Saturday, December 3, 2011

Green Eggs and Ham

A couple years ago, I dropped after work into the John Howie Steakhouse bar in Bellevue and ordered the truffled bacon deviled eggs off the bar menu.

They were perfect. The best deviled eggs I'd ever had. I thought: I have to reverse engineer this recipe. And I became intrigued as to the possibilities of deviled eggs generally.

I never managed to reproduce the Howie recipe. Probably never will. But in the course of trying, I happened on this recipe in the Seattle Times. I've tried it, and the photographic evidence is up to the left. (The plate looks dirty. It isn't. That's a piece of chopped basil in the lower left corner).

This is a bit pricey for an appetizer; the prosciutto will run you five bucks, and the basil pesto will run you six more. So you'll probably only want to make this if you're on the hook to bring a cool appetizer to a party.

While preparing this recipe, I discovered something you might imagine I already knew: I really don't know how to boil eggs. I always assumed I did. Then I tried, made a mess of things, and started investigating how to produce the Perfect Boiled Egg.

Here's how to do it:

1. Bring the eggs to room temperature by taking them out of the fridge an hour before boiling them. It also helps to set them on their sides.

The less fresh eggs are, the better they boil.

2. Put the eggs in cold water in a sauce pan, and make sure the water comes to about an inch above the eggs.

3. Turn the stove to high, bring it to a boil, remove it from the heat entirely, and put a lid on the sauce pan (IMPORTANT) so that the eggs finish cooking in the residual, trapped heat -- like a steak that continues to cook while resting beneath aluminum foil.

4. After about fifteen minutes, put the eggs in a bowl of ice water. The sudden temperature change causes the membrane in the egg to swell, which facilitates peeling, which should be done beneath a faucet stream of cold water.

One Bittman wrinkle on the subject involves inserting a needle into the fat end of the egg to create a sort of pressure valve. I haven't tried that, but for a delightfully elaborate dissection of this totally pedestrian subject, go here.

The recipe is good. I recommend it. I won't republish it in full here, since I think that'd go beyond even the most expansive definition of fair use, but if the Seattle Times ever takes it down, I sure as hell will.

Couple notes. You can usually find basil pesto in plastic containers in the cool supermarket section that contains yogurt and such.

As for the pastry bag -- y'know, I was going to skip that, since it's just cosmetic. But it turns out that on the baking aisle, you can get a set of pastry nozzles and twenty bags for about four dollars. That's pretty cheap, makes for a pretty effect, and you'll get a lot of use out of it.