This post is a little late, but Easter kind of snuck up on me and then flew by this year. But since deviled eggs are so tasty I'm going to share with you anyway. For quite some time now I've been making deviled eggs every easter. It started because San Francisco uses any excuse it can to get dressed up and drink. Easter is no exception and there's an annual celebration put on by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence each year in Dolores Park. They start out kid friendly with an easter egg hunt and bonnet contest, but as the day progresses the skits get a bit more bawdy ending with a hunky jesus contest which is really just an excuse for scantily clad men and women to parade on stage for applause.
For me it's an excuse to hang out in the park with friends eating and drinking for most of the afternoon. The entertainment is just a bonus. Deviled eggs and bloody mary's were always tasked to me to bring. My friends seem to think I excelled at making both. I haven't made bloody mary's in years, but the eggs I kept making even if I ended up staying home.
This year I'm glad I had no plans to head to the park as we were pelted with huge downpours throughout the day, but I still made Dan and I deviled eggs for lunch. Some traditions are just hard to break.
Whenever I go out if there's deviled eggs on the menu, and in SF this tends to happen more than you would expect, I order them just to see how good they are. While some have been quite impressive, I often find the chef is trying too hard. I really like the tried and true simple version. The hardest part about making them should be peeling the boiled eggs.
G's Deviled Eggs
This recipe can easily be doubled or even quadrupled
6 of the freshest eggs you can get
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp brown or dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to finish
The real key to deviled eggs is cooking the eggs just right. Here's my favorite for method for boiled eggs:
Put the eggs in a medium sized saucepan. There should be enough room for all the eggs to fit on the bottom of the pan with a little extra room, no stacking of the eggs. Fill the pan with enough water to just cover the eggs. Put on high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil set a timer for 5 minutes. While the eggs boil make an ice bath. When your timer goes off, take the eggs out of the boiling water and put directly into the ice bath. A slotted spoon works best for this.
Let the eggs cool for at least 5 minutes before peeling.
Once the eggs have cooled, peel them, cut them in half lengthwise, and separate the yolks from the whites. Be careful to leave the whites as intact as possible. The yolks should be a little translucent in the center still.
Put the yolks in a food processor with the mayonnaise, mustard and a pinch of salt (go light on the salt to start).
Process still creamy and smooth.
You can mix by hand, but you'll have a hard time getting the mixture totally smooth.
Once the mixture is smooth, adjust salt and mix in a touch of pepper.
Spoon the mixture back into the egg white halves.
Finish with a dusting of paprika.
I've been at the new job for a month now and while there's been many adjustments and I still haven't totally found my rhythm, I'm really enjoying the change. Getting up at 7:30 every morning is a bit rough, but I'm making it happen. The best part has been being a part of something that has a forward momentum I'm not wholly responsible for. There is definitely a sense of "we're still figuring this out", but we're all in it together and excited to see where this ride takes us. I gotta say that's not a bad energy to have at work every day.
At first I was really feeling like a failure for taking a job. Logically I knew this was silly, but I'd been working so hard for the past few years to employ myself and also coaching others to do so, that I really did feel like I had sold out. But eventually the feeling that I had given up or crossed to the dark side passed as I began to accept that this shift was both beneficial to my career and my general well being.
The change in income is making me feel so much more secure and in control. It is a bit distressing to me that it makes so much difference, but it really does. Not having to worry if we overspent at the grocery store or if that decision to order take out will break the bank is truly liberating. I have more space in my head for the things that really do matter and I also have the funds to keep pushing Bitter Housewife forward without sacrificing in any other way.
The new demands on my time have also shifted my perspective on what “needs” to get done and how urgent it all is. Since the time I have to spend on Bitter Housewife is so limited, I no longer have the luxury of feeling like I need to be doing it all. I simply can't, so the truly important things become much clearer. I still want to do everything and all of it right now, but knowing I can't takes a lot of pressure off. Things also don't seem so urgent to me. I'm not sure if this is good or bad yet, but it certainly helps to support the sense of calm I'm feeling these days.
It might have something to do with how productive I'm feeling. I think many of you are familiar with the motivation that builds when you feel like you're accomplishing things on a regular basis. Since my job is much more defined, but also limited in scope I actually get my to do list done almost everyday, which gives me the boost I need to accomplish things outside of work. I no longer have that constant feeling of being behind and underwater. It really is amazing.
But besides all the calm, security, and perspective I've gained I'm also learning a ton about another way of doing business. I'm versed in the restaurant world and the small business, do-it-yourself on a shoestring world, but start-ups are a new and different beast. So are the people who thrive in them and seek them out. There is so much passion and eagerness, it's a bit infectious. Everyone's paths are so varied, I love hearing what they've all been doing and want to do that brought them to point they're at now. There just seems to be so much possibility and I like being surrounded by that feeling.
I'm still struggling a bit to find the time to make granola and bread every week, Dan and I are eating lunch and dinner out more often, and I haven't had a workout in a month, but I see it all falling into place soon. In the meantime I'm loving the general good mood that seems to be prevailing and believe it or not the progress that I've still been able to make with Bitter Housewife.
Before finalizing the bitters recipe I had one last question I needed answering. How much did it matter whether I used neutral spirits or bourbon for the base of my aromatic bitters? Actually two questions, because then I wanted to know if there was a considerable difference could I adjust for it in the recipe so that I could use neutral spirits, which are cheaper.
So I made two identical batches, one with 100 proof neutral spirits made from grapes and one with Wild Turkey 101, which I have been using regularly for the last few months. As I was doing the last step, adding my sugar syrup, I tasted a bit of each straight out of the jar. I was surprised by how much brighter and more distinct the flavors were in the neutral batch.
When they were finally ready, Dan and I grabbed the club soda and did a side by side taste test. It was pretty clear the batch with the neutral base tasted better. The flavors were more distinct and it was a bit more bitter than the muddled, slightly sweeter tasting Wild Turkey batch. Which to me was great news, no only did I not have to modify my final recipe I also could use cheaper, easier to source booze as a base.
But then we made Old Fashioneds and everything changed. The neutral batch didn't blend as well and tasted quite harsh in the drink. The Wild Turkey batch on the other hand seemed to brighten the whole drink and really bring it together, the way bitters should. Just to make sure we brought a sample of each kind of bitters over to a friend's house for dinner. I made 8 Old Fashioneds, half with the neutral bitters and half with the Wild Turkey bitters, otherwise they were identical. I didn't tell anyone what they got, but did give each couple one of each so they could taste both versions and give me their honest opinion. There was no question, the Wild Turkey based bitters was preferred.
So while I'm certain the actual brand of bourbon makes little difference, I've tried Bulliet, Rittenhouse Rye, Evan Williams, and the Wild Turkey 101 without being able to distinguish, it must be bourbon for the base of the aromatic bitters.
This does mean my recipe is finalized, but now we are tasked with finding a source of bulk bourbon that will still keep our costs in line. There are options out there, but far less choices. Oddly enough, this little experiment has also left me feeling more confident in my end product. I'm making something I'm not only proud of, every ingredient is truly there for a reason.
The first time I tasted lemoncello I was traveling in Italy just after graduating college. We had stopped for a few days in a town called Riomaggiore, part of the Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean coast. After finding a place to stay and dropping our stuff, we headed to the main bar in town to get a feel for the place and to cool off with a beer. After hanging out for a bit and making friends we also met the owner of the bar. Upon returning after dinner, most of the same crowd was back, we were introduced to the after dinner custom of a glass of lemoncello. This particular lemoncello was made across the street by the bar owner’s mother. It was tart and sweet, bursting with the flavor of fresh lemons. It also went down quite easy.
Further on in our travels we stayed for a few nights on the Amalfi Coast, an area known for its lemon groves. I remember quite vividly a walk we took from a hilltop town we’d visited back to our hotel. The entire way we followed a steep footpath through the lemon trees. The air smelled of sweet citrus and every once in a while we’d catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean through the trees. That night we stopped into a bar for a lemoncello. The old man who ran the place couldn’t quite accept that we just wanted to enjoy a drink and didn’t want to eat. A plate full of olives and bread arrived at our table along with our second glass.
It was a few years later that my aunt started making lemoncello for the holidays. I had since tried some at various bars in the states, but most of it was too cloyingly sweet or tasted of bitter “natural” flavors. Hers was the closest I’d ever had to what we enjoyed in Italy.
After Dan and I moved in together I made my own batch for the holidays. Dan loved it. I believe he drank most of the first batch by himself within days. I now try to keep at least a liter bottle in the refrigerator and thankfully he’s learned a little restraint, but for a while I was making a 2-liter batch every few weeks.
While you can get good tasting lemons year round, we are currently in the prime of citrus season. I do believe you get a fuller, sweeter flavor when you use in-season lemons right off the tree. There are also advocates of Meyer lemons and this is definitely the time of year for those, but I will caution you. I’ve had some amazing lemoncello made with Meyer lemons, but I also made a batch that was extremely perfumey and to both Dan and my taste, unpleasant. Make sure you know the flavor profile of the lemon’s you choose before you commit.
1.75 liters 80-90 proof vodka (I use the cheap stuff, no need to get fancy)
5 cups sugar
Zest the lemons removing as little pith as possible. I use a potato peeler to make zesting less tedious and I’ve also found that having big pieces of peel keep the end product clearer with less filtering.
Then juice your lemons, setting the juice aside.
In a 4-quart saucepan over low heat, add the vodka, sugar and lemon zest. Heat slowly, stirring till the sugar dissolves, being carful to not let the temperature go above 120°.
Once the sugar is dissolved, let cool slightly (5-10 minutes) then add all the lemon juice. Stir to mix.
Put the mixture into a sealable glass container. You’ll need one that will hold about 2.5 liters. You can also split the mixture up, but make sure to divide the lemon peel evenly between the two containers.
Let the mixture sit for a least two weeks, then strain.
Serve chilled and remember every two ounces is equivalent to a shot of vodka, because it certainly won’t taste like it.
When I say I’m a bourbon fan, I often get asked “How is bourbon different from whiskey?”
In the simplest terms bourbon is a distilled grain spirit made from at least 51% corn in the U.S. Bourbon originally comes from the area around Bourbon County, Kentucky and has a history much richer than 18th century farmers just wanting to get drunk, but that’s another article. Its sweet, spicy character comes from the charred, new oak barrels that it must be aged in. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US, but is most closely associated with south and as long as there’s 51% corn, the rest can be any combination of grains, however barley, wheat and rye are the most common.
Corn is the sweetest of the grains, with wheat coming a close second. Bourbons like Makers Mark are an easy introduction since they are high in corn and wheat, thus sweeter and a little easier to sip. Rye adds sharpness and more spice; Bulleit and Four Roses are classic examples of high rye bourbons. Barley is used for the enzymes mostly, but can contribute a bit of a malty note.
So how does this all make bourbon different from whiskey and scotch?
First, all bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons. In other words whiskey is the larger category that includes more specific designations like bourbon.
Whisk(e)y can be made anywhere in the world from any grain. The regulations on ageing, process, and recipe vary from country to country and depending on what you want to put on the label. It’s these distinctions that give you a bit more of a clue, like single malt is made from only one malted grain, most often barley. American whiskeys are generally a mix of corn, wheat, barley and rye, but you’ll find some that are 100% wheat, corn or rye on the shelves. Irish whiskey must be distilled in Ireland and aged no less than 3 years in wooden barrels.
Scotch, another very popular type of whiskey, is also a sub-category like bourbon. To be labeled scotch it must be distilled in Scotland and aged a minimum of 3 years although most are aged at least 3 times as long. Scotch also has a very distinct flavor from the malt that is peat smoked, giving it that smoky, mossy taste, however this is not required to be a scotch.
In other words whiskey can have a lot of variation depending on where it’s made and who’s making it. Added flavors and colors are also permitted in many types of whiskey.
The best way to find out what you like is to start tasting and ask questions. When something catches your attention, look at the label and find out how it’s made, what makes it unique, then search out other whiskeys that are made similarly.