Monday, May 28, 2012

Chicks from Hell

Deviled eggs are one of my favorite things to see on a buffet table at a party. So when I saw a picture on my friend's Facebook page of these cute little chicks, I knew I had to try them with a fabulous filling the next time I had a party to go to. We were invited to accompany some friends to a Memorial Day weekend party hosted by their friends who live on an absolutely breathtaking parcel of land near Narrowsburg, New York. I was slightly concerned that the level of sophistication of the party would be marred by my kitchy chicks, but people loved them. The conversation ranged from fracking and politics to fashion, and my chicks were just fine.

I needed to find some way to make them my own, so I got the idea of making the egg filling spicy hot. I've been hooked on harissa lately--using it to marinate meat and shrimp, and as an addition to yogurt sauces. Our friend from Tunisia made our last jar of harissa, and it's now gone. I'm going to have to learn how to make my own, and thankfully, the New York Times can help me do it.

The process of making these little guys was not easy, let me just say that. I fact, let me say it again: it was not easy to make these little chicks. If you try to do it, plan to make double the amount of eggs so that you have enough that work. For the next time, I have to find some way to make the hardboiled eggs so that the yolk doesn't end up too close to the edge of the egg making it impossible to pop out without breaking the side of the egg white. Someone suggested stirring the water as it begins to boil to ensure that the yolk stays in the center.

How to do it:

Chicks from Hell

Make your hardboiled eggs using this technique. When they are sufficiently boiled, pop them in ice water for a few hours, or in the fridge overnight. When you're ready to assemble them, get a sharp knife, two bowls, and cutting board. Take an egg and feel gently for where the yolk is. Slice 1/3 of the egg at the top and if you're lucky, the yolk will be right there to easily pop out. If not, you have to find some way to gently extract it. Pop all the yolks like this out into a bowl. If you break any of the egg white bodies, dump those dead ones in another bowl. You can make some egg salad on the side. When the yolks are all out, and the little hats are separated from the little bodies, you can make the filling.

Deviled egg filling

As many yolks as you have chick-bodies
salt & pepper
cilantro, basil, chive or whatever fresh herb you like best
about 2 scallions

You'll also need enough little eyes made of sliced black olives, and little noses made of little carrot wedges.

Mix together these ingredients to taste. Depending on the kind of harissa you have, you need to be very careful about how much you add. Remember, you can always give the filling more heat, it's impossible to take it away. And harissa kicks in after you bite it--make sure you account for the after-burn.

Once the filling is made to your satisfaction, begin assembling your chicks.

You need to slice a tiny sliver off the bottom of each egg so that it will be balanced enough to stand up straight on the plate. You can chuck those little slivers into the damaged chick-body bowl. Gently spoon some of the filling into the base of the body, then top with a mound. Place your eyes and noses on each chick, then top with the other 1/3 of the egg white.

Assemble on a fun tray, garnish if you wish, and serve. Since so many of my chick-bodies were disasters, I served them alongside a bowl of egg salad with crackers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where's the Pickles?

There's an ultimate frisbee tournament coming up and I'm fresh out of pickles. If you've ever been to an ultimate frisbee tournament, you've probably seen the guys on the sidelines after a few games chugging pickle juice straight out of the jar. Pickle juice is widely believed by athletes (though not yet scientifically proven) to relieve muscle cramping. I like bringing my homemade pickles to the fields so that after they chug down some neon green Vlasic pickle juice, the guys can enjoy a fresh, tasty, wholesome pickle.

I picked up a few pounds of kirbys today at the Albany Food Co-op, and decided that they deserve not some pre-packaged, stale pickling spice, but a fresh, homemade pickling spice. So I made some. I adapted it from a blog called Girlichef. It's worth making your own pickling spice if only for the smell of the toasted coriander and mustard seeds crushed in a paper bag that will linger in your kitchen.

Juniper Pickling Spice

4 Tbs. whole black peppercorns
4 Tbs. mustard seeds
4 Tbs. coriander seeds
2 Tbs. crushed red chiles
2 Tbs. whole allspice berries
1 tsp turmeric
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pcs.
24 bay leaves, crumbled
2 Tbs. juniper berries
1 Tbs. ground ginger

Lightly toast the first three ingredients in a small dry pan, slide them into a paper sack (like a brown lunch bag), and then roll over them with a rolling pin a few times. Combine cracked spices with remaining ingredients, mixing well. Store in a tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar. Then, make yourself some healing pickles. Best Dill Pickle Recipe as of May 2012 You'll need 4 or more pounds of kirbys; and at least four, if not six, canning jars. Make sure the jars and lids are squeaky clean. Some folks say you have to sterilize them, others take a short cut and put them in a dishwasher. I just do a very thorough wash with hot soapy water right before I begin the process. Soak whole kirbys in ice water for between 2-8 hours Make brine: 4 cups white vinegar 12 cups water 2/3 pickling salt 2 tbsp pickling spice 1 tsp turmeric 3 tbsp sugar Add to each jar: 2-4 cloves of garlic 2-4 sprigs of dill 1 tbsp of pickling spice 1/2 tsp turmeric While bringing the brine to a boil, cut the kirbys into spears. You don't want to do this beforehand because you want the pickles to stay crisp in the ice water til the very end. Pack the spears into the jars, and fill each jar to the top with the well-combined and boiling brine. Screw on the lids, and set onto tea towels until you hear the lids pop. Once they pop, the jars are sealed and can be stored at room temperature. If they don't pop, you need to refrigerate them and use them within a few weeks. Serve fresh from the fridge, or on ice from the jar on the frisbee field. : )