Easter eggs symbolize spring and new life, and traditions associated with the season date back to the 17th century in Scandinavian countries. There, a legendary egg-laying rabbit, remembered in fairy tales, delivered eggs to children in the spring. Today in Scandinavian countries, children search for chocolate eggs on Easter morning, supposedly hidden by a rabbit.
Egg production by chickens is related to daylight hours, so during the winter months fewer eggs are laid. As the days get longer with the onset of spring, more eggs with their valuable protein are produced. Egg dyeing and Easter egg hunts have become symbols of the season in many countries.
Egg dye kits can be found at grocery stores and other stores, but you can also use other ways to decorate eggs, starting with food coloring, vinegar, and a few other ingredients. Hard-boiled eggs remove their natural protective coating, so they should be refrigerated after cooking and not left out of the fridge for more than two hours to stay safe.
Hard-boiled eggs should be used within a week. Today I offer you a recipe for a nice dinner framed around hard-boiled eggs. It’s an infinitely variable gratin that I often make, changing it up with different ingredients, expanding the recipe to serve more, and dividing it to serve less.
Silk, like that found in old silk ties, creates unusual patterns on Easter eggs. Wrap a hard-boiled egg tightly in silk, securing it with a rubber band, then dip it in white vinegar that has been brought to a boil and let soak for a few minutes. Do not eat eggs colored this way, as the chemicals used to dye the fabric will be transferred to and absorbed by the egg.
Most colored eggs are safe to eat unless they have cracks in their surface. White vinegar helps fix the color regardless of the coloring method used. White eggs stain better than brown eggs.
For naturally colored eggs, simmer onion skins, blueberries or beets in a cup of water with a teaspoon of vinegar added. Dip in hard-boiled eggs and let stand overnight in the refrigerator for the deepest colors or just a few minutes for pastels.
Buy gel food coloring in a variety of colors to try out different egg coloring techniques – some so simple even very young children can help:
Pour the rice into small plastic cups, add a few drops of food coloring and place another cup on top and shake to mix. Place a hot hard-boiled egg in each cup and shake again. Then put the eggs in the refrigerator.
Wrap hard-cooked eggs in strips of vinegar-soaked paper towels. Place gel food coloring directly on the coated egg, turning to distribute. Remove the terrycloth strips when they are almost dry. Refrigerate the eggs.
Place the shaving cream in a few small plastic cups. Add drops of food coloring gel and dip the hard-boiled eggs into the mixture.
For many more egg coloring techniques, visit this Better Homes and Gardens page: bit.ly/bhg-45eggdyeways.
To cook hard-boiled eggs:
Bring the eggs to room temperature.
Heat the water to a boil in a saucepan large enough to hold the eggs in a single layer.
Add eggs, cover and remove from heat.
Let stand 15 minutes.
Drain the hot eggs and immediately plunge them into a bowl of water with a handful of ice cubes.
Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Egg Gratin with Mushrooms and Ham
(For 6 to 8 people)
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces oyster mushrooms, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2-½ cups of milk
¾ teaspoon of salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces boiled ham, cut into half-inch pieces (1 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped chives
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Drain the eggs and shells under cold running water.
Quarter them lengthwise and arrange them in a 6-cup casserole dish.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the mushrooms.
Cook until the moisture is released from the mushrooms and they sizzle in the butter, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle flour on top and mix.
Add the milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil, whisking until the mixture thickens.
Remove from fire.
Sprinkle the ham, chives and half the cheese over the eggs.
Pour the sauce over it and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
Place the dish under the broiler, not too close to the heat source, and broil for about 10 minutes, until the surface is brown and bubbly.
— Adapted from “Quick & Simple” by Jacques Pepin, 2020