Deviled Eggs

I recently came around to hard boiled eggs and I think their best incarnation is as Deviled Eggs. At church potlucks, I always avoided these room temperature, squishy little devils. Now I think that hard boiled eggs provide a perfectly white canvas for any brilliant flavors that you want to spread on.

Since this was my first attempt at deviled eggs, I wanted to stick to fairly traditional flavors. I did a couple of things to take it up a notch — I used smoked paprika instead of regular paprika and then threw in bacon and green onion for good measure. I wanted them to look as amazing as they tasted, so I used an icing bag to fill the whites with the yolks. I was afraid that the bacon and onion would clog the pastry bag, so I sprinkled some of them under the yolks and some over the yolks.

Deviled Eggs can also be more casual if you are, say, going to a friend’s house to watch TV. For these eggs, I added cilantro and lime juice to the yolks. They were a little too creamy (I felt obligated to use the full two tablespoons of mayo I borrowed from a neighbor), but great for a weeknight indulgence. I just used a spoon to stuff the yolks into the whites.

I can’t tell you what measurements I used for either of these batches, but I’ll tell you what I’m going to do the next time I devil and egg.

Hard boil it. Put the eggs in a saucepan filled with water. Turn on the heat and bring the water (with eggs) to a boil. Once boiling, cover and remove from heat and let stand. Remove the eggs from the hot water after nine minutes and cool immediately in ice water.

Peel, halve, and remove the yolks from the eggs. Mash up the yolks with a fork. Add about half as much mayonnaise as you have yolks. Add about half as much mustard (or other sour liquid) as you have mayonnaise. Stir it up to see if you like the consistency. Add more mayo until it is your desired creaminess.

Add some flavor. Traditional deviled eggs are made with paprika and cayenne. I think it’s good to add fresh garlic, some kind of onion, a green leafy herb, and maybe some bacon.

Taste as you go. If you can’t stand licking the creamy yolks off of your finger, get a cracker to scoop them up. Once the mixture tastes good to you, plop it into the hollows of the white. It will always seem like you won’t have enough, but you’ll always have extra.


Cheddar Puffs

I was looking for a quick snack to bring to a friend‘s house for TV night and found these Cheddar Puffs on one of my go-to food blogs, The Pioneer Woman. Even though the recipe claims these are easy and only require 15 minutes of prep time, there were a few steps that seemed excessively complicated and time-consuming to me.

Two beaten egg whites? Really? In a salty snack? Yes. really. I made a few with just the butter/cream cheese/cheddar mixture and I didn’t know how they could get any better — until I added the egg white. In the photo above, you can see that the three snacks on top are dense and crispy. Those do not have egg white. The three snacks on bottom are light and puffy. Apparently, that’s what the egg white does. So I say, go the extra mile, dirty a couple more dishes, use the beaten egg whites.

Do I really have to roll each individual bread cube in the cheese mixture? Why can’t I just dump all of it in a mixing bowl and stir it up? The deliciousness of each bite is directly related to the amount of cheese on it — the more the better. This pretty much requires you to coat the bread cubes one at a time. I got impatient halfway through and stirred everything together. Those pieces turned out more like cheesy croutons. Plan to spend at least 20 minutes on this step alone.

Do I really have to freeze these? For twice the amount of time that they bake? No. Definitely not. I tried it both ways and it didn’t seem to make a difference. Only freeze them if you’re going to prepare them in advance and bake them later. As delicious as these are the day they are baked, they are downright gross out of a Ziploc bag the next day. So only bake as many as you’re going to eat.

These were amazing and, even though I complained about many of the steps, fairly easy. They’ll probably be my new go-to party food. The great thing about that is that I already have several variations in mind — substitute smoked paprika for the mustard or green onions for the shallot, toss in a pinch of cayenne or load them up with garlic salt. Not that they weren’t perfect as they were…

Party Food IV: Pepperoni and Asiago Pinwheels

It seems odd to write the final party food post so long after our holiday party, but we don’t have to stop throwing parties just because we’ve blown through Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s. And, once you read this recipe, you’ll find a reason to have a party just so you can impress your friends with these delicate but hearty hors d’oeuvres.

That balance of fancy and familiar is exactly what put these pinwheels at the top of the party menu. Of course, I wanted to be really fancy, so I made my own puff pastry dough. The recipe is totally intimidating, but it’s more time consuming than it is difficult. I used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking — the recipe is below, but the book has really useful illustrations that you may want to look at. Meals; for Moderns also has some good tips (including a link to a video).

I was very pleased with the quality of the puff pastry (if you look closely, you can see the butter bubbling out between the layers of dough), but next time I’ll assemble them a bit more carefully. These turned out less like pinwheels and more like half moons. To make them more pinwheel-like, I would roll the dough out much flatter (I rolled it out to about 1/4 of an inch, next time I’ll try 1/8). And, after spreading the pepperoni and cheese on the dough, I would roll them very tightly and seal the edge with water or melted butter or a beaten egg.

Puff Pastry Dough (from the Joy of Cooking)

Pulse to combine in a food processor:
2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp salt

Scatter over the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs:
5 Tb cold butter, cut into small cubes

In a separate bowl, stir to combine:
1/2 cup ice water
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
1 egg yoke

Drizzle the liquid over the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough starts to form. Remove dough, form into a 5″ square and chill for 1 hour.

Cut into small cubes and freeze for a few minutes:
3 1/2 sticks butter

Place butter in food processor along with:
1 cup flour

Pulse until crumbs form. Remove, shape into a 6″ square and chill.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it onto a floured work surface. Roll into a 13″x8″ rectangle, with the short side facing you. Remove the butter patty from the refrigerator and place it on one half of the dough. Fold the dough over the butter and seal the open sides. Turn the dough so that the folded edge is on the left.

Roll the dough package into a 17″x7 1/2″ rectangle, with the short side facing you. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter. Rotate the dough so that the folded edge is on the left and the open edge is on the right, like a book about to be opened. Roll the dough into a 17″x7 1/2″ rectangle. Fold the bottom end up and the top end down to meet in the center (not overlapping), then fold the dough in half so that the folded ends meet to form four layers of dough. Mark the dough with two imprints to indicate that you have completed the second turn, wrap, and chill for 45 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and put it on your work surface with the folded edge on the left and the open edge on the right. Roll the dough into a 17″x7 1/2″ rectangle. Fold the bottom end up and the top end down to meet in the center (not overlapping), then fold the dough in half so that the folded ends meet to form four layers of dough. Mark the dough with three imprints to indicate that you have completed the third turn, wrap, and chill for 45 minutes.

Complete a fourth turn, wrap, and chill the dough for an hour before using the dough.

Party Food III: Mini Provolone Popovers

What is a popover? my party guests wanted to know. Had I known, I would have told them that they were eating the perfect example: an egg roll that is crispy on the outside and hollow on the inside. At the time, however, I thought I had overcooked these Mini Provolone Popovers.

These were like rolls where someone had had removed the crumb of the bread and left only the crust, which isn’t all that bad, unless you bite down expecting a spongy center. Had I known what to expect from a popover, I think I would have been much more enthusiastic about the outcome of these.

Party Food II: Mini Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tarts

These Mini Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tarts should have been the first part of my party food series. I’m afraid that, like our party guests, none of you will give any of these a shot after seeing those meatballs (until you see these babies, which is why I’m saving them for later in the week). I don’t know why these weren’t a bigger hit at the party — they tasted as fabulous as they looked.

The recipe calls for lemon thyme, which I’ve never had and, of course, Harris Teeter doesn’t sell. So Glenn and I used regular thyme and a few squeezes of lemon juice instead. Next time I’ll use a whole lot more lemon juice and maybe some zest, too, to give it a little more punch.

Instead of buying refrigerated pie crust, we made a batch from scratch (enough for two nine-inch crusts, but we used it all). I didn’t have the appropriate sized cookie/biscuit cutter so, after trying several circular objects, I used the mouth of my .5 liter Nalgene. To my surprise (and relief) I didn’t get a single crust stuck inside the bottle.

The recipe called for 2 1/2 pounds of zucchini, but after reading both Project Recipe posts (two bloggers cook their way through Bon Appetit’s top 100 dishes), I decided to get just one zucchini. I used every last slice of my one zucchini and could have used half as much more.

My zucchini folding wouldn’t compete with Bon Appetit, but I think I have both of their bloggers beat by a long shot. See Exhibits A and B. What do you think?

Party Food I: Pork Meatballs with Yogurt Dressing

According to photographic evidence, I have eaten exactly four proper meals since Thanksgiving. My kitchen time has been dominated by party food and Christmas baking and the rest of my time has been dominated by Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, party going, novel reading, movie watching. All that has left me eating party mix for dinner most nights, which is nothing to complain about.

In returning to The Food Processor, I think we should start at the beginning, or somewhere close to there. After Thanksgiving, Glenn and I cohosted a party with our neighbor. Some of you were there. Some of you have been begging for recipes.

You can see what a wonderful spread we had, but you can’t see what wonderful meatballs Glenn made. I couldn’t find the camera when I took them out of the oven, which is really too bad because the presentation was almost as incredible as the meatballs themselves. We served the meatballs on my new white platter with the dips in my mini casseroles. Of course, they were gone by the time I located the camera.

The meatballs were rustic and delicate, well spiced and tender. I think the meatballs were so tender for two reasons. One: we used half-a-pound less pork than the recipe called for without reducing any other ingredients. Two: you puree the bread, milk, and onion so that it’s much easier to incorporate with the meat. Good to know for other meatball recipes.

The yogurt dip was cool and smooth, but very earthy. The mint dip was light and tart, but a little oily. If I make these again, I’ll puree the mint dip so that it will stick to the meatballs a little better.

We made the dips and fried the meatballs several hours before the party and then warmed the meatballs in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 before we served them. These meatballs had a much bigger wow factor than the typical crock pot variety and weren’t much more difficult to make.

Feta Salsa

Feta Salsa

I stumbled across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen when I was looking for an easy snack to take to Anna’s for the season premiere of Project Runway. Feta, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes… How can you go wrong? So far I’ve eaten it with toast, pita chips, and wheat crackers — all delicious.

Smitten Kitchen talks about the outrage price of this dip at Whole Foods, but I wouldn’t say it’s exactly cheap to make from scratch. I might shell out a couple extra bucks to have someone do all the chopping for me, but maybe I’m just saying that because I nearly cut off my fingers trying to keep the fruit flies away from the cutting board. Too bad Greensboro doesn’t have Whole Foods.