March 23, 2008

The incredible, edible egg

For as long as I live, every time I make deviled eggs, I'm going to think of Neal.

Neal was another in my father's merry band of eccentric friends. Neal cooked for the county jail, and his class in culinary skills for the inmates was one of the things that convinced me that my parents would balk if I announced I wanted to skip college and head to the CCA. He was at least partially responsible for Mo's decade-long obsession with orchids. And he and his catering business taught me a bit about managing food costs and presenting a pretty plate. And over the course of one afternoon, he changed forever the way I approach a deviled egg.

I have no recollection of what the event was, but it was mid-way through my senior year of high school. My parents were officers of the parent board and active in many of the school's fund raisers. Whatever the event was, it involved feeding people, and they enlisted Neal. It was springtime, and one of the focal points on the appetizer buffet would be stuffed eggs.

Four hundred stuffed eggs.

I don't remember the boiling process (it must have been quite an event)... the first task to which my mother and I were assigned was peeling them. Neal was very particular about how to peel an egg (Neal was particular about a LOT of things... I learned that's how you succeed in the catering industry). It was critical that the delicate whites remain pristine, sans nicks or bruises. (Whatever method he employed to boil them, Neal's whites *were* delicate... none of the rubbery stuff of cafeteria egg salad here, no how, no way.)

But the peeling, we soon learned, was the easy part of the job. Next, we sliced 400 eggs into 800 half-eggs with one of these. Which even with Google took me almost thirty minutes to locate. Then we carefully removed four hundred yolks. And wiped all traces of yolk out of the cavity and the serrated surface with a damp paper towel. Rinsing them, we were told, would tear them or make them tough.

The fun part (in my 18-year old head) Neal kept for himself: whipping up an egg yolk cream of mystery ingredients in a robot coupe and piping them through an 8B star tip into trays and trays (and trays and TRAYS) of egg whites.

The whole process took three hours.

My process is far less complicated and labor intensive. And my end product, far less visually appealing. For this batch, I boiled a dozen eggs, peeled them warm (and succeeded in not marring the egg whites in the process), split them with a paring knife, mixed the yolk with a bit of mayonnaise, mustard, and a handful of parsley and cilantro, and stuffed them with a teaspoon. Twenty five minutes, start to finish.

And they lasted almost that long on the buffet table...

But as I prepared them, and later as my audience enjoyed them, I thought of Neal and smiled.

From the archives...
In 2006 I made peace with my kitchen after several weeks on the road.

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ruthEbabes said...

Hey Dolores! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

This post reminds me of when I had to peel and quarter about 1000 boiled eggs too.... an experience I never want to repeat!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Delicious looking! I love such eggs!