Jan’s Ethno Breakfast has come around again. For the last one I had made 2 dozen Cajun deviled eggs. I did not want to make exactly the same thing again, so I thought I would make these Middle Eastern with za’atar.
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.
A fourth trick—if you have the time is to cook them the day before. While sitting in a cold refrigerator the egg whites shrink just a tiny bit. This completely frees the egg whites from the membranes, making them a snap to peel without pock marks.
Note: If you are peeling your eggs very soon after cooking them you may need to hold them under a small stream of running water to separate the some of the membranes from the eggs. If you are peeling the eggs after several hours in the refrigerator this is almost unnecessary.
Karl’s Za’atar Deviled Eggs
12+ eggs (preferably a week old, see above)
1½ Tbs. za’atar
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
4 Tbs. Japanese mayonnaise
2 Tbs. half and half
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
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: Always add an extra 4-5 eggs, in case you get a “blowout” or one egg doesn’t peel easily.
Note: By adding the eggs after the water boils, you are controlling the exact cooking time of the eggs, preventing overcooking—which will give you a gray layer on the surface of the yolk.
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.
Note: While the eggs are steaming, dice the bell pepper and celery and set them on a paper towel. These vegetables will sweat liquid after they are cut and you do not want them thinning out your egg filling.
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: Chilling overnight is best. 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.
. Sprinkle the za’atar, pepper, and salt over 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.
Note: How much seasoning you use is a matter of your diners taste.
. 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.
. Adding the cream—a teaspoon at a time—and whisk the mixture until they yolks have your desired consistency.
Tip: Depending on how large the individual yolks were you may need to add more cream. Do not add too much cream. You want a light and fluffy filling, not a wet sludge.
. 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 in 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 indentations to keep the eggs from sliding around—it is useful to lay down a sheet of paper towel on the serving platter.
. Sprinkle a good dusting of paprika over each egg.
Tip: For transporting the eggs to Jan’s event, I found a deviled egg carrier.
Note: I noticed that the za’atar left the deviled yolk a greyish green, so I decided that a bit of paprika would cover this flaw.