Easter Egg Fun
by Kate Heyhoe
Recipe for Hard Cooked Eggs: Place eggs in single layer in large pot. Fill pot with cold water to cover eggs by one-inch. Set over medium-high heat and bring the water just to a boil. Turn off the heat and let eggs remain in the water for 12 minutes. Plunge eggs into ice cold water. When cool, drain and refrigerate until ready to peel.
I used to call them hard-boiled eggs, but in the food writer's world, a "hard boiled" egg is now PI—politically incorrect. The preferred term is now "hard cooked."
What's the difference, you ask? Essentially, experts no longer recommend boiling (or even simmering) an egg for 15 minutes to cook it, as my mother (and the original Joy of Cooking) did. Instead, one should merely heat the water with the egg in it. Then, just as the water begins to boil, turn off the heat and let the egg stand in the hot water for several minutes.
Why shouldn't you boil an egg anymore? Because boiling results in a hard, dry yolk, instead of a creamy, soft one, and the white becomes rubbery.
The exact number of minutes the egg sits in the water has been hotly debated among foodies, causing the venerated Cooks Illustrated magazine to recently publish one of their near-empeer (nearly empirical) studies on the procedure. After several trials and errors, the writer, Maryellen Driscoll, came to the conclusion that the perfect method is to remove the pot from the heat as soon as the water boils, cover it and leave the eggs in the water for exactly 10 minutes. But other experts like Elaine Corn, author of 365 Ways to Cook Eggs, follows the same method but with a slightly different timing, that of 17 minutes, and I follow a similar method, but I don't cover the pot or remove it from the burner after the flame is off, and I still get ideal results. I would think the cookware used may affect the heat transferal over time. But Driscoll says she tried various types of cookware and different size burners, and the method still worked perfectly each time.
Truth be told, potential variables exist beyond cookware and boiling points, such as the size, freshness, and temperature of the egg itself.
For example, I bought a cartoon of "large" eggs today, and the fattest one in the carton sat right next to the puniest one. They looked more like a jumbo egg and a medium egg, rather than two eggs of the same "large" class. Doesn't this mean that the peewee egg would cook in less time than the other? Should smaller eggs be removed from the water earlier? I dare say the squabbles over the precise number of seconds an egg should stay in the hot water are a bit extreme, because of minute variables like this. But still, we all need guidelines to follow, albeit with our own doses of flexibility and common sense when we do.
This week, millions of eggs will give themselves up to being dyed, decorated, punted and hunted in the name of the Easter Bunny and his basket. Here's a few tips for making your Easter Eggs festive, fun and safe:Check out my pal the Peppered Leopard at my new website, Cooking with Kids, a companion site to my book, Cooking with Kids for Dummies. Chef le Pep, as we call him, brings Easter Time and Passover to kids, and gives happy lessons on:
- Cooking the Eggs and Coloring
- Easter Egg Sandwiches
- Rabbit Cake
- Passover Brownies
- If you plan to eat the hard-cooked eggs you dye, keep them refrigerated. They should not remain out longer than two hours (and preferably only 1 hour) to avoid risk of food born illness. This means that any eggs used for Easter egg hunts should be hidden less than an hour before the hunt. If you need to hide them earlier than that or if you plan to leave them out longer than 2 hours, then make and hide eggs you don't plan to eat.
- To prevent the egg white from sticking to the shell when you peel it, do two things: 1) buy older eggs—as eggs lose their freshness, they contract, pulling away from the shell; 2) roll the egg all over on a hard surface to crack the shell into very fine pieces—the shell will come off easier if you peel it under running water.
- To keep the yolk from turning a dark grey-green on the surface, plunge the eggs into ice water immediately after cooking. The harmless greenish ring is caused by an iron and sulfur compound which forms when eggs are overcooked or not cooled quickly.
- Hard cooked eggs will keep 1 week in the refrigerator. Raw eggs keep 4 to 5 weeks from the packing date.
- Store eggs with the large end up to keep the yolk centered.
- Refrigerate eggs. One day at room temperature causes the egg to age as much as one week in the fridge.
- Egg shells are porous. If you plan to decorate eggs, use only edible food coloring or other materials.
- Store eggs in their original carton to prevent moisture loss.
- Don't store eggs in the door of the refrigerator. Eggs like a constant temperature for optimal freshness. Keep them on an inside shelf.
- A hen takes 24 to 26 hours to produce an egg. Thirty minutes later, she starts all over again.
- The shell color has nothing to do with quality. White shelled eggs are laid by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown shelled eggs are laid by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. The reason brown eggs cost more is because brown-egg layers are slightly larger birds and require more food.
- To tell if an egg is raw or hard cooked, spin it. If the egg spins easily, it is hard-cooked but if it wobbles, it is raw. The shifting of the raw yolk in the spinning egg causes the wobble.
- Most eggs destined for cartons are Grade AA or A; while grade B eggs are used in egg-substitutes, powdered eggs and other non-fresh products. Grade AA eggs stand up tallest, with firm yolks and the area covered by the mostly thick white is small. Grade A eggs cover a relatively small area, with a rounded yolk that stands up and the egg white is more thick than thin. Grade B eggs spread out more. The yolk is flat and there is about as much (or more) thin white as thick white.
- To prevent salmonella poisoning, cook eggs until the whites are completely set, and the yolks are either cooked solid, or cook the yolks on low heat until they begin to thicken. (Salmonella bacteria is destroyed when it holds at 140 degrees F for 3 minutes, or until the finished temperature reaches 160 degrees.)
- If you accidentally drop and break an egg on the floor, sprinkle it heavily with salt for easy clean up.
Want to know more about the Easter egg in history? Visit these past articles from my electronic Gourmet Guide (eGG) site:
Coming next week: Egg-straordinary Egg Recipes. Now that you've dyed a few dozen eggs for Easter, what the heck are you gonna do with them, other than make egg salad? Enjoy them in recipes like Mom's BEST Potato Salad, Chili con Queso Eggs on Muffins, the Devil's Best Eggs, and more! Here's a nifty recipe using hard cooked eggs to get you started:
The Rites of Spring: Easter, St. Pat's and Passover
Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created March 1999