Dear readers, this is the first competition-winning recipe I'm sharing with you. It is not the first competition that I've won, but as it my most recent deviled egg win, I'd like to take this opportunity to give you a little backstory on the origin of my egg obsession. Oct 08, 2017 marked the 6th Annual Baltimore Deviled Egg Pageant, hosted by Martine Richards, a true innovator and leader in the community of DIY makers and creatives, and a key source of inspiration for this blog. (Keep an eye out for an upcoming post all about my recent interview with Martine!)
Here's how the story goes . . .
Two years ago, I saw these Instagram posts from a friend and local food blogger:
Having a handful of food trophies flopping over my own belt already, I have to say that I was more than a bit intrigued . . . ok, maybe even a little disappointed that I didn't know about such a clever food competition happening in my own backyard . . . and for 4 consecutive years at that!
. . . luckily for me, @annmariebrok did introduce us and that led to all sorts of adventures, including competing in the 2016 pageant, but more about that later.
Fast-forward to last week. I had been thinking about liverwurst lately. I'm not sure why. I don't hate it; I don't love it; I don't think I've eaten it for years. I do remember my dad eating liverwurst and cream cheese sandwiches when I was a kid. Maybe I smelled it somwhere recently. Unless you suffer from anosmia, you've likely experienced the awakening of a deeply-rooted memory when a distant but familiar smell wafts its way into your olfactory cortex. Sometimes it's not even a fully articulated memory, just of a feeling. And sometimes a food processor is a perfectly acceptable tool for processing feelings.
Leading up to the Pageant, I had been brainstorming all sorts of recipes, but for a competition, one must present a real show-stopper, either in taste, presentation, or concept, and ideally all three. In an attempt to convert my invasive thoughts about liverwurst into something creative, I initially planned to make a chicken liver mousse-filled egg and call it "Chicken or the Egg?". How meta! I procrastinated until the day before the Pageant to make the liver mousse, which I used Alton Brown's recipe for. The recipe turned out beautifully and was bursting with flavors of thyme, apple, onions, and brandy and had a delightfully sillky texture. However, the liver component was just so incredibly pungent that the idea of an entire egg-full of this stuff made me gag. (The thought crossed my mind to incorporated the hard-boiled egg yolks into the mousse, but that seemed like a potential culinary felony I was not willing to commit).
I went to bed tormented over how to salvage this egg idea. Literally. My partner was sad for me.
Are there other thing with far more gravitas to be anxious about? Absolutely. But if you're going to be anxious anyway, why not occasionally treat yourself and be anxious about a thing your brain can reasonably work out a solution to.
By the next morning, I had an idea to try. The liver mousse was tasty in small quantities but it needed a fresh, vegetal, and far less aggressive background to let it shine. The solution: spinach pesto.
3c. fresh spinach
3 T olive oil
2 - 3 oz toasted nuts (I used hazelnuts, though if I did it again, I would use maybe cashews or walnuts as the hazelnuts stayed chewy even when I toasted them)
leaves of 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
Blend together in a food processor.
To this I added:
12 hard-boiled egg yolks
2 T mayo
4 oz vegetable cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Blend together in food processor until fairly smooth.
Before assembling, I wanted to find a way to enhance the presentation of the hard-boiled egg whites. There are various ways to do this (e.g. soaking them in pickled beet juice, tea, or other liquids that impart both color and flavor), but I didn't want to add any more flavors to this egg. A few weeks prior, I tried to smoke a hard-boiled egg (out of its shell) on a grill with wood chips. The result was an inedible, rubbery, dry mess, but fortuitously it also resulted in grill marks! So I gave it a go in a grill pan instead and it worked great. (I'm not saying that I'm the first to grill eggs in this manner, but I did a search and nothing turned up, so maybe). Get the pan hot, rub some butter on it, place the egg halves face down for about 30 seconds, then turn them 45 degrees and grill for another 30 seconds to get cross-hatched grill marks.
The eggs are ready to be filled with the spinach pesto egg yolk mixture, topped with a smaller dollop of the chicken liver mousse, and garnished with chopped toasted nuts and fresh thyme.
And that's how I won the "Best Meaty Egg" category in the 6th Annual Baltimore Deviled Egg Pageant. More to come next time about other amazing entries if I can convince any willing contestants to share their brilliant recipes!
(Martine Richards and Mickey Dehn, 2017)