Deviled Egg Pageant: Godzilla Eggs

I ate like fifteen deviled eggs today.

For the second year in a row, I hosted a deviled egg pageant. Mostly as an excuse to eat an obscene amount of eggs.

IMG_2089The competition was fierce. From left to right, starting at the top: Godzilla Eggs (mine!), a little Sriracha number; Old Bay Crust-egg-ceans, with red pepper strip legs and olive eyes; Mousse Experiment #24, a complex, cloud-like mousse filling with apples, onions, and brandy; Roasted Garlic Deviled Eggs with Cayenne and Paprika (made by Ann Marie, who has shared her recipe on her blog); Potato Skin “Eggs” for the egg haters; Smoked Eggs (as in, smoked with wood chips!) some vegetarian, some topped with smoked salmon; Sriracha and Wasabi Eggs that were CUBES and tasted like Chinese food and had an amazing plating diorama (made by Jenny, who shared her secrets on her blog); and Bacon, Cheddar, and Chive Eggs.

You know, it’s not fair to say this was just about eating a bunch of eggs. It was also an excuse to get crafty. Because what’s an pageant without prizes?

Yes, that is an egg tiara. And plaques.

IMG_2080    IMG_2086

It’s pretty serious.

So, how’d it all go down? There were four Honorable Mentions:

Baltimore deviled egg pageant: honorable mentionsBest Not-an-Egg – Liz’s Potato Skin “Eggs”
Just Like Grandma Used To Make – Ann Marie’s Roasted Garlic Deviled Eggs
Best Local Pride – Colline’s Old Bay Crust-egg-ceans
What the Heck Was in That? – Ray’s Mousse Experiment #24

Then there were the three main prizes:

Baltimore deviled egg pageant: Audience choice and best classic eggBest Classic Egg – Kendall’s Bacon, Cheddar and Chive
Best Modern Egg – yours truly’s Godzilla Eggs
Audience Choice – Jenny’s Sriracha and Wasabi Eggs

Seriously, did I mention how amazing Jenny’s eggs were? CUBES. DELICIOUSNESS. DIORAMA.

Baltimore deviled egg pageant: Best egg in showThe judges told me that Best Egg in Show was a tight race, but in the end the answer was obvious.
Baltimore deviled egg pageant: Egg queenJenny was born to wear that tiara.

I’m honored to have won Best Modern Egg two years in a row (you may remember my recipe for chipotle cheddar deviled eggs from last year). And I’m happy to share this year’s recipe with you.

I could tell you what I think about these eggs. They’re sushi inspired, making use of a mayo based sushi dipping sauce to create the filling then topped with a nori garnish. (I may have claimed that deviled eggs are “the sushi of the West” which honestly, I still stand behind.)

I can also tell you what the judges thought, since I sneaked a peek at their scoring sheets. The experts say that these eggs taste “Impeccable, [with a] good balance of spicy and salty.” In addition, “Sriracha doesn’t overpower, which is good. Great flavor that lingers.”

I’ll try not to let it go to my head.

Godzilla eggsGodzilla Eggs

Makes 24 deviled eggs

12 eggs, hard cooked
6 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons black soy sauce
4 black teabags (I used Red Rose which is just a basic orange pekoe)
1/2 cup mayonnaise, homemade preferred
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon chili oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Sriracha chili sauce, for garnish
sesame seeds, for garnish
1/4 – 1/2 sheet nori, chopped chiffonade, for garnish

Start with eggs that are already hard cooked with whatever method you prefer. I’m a fan of the process I outlined in my chipotle cheddar deviled eggs recipe, which is basically: put room temperature eggs in a pot, cover with water, put a lid on, put over heat. When it just comes to a boil, cut the heat and leave for 9 minutes. Drain and put in an ice bath or flush with cold water until the eggs are cool.

Bring 6 cups of fresh water to a boil. Stir in the soy sauce and black soy sauce, then add the teabags and remove from heat. Let steep for about 5 minutes then remove. Set aside to cool completely.

Peel cooked eggs, then place in cooled tea/soy sauce mixture. It is important to make sure the mixture is completely cooled to avoid overcooking your eggs! Set in the fridge to steep for at least 8 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Sriracha, sesame oil and chili oil. Stir well. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Slice peeled, tea-dyed eggs in half and scoop the yolks into a medium bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork until all lumps are gone. Add Sriracha/mayo mixture and salt, and stir to combine. Make sure you really whip the filling to get rid of all the lumps. Taste, then add more Sriracha or salt if desired.

Spoon or pipe filling into egg white halves, then garnish with a dot of Sriracha, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and the chopped nori. Eat!

Fun with coconut bacon: warm and smoky spinach salad

So, coconut bacon. Have you tried it? It’s one of those vegan foods you can buy pre-packaged or make from scratch, and I went the former route mostly because… well, because I saw an IndieGoGo campaign for Phoney Baloney’s Coconut Bacon, thought, “hm, sounds interesting,” and pledged a few bucks. I then promptly forgot about it until three bags of the stuff ended up on my doorstep.

I didn’t really know what to expect. How much could coconut taste like bacon, after all? Well, if you ignore the fact that I am probably the worst person to ask about what bacon tastes like, the answer is that it varies. It’s crispy baked coconut, which works really well as a bacon bit sort of deal as long as it is in a situation that allows it to remain crispy. It also is, you know, coconut, so there is a light coconut flavor lurking behind the intense salty/smoky coating. It strikes me as the kind of thing that would work in certain sandwiches, salads, and definitely breakfast or baked goods.

The mister, on the other hand, used it in a stir fry. And he added it kind of early on. While I don’t remember the specifics, I do remember that it tasted like an overall pretty decent dish except for the inexplicable pockets of soggy smoked coconut pieces. :| When I was cleaning up after dinner that night, I said, “If I save this will you eat it?” He laughed and replied, “I guess that means you won’t?” (We did not save it.)

On the other hand, sprinkled on this salad at the very last minute and enjoyed immediately, the bacon stays crisp. The light coconut flavor that shines through under the smokiness complements the salad rather than competing. It is good, and you should eat it. The end.

warm and smoky spinach salad

Warm and Smoky Spinach Salad
Adapted from Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette by Smitten Kitchen

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

5 ounces baby spinach
2 large white button mushrooms
1 large egg, hard cooked
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 small shallots
1/2 cup coconut bacon (I used Phoney Baloney’s)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

First, prep your stuff. Slice your mushrooms very thinly. Slice the hard cooked eggs into slightly thicker medallions. Cut the shallot into thin slices. Then put the spinach in a large bowl, and top evenly with mushrooms and egg. Reserve shallots.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Whisk in vinegar, honey, dijon, and smoked paprika. Add shallots and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and immediately pour over the salad. Toss to combine, then evenly sprinkle coconut bacon over the top and toss again. Serve immediately.

Mark Bittman is always almost perfect, as evidenced by this chik’n, lettuce and chive salad

So, do you have Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian? It’s quite the tome, but worth its real estate on the bookshelf. I highly recommend picking up a copy if you don’t have it.

In fact, do you want one of mine? Yes, both my mister’s mother and my little brother purchased this book for me. It really killed me with my little brother — he gave it to me second. You see, he’s not always the most thoughtful little brother. So when he gave me this book for Christmas and told me that he’d looked up all the reviews and decided that this was definitely the best vegetarian cookbook out there, it broke my heart that I already had it. Kid was spot on with this one.

The thing about Bittman is that I find a lot of his recipes to be almost perfect. I love his dishes as jumping off points, but I rarely make them as directed more than once. This salad, for example: it was likely meant as a side salad, was just screaming for some protein to make it a meal salad. That, and the first time I made it as directed, it had way too many chives. Perhaps that is more authentic. But if my mister and I were going to eat it, the chives needed to be seriously cut down.

Anyway. Love you, Bittman. Never change. Except just the teensiest bit.

chik'n, lettuce and chive salad

Chik’n, Lettuce and Chive Salad
Adapted from Lettuce and Chive Salad, Korean Style by Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Serves 4

1/4-1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (you can totally make your own, but I used the bottled stuff)
6 ounces vegetarian “chik’n” bits (Beyond Meat, Quorn tenders, Morningstar strips — I only had time to go to the crummy grocery store so I made do with Morningstar Farms Grillers Chik’n Burgers, sliced) *
cooking spray
4 eggs *
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 – 1/2 crushed red pepper flakes
1 small clove garlic, minced
9 ounces butter lettuce or butter lettuce mix
5 ounces baby spinach
1/2 ounce chives, chopped into 1″ pieces
toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

Put your “chik’n” into a bowl and cover with sweet chili sauce. Let marinate for about a half hour if you can, otherwise just marinate it as long as you can muster while prepping other stuff.

In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, toss your chik’n pieces in. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

Heat nonstick pan with cooking spray over medium heat. Beat eggs until combined, then dump in the pan. Cook until fairly dry, scraping constantly with a non-metal utensil to break up the eggs and prevent burning or over-cooking. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, stir sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and garlic until fully combined.

Toss rinsed and dried lettuce(s), spinach, and chives in a large bowl. (A note about the chives: You should have about 1/2 ounce after they’re all trimmed up — if you’re growing your own or buying big farmer’s markety bunches rather than those terrible plastic clam-shelled chives [I know, I know], use a little more to account for the waste that you’re going to chop off the ends.)

Drizzle salad with dressing a little bit at a time until dressed to your preference. You probably won’t have to use it all. Add chik’n and scrambled eggs. Toss the whole dang thing to combine, then shake on some toasted sesame seeds for garnish.

* Vegan notes and substitutions: Obviously, use a vegan chik’n substitute, like Beyond Meat rather than Quorn. Pressed tofu would be great, as well. Omit the eggs, and add some more of your vegan protein to compensate. Alternatively, some roughly chopped peanuts or cashews would be a tasty way to add some more vegan protein.

My love letter to Old Bay (eggs in the Bay)

So, I really love Old Bay.

Old Bay Seasoning, invented by a German immigrant to Maryland in the 1940s, is a blend of  (allegedly) eighteen herbs and spices. Buuuut, the only ones listed are: salt, celery seed, spices (including red and black pepper), and paprika. Speculation about the others include bay leaf, mustard, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. The actual blend is anybody’s guess. The thing is, technically, it’s a crab and shrimp seasoning, which wouldn’t give me a whole lot of reason to use it, seeing as how I don’t eat meat. But… it tastes good on anything. And anyone who lives in or is from Maryland is likely to have one of those distinctive yellow cans in their cabinet.

All that said, I rarely meet people who are not from the Chesapeake Bay region express the same fervor of Marylanders (and specifically, me) for this delicious spice blend. It can’t be for lack of availability: Old Bay was purchased by McCormick in 1990 and they have nationwide distribution, so you can get it anywhere in the United States. But people I’ve met elsewhere generally don’t have it, or if they do, they don’t really use it. My mister’s mother has had the same can in her cabinet for “probably like twenty years,” which is just mind-blowing to me.

Sometimes I feel like an Old Bayvangelist — I tend to talk about it when I travel. I even brought a can to Amsterdam with me. I was there for four or five months, and I knew I’d need it. Although he was skeptical, the exchange student from Utah I met there admitted that the french fries I made him try, dusted generously with Old Bay and sprinkled with malt vinegar, were indeed very tasty.

That’s the thing, though: most of my Old Bay is consumed by being dumped on top of fries. Don’t get me wrong, this is delicious and I will never tire of it. But recently I’ve been thinking that there have to be some healthier ways to consume massive amounts of sodium.

I kept drifting back to a favorite dish of mine from Smitten Kitchen of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It’s kind of a perfect dish: quick, easy, cheap, tasty, fairly nutritious, and good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The SK version, shakshuka, has an Israeli bent to it, though it’s roots are apparently Libyan. There’s also an Italian version called eggs in purgatory. And of course it bears similarities to huevos rancheros. Versions of this dish just seem to pop up in a bunch of different cultures; this is my contribution to the collection, tweaked to express my heritage. As a Marylander who really, really, loves Old Bay.

So, if you have a can languishing in your cabinet somewhere, here’s a recipe to use it in. If you’ve never thought to buy it or perhaps have never even heard of it, here’s a reason to purchase a can.

eggs in the Bay

Eggs in the Bay
Adapted from Shakshuka by Smitten Kitchen

Serves 2-4

1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning (low sodium if you have it)
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Dump your can of tomatoes (including liquid) into a bowl, or one of those giant measuring cups if you have one. Then squish ‘em up with your hands! Try not to squirt too much tomato juice on your light colored shirt, unlike me. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add jalapeno and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened — about 5 minutes. Add Old Bay seasoning and garlic and cook until garlic is soft, stirring frequently — about 2 more minutes.

Pour your tomatoes and the water into your skillet and stir to combine. Lower to medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened — about 18-20 minutes. Give it a taste and add a touch more Old Bay if desired.

Carefully crack each egg into the sauce, evenly distributing them over the surface of the skillet. If you’re not a great egg cracker, you may want to crack them into a small bowl one at a time and pour them in to avoid any errant shell pieces. Cover skillet and cook about 5 minutes, until whites are set and yolks are just set. They’ll continue to cook a little bit once you serve it up, so err on the side of caution. Cut the heat and spoon up some of the tomato sauce to baste the whites with, then sprinkle the surface evenly with cheddar and parsley.

Serve up in bowls with a hearty roll on the side, or on top of a piece of toast. If you’re serving a salad or some other side, one egg per person is sufficient. If it’s the main meal, you’ll probably want two each. If you want to make this for more people, use a large skillet and a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, and double everything else except for the water.

Arugula pesto capellini with over-easy eggs

Pasta with eggs is one of those dishes I make all the time. It takes no time at all to whip up on a week night, and you can do whatever you’re in the mood for or whatever you have on hand — pesto, tomato sauce, just plain oil and herbs. It’s always delicious. And then breaking that drippy egg over the top somehow makes it seem fancier, like you didn’t make this just because you had a long day at work and you’re starving.

Here’s one of my favorites!

arugula pesto capellini with over-easy eggs

Arugula Pesto Capellini with Over-Easy Eggs
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup olive oil, separated
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons pickled peppercorns, rinsed and smashed (optional)
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
9-10 ounces arugula
4 jarred artichoke hearts
1 pound capellini pasta
4-6 eggs
Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Boil a large pot of water over high heat for your pasta.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat until it easy coats the bottom. Add garlic, peppercorns, salt and dried herbs and stir to coat. Saute for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until it smells super fragrant and the garlic is soft. Don’t let it brown!

Turn the heat down to super low and add the arugula. Cover and let sit for a minute or two until it starts to wilt. Stir, replace the lid, then remove from heat and let sit for another minute until fully wilted. You may have to do this in a few batches, depending on how big your pan is.

Dump everything into the food processor and toss the artichoke hearts on top. Blend until everything is chopped and integrated. You may have to add the arugula in batches, but once it’s broken down it should all fit.

Add the remaining 1/4 olive oil and zizz it up again.

By now your water should be boiling, so add your pasta and stir according to the package directions. I love capellini for this dish because it usually cooks up in about 2-4 minutes. However, you could also substitute spaghetti or linguine — anything long and fairly thin works well.

Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta and add back to your pot. Use pasta water to thin pesto as desired. Give it a taste, and add more salt if desired — but remember you’ll be topping it with salty, delicious cheese. Pour almost all of your pesto into the pasta and toss with tongs until fully coated.

Back to the nonstick pan! Add a touch more oil if needed, and heat again over medium heat. Once it’s hothothot, crack an egg for each person. You may have to do this in a few batches. Once the whites start to cook and get a little structure, turn the heat down to very low and continue to cook until whites are mostly opaque. Gently flip eggs and cook briefly, just about 20 seconds or so until the whites are set, then transfer to a plate. Don’t break the yolks!

If you have a sous chef available, have them serve up little nests of your coated pasta onto plates while you’re cooking the eggs. Then you can plop your over-easy eggs right on top of the pasta.

Drizzle each egg with some of your reserved pesto. Serve with a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a microplane so everyone can cheese it up to their heart’s content. Dig your fork into your egg yolk and let it seep all over your pasta. Sigh contentedly.

Chipotle cheddar eggs for a Deviled Egg Pageant

I really love deviled eggs. I mean, really love them.

I love them so much that a few weeks ago I hosted a Deviled Egg Pageant.

That’s right, I invited a bunch of people over to make their very best deviled egg to compete for fabulous prizes. And of course, eat a bunch of deviled eggs.

Three of my friends volunteered to judge, which meant I was free to compete. This also meant that I was free to hem and haw about what type of deviled eggs to make. Zesty horseradish deviled eggs? Wasabi deviled marble tea eggs? Sesame deviled eggs with pickled ginger? Or maybe just my classic recipe, topped with capers and smoked paprika?

I decided on a smokey chipotle cheddar egg, in part because my recent trip to Ohio. We stopped at a cheese shop (I really love cheese, too) and I found a delightful smoked cheddar cheese which I knew would be perfect with the equally smokey chipotles. I also knew that a chipotle cheddar egg might be the way to my deviled-egg-hating friend’s heart, since she already loves my chipotle mayo.

Guess what? She ate one. Deviled-egg-hater my ass.

There were a bunch of delicious eggs (and some non-eggs) entered into the pageant. Best Egg in Show was a fabulous egg with sesame oil in the filling and topped with black and white sesame seeds. Audience Choice was a tie — potato skins, made to look like deviled eggs (by the egg-hater, of course) and a wonderful classic mustard/mayo/relish combination. Best Classic Egg was a stone-ground mustard and dill number. And Best Modern Egg?

chipotle cheddar deviled eggs

You’re looking’ at ‘em. In fact, they were so popular that I have to apologize for the quality of my photo. I was rushing around so much before the party started that I didn’t get a chance to take a photo. At some point I went over to the table to get more eggs and realized that only two of these puppies were left. I snapped a quick shot right before another one was grabbed!

I didn’t expect to win (there were so many good eggs), but I’m glad I did. Aside from having proof that I make pretty awesome deviled eggs, I got to keep one of the sweet plaques that I made for the winners. It’s now in our “trophy case” which only consists of this plaque, and my mom’s Silver Spurs trophy from 1974.

best modern egg

Chipotle Cheddar Deviled Eggs
Serves 10

12 eggs
1/2 cup chipotle mayonnaise
1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese, finely grated
2-3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can the peppers came in when you were making your mayonnaise)
a few wedges of lime
1/4 teaspoon of salt, more to taste
homemade taco seasoning, to garnish
smoked cheddar cheese, to garnish

So, first you’re going to hard cook your eggs. There are a million different schools of thought on this, but the way I prefer is as follows:

Put your eggs in a single layer in a large pot. Cover with cold water that is an inch above the eggs. Pop a lid on that sucker, put over high heat and watch it like a hawk. Once the water just starts to boil, remove from heat.

Let sit for 9 minutes with the lid on. Then drain the hot water and immediately fill with cold water from the tap. Keep the tap running until the water is no longer heating up from the residual heat from the eggs. Or, you can add ice cubes until they stop melting. Basically, you just want to cool those eggs down!

I find it easiest to peel the eggs when they are completely cooled, so I usually cook them the day before I need them, then peel and assemble after a night in the fridge.

Peel your eggs! This would be a good time to mention egg peeling difficulties. You know when you just get eggshell shards and shredded whites all over the place and you want to just toss everything in the garbage can? This means your eggs are too fresh. If you are making deviled eggs, you should try to buy your eggs a week ahead of time to age them in the fridge. (It’s also never a bad idea to cook one or two more than you need, just in case.)

So slice your eggs in half and scoop out the yolks into a bowl. You see how perfectly yellow your egg yolks are, like the noontime sun? That’s what an expertly cooked egg looks like. Greenish-grey rings around pale yellow yolks? OVERCOOKED.

Crumble your egg yolks with a fork, then mix in your mayonnaise, adobo sauce, the juice from a lime wedge or two, and salt. Mix until all the lumps are gone. This might take a while doing it by hand, but it’s the difference between great deviled eggs and mediocre deviled eggs — no yolky lumps. If you find that your mixture is too thick, add a little more lime juice, or if you’d like it spicier, a little more adobo sauce.

Next, stir in the smoked cheddar. I grated mine with my microplane to get truly tiny bits of cheese that disappear into the filling, and was very pleased with the results. If you don’t have a microplane, just use the small holes on your grater.

Now give it a taste, and add more salt as needed. The salt will really depend on your personal tastes, as well as how salty the cheese you’re using is. It’s always easier to add more salt than to take it away, so just take lots of taste tests… nobody minds doing that, right?

Put your filling into a piping bag with a large tip of your choice. Or, put in a zip top storage bag and cut the corner off. When I travel with eggs, I like to arrange the whites on a plate and cover them, then bring my piping bag of filling and any garnishes separately. Then you can fill them quickly on site without having to worry about smushing on the trip.

So, arrange all your egg whites on a plate. Then pipe a generous amount of filling into each. Sprinkle a pinch of taco seasoning over each egg. Then with the microplane, grate a wee bit more smoked cheddar over the entire plate.