Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Hard-Cooked Egg...

Our family LOVES eggs - scrambled, poached, "fried" - but, most of all: Deviled Eggs. At any family gathering, there was always a fight over the last deviled egg (a friendly fight, usually ending up with the last creamy ovoid of deliciousness being split). Thanksgiving before last, Momma K - the family's official deviled egg-maker - announced that she was no longer up to the challenge; the buying eggs well in advance so they'd be "old," then having to fight them out of their shells anyway, ending up with ugly shells that didn't live up to the promise of her beautiful deviled egg serving tray. (They still tasted awesome! But we understood where she was coming from.)

After two consecutive family gatherings without deviled eggs, I decided to be the next bearer of the eggs. The event was Easter; eggs went on sale well in advance and I searched out the oldest dates in the case that I could find. I left the eggs on the counter for two days before I boiled them, to help age them further. I cooked them exactly according to the precise instructions provided by my personal cooking icon: Alton Brown. Everything was going perfectly according to plan.

Easter egg coloring was a total hoot! We didn't have any small children, so all of the adults joined our two teenagers and the eggs went fast. Yoo-hoo! A few quick pix of our artistic creations, and it was time to whip out a batch (or three) of the devil'd bad boys.

What a total, complete disappointment! Despite my planning, cooking to the letter and high expectations, the eggs were nearly impossible to peel (even under running water), but WORSE: the whites were rubbery, there was a green sulphur ring around the yole AND, the centers weren't fully cooked. Yuck!

The next time, I tried the method recommended by my go-to "how-to" cookbook, The Joy of Cooking (every kitchen needs this gem). Again, failure, even though I followed the instructions for high altitude (we're at 7,200 feet or so above sea level).

The time after that, I searched the internet for "how to cook hard boiled eggs" and discovered there were basically three schools of thought for "hard-boiled" eggs (the proper designation is "hard-cooked," since at least one of the methods does not involve boiling the eggs - just so you know):
1. Place eggs in cold water, bring to boil, turn off heat, cover & let cook for designated time [the "Alton" method];
2. Place eggs in cold water, bring to boil and boil for designated time [the "Joy of Cooking" method]; and,
3. Bring water to boil, place eggs into water, and boil for designated time [another "Joy of Cooking" method].
Some sites said to add salt, some to add vinegar - tried each and both. I even bought an egg timer that gets placed in the pot with the egg and thus experiences everything that the eggs do and changes color to show what's going on inside the eggs. I tried less time, more time, faster cooling, no cooling. And I tried every possible combination of the above that I could think of. (I'm almost embarrassed to admit that, one night, I took a dozen eggs and cooked each one with various methods and combinations, then peeled each and opened them up; I ended up with a dozen failures - and a huge batch of egg salad.)

And that's when I GAVE UP.
Until last month...

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