Hard-boiled eggs not so easy to peel

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I like hard-boiled eggs so much that I happily ate one in elementary school nearly every weekday morning for six years.

I swear. The subject of cholesterol never came up, and I never thought there were too many eggs in my life.

I will never learn. Every year, dyeing Easter eggs seems like such a marvelous idea - no iPods, no television, totally engaging in a family endeavor - that I do not stop to think what we, a family of three, will do with the four to five dozen works of art.

Reality sets in even before the holiday ham is carved.

It is comforting to know that many people are in this same basket. Last year, according to the National Egg Council, about 136 million dozen eggs were eaten in the United States in the week after Easter - most of them hard-boiled, I bet.

You can be sure that the number actually refers to those sold, not eaten. There's no Dumpster-diving count of unconsumed Easter eggs to figure out how many go to waste, and which are tossed due to egg-overload or frustrated egg-peeling.

As always, shelling this year's batch of eggs has been as maddening as picking pills off of sweaters.

So I was heartened to find a video on the Internet showing a way to peel eggs efficiently. The clip shows someone peeling bits of shell off of both ends of the egg, then blowing hard into one of the ends. The egg plops out, miraculously naked.

My family members have made fools of themselves trying to make this happen - no luck. What has worked better is cracking the eggs all over, rolling them around on a hard, flat surface to break the membrane below the shell, then peeling the shell.

Because older eggs tend to peel more easily, we intend to take the counterintuitive measure of not buying very, very fresh eggs for future Easters.

But for now, we are racing against time. Food safety experts recommend throwing out hard-boiled eggs if they've sat in a basket (or at room temperature or higher) for more than two hours. Technically, even hard-boiled eggs that have been constantly refrigerated should be eaten in a week to 10 days.

So, aside from eating them out of hand, what shall we do with the Easter bunny's gifts?

In the recipes here, hard-boiled egg yolks dissolve into a Laotian salad dressing to give it flavor, color and body. Whole hard-boiled eggs add protein and team with seasonal vegetables for a springtime pasta dish. In another, they contribute flavor and creamy texture to a sandwich.

Our daughter loves the revisionist Green Eggs and Ham - deviled ones that blend tradition, innovation and Dr. Seuss.

Still, as I stand over the sink's garbage disposal peeling a hard-boiled egg that is the color of a popular antacid, I think about the movie, Cool Hand Luke. In that 1967 flick, Paul Newman's character speed-eats 50 hard-boiled eggs in a prison wager.

I also recall that Sonya Thomas, a real, skinny, 41-year-old competitive eater, ate 65 hard-boiled eggs in less than seven minutes in 2003.

As I reach for another hard-boiled egg, I wonder if either is free for dinner.


Green Eggs and Ham

Makes 4 servings

4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved

lengthwise

1/3 cup (or 1) mashed ripe avocado

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon minced scallion, white and green parts

1 to 2 teaspoons minced, seeded jalapeno

1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1 to 1½ slices crisply fried bacon, crumbled, or 1 slice ham cut into 8 small pieces

1. Remove the yolks from the whites. Place the whites cut side up on a plate. With the back of a spoon, press the yolks through a sieve into a small bowl, or mash them in the bowl with a fork.

2. Add the avocado, cilantro, scallion, 1 teaspoon of the jalapeno, 1 teaspoon of the lime juice, and the salt. Mash with a fork until blended. Taste and add more jalapeno, lime juice and/or salt to taste.

3. Using a teaspoon, carefully stuff the whites with the yolk mixture, mounding the tops. Garnish each stuffed egg with the bacon. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

- Adapted from The Good Egg, by Marie Simmons

(Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Per serving: 181 calories, 900 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 14 grams fat, 214 milligrams cholesterol, 231 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.


Hard-Boiled Egg Dressing with Cornichons

2 hard-boiled eggs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons tarragon

vinegar

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped, drained cornichons (tiny French gherkins)

2 tablespoons minced, fresh tarragon

1. Discard the white from one hard-boiled egg and mash the whole egg and yolk in a bowl.

2. Whisk in mustard and vinegar, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended. Stir in cornichons, tarragon, and salt and pepper.

3. Use this dressing to coat chicken salad or over steamed cauliflower or green beans.

- From The Gourmet Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

Per serving (based on 4): 281 calories, 3 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 29 grams fat, 80 milligrams cholesterol, 164 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.


Hard-Cooked Egg & Bacon Sandwich

Makes 4 servings

1 ciabatta loaf, about 11 by 4 inches

2/3 cup mayonnaise

scant 1/4 cup pesto

8 tablespoons (one stick)

butter, softened

salt and freshly ground

pepper

For the filling:

1 cup baby spinach, shredded

6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (or 1/2 cup of your favorite ham) 1/2 cup tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced

4 hard-cooked eggs

3/4 cup snipped chives

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon basil leaves

5 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/4 cup grated cheddar or gruyere

1. Put the ciabatta on a board and slice it lengthwise, with a serrated knife, two-thirds above the base to make a sort of long lid. Using the knife and scraping with a fork, remove a little of the soft crumb from the lid and two-thirds from the base. Mix the mayonnaise with the pesto and set aside.

2. Preheat the broiler. Spread the softened butter all over the inside of the ciabatta and season lightly with salt and pepper. Broil the base and lid until almost golden. Layer all the filling ingredients into the base, in the order listed above, placing the eggs lengthwise and pressing each layer lightly with your fingertips. Spread half the mayonnaise/pesto mixture over the spinach layer, and the rest over the basil leaves. Finish with a layer of mozzarella slices, topped with the grated cheese.

3. Place the filled ciabatta base under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes. Reheat the cut side of the lid for 2 minutes. Replace the lid on the ciabatta base, pressing down lightly with your fingertips. Use a palette knife to slide the ciabatta onto a board and present it whole at the table before cutting it into slices with a knife to serve.

- From Eggs (Wiley, 2005)

Per serving: 1,231 calories, 33 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams sugar, 99 grams fat, 331 milligrams cholesterol, 1,645 milligrams sodium, 10 grams dietary fiber.


Spring Pasta with Eggs, Asparagus, Ham

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2½ cups milk

¼ cup freshly grated Parmi-

giano-Reggiano cheese

8 ounces pasta, such as penne, penne rigate,

conchiglie or gemelli

8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into ½-inch pieces

½ cup tiny green peas, thawed, if frozen

½ cup coarsely chopped carrots

1 cup shredded ham

4 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated fontina cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until golden, about 5 minutes.

2. Whisk in the flour until smooth and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, bring to a boil, stirring, and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and remove from the heat. Set aside.

3. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 6 minutes. Add the asparagus, peas and carrots and cook until the pasta is firm to the bite, 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain.

4. Add the pasta and vegetables and the ham to the cheese sauce. Transfer half the mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Top with half the hard-cooked eggs. Spoon the remaining pasta on top. Add the remaining eggs and sprinkle with the fontina.

5. Bake until the top is golden, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

- From The Good Egg by Marie Simmons (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Per serving: 671 calories, 37 grams protein, 61 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams sugar, 31 grams fat, 300 milligrams cholesterol, 902 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.