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Critic-Turned-Cook Demos Deviled Eggs

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[Photographs: Leslie Kelly]

This spring, the director of the Queen Anne Farmers Market in Seattle invited me to show off my skills in the chef's tent. I jumped up and down at the chance, but the bad egg news almost killed my plans for a cooking demo.

I was going to play off the Egg A Day Experiment I had done on my personal blog, a project inspired by a bowl of grits topped by a poached pool of yolk and white. Over several months, I explored all sorts of egg-y delights: eggs in curry sauce, tossed in pasta for carbonara, swirled in hot and sour soup, and as a velvety emulsifier in homemade ice cream. In the middle of summer, it seemed fitting to demo picnic staples, so I planned on making mayo, potato salad, and deviled eggs.

Then the recall went down and eggs were suddenly scary. Then people got incensed (at least I did) when the industry suggested it was up to consumers to cook the life out of the egg to kill any possible bacteria.

But here's the deal. Farmers market eggs are a world apart from those industrial eggs. The first time I paid $6 for a dozen, I winced. Yet, if you break down the cost per serving, it's still one of the best bargains around. Think about what you pay for one latte.

Before nailing down my egg demo, I talked to the vendor from the Twisted S Ranch, the producers of primo bacon and eggs. He assured me the eggs are collected by hand daily, so if there are sick hens, they'll be culled from the flock. I felt reassured and decided to stick with Plan Egg.

Even though I purposefully chose to focus on easy recipes, it still involved a whole lot of prep work. I spent at least a half a day hard-cooking eggs, peeling them (still working on my technique), and cooking and chopping Red LaSoda potatoes from the awesome Olsen Farms for my spud salad. I decided to make a batch of potato salad in advance to test the theory that it tastes even better the next day. (Yup, it does.)

When the time came to set up at the farmers market, I felt as cool as an organic cuke. Why? Because nobody showed up.

Gulp. Maybe the eggs scared them off?

No, they were just late. Five minutes after I was supposed to start, there were butts in the seats and a standing-room crowd. Whew.

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You know how those TV chefs chat and cook and make it look so easy? Well, it's not. I fumbled a bit in the beginning with the multi-tasking and talking. On top of that, I discovered mid-way through the demo I had forgotten a few ingredients at home, so I had to punt. No mustard? Ok, I'll just add some rouille I made as a variation on the mayo. Voilà: Provencal potato salad.

When I was finished, people devoured the pair of potato salads and jumped all over the deviled eggs, both made with mayo I had just whipped up (get the recipes here). Those deviled eggs sure are a pain to make, but, man, they taste heavenly. Especially when they're made with eggs that are truly farm fresh.

Are you taking a different approach to eggs these days? Maybe even avoiding them? What's the most you've paid for a dozen?

About the author: Former Seattle Post-Intelligencer restaurant critic Leslie Kelly has been apprenticing in professional kitchens since the newspaper folded in March 2009 and chronicling her culinary journey from pen to pan for Serious Eats. She recently began interviewing cooks for Seattle Weekly's food blog, Voracious.

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