Deep in the Julia Child archives, past the boeuf bouguignon, onion soup, jiggling aspics and the patently untrue yarn about the chicken that fell from the counter, mid-trussing, and was dusted off and put back into use with a remark about “nobody’s in the kitchen but you,” there are recipes so low in butter and bacon that they hardly fit the stereotype of French food as gluttony, as are thus rarely mentioned. A good lot of them are in From Julia Child’s Kitchen; published in 1975, it contained recipes and kitchen wisdom that came from episodes of her PBS show. Gentler to novices than her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classics, the recipes were probably more familiar to American audiences, things like leek and potato soup, sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon and tomatoes, and, here, a riff on deviled eggs that I am making my mission to rescue from obscurity.
I’m a big fan of the hard-boiled egg; I find that keeping a few in the fridge makes for an easy breakfast with a slice of whole-grain cinnamon toast, a wholesome way to add protein to a lunch salad, or for snacks. My favorite way to eat them is slightly undercooked, peeled, halved and schmeared with the thinnest film of mayo and then sharp Dijon, followed by a few flakes of sea salt, but Julia Child’s version might be their highest calling: the potential to stuff their centers with something like a balanced meal, or at least a really gush-worthy appetizer.
We’re mostly talking about asparagus today, but these can be made with whatever spring vegetables your markets are gracing you with, from artichokes and spinach to, I suspect, favas and peas. You cook whatever you’re using until it’s fully tender, cool it, puree it and I fear, this is where I’ll lose you, but you’re going to need to drain this mess too. Julia has you wring it in a towel. Julia is so awesome that she then tells you how to clean that towel so the stain does not set. Nevertheless, I found that dolloping it on a stack of paper towels for couple minutes worked perfectly, and allowed me to persevere towards my lifetime goal of doing as little laundry as possible.
If you’ve thus far only imagined deviled eggs as goopy with mayonnaise and very rich, these will be a pleasant surprise. Mayo is an option, but not a requirement, as is Dijon mustard. What’s wonderful about them is how much they taste and look like spring, wherever it may be hiding.
Passover recipes: Mostly dessert, plus one brisket and soup, over here.
Good Reads: Are back by popular demand. Productivity is overrated; reading blogs is not. :)
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One year ago: Bee Sting Cake
Two years ago: Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe (still a weeeknight staple!)
Three years ago: Fittingly, French Onion Soup
Four years ago: Hazelnut Chocolate Thumbprints, Baked Kale Chips and Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting (though I prefer this one)
Five years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis
Six years ago: Chicken with Almonds and Green Olives
Seven years ago: Arugula Ravioli and Mixed-Berry Pavlova
Adapted from From Julia Child’s Kitchen (Knopf, 1975)
Feel free to replace the asparagus purée with a purée of another spring vegetable such a artichoke hearts (choke and leaves removed; one should be sufficient), spinach, favas or peas. In each case you’ll want about 2 tablespoons drained purée per 6 whole eggs, and you’ll want to cook the vegetable until tender, blend it and drain the liquid a bit as explained below before mixing it into the mashed egg yolks. Adjust flavorings to the ingredient; artichokes go wonderfully with lemon zest and mayonnaise; peas with cream and mint.
Yield: 12 stuffed egg halves
6 large eggs
4 medium asparagus spears
2 teaspoons very finely minced shallot, scallion or chives, plus a pinch extra for garnish
3 tablespoons mayonnaise, whipping cream, creme fraiche, sour cream and/or soft butter
1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon (optional)
Few gratings fresh lemon zest (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Hard-boil eggs using whichever method you prefer. I cover mine with cold water, bring it to a boil, then set a timer for 9 1/2 minutes. When it rings, drain the eggs, and plunge them in ice water until they’re fully cool. Eggs can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Cook asparagus spears in salted simmering water until full tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and plunge in cold water. Drain and again and spread on towels to dry out as much as possible. Cut 1/2-inch off the tips of each spears and cut these tips lengthwise (they’ll be your garnish). Puree remaining asparagus — I found that my food processor didn’t do a great job due to the small volume, but yours might. A food mill with a fine disc works well here.
You’ll want to remove the excess water from your puree; I did so by spreading it for a minute on a few paper towel layers. If you don’t, the filling will be soggy and damp, or in Julia’s words, “a disappointing texture and flavor.”
Peel your eggs. Dip your knife in water before cutting each in half lengthwise for a cleaner cut. Shave a thin strip off the bottom of each so that it will not rock about in its dish. Remove the yolks and press them through a fine-mesh strainer to sieve them. Add asparagus puree, shallot or chives, mayonnaise or cream, Dijon or lemon zest (if using) and combine mixture until smooth. Season carefully with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
You can spoon the mixture into each egg half, or use a piping bag with a star tip for a fancier presentation. Decorate each stuffed egg with a reserved asparagus tip (you’ll be a little short of what you need), and the remaining with the extra shallot, scallion or chives. Wrap tray in plastic and keep in fridge until ready to serve.