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In The Kitchen: Deviled Eggs

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Bills just came in. Rent's due. I made a major and very necessary computer purchase that needs to be paid off right away. My credit cards are tired. I'm poor. There won't be any lavish lunches or fancy foreign cheese purchases from Whole Foods happening for me anytime soon. If I'm not careful, the next few weeks might be Top Ramen City -- what's a budget-minded foodie to do?

Luckily, I have two dozen eggs in my fridge and a lot of creativity. The egg really is a nearly-perfect food: high in protein, packed with healthy fats, and extremely versatile, a fantastic ingredient for the budget- and health-minded. The only problem?

Cooking eggs can be a bitch sometimes. Scrambled eggs can go from runny to burned in mere seconds. Quiches are great, but I've got nothing in my fridge that would make a good egg pie. Don't even get me started on mayonnaise and emulsified sauces. Poached eggs? Never seem to work out. Even the hard-boiled ones can be tricky -- do you have any idea how many different tricks and techniques there are out there simply to hard-boil an egg?

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But when you've got hungry mouths to feed and twenty four eggs to feed them with, hard-boiling is a great option, and it's fun to dress them up and make deviled eggs out of them. Here's a great website that takes you step-by-step through the deviling process, but I've crunched the numbers, done the research, and, er, made the mistakes for you.

So when it comes to actually cooking the eggs, this website has all sorts of egg-related number and figures:

"Egg white solidifies between 140º F and 149º F, and the yolk coagulates between 149º F and 157º F, much less than the boiling point of water (212º F). So, the trick is to let the water come to a full boil, then take the pot off of the burner at that moment. After you have moved the pot, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the water and eggs. (This will help make your eggs easier to peel.) No stirring is necessary....the eggs must first be cooled before they can be peeled....It is the best way to prevent that greenish ring from forming around the yolk. The green color results from the chemical reaction of iron in the egg yolk with sulfur found in the egg white. When an egg is heated, these two combine to make greeny-gray ferrous sulfide and smelly hydrogen sulfide gas."

Numbers? Fahrenheit? Sulfides? Chemical reactions? I hate numbers. I hate chemistry! But I like eggs. Who else can help me?

What does Jacques Pepin prescribe? Let's turn to his Techniques, shall we? Eggs should be "lowered into boiling water and allowed to barely simmer for 10 to 12 minutes...then placed in cold water to stop the cooking and avoid the greenish discoloration around the yolks."

Okay, fairly simple. What does Julia say, though, in her tome The Way To Cook? Only nine paragraphs of precise directions! The highlights: "To let [air] escape, always prick the large end with an egg pricker or a pin....the water should cover the eggs by 1 inch, so use a tall pan....Set over high heat and bring just to the boil; remove from heat, cover the pan, and let sit exactly 17 minutes."

Exactly 17 minutes???? Alright...no, please, Julia, do go on: "Transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice cubes and water. Chill for 2 minutes...transfer the eggs to the boiling water, bring to the boil again...which in turn expands the shell from the egg."

Boil them again???? GOD Julia. "Leave the eggs in the ice water for 15 to 20 minutes before peeling...crack an egg all over by gently tapping it against the sink...as soon as you have peeled it, return the egg to the ice water...."

I followed a lot of these rules, but broke lots of others: I boiled the eggs in roiling water for over ten minutes. Minus points for me, the eggs were definitely cooked, but the whites were rubbery. After boiling, I let them sit in the warm water for about ten minutes -- okay by all counts. I plunge them in ice water after fishing them out of the pot, and I do think it helps the color set -- I had grayish-brown rims on my yolks, but the color stayed a nice creamy yellow once I mashed them.

Deviled eggs are obviously awesome appetizers and party food, but they're good for dinner (or lunch) (or breakfast) when you've got eggs to spare and need a fun meal. I made mine with an extremely budget-minded potato hash -- that's frozen hash browns mixed with onions and some canadian bacon. Good stuff, I promise.

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So here it is: my recipe for Budget Deviled Eggs and Equally Budget Hash.

Youse Po' Deviled Eggs: Six eggs, hard boiled (see above, SIGH). Slice in two, dump yolk part into bowl. Mash yolks with a fork until they reach the consistency of fine sand. Add 1-2 tablespoons of mayo, and about 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard. Splash in some tabasco, pinch of paprika, shake of dill, salt and pepper to taste. Mash until nice and smooth -- really smooth. Spoon mixture into plastic baggy, cut off tip of bag to make presto-chango-Alton-Browno piping bag! Pipe yolkiness into halved egg whites (duh). Garnish with minced dill or green onion.

Budge Hash: Toss half a diced onion and some diced Canadian bacon into a pan of hot veggie oil. Saute for a few minutes. Add frozen hash browns, enough to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Let fry for about seven minutes or so. Flip around, let sit again for about five to seven minutes. Add seasonings: salt, pepper, hot sauce, oregano, crushed red pepper, whatever you've got that's good. Serve when toasty.

Photos by Carrie Meathrell