Friday, April 29, 2011

Eggs. Cheese. Fat. Salt. Your Basic Food Groups.

I'm not saying I tried to kill everyone at that baby shower I hosted recently, but I didn't exactly serve a lot of healthy food.  Oh but wait, there were celery sticks with the pimiento cheese.  Don't I get points for that? 

Nonetheless, no one died.  At least not so far.  Hopefully their blood pressures are back to normal after my not-so-healthy but absolutely delicious offerings which included a healthy (no pun intended) infusion of eggs, cheese, butter and salt.  You know you want to know  keep reading.  I won't tell.

Don't laugh.  Yes, I do have one of those silly egg platters!
Doesn't every Southerner?

We Southerners love our deviled eggs.  Most are made with mayonnaise, usually Duke's or Hellman's (don't even mention Miracle Whip; that stuff ranks in my book as the worst product ever, maybe even worse than jarred chopped garlic or bottled lemon juice).  Some also include spicy mustard or sweet pickle relish.  Those basic versions (sans Miracle Whip or pickle relish) can be pretty good but they pale in comparison to a recipe I pilfered from the AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) which incorporates both capers (always good, even on cardboard) and butter.  BUTTERIn deviled eggs?  You bet your sweet and now expanding you-know-what!  Here's the recipe:

DEVILED EGGS WITH CAPERS (adapted from Margaret Anne Mitchell's recipe in the AJC)

6 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped chives or small sprigs of parsley for garnish

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat.  Add eggs and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 13 minutes, then remove eggs to an ice bath.  Tap each one against the side of the bowl to crack lightly.  This helps release the sulphur to prevent yolks from turning green around the edges.  As soon as eggs have cooled, peel immediately.

Cut eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks, reserving whites.  Press yolks through a fine sieve or strainer.  Stir in mayonnaise, butter and mustard, adding more if necessary to make a smooth puree.  Add capers, salt and pepper and stir to blend.  Taste to adjust seasonings.

Spoon or pipe into reserved egg whites.  Garnish with chopped chives or small sprigs of parsley.  Serve immediately

Yield:  12 stuffed egg halves

*  I can be a purist about some things and one of those involves mayonnaise.  As far as I'm concerned, it's easy to make and much, much better than what you can buy in a jar.  I'll share my recipe with you in the next post.  Of course, you don't have to emulate my OCD;  Hellman's or Duke's will work just fine if you're not as crazy as I am.

*  Have you ever tried peeling a hardboiled egg and the shell just doesn't want to come off, leaving you with a pock-marked egg that looks like it has acne?  The trick is to use eggs that are older (yep - believe it or not, this is one time when I'm not advocating fresh farm eggs).  That's because older eggs develop an air pocket at one end which makes them easier to peel.  If you know you are going to make this recipe, buy your eggs a week or two ahead and let them sit in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

*Depending on the size of your egg yolks, you may need to use more or less mayonnaise.  Use enough that the mixture is smooth but still holds its shape when piped or mounded into the egg whites.


Now comes pimiento cheese which is another southern staple.  Extra-sharp cheddar, homemade mayo, roasted red peppers and a healthy dose of cayenne pepper.  Serve it on little toasts, scoop it up with celery sticks, tuck it into toasted brioche for a sandwich or just stand in front of the refrigerator and eat it straight out of the container with the largest spoon you can find.  Fat grams be damned!

PIMIENTO CHEESE  (from Scott Peacock's "The Gift of Southern Cooking")

2 1/2 cups (10 oz.) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste; I like a little more)
3/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 red pepper, roasted, skin removed and finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste, if needed

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until well-blended and creamy.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

Yield:  2 cups

*  I realize that I am the least likely person to say this, but resist the temptation to add too much salt.  In fact, depending upon the quality of your cheddar, you may not need to add salt at all.  Taste carefully!

*  Speaking of cheddar, use the sharpest cheddar you can get your hands on.  Since there are so few ingredients in this recipe, they need to be of the highest quality.  Yes, that means homemade mayo is better!

*  You can buy roasted red peppers in a jar, but why would you do that when it's so easy to do it yourself?  Place the pepper over the flame on a gas stovetop or grill until skin is blistered and black in places.  Turn several times to blacken all sides.  Let cool slightly, then use your fingers to peel off skin and remove seeds. 

*  I don't like to serve this directly from the refrigerator.  While I don't recommend leaving it out at room temperature all day (lest you kill someone with salmonella), I think it's best when you leave it out for an hour or so before serving.  Taking the chill off enhances the level of flavor.

*  If necessary, you can console yourself that this is low carb ...  but only if you eat it with those celery sticks!

BTW, I did not manage to avoid The World of Coke.  My shoes  will never be the same after walking around in that tasting room with those sticky, sticky floors!  Nonetheless, anything for those adorable and amazing nephews of mine!

See what I mean?  Oh, and when it comes to food, they are willing to try anything,
 even  fried shrimp and mackerel heads at Nakato, courtesy of Chef Kaki.
Unlike my own  kids, these two actually friended me on Facebook. 
No wonder I'm so willing to walk on sticky floors for them!

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