Cookbook author Michael Ruhlman seeks to demystify the egg

aweigl@newsobserver.comApril 15, 2014 

  • How to boil an egg

    Cookbook author Michael Ruhlman offers two ways to hard cook eggs:

    Traditional method: Place eggs in a saucepan filled with cold water, making sure that the eggs are covered by an inch of water. Bring to boil. Remove pan from the heat, cover with lid, and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove eggs to bowl of ice water (half ice, half water) and let sit for at least 10 minutes or longer. Stir occasionally to keep cold water circulating.

    Pressure cooker method: Place eggs inside steamer basket or a small colander or on a trivet inside a pressure cooker. Add 1 cup water. Lock the lid. If your pressure cooker has settings, set it to low. Put pressure cooker over high heat. (If using a pressure cooker without settings, heat over medium-high heat.) Once the pressure button pops and the whistle caused by the steam under the valve reaches its maximum pitch, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 7 minutes. Fill a bowl with ice water. Once timer goes off, remove cooker from heat, remove valve to help vent steam and release pressure. Remove lid from pot and place egg or eggs in ice water. (If the pot will not open, run cold water over the pot until the pressure button releases.) Let eggs sit in the ice water for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times in the first few minutes of cooling.

    Peel eggs and use immediately or store in their shells in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Food writer Michael Ruhlman wants every home cook to better understand what he considers the most versatile ingredient: the egg.

As Ruhlman writes in the introduction of his latest cookbook, Food Network star Alton Brown said it best: “The egg is the Rosetta stone of the kitchen.”

If you understand all the things that can be done with the egg, you can become a better cook and more successfully navigate the kitchen. That’s the premise of Ruhlman’s latest cookbook: “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient.”

Earlier this month, Ruhlman visited Fearrington Village near Pittsboro for a book event. He sat down to talk about his book and what each of us wants to know this time of year – the best way to make a hard-boiled egg and what to do with all of them that the Easter bunny will be hiding for your children to find.

First, a little background on Ruhlman: He’s the type of cookbook author who gets in the kitchen with a stopwatch. He brings such precision to his work that it’s no wonder he has co-authored a number of cookbooks with the most exacting of chefs, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry. Ruhlman is well known for his book “The Making of a Chef,” an exhaustive look at training at the Culinary Institute of America that is often required reading for culinary students. His best-selling cookbook, “Charcuterie,” is anecdotally known as one of the most-stolen cookbooks. (Ruhlman said he’s heard from several chefs who have had to replace their copies repeatedly after they were pilfered by poor line cooks. One man tweeted a photo of his car’s broken window and reported that the only thing taken was Ruhlman’s book.)

He was working on “Ruhlman’s Twenty,” a book featuring 20 cooking techniques, when he was stopped cold thinking about all that could be done with the egg. With his wife’s help, he created a 5-foot-long flowchart on parchment paper showing all the ways an egg can be cooked: in its shell, out of its shell, separated, yolk only, white only and so on. That became his book proposal, and a flowchart is included with his new book.

Ruhlman even learned something new about hard-cooking eggs: You can make them in a pressure cooker. Why go to the trouble? Pressure cooking, Ruhlman promises, makes eggs easier to peel.

The general wisdom when it comes to hard-cooked eggs is this: The fresher the egg, the harder it is to peel. That’s because with fresh eggs there is little air between the shell and the egg white. So peeling can leave you with ugly, pockmarked eggs. Pressure cooking, Ruhlman writes, creates a moisture barrier between the shell and egg white, which makes peeling easier, resulting in whites that are more likely to be pristine for deviled eggs.

“If you have to do a lot of them, there’s no better way,” he says.

Ruhlman also offers a foolproof stovetop method for hard-cooking eggs.

For the bounty the Easter bunny brings, we also offer his classic recipe for egg salad with tarragon and chive and a modern egg salad with curry mayonnaise (homemade or storebought) and our favorite deviled egg recipes from local cookbook authors Debbie Moose and Sheri Castle.

Happy Easter!

Egg Salad with Tarragon and Chives

From “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient,” by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown and Co., 2014).

3 tablespoons minced red onion


8 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

PUT red onion in a small bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt, then cover with water for 5 to 10 minutes.

PLACE eggs in medium bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Add mayonnaise. Strain onion and add it, along with herbs, and stir with rubber spatula until all ingredients are uniformly combined.

Yield: 4 sandwiches or 12 canapes.

Curried Egg Salad

You can make your own curry mayonnaise by combining 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 minced garlic clove and 1/2-inch piece of ginger, minced, in a small saute pan over high heat. When garlic begins to simmer, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until garlic loses its raw smell and is cooked. Remove pan from heat and add 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and pinch of cayenne pepper. Transfer mixture to a glass measuring cup to cool. Combine 2 teaspoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the vessel you’ll be mixing the mayonnaise in and allow the salt to dissolve. Stir in 1 egg yolk. When the oil is cool enough to touch, slowly add the oil while whisking the yolk or using a hand-held immersion blender to emulsify. The mayo can be prepared and refrigerated in a covered container for up to 8 hours before mixing the salad. Adapted from “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient,” by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown and Co., 2014).

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 cup storebought mayonnaise

Juice from half a lime

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup minced red onion

8 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 celery ribs, cut into small dice

COMBINE curry powder, mayonnaise and lime juice in a small bowl. Set aside.

PUT red onion in a small bowl, sprinkle liberally with salt, then cover with water for 5 to 10 minutes. (This trick takes some of the bite out of the onions, making them milder.) Place eggs and celery in a medium bowl. Strain onion and add it to eggs. Add mayonnaise, stir together until uniformly incorporated.

Yield: 4 sandwiches or 12 canapes.

Spinach and Bacon Deviled Eggs

Reader Anne Brill says these deviled eggs are always a hit. From “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy,” by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, 2004).

12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half, and yolks mashed in a bowl

1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup real bacon bits

2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

COMBINE mashed yolks with the remaining ingredients and mix well. Fill whites evenly with the mixture.

Yield: 24 servings.

Lemony Deviled Eggs

From “The New Southern Garden Cookbook,” by Sheri Castle (UNC Press, 2011).

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half, yolks and whites reserved separately

1/2 cup mayonnaise

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste

Paprika for dusting

USE a spatula to rub the yolks through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise and butter; mix gently until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, zest and mustard. Season with salt and white pepper. The flavors dull slightly when the eggs are chilled, so be bold with the seasoning.

SPOON or pipe the filling into the egg whites, sprinkle with paprika, and chill until ready to serve.

Yield: 12 servings.

Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl

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