A Good Egg

December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

I don’t typically think of myself as someone who makes pretty food. Indeed, I’m hiding many good recipes from you while I figure out how to make the finished products look like something other than a bowl of brown mush (insanely tasty brown mush, I hasten to add). So I’m partly sharing this recipe with you because, look, it’s so pretty! I’m so proud! And I promise that if I can make it look like this, so can you, which means you might want to consider this for one of the many parties I’m sure you, my social-whirlwind-esque readers, have on the cards.

Pickling eggs with beets is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, apparently. Not that I know much about that particular culinary heritage: in England you’re most likely to have encountered (non-pink) eggs in a jar on the counter of a fish and chip shop, or a pub. Whether you’ve already been privileged to try a pickled egg in any one of these disparate settings or not, just know that this version packs a whole lot of flavour into a one or two bite serving and will make you and yours happy whether you’re caroling by a cosy fire or mingling at the swishest cocktail party this season. The beet pickling process imparts the eggs with their lovely rosy shell and a subtle earthy tone, while the creamy decadence of the egg yolks and mayonnaise is tempered by a healthy amount of mustard and rounded out by the pungent caraway. The end result is a perfectly balanced piece of finger food, possibly only improved by a martini in the other hand.

We ate the eggs as part of the first course of a really rather spectacular Thanksgiving feast. I have to say that I have embraced this national holiday rather eagerly: the centrality of food, people, and the impetus to pause to appreciate the good things in your life seems like a pretty stellar combination to me. It turns out that my birthday falls on or around Thanksgiving too, which makes it a week packed not only with celebrations but also a bit of taking stock. Never one to pass up an opportunity to make a list, I’ve started a tradition of using that marker of time to set goals, some big, some small, as a reminder throughout the year of good intentions. It has worked well so far: this blog is a result of last year’s list for a start. I’m still finalising the one for the coming year; perhaps I will add “cook prettier food” to the shortlist…

Beet-Pickled Deviled Eggs
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009
Yields 24 half eggs

3 cups/750ml water
1 cup/250ml distilled white vinegar
1 small beet, peeled and sliced
1 small shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
12 large eggs
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted, cooled
1/3 cup/80g mayonnaise
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Begin by hard-boiling your eggs. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, sitting the eggs out at room temperature while you do so if they have been in the fridge. Gently lower the eggs into the pot and adjust the heat to keep it just under a simmer. Cook the eggs for 9 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice-water to stop them cooking further. Once cool, peel the eggs and set to one side.

While the eggs are cooling, bring the water, vinegar, beet, shallot, bay leaf and 1/2 tsp salt to boil in a medium saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, until the beet is tender: this should be around 20 minutes. Leave uncovered to cool completely. Put the peeled hard-boiled eggs in a container with the beet mixture and marinate in the fridge, gently stirring once or twice, for at least two hours. You can also prepare the eggs up to three days in advance of filling them, in which case you should keep them in an airtight container in the fridge until you need them.

When you are ready to fill the eggs, begin by grinding the caraway either with a pestle and mortar or in a spice grinder. Remove the eggs from their marinade and pat dry, discarding the beet mixture. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks to a medium-sized bowl. Mash the yolks with the mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, and half of the caraway, until reasonably smooth (you might want to use a whisk to get them fluffy). Taste and season with salt and pepper, then divide the filing among the egg whites. Sprinkle with the remaining caraway. Either serve immediately, or loosely cover and keep chilled for up to 3 hours.

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