Being the cook of the family, Jan frequently asks me to make something when she needs a mitzva meal or a dish for a potluck. Last week it was Ethno Breakfast—a local (Bay Area) meeting of corporate ethnologists. Since all except the largest firms hire only one person in this discipline, this can be an isolated job—one anthropologist amongst an entire company of engineers and MBAs. Jan has been pushing this field for several years, so some of the local practitioners are her former students. Ethno Breakfast provides a community to share ideas and problems once a month.
For Ethno Breakfast, I had made some curried deviled eggs, but I forgot to take a photograph. This week, Jan has a Halloween potluck on campus. Since the curried eggs went over so well, she asked for the same dish again.
Many people have difficulty peeling eggs after they have been boiled. Bits of the white stick to the membrane leaving you with pock marked eggs. There are several tricks to pay attention to while preparing your eggs:
First—if you can—buy your eggs the week before, so that they can be properly “aged.” The whites of fresh eggs are more firmly attached to the membrane. As the eggs get older, this bond breaks down.
Second, steam your eggs, rather than boiling them. When eggs are submerged, the water at the top of the egg may be cooler than the water closest to the heat at the bottom of the egg. By putting the egg on a rack—out of the water—the eggs are surrounded by steam at exactly 212° F. This allows them to cook evenly at a known temperature.
A third trick is to shock and completely cool the eggs. Quick cooling causes the shells to suddenly contract which pulls the membrane away from the egg white. Cooling the egg completely gives the whites time to firm up and makes them less likely to break apart as you are pulling the shell away.
Daughter Eilene recently introduced me to Japanese mayonnaise. It is very different from European and American brands. It is made with only egg yolks, and uses apple cider or rice vinegar, and it also includes dashi—giving it a creamier texture, tartness, and a more umami flavor. “Try it you’ll like it.”
Since this was a potluck dish, I was going to have to “package it” for transport to the party. If I simply spread some plastic wrap over the deviled eggs it would mash down the filling and make a mess. I decided that what was necessary was a bit of vegetable to protect the fluffy egg yolk mixture. A bit of colorful garnish is never a mistake.
After Party Note: Like last week, this was a very popular dish. Fifteen minutes after Jan had put the deviled eggs out—and snagged one—she went back for a second—to find that “the cupboard was bare.” And the majority of people coming to the party hadn’t even shown up at that point.
Karl’s Potluck Curried Deviled Eggs
12+ eggs (preferably a week old, see note below)
3 small green onions, minced
1½ Tbs. Madras curry powder
Pinch Kosher salt
Pinch black pepper
¼+ cup Japanese mayonnaise
2+ Tbs. half and half
24 red bell pepper diamonds
1. Put a wire rack in a large pot and add about an inch of water.
Tip: You want the water no higher than the height of your wire rack.
Note: I have a round wire rack that came with a wok that fits my Western pot perfectly. You can buy these separately in some large Asian stores.
2. Bring the water to a boil and then add the cold eggs.
Tip: I usually add 14-15 eggs, because one or two will not peel cleanly and I want a few spares. “Oh, what am I going to do with the leftovers? Lunch.”
Note: By adding the eggs after the water boils, you are controlling the exact cooking time of the eggs, preventing over cooking.
3. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low.
Tip: You want your water to continue steaming, but you do not want it to boil away.’
4. Steam the eggs for exactly 15 minutes—for large eggs.
Tip: Steam small eggs for 14 minutes and extra large eggs for 17 minutes.
5. Prepare a large bowl with cold water and ice.
6. When the eggs are done steaming, transfer them to the ice water for 10 minutes.
Tip: This shocking pulls the membrane away from the whites and causes the egg to fill the “dimple.”
Note: When you slowly cool an egg, the air bubble at the large end of the egg is filled with steam and creates a dimple at one end of the egg as the white firms up. The cold water quickly chills and condenses the steam and allows the still soft egg white to push into this space, making a smoother, uniform egg.
7. Remove the eggs from the water and move them to the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Tip: The firmer the egg white is, the less likely it is to break as you peel off the shell.
8. Cut each egg in half on the long axis.
Tip: Hold the half egg gently by the thick white ends and press the back of the egg to pop the yolks into a medium mixing bowl. Remove any yolk remaining in the hole.
Note: lay the egg half hole side up on a paper towel to keep it from sliding around.
9. Use a fork to mash the egg yolks into a fine powdery mass.
Tip: It is easier to catch any hard lumps of yolk before you start adding other ingredients, rather than trying to chase them around in a slurry. You do not want any lumps larger than about half the size of a pea.
10. Mix the onion, curry powder, salt, and pepper to the powdery yolks and mix them in with the fork.
Tip: It is easier to get a good distribution of the dry additives throughout the dry powdery yolks, if you do it before adding the wet ingredients.
11. Stir the mayonnaise into the egg yolks.
Tip: Add as much mayonnaise as needed to moisten all of the dry yolk.
Note: This mixture will be still be very thick and sticky.
12. Adding the cream—a little bit at a time—whisk the mixture until has your desired consistency.
Tip: Depending on how large the individual yolks were you may need to add more cream.
Note: Do not add too much cream. you want a light and fluffy filling, not a wet sludge.
13. Spoon the filling into the holes of the half eggs and arrange them on your serving platter.
Tip: You will have enough filling to be generous filling the eggs. The filling should hump up above the cut edge of the half egg by at least a quarter inch.
Note: If you do not have a deviled egg plate—with egg shaped indentation for each half egg—laying sheet of paper towel down on the serving platter will keep the eggs from sliding around.
14. Cut half inch wide strips—pole to pole—from the bell pepper.
15. Slicing on a steep bias, cut the strips into small diamonds.
16. Arrange one red pepper diamond on top of each deviled egg.
Note: Since I knew that Jan was going to have to carry this dish, I was struck with the problem of how to protect the filling from the plastic wrap. If I simply covered it with the plastic, the sticky filling would glue itself to wrap. When you removed the wrap—instead of elegantly filled egg halves you would have eggs smeared with yellowish paste. Adding a bit of vegetable acted as little tent poles keeping the plastic up and out of danger. A little bright color—to an otherwise drab egg—was an added bonus.
17. Dust the eggs lightly with a sprinkling of curry powder and garnish the plate with some sprigs of cilantro.
18. Either serve immediately or lightly cover them with plastic wrap for transportation.
Tip: As well as protecting the eggs—from dust and flies—the wrap keeps the eggs from sliding around as you move them.