggs of my childhood here, but I will save that (for once) for another time and instead talk about boiling eggs.

Most deviled eggs recipes (and I'm totally pulling this sentence out of my backside, because I've never actually read a recipe for deviled eggs; who uses a recipe? You just make them the way your mom did or the way you think would taste good, right?) presume the existence of boiled eggs. They start (I reckon) with "six boiled eggs" or "twelve boiled eggs," as if to say, "Oh, boiling an egg is nothing. There is no art to it. You just go boil them up while I wait here and realphabetize my ingredients. I'll be here when you're ready to proceed."

This, reader, is an error.

If boiling eggs were so easy, so automatic, then one would not so often see them done so very, very badly. And you know what I mean. Hard rubbery whites. Dull, green-covered yolks. This, friends, is not what a boiled egg wants or has to be.

Here is how Julia Child says to boil an egg. (Apparently, she got the method from the Georgia Egg Board, or some place very like that.) It is certainly neither the quickest nor the easiest method, but neither is it unduly taxing, and the eggs are terrific: yolks without green, whites without rubber.

You probably know already, but I will repeat anyway that very fresh eggs are not suitable for boiling. Use the eggs that have been sitting in the refrigerator for a while.

Put six eggs in the bottom of a three-quart saucepan.

Add two quarts of cold water.

Place the saucepan on high heat until the water just reaches the boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and let sit for seventeen minutes.

Remove the eggs from the hot water and place them in a bowl of ice and water. Let them cool entirely, about ten minutes.

Bring the water in the saucepan back to a boil. Return the eggs to the boiling water for ten seconds, then remove them and put them back in the ice water.

Let cool completely.

I peel my eggs by lightly tapping them on the edge of the sink or a countertop and rotating them so there are little cracks all along the eggs equator. Then carefully pull off a bit of the shell, and soon the whole shell should slip off easily. Apparently the brief second boiling makes the shell separate more readily from the egg.

I took pictures of the boiled and peeled eggs just to show that I got all six through the process without any of the usual losses that I get when I just boil them, put them in cold water and (try to) peel them. Unfortunately, it is the nature of boiled eggs to be very white, and they don't do well with a flash. Alas.

You can use the same method to cook any number of eggs, but you will need more water if you cook more eggs. Also, if you are cooking more than six eggs, the instructions say to put no more than six eggs at a time in for the brief second boil. I presume that this direction is intended to keep the water temperature from dropping too much too quickly.

You probably know by now that I am not much for exact recipes, and, given the nature of deviled eggs, it would seem unlikely that I'd ever make them the same way twice. This is the recipe that I made up last night, and I will not be offended if you express some incredulity when I say that I am never, ever going to make them any other way. I have tried and failed to put into words just how good these deviled eggs are. It has occurred to me from time to time that it might be a good idea to suggest appropriate music to accompany some of my recipes, and the best song to go with these deviled eggs is "Shout."

Anapestic's Deviled Eggs

6 large eggs
2 slices of bacon
4 cornichons
1 t. dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 t. paprika
ground pepper

Take six eggs and cook them according to the above method.

Fry the bacon until it is very crisp. Drain it well, then chop it as fine as you can. Chop the cornichons fine, too.

When the eggs have been cooled and peeled, cut each one in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and put them in a small bowl.

Mash the yolks lightly with a fork. Add the mustard, mayonnaise, bacon, cornichons, paprika, and pepper, and mix with the fork.

Reintroduce the yolk mixture to the whites.

Some notes:

You can, of course, boil the eggs the night before you do the rest of the recipe.

My cornichons were very small. The four of them chopped fine amounted to not much more than a tablespoon. I regret not having measured. I will try to be a better person in the future. If it helps, they were Trader Joe's cornichons, and they're yummy. If you don't have any cornichons and either can't get them or don't want to wait until you have some, or if you simply have issues with the cornichon lobby, you can substitute a good baby dill.

There is no need to make the egg yolk mixture perfectly smooth. It will get plenty smooth in the mixing, and leaving some small lumps of yolk in the mixture is a good thing. Because of the bacon and the cornichons, my mashed yolks didn't need any salt, but you should, of course, taste for seasoning. Be very careful, though, because when you taste it, you will need to exercise every bit of self-discipline that you've got not to eat all of the mashed yolks right then and there, looking at the poor lonely, naked egg whites, and saying, "Forget it, egg whites! These yolks are mine! You can just go suck eggs!" which will make you feel extremely guilty, as you have just encouraged cannibalism.

I used plain old storebought mayonnaise for this recipe. I had originally harbored notions of making my own, and I had gone so far as to heat some olive oil with various herbs and spices, with the intent of straining the oil and then making a flavored mayo. But that would have left V. without enough eggs to make breakfast, and it was too late for me to go out and buy more, so I bailed. As it happens, homemade mayo would have been overkill.

I use a teaspoon to stuff the filling back in the whites. Some people pipe in the filling with a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, but that won't work here because the filling is a bit chunky. Also, you'd leave some filling behind that way, and you don't want to do that. You could probably use a cookie scoop instead of a teaspoon, and you'd get a smoother and more mounded presentation, but that is not much of a concern to me with deviled eggs. Similarly, I don't care to sprinkle mine with paprika the way many people do, so I put the paprika in the filling. If you wish to sprinkle, go for it.

*I am aware of the looseness of the translation here. I have no idea what the French call deviled eggs or, indeed, whether they have them at all. I considered other variations, such as Les Oeufs d'Enfer, but they were all too much, même pour moi.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:13 AM  
Blogger lindy (Toast) said...

Definitely not for picnics only. Bacon? Hmmm. I am a fan of bacon, but a person can be pretty conservative about her deviled eggs. I must consider this..
Not that I never deviate from the standard concoction. I sometimes put ground chipotle pepper, or smoked spanish paprika on mine. Once I put caviar on them and it was really good. Bacon....

6:45 PM  
Anonymous anapestic said...

The bacon does have to be chopped very fine, I think.

Also, I noticed that when I had some of the eggs today, the filling was still as good as yesterday, but I was bothered by the whites being so cold. I think in future, I may store the whites and filling separately, and let the whites come to nearer room temperature before removing the filling from the refrigerator and stuffing the eggs. It is easier to work with when it's cold, too.

8:12 PM  

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