Conscientious Cook: The Modern Egg

A contemporary spin on vintage preservation techniques

By Deb Barracato // Photography by Paulette Phlipot

The humble egg may be at once the simplest and the most complex food. It’s a self-contained powerhouse of nutrition and a convenient, inexpensive building block of a healthy meal. It’s a magical ingredient in baked goods and a staple in nearly every kitchen in the world.

The following recipes are a nod to both the fall harvest and the egg surplus that comes with backyard chicken farming. They use preservation techniques once common during “stocking-up” season. With eggs readily available year-round in our modern world, there’s little need to store them for winter. But with a little pickling, a little salt curing, and a little confit, you can give this everyday ingredient fresh appeal.


Pickled Deviled Eggs

Makes six eggs

This recipe, from Jane Larson, of Driggs, adds a new-school spin to a potluck favorite. Pickling the eggs with red beets turns them a cheerful shade of pink—one that adds a bright background to a curried filling.

For the Pickled eggs:

2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 medium red beet, peeled and cut into quarters
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

  1. Combine all ingredients except for the eggs in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then simmer until the beets are easily pierced with a knife (about 20 minutes). Set aside to cool.
  2. Place the pickled beet quarters in the bottom of a one-quart glass jar or container with a lid. Add the hard-boiled eggs and the cooled pickling liquid.
  3. Seal the container and store in the refrigerator for at least one and up to two days.

Note: For extended storage, remove the eggs from the pickling liquid and keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

For the deviled eggs:

6 pickled eggs, halved, yolks removed, and  whites reserved
1 medium golden beet, boiled, peeled, and  chopped into small pieces
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (can sub whole milk  yogurt for a tangier taste)
salt to taste
pickled red beet cut into thin strips (optional)
fresh thyme, chopped (for garnish)

  1. Blend egg yolks, golden beet, curry powder, mayonnaise or yogurt, and salt in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Assemble reserved eggs whites on a plate and divide the filling among them. Garnish with thin strips of the pickled red beet and fresh thyme.

Bacon and Eggs Salad

Serves 4

This indulgent recipe gives a classic dinner salad a foodie touch with confit egg yolks. Slow-poached in fat, the yolks take on a concentrated flavor that mingles with the dressing and spreads throughout the salad when you puncture them.

For the confit egg yolks:

2 cups oil (olive, canola, or avocado) or liquid fat (bacon grease
or duck fat)
8 egg yolks

  1. Preheat the oven to 150º F. (If your oven doesn’t go that low, prop the door open slightly with a silicone pot holder or other non-flammable item and monitor the heat with an oven thermometer.)
  2. Divide the oil evenly into two small, shallow oven-proof dishes. Put them on a cookie sheet for easier transfer into the oven.
  3. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and let the oil warm for about 20 minutes.
  4. Pull the cookie sheet out and close the oven door to maintain the temperature.
  5. Carefully slide four egg yolks evenly spaced into the oil in each of the dishes. They should be fully covered; add more oil if necessary.
  6. Put the cookie sheet back in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you cook the yolks, the jammier they become; pull them out sooner if you prefer them runnier.
  7. Remove the egg yolks carefully from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on top of the salad (see below).

Notes:

  • Any cooking oil works for a confit, but to really take the flavor to the next level use bacon grease or duck fat.
  • You can store the egg yolks in the refrigerator for up to one week completely covered in oil. If you cooked them in fat, remove them before the fat solidifies and cover them with fresh oil for storage.

For the Dressing:

2 tablespoons bacon fat, rendered
2 tablespoons minced shallot
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper, ground and to taste
2 strips crispy bacon, crumbled

  1. Heat the bacon fat in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Keep warm until ready to serve.

For the salad:

8 cups baby spinach or arugula
½ cup warm dressing
8 strips crispy bacon
8 confit egg yolks

  1. Divide the greens among four individual serving bowls. Drizzle 2 tablespoons warm dressing on top of each and toss to combine.
  2. Place two crossed bacon strips and two confit egg yolks in each bowl.
  3. Serve after a day on the trails or in the yard putting up wood for the coming winter.

Salt-Cured Egg Yolks

Makes eight yolks

Why salt-cured egg yolks? I asked myself that question, too. These salty gems grate like Parmesan cheese and add a similar boost of umami flavor to pasta dishes, soups, and salads. Perfect if you’re avoiding dairy but still love the nutty flavor of an aged cheese.

3 cups kosher salt
3 cups granulated sugar
8 egg yolks

  1. In a food processor, pulse the salt and sugar together until combined, about 10 blasts. (You can do this in batches if you have a smaller food processor.)
  2. Pour half of the mixture into a 9-inch by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and spread it evenly across the bottom.
  3. Using a whole egg or the back of a tablespoon, make eight indentations in the mixture, leaving at least a ½ inch of space from the pan’s edge and between each divot. Gently set one egg yolk into each indentation.
  4. Cover the yolks evenly with the remaining salt-sugar mixture, wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator.
  5. After six days, check the egg yolks. They should be firm and slightly sticky. If they still feel like jelly, put them back in the fridge for another day or two.
  6. When the yolks are ready, carefully brush off the salt-sugar mixture. Rinse them under a soft stream of cool water, if necessary, then pat dry with a clean paper coffee filter or piece of cheesecloth. (Avoid paper towels and kitchen towels, which can leave lint on tacky yolks.) The yolks should look like translucent butterscotch candies.
  7. Heat the oven to 150ºF. (If yours doesn’t go that low, see instructions in the confit recipe.)
  8. Lightly grease a sheet pan with oil and set the egg yolks on it. Put the pan in the oven for 2 hours or until the exterior surface of the yolks feels dry.
  9. To serve, grate the yolks with a microplane or cheese grater or slice them thinly with a sharp paring knife and add them to pasta, risotto, a salad, a slice of toast, or roasted vegetables.

Note: You can store salt-cured eggs yolks in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 


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