January 13, 2009
This is a recipe I got from David Tanis' A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes.
I realize that naming this cookbook my favorite for 2008 and then showcasing its recipe for hard-boiled eggs sends a curious message, yet it illustrates exactly what I look for in a book: not just engaging stories, understated pictures, and seasonally sound menus -- all features that Tanis' book can brag about -- but also things to learn, understand, and remember long after the book has been shut.
This is why I was bound to fall for a book that draws its title from that very premise: you need know-how, rather than a recipe, to serve a good platter of figs. A book that not only gives you a recipe for Jellied Chicken Terrine (three cheers for aspic!), but also devotes two pages to Grilled Chicken Breasts and includes a sub-recipe for the Soft-Center Hard-Cooked Eggs that you are to place, halved or quartered, around the inverted and unmolded terrine.
If, like me, you've long been a card-carrying member of the Hard-Boiled Eggs Loathing Society, prepare to have your mind changed. The proper way of making them, as outlined below, will not produce the dreaded dandruffy yolk, sapless and tinged with grey, but one that's creamy and glowing, nested in a springy, just-set white.
There's not much to it, really, yet it is one of those basic skills that everyone assumes you possess, when I myself can't make an oeuf à la coque without calling Maxence to double-check the cooking time, so it is nice when someone takes the time to hold your hand through the process.
And then of course you're free to do whatever you please with those eggs. I am not sure if or when I will make the terrine -- I have my eye on the Fava Bean Salad with Mountain Ham and Mint and the Fish Soup with Mussels and Chorizo first -- but these perfect eggs have already become regular adornments to my lunch salads, the grated carrot and avocado salad, the red quinoa salad, and the grated carrot and beet salad. Surely you've met?
Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
- 6 large organic eggs that you will preferably have removed from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour beforehand so their shells won't crack (otherwise you can give them a warm bath)
Yields 6 hard-boiled eggs (what, did you think they'd reproduce?)
Bring a medium pan of water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Lower the eggs into the water -- Maxence's mother once gave us a wire egg sieve that proves very handy for this maneuver -- and simmer for exactly 8 minutes (9 if you don't want a soft center in your yolk).
When the timer goes off, lift the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon (again, I use my wire egg sieve) and put them in the bowl of ice water; this will halt the cooking.
When the eggs are cold -- this will take just a couple of minutes -- tap them gently* on the counter to crack their shell all around, and return to the bowl a few more minutes: the water will infiltrate the eggs beneath the shell and make them easier to peel. (Also, when peeling the eggs, notice that there is a thin skin between the white and the shell; once found and ruptured, that skin provides good leverage to peel off the shell.)
* If you're not using all six eggs right away, don't crack or peel the ones you're saving. Just write a capital "D" (for dur, hard) on each shell with a pencil, to make sure no one mistakes them for fresh; this is how my mother does it and I know no other way. Keep the eggs in the fridge and eat within a day or two.
Smoked Paprika Potato Salad