Hardboiled eggs are inexpensive, handy, versatile, and take no special talent to prepare. They also keep well in the refrigerator, and could be had for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. They have also provided employment for thousands of small entrepreneurs who sell them in various forms as street food in almost all the cities and major towns all over the country.
PERFECTLY HARDBOILED – Start with eggs at room temperature; those that came from the refrigerator should be immersed in tap water for at least 30 minutes to warm them up. The reason for this step is to prevent the shells from breaking or popping during cooking.
Place all the eggs carefully inside the pot with room temperature water that covers the eggs by at least an inch. Use a thick pot; this allows the cooking water’s temperature to rise gradually. Begin with low heat and gradually increase the heat when tiny bubbles start rising from the egg shells. As soon as the water starts to boil, lower the temperature to a bare simmer for 15 minutes.
Take the eggs out of the pot and quickly place in a basin filled with cold or icy water, or under running water. This step ensures that the shells will be easier to remove later.
FRESHER IS NOT BETTER – Eggs that are less than two days old are almost impossible to peel cleanly; the whites, the shell and the membrane between them refuse to separate, resulting in peeled eggs with pockmarked surfaces. Definitely not pretty to look at, especially when making devilled eggs.
NO MORE DARK YOLKS – Dark egg yolks turn off a lot of people; many refuse to eat them, worried about food poisoning.
Dark yolks are caused by a lot of factors. To avoid them, use fresh eggs, but not freshly laid. Cook the eggs at low temperatures, and remember to take them out of the pot immediately when they’re done. And remember to chill the eggs right away after cooking, and keep them chilled until they are used.
PEEL UNDER WATER – When peeling a hardboiled egg, it helps to crack the shells lightly all around, then roll lightly between your palms to spread the cracks and make them smaller.
Peeling off the shell is easier if done under running water (a faucet, for example) or in a basin filled with water. This prevents tiny bits of shell from clinging to the egg and mixing with the dish you are making.
Peeled eggs should be immediately consumed or incorporated into a dish, as exposure to air will toughen and dry out the egg whites. If making devilled eggs, cover the finished dish with wax paper or foil. Store in the ref in a covered container until serving time.
TRAVEL PARTNER – I always pack hardboiled eggs in bag that I keep beside me when travelling long distances. When I have little or no time to do that, it is no big deal as hardboiled eggs are sold at all bus stops and transport terminals. They are also peddled by vendors who board buses with salty, greasy junk food, fried peanuts and bottled water.
Pick eggs with no visible cracks that could be entry points for contamination. Sniff the egg shells; old eggs give off a telltale sulfuric scent. Warm shells almost always mean freshly-boiled eggs; fuel costs a lot so nobody bothers to reheat boiled eggs.
INSTANT HOME MEALS – There are always several hardboiled eggs in our home ref; they provide healthy, easy meals almost instantly.
On hot summer days, sliced eggs with salad vegetables and a handful of croutons or day-old bread cubes make for a substantial lunch or brunch using any type of salad dressing that one’s diet allows. Cheese, tuna, sardines and leftover meats, when available, add protein.
STRETCHING SALADS – Sliced or chopped hard boiled eggs add flavor, volume and nutrients to salads such as chicken, tuna and macaroni. The yolks turn creamy when blended with salad dressing, providing a great foundation and contrasting texture to the other ingredients.
Even simple native Pinoy salads using pako (fern), cucumber, radish and tomato with vinegar-sugar-salt dressing go perfectly well with a topping of boiled eggs. Sprinkle crushed chicharon, toasted dilis (dried anchovy) or flaked tinapa for more flavor and nutrients.
STEWED IN LEFTOVER GRAVY – When we cook chicken or pork adobo, pata tim, dimsum chicken feet and fish sarciado, we always make extra gravy and stir in several peeled hardboiled eggs with the main ingredients.
Boiled eggs absorb all the flavors of the gravy which they are simmered in; this system gives the family a free dish with no extra cooking involved.
Eggs in adobo or any gravy keep a few days in the fridge, and need only to be reheated briefly before serving. Slice each egg in half, arrange on a serving plate, and pour the gravy on top.
PICKLED EGGS – Up to the 1970s, two bars in Manila kept giant jars of pickled eggs at the bar for customers: the National Press Club bar and Taboy’s 5 Litros on M.H. del Pilar. Pickled eggs were also traditional at New York delis and European pubs.
At home, I add peeled boiled eggs to the bottle holding pickled beets and keep them in the pickling brine for at least a week until the vinegar’s tartness reaches the center of the yolk. Sliced with the pickled beets, they make a heavenly afternoon pica-pica or pre-dinner appetizer.
By SOL VANZI