2009: A Multi-part Christmas

Christmas 2009 was a multi-part, multi-occasion, multi-meal event.  I suppose when your family expands, and the number of people you love and visit with expands, the great foodie benefit is that you get to cook more and eat more.  I cooked a lot.  I also ate a lot.  I want to share some of the delicious, tipsy triumphs with you, despite the sobering truth that the new term of school begins on Monday morning, bright and early, at 8am.  Really, for me, it will begin at more like 6:30am, but 8 o’clock is when I will greet my new class of freshmen.

But that’s just an excuse for the following excuse: forgive me if the updates do not arrive as thick and fast as the food did at our multi-part Christmas dinner(s).  I will try to keep a schedule of one update a week, but, like Mary Poppins, I try to avoid piecrust promises (easily made, easily broken).  I can only try.  So here goes.

On December 23rd, we had our first Christmas dinner.  This took place at my parents’ house, and featured a series of appetizers.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Spinach dip in a bread bowl, a timeless classic.

Vegetable spring rolls with tofu and mint.

And the feature, which my sister specifically asked me to share: deviled eggs.

Forgive the blurred quality; I blame the mood lighting in our dining room.  Or perhaps my trembling hands, eager for a second round of hors d’oeuvre-age.

Deviled eggs are a party food with almost no exception.  No one seems to want to take the time to make them as a quick lunch, say, not even after Easter when most people have all the necessities available and partially prepped.  When the are made, they are often drenched in mayonnaise, over salted, given curious unneeded additions like pickle relish, hot sauce, strange herb combinations, and then to add insult to injury, so completely covered in paprika like a deserted house gets covered in dust a month after its inhabitants split that you can’t even see the beautiful contrast of yellow and white.  They are like little egg-shaped daisies.  This is why I am not a professed poet.

Anyway, the eggs.  I have finally found a perfect deviled eggs recipe.  It comes from the cookbook put out by Cooks Illustrated magazine, called the “The New Best Recipe,” which, like most of my culinary collection, I received as a wedding gift.  It is simple: just eggs, mayonnaise, whole grain mustard, and a splash each of vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, along with some salt and pepper.  The mayo makes it creamy, the vinegar adds a sharp tang to clear any heaviness you might feel from the combination of fats, and the seeds from the mustard pop in your mouth when you bite down on them, which I find to be a delightful and different sensation.  Texture in food is becoming increasingly important to me, and though the difference between the soft filling and the hard boiled albumen of the egg is there, it is subtle, like the distance between pudding and custard.  The mustard, then, offers new dimension.

Aside from the ingredients, the other strike of genius of this recipe is its recommendation to overstuff the eggs.  Deviled eggs look so much more appetizing when they are mounded (or piped) high with tasty tangy filling, and the way to accomplish this seems clearly to use one extra yolk.  It’s so simple, but I never would have thought of it!

Fortunately for us, the eggs seemed to know my plan.  Observe: twins!

Ingredients:

  • 7 large eggs, hard boiled (tip: if you hard boil them the night before preparing this recipe, they will peel much more easily in the morning!)
  • 3/4 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

1) Peel the eggs and cut each in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and place in a small bowl. Discard two of the whites (I usually tear at least one set and am distressed by their loss of aesthetic value: these are the ones to just pop in your mouth right there) and arrange the remaining whites on your serving vessel.

2) Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir with a rubber spatula, mashing against the side of the bowl until smooth. This can take a while, and you really have to be dedicated about seeking out and breaking down all the clumps of yolk, or your filling won’t be as pleasing in consistency.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

3) If you have a piping bag, fill it up with the yolk mixture and pipe into the empty whites, making tall rosettes.  Don’t worry, you will have plenty of filling if you have one more yolk in your mixture than you have pairs of whites to fill.  If you don’t have a piping bag, scrape all the filling into an empty gallon Ziploc bag, keeping it away from one bottom corner.  Seal the bag, trying to eliminate as much air as possible, then snip off one of the bottom corners of the bag with scissors, maybe just big enough for the tip of your pinky finger to fit through.  Presto, instant piping bag!  Fill the whites immediately before serving, so the filling stays fully emulsified.  Exult and enjoy.

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