FoodGirl and the kitchen

HOW TO BOIL THE PERFECT EGG

Hard-boiled eggs. Everyone loves them, but peeling them is a different story. Before you get all worried about tiny pieces of cracked shell jammed under your fingernails, STOP. Because I have a sure fire way to get you egg happy and peel free! I personally keep several boiled eggs in the fridge for the week. They serve perfectly well, when I need a quick protein boost to get my muscles jacked! Orrrr when I’m just plain hungry and just need to pop something in my mouth, before I head out of the door on my millionth errand. Hubs loves them in his salads or for a late night snack. So in our house it’s a staple.

Rewind several years ago. I had a twisted love affair with the boiled egg. Loved to eat them, but hated to peel them. However, while working at my culinary internship for one of the largest caterers in Chicago, I was forced to peel… get ready for this… 30 dozen eggs a day!!! Yup, you heard that correctly: 30 dozen. In the summers they used them for potato salads, chicken salads, egg salads (duh!), tuna salads, wraps… ANYTHING! As an intern, upon first starting out I got some menial jobs… and one of them was peeling eggs.  We all gotta pay our dues and start somewhere. So I worked with this sweet old little (and I mean little…me being 5 foot 4 I dwarfed him) Leo. He only spoke Spanish and fortunately I understood enough to work with him and even joke on occasion. Leo was one of the sweetest and kindest men in the bunch. He would do everything and anything in that gigantic facility. He washed dishes, peeled potatoes, filled ketchup bottles, replenished salt shakers, put away produce, anything that needed to be done – Leo would do. Always with a smile on his face, always eager. It was actually a pleasure to work alongside this kind man who reassured a scared culinary student (me) that everything would be OK, and that I would get the hang of things soon.

Each morning Leo would drop as many eggs into a gigantic tilt skillet as would fit. Then he filled the skillet up with water, poured in some baking soda and salt and let it come to a boil. Why salt, I thought to myself?  It’s not like the shells will allow the salt to penetrate into the eggs. But smart Leo knew, what he was doing. He said, “If one of the eggs would break, the salt would help it quickly coagulate, so that it would not make a mess.”

“Ahora, vamos a esperar.”  “And now we wait,” he would say. We waited. Аs soon as the eggs came to a boil; he would close it tightly with a lid and point to the clock and say, “dose minutes”. Twelve minutes.  After those twelve minutes and a chain-smoking cigarette break we returned to the kitchen and started scooping the eggs into buckets with ice water. We planted ourselves for a few hours in front of the oversized catering sink and started peeling the eggs. I was prepared for painful shards of eggshells jabbing their way into my fingers. But this was not the case. They peeled easily! In just a few pieces.

Leo continued telling me that his “abuelita” (grandmother) taught him to cook eggs this way.  He told me stories of his life in Mexico in a small village and later how he had to make the difficult choice to come to this country. His brother was already living here legally, so it was easier for him than most to make the move. He told me heartwarming tales about his family. It was an honor to stand next to a man who loved his family so much and was able to share it with me.

Sometimes Leo would make a batch of his incredible guacamole for us (also the recipe I use to this day), and we would stand next to each other for hours peeling eggs and stuffing our faces with creamy guacamole and salty homemade tortillas. I was sad that I had to leave his station in two-weeks time, when I got to move on to the vegetable one. And whenever I had time, I would always come by Leo to help him out. He was a wonderfully kind man and the only one that I actually hugged, when I was finished with my six-month internship and had to leave. I thanked him for his funny stories, reassuring words and his fantastic egg technique. And now I can pass that on to you!

  1. First we are going to place our eggs into a pot along with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Fill up pot with enough water to cover them. If you are using a huge pot, double up on your salt and soda.
  2. Bring the eggs up to a boil.
  3. Once the water boils, STOP THE FLAME! Turn off the heat. And cover the eggs with a lid. Now wait 12 minutes. NOTE: If you want soft boil hold them for 6 minutes instead of the 12.
  4. Pour cold water over them or place ice in the pot. And peel!

 For a step by step tutorial and more pictures go to www.girlandthekitchen.com.

Mila Furman