The Queen’s Best Stuffed Russian Eggs
Are you crazy for stuffed eggs too? Really, I can’t imagine spring and summer picnics – inside or out – without these silky smooth, delicious gems.
What’s interesting is there are so many variations, both regional and individual. Years ago I had a boyfriend who always referred to them as Russian eggs. I actually prefer that name over “deviled” or “stuffed” but I was curious if Russian eggs contained specific or unique ingredients. Off to the Internet to look up Russian egg Recipes. One version was stuffed with chopped mushrooms, another covered with chopped beets, and a third with pickle relish. So I visited Wikipedia.
Wikipedia says they were popular in Roman times (what wasn’t?) and that they are called Russian eggs in parts of Europe because they are served on Macedoine leaves, which is often called “Russian salad.” Obviously this gives us the freedom to be creative and call stuffed eggs whatever we wish. And that’s precisely what I have done!
One of the biggest obstacles we face when making stuffed eggs, or even hard boiled eggs, is getting them to peel well without tearing the whites. Another challenge is having the egg yolk so near the top that when we halve the egg, part of the white tears. There’s also the issue of how long to boil the eggs in the first place.
I turned to Harold McGee’s excellent book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Harold is both a scientist and a culinarian. He is also the only person I know who been able to grow vanilla in his living room successfully enough to actually harvest vanilla beans. Needless to say, I’m one of his many fans.
It all boils down (pun intended) to age, time and temperature. The whites of very fresh eggs have a thick albumin and a very low pH, which causes the albumin to stick to the shell. This causes pock marks on the peeled egg white and frustration for the cook. He says that if you have a carton of very fresh eggs and you need to hard boil them, add ½ teaspoon baking soda to the cooking water to make it more alkaline. It also helps to cook the eggs a little longer and to allow the whites to firm up in the refrigerator before peeling them.
Although he doesn’t say how old the eggs should be, I’ve found eggs that are 10 to 14 days old are much easier to peel. But, that has a downside as well. Well-centered yolks are easiest to obtain with fresh, high-grade eggs with plenty of thick albumin. Ditto for avoiding flat-bottomed eggs. When the albumin thins, the yolks migrate. They will also flatten while cooking. Harold says there are a couple of tricks to deal with this but they don’t work consistently.
Now for timing. Harold suggests not to boil the eggs. Better to simmer them at between 180 and 190 degrees. They will be firm in 12 – 15 minutes. I have had good luck by putting the eggs into lukewarm water that just covers them. As soon as bubbles begin to appear, turn off the heat, allow the eggs to rest in the water for 12 minutes, then put them under cold water or add ice to the water to chill. Once the eggs are cool, peel or put them into the refrigerator; when they are really chilled, peel.
There’s an entirely different technique, one which I haven’t yet tried, but that was posted on Food 52 just before Easter. It’s the brainchild of Alton Brown. The best part about this technique is that you can hard-cook lots of eggs at the same time.
Take a fully dampened kitchen towel and lay it across the center rack of the oven. Lay as many eggs as you want on the towel but don’t let them touch each other. The rack makes a nest for the eggs and the towel keeps them from discoloring. Set the oven for 320 degrees and bake the eggs for 30 minutes. Pull the rack out, take hold of the four corners of the towel, and gently lift the eggs out. Transfer the eggs to an ice bath and let them chill till you can handle them. You can then either peel them or not. Alton Brown said they’re a little harder to peel this way but the Food 52 testers said they had no problem.
So, there you have it. Your decision now is which ingredients you want to use to stuff the eggs. I will give you my recipe, which is very flexible. You can alter it to the way you’d like your eggs. But there is one more trick I want to share first.
When you cut the eggs in half lengthwise and pop the yolks out, you’re supposed to mash them. I have found that sometimes they mash easily and sometimes they remain a bit lumpy. If lumpy doesn’t matter to you, skip this step. Lumpy does bother me so I put a few yolks at a time into a sieve. Using a fork, I mash the eggs through the sieve into a bowl. They look like acacia pollen and there is no way they will be lumpy. It takes a little more time, but the filling is now silky smooth.
Most recipes I’ve read call for ½ cup mayonnaise and several teaspoons of mustard per dozen eggs. I found this ratio too dry and too heavy on the mustard for my taste. If you follow my recipe but would like the mix on the dry side, use ¼ cup each mayonnaise and sour cream or yogurt and add a little more at the last if you want it moister. And, if you want, add a few drops of Tabasco or Siracha for a little heat.
- 12 large eggs hard cooked, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise or homemade aioli
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon small capers (whole or chopped) plus a dash of the capers liquid (optional)
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon finely chopped dill (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Smoked mild paprika
- Fresh parsley
- Place eggs on a large plate or platter. Gently turn egg halves over and push out the yolks. Put three to four yolks at a time in a sieve, then mash yolks gently with a salad fork to press them through the sieve into a small bowl. If you prefer, skip this step and put yolks directly into the bowl and mash until smooth.
- Add in mayonnaise, yogurt, and mustard and mix well. Add capers and caper brine if using. Add dill if using and vanilla, then salt and pepper. Taste and adjust flavors.
- Using a teaspoon, add filling to egg whites, gently mounding the filling. Sprinkle each egg with a little paprika. Break off a small piece of parsley to decorate each egg, or chop parsley and sprinkle over the eggs.