Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to make Old World Style Easter Eggs...

...or why I think dressing up your food is fun.

In the days before Paas created neon green, Ben 10 stickered Easter eggs with their own American Idol themed sets, egg stands, and googly eyes, people used the elements around them to create beautifully decorated eggs for the religious season.  Every country seems to have their own recipe for decoration - as a child of a Eastern European grandparent, the amazingly intricate Pasch eggs were a staple in our home.  But, she also was adept at making the more rustic, beet juice and onion skin wrapped eggs.  As I became older, I realized many other nations had their own version of the wrapped egg - Italians, for instance, used flat leaf parsley as a decorative motif!  What I love about this very basic recipe is that it allows for whatever you have on hand to create beautiful works of edible art.

What you will need:

About a dozen onion's worth of onion skins
Beet juice (canned is the easiest)
About a dozen eggs
Herbs of any size, flavor, etc.
A pint of water
A large glug of white vinegar
Stainless steel strainer and pot
A pair of women's nylons with the legs cut off and underwear portion discarded

A few notes before we begin:  

If you don't want to buy a dozen onions (not everyone goes through them like me!), just buy one or two, and then STUFF the bag with onion skins that are laying in the onion bin.  Do make sure you go through the self checkout though, or you will get weird looks from the cashier.  Or, just ask your green grocer if you can grab a few handfuls of skins that have fallen off.

And size and color egg is fine, even speckled eggs are beautiful with this recipe!

While you may want to experiment with foliage other than herbs, make sure you look up whether the compounds in the leaves are deadly.  While you won't be eating the flower petals or leaves you choose to use, some of the trace elements could leach into the eggs themselves.  However, red cabbage, any type of onion, broccoli leaves, even iceberg lettuce leaves make wonderful patterns.  Do you have something in the fridge that looks like it may go off soon?  USE IT.

The process:  

Onion skins, frozen beet juice.  And bacon.  
1.  Chuck the onion skins, vinegar, and about a cup or beet juice (or more, if you like) into a pot with the pint of water and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

 2.  Gently wash your eggs with lukewarm soapy water, rinse, and set aside.

3.  Grab whatever herbs or food safe foliage you have on hand, and put them in a bowl with water to get wet.  As you can see, I chose a lot of sage from my garden, because it's broad leaved, and to be honest it grows like a weed and I rarely make that much stuffing.  I also chose thyme and some lovely mint.

4.  Apply the wet foliage to the egg.  If will not stick magically, you just need to smooth it onto the surface.

Fishnets are good for something.
5.  Now for the tricky bit.  Holding the leafy egg in your fist, guide the egg through the nylon, all the way to the toe.  Using your finger, gently move any leaves that have slipped out of place back where you want them, and then tie a knot at the end of the egg, making a little sausage casing of hosiery and egg.

6.  Continue with the rest of the eggs, laying down a leaf pattern, sliding it through the nylon, and securing it with a knot between each egg.

By this point you should be about 30 mins into the project.  Strain the onion skins out of the now deep red/brown water, and let them cool slightly.

Murderous hands
7.  Try using some of the now cooled off onion skins as foliage as well - use a Modge Podge method (slapping them on the egg, overlapping, etc), and then slip them into your makeshift casing as you did with the herb ones.

Looking gross for now.  
8.  When all the eggs are ready (or you have run out of nylons!), pop them in the water, turn up the heat, and boil for 10 minutes.

9.  Let the water cool naturally - it will help deepen the color of the eggs.

10.  When completely cool, remove nylons (if you don't plan on making any more, just cut away the stockings - if you plan on a second batch, manually undo the hosiery).

11.  Buff with a dry cloth and a tiny bit of veggie oil to really bring out the sheen of the egg shell.

This is thyme, fishnet background,  and a little bit of buffing.  Delicate and lovely!

Lovely onion skins amongst the sprouts.

Pop the eggs in the fridge till it's hunting time, and you are all set!

Some Top Tips for a smooth preparation:

While this recipe is completely kid friendly, you will want them to step far back for the boiling part.  However, everything else can be done outside, or on the living room floor if you are worried about little hands.

Do not do this recipe the day before you meet the queen, as when you wrap the eggs in the onion/beet skins, you will get slightly stained hands.

As soon as the pot of eggs is boiling, CLEAN UP.  Beet juice and onion skins stain.  Beet juice and onion skins stink.  You do not want to look and smell like a serial killer who specializes in Eastern European immigrants.  Wash up, and quick.

If you want to keep your creations, use a push pin to prick a tiny hole in the top and bottom of the egg, and then lightly blow the egg innerds into a bowl before you wrap and boil them.  Alternatively, you can just let the egg shrivel inside the shell, but I will warn you that I've only seen that done with the Pasch waxwork eggs, I'm not sure what regular wrapped shells would do with a rotting, hard boiled egg inside.

When you unwrap your eggs, they may look like poo.  It's okay.  Give them a quick rinse and buff - some of the dye may come off, but you'll uncover the real pattern below.


While this recipe is great for Easter, I think it's also important to point out that we eat with our eyes first, and then our mouths.  If food doesn't look sexy, we don't enjoy it as much.  A lump of tofu on a sad piece of lettuce doesn't compare to a luscious slice of red velvet cake.  Sure, that cake might kill you, but it will look damn good doing it.  The good news in that we can make even our plain food all sexy with a little extra effort.  A plain salad, arranged beautifully on a plate, can look like Heston Bleumenthal himself made your lunch.  Lovely meals shouldn't coincide with major holidays - we should strive every day to indulge ourselves with visual treats.  Whether it is the Russians and their adornment of the simple egg, or the way the Japanese have elevated the box lunch to an art form, we should, even in this fast paced world, push to create and enjoy small moments of beauty wherever we can.

1 comment:

  1. "You do not want to look and smell like a serial killer who specializes in Eastern European immigrants."

    OMG this made me crack up!

    This is really cool! I wish Jews dyed Passover eggs. O_o