Dr. Gerald Keep, Annoyed Scientist, 11/20/2019
This is my go-to recipe for potlucks. They disappear fast, and don’t generally require a planning run to the grocery store.
Start by boiling 3” of water in the pot with largest footprint you can get. Wait until it is roiling, not just a few bubbles. Quickly, using a large spoon to avoid dropping the eggs hard and/or getting splashed, put in enough eggs to cover the bottom of the pan (about 18?). Immediately start the timer – 15 minutes exactly, no more, no less.
Immediately upon the timer sounding, dump the bulk of the water in the sink, holding the pan against the inside of the sink. Then dash with cold water, rattling them around like crazy. Repeat again and again until the eggs are cool to touch. The idea is that water gets in micro-cracks in the shell (or larger cracks if you took “crazy” too literally) and attacks the membrane while the eggs are still hot. Also, the cold shock stresses the shell as it shrinks around the still-hot middle. If you don’t do this, peeling becomes a big chore.
After cooling, peel the eggs, getting every tiny little fragment. This is easier if you used brown shell eggs. Start by (gently) whacking the blunt edge where the bubble usually is, and work down. Squeezing helps delaminate large sections, but don’t split the white by squeezing too much.
Get a tray that will hold all the eggs, and a small bowl. Split the eggs lengthwise using a paring knife; if you can see where a yolk is off-center (thin whites), bisect the yolk but cut so the thin part is a bottom. Carefully put the yolks in the small bowl and the whites on the tray. Save the disappointing but inevitable broken whites to the side for “sampling”.
Break the yolks with a fork, then add moisturizers. If you are using wet mustard, start with a shot of it, then slowly add mayonnaise as you stir until the yolks form a paste. Some people really cream it; I like a little texture. Then add seasoning to taste – fine ground stuff only (ground salt & pepper or Montreal Steak may be good, but too gritty). Fine-grained salt, pepper, mustard, curry (my signature twist), whatever and mix in very, very well.
Cayenne goes inside to make it hot, Paprika goes on top to make it pretty (but not so hot). Some don’t like it hot. The Devil is in the details.
Using a spoon or fork and a finger, fill the shells. Try to make it come out even. Remember, every time you lick your finger, you have to wash it again. When finished, that’s the time to add any paprika.
Cover the entire thing with clear plastic wrap, overlapping under the tray so that when you set it down, it meshes. The plastic wrap will sort of compact the mix down into the eggs – that’s okay, even desirable, as long as you unwrap gently.
HALLOWEEN VARIANT (Eyeballs):
Cut the eggs on the equator to make two little cones. Then cut off the tips leaving a coin-sized flat area. Put food coloring (blue, green, or something frightful) on a plate, then touch the cut part of the egg to the plate to make an iris. Cut little divots out of black olives and add to make pupils. Use red food coloring to add blood-shot veins to the whites.
Treat the yolks/mixture normally.
Smile when you eat them in front of your friends!