There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
My brother and I were always excited to dye eggs at Easter—the more, the better for trying out various designs: the long-soaked brights, the two-tones, the olive-brown overdipped. Problem was, we never seemed to want to eat them afterward. As Luke Jackson so aptly demonstrated in his cellblock, there are only so many hard-boiled eggs you can eat before experiencing some level of discomfort. My childhood limit hovered around one every month or so, and so my mom was often left with a fridge full of colorful eggs that looked hopeful but slowly went bad. What would those starving children overseas have thought?
They might have thought, There’s more to life than egg salad. I’ve since become a huge fan of hard-boiled eggs, and no one loves a good, simple egg salad more than I do. However, eggs mashed with mayo and celery isn’t exactly a testament to the versatility of this single-serving protein. A leftover Thanksgiving turkey often enjoys a full life beyond sandwiches: soups, burritos, casseroles. (Turkey tetrazzini seems solely a child of the holiday.)
And turkey is nowhere near the multitasker that eggs are. In their raw state, eggs cause companion ingredients to rise, thicken, and adhere; when heated alone, they change from runny to spongy to crumbly. The flavor of a hard-boiled egg is mild but distinct, issuing mostly from the yolk, which is vaguely earthy and pleasantly funky. Its singular quality, however, is its texture: dry but wet, creamy but fluffy. Surely there’s a recipe besides egg salad where the hard-boiled egg can work magic.
Chef Robert Weland’s shortcake recipe, served with strawberries at his Chinatown restaurant Poste, fits the bill. Weland adds hard-cooked yolks to the dough, taking advantage of their fat content and unique texture to add “moisture and richness to the biscuit,” he says.
It sounds odd, but it works. After cooking up my first batch of unbelievably tender, sugar-sprinkled shortcakes, I wondered why I’d never heard of using this method before. The cooked yolks act as a binder, much like raw egg would, but they add moisture without liquid, too much of which conspires with gluten to make a biscuit tough. Even the most fluffy biscuits I’ve made have eventually cooled into rocks; these, even two days later, have maintained their texture. The shortcakes are dense and sconelike, and I can imagine the recipe easily modified to accommodate savory ingredients such as herbs, cheese, and ham.
I was so inspired by what I’d decided would be my Easter dessert—served with whipped cream and pineapple instead of strawberries—that I conjured an entire holiday menu revolving around boiled eggs.
Potato salad seemed too obvious, but the principle of potato salad seemed worth exploring—eggs and potato have a solid marriage. And if the cooked yolks could add such depth to shortcake biscuits, then they’d likely do great things to mashed potatoes. After all, the foundation of both dishes are similar—blended starch, butter, and cream. Two mashed yolks to four potatoes provided a softness without oiliness, and the texture was something like the short crumb of pastry dough. The addition of snipped chives played up the potato-salad relationship nicely.
Meatloaf was a no-brainer. It’s one of those pedestrian dishes that always feels like a family celebration to me. One of my favorite Easters was spent in New Orleans with my friends, no store open but a tiny corner market stocked with little more than booze, a few dusty boxes of Zatarain’s, and, for some reason, ground beef and sausage. I patted 6 pounds of it into an enormous egg-shaped meatloaf.
Right. Eggs, meatloaf. I seemed to remember an old episode of BBC Two’s Two Fat Ladies that featured a meatloaf stuffed with hard-cooked eggs, akin to a glandularly charged Scotch egg without the breading. Something about the idea of slicing into a log of beef, veal, and herbs to see a daisylike face peeking out made me feel like spring, even though the weather outside truly sucked.
I rounded my meal out with something admittedly less inventive—but it’s tough to beat spinach salad with tomatoes, bacon, and crumbled eggs. When tossed with olive oil and vinegar, eggs lend greens substance that isn’t cloying, as some emulsified dressings can be. If there’d been any good produce left at the grocery store on a busy holiday weekend, I could have just as easily done a chopped-egg vinaigrette to accompany steamed asparagus or artichokes. Oh man, what I wouldn’t do for an affordable artichoke.
With eggs packed into everything but my Sprite Zero, there was nothing left to do but pay homage to a family holiday tradition and take several pictures of the food. And then I ate, thankful for another inheritance—freakishly low cholesterol.
Robert Weland’s Shortcake Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
¾ cup heavy cream
2 mashed, hard-boiled large egg yolks, pushed through a mesh strainer
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift the flour, ¼ cup sugar, and the baking powder into a bowl, and add the cut-up butter. Using your fingertips, work the butter quickly and lightly into flour until the mixture is the consistency of very fine crumbs or sand. Add the cream and egg yolks, and stir with a fork until the dough just holds together.
2. Turn the dough out onto floured work surface, and knead until smooth. Pat or roll out the dough to thickness of inch. Using a biscuit cutter or the open end of a glass, cut out rounds of dough, and place them on a baking sheet. Brush the rounds with melted butter, sprinkle with remaining sugar, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
1 lb. 80 percent lean ground beef
1 lb. ground veal
1 raw egg
¼ medium sweet onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, available at better grocery stores)
1 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste
3 hard-boiled eggs
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using your hands, mix all ingredients except hard-boiled eggs in a large bowl.
2. Shape half of the mixture into a flat oval on a cookie sheet. Using the back of a soup spoon, press three indentations, lengthwise, into the surface of the meat; fit peeled hardboiled eggs into the indentations. Cover with the remaining meat mixture, and pat down well so there are no air pockets.
3. Bake for about an hour until a meat thermometer reads at least 160 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. (Slice the meatloaf with a serrated knife to maintain the integrity of the eggs.)
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