Have you ever been whiplashed by inspiration? Like rocked so hard by an idea that you not only can’t get it out of your head, but can’t get to sleep at night because you are so excited about the possibilities? That’s what happened to me when I dreamt up these deviled tea eggs (it has also happened with my oil-brined fried chicken, but that’s another story).
Do you know tea eggs? No? I didn’t until recently either—but now I love them. Like want to marry them, love them. You soft boil eggs, crack the shells, then add them back to the pot along with tea bags, some garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and spices. Boil 30 minutes, cool to room temp, then into the fridge overnight. The next day, you peel them and lo and behold, you have a marbled masterpiece worthy of a domestic goddess! But don’t stop there. Take the eggs further into the tasty abyss by deviling the yolks with a little mayo, crème fraiche, scallions, five-spice powder, purple basil, and a few loving spoonfuls of duck rillette (essentially duck legs slow roasted in its own fabulous fat and then mashed with more fat and salt to make the duck buttery and spreadable). I got my duck rillette at the Fort Greene farmers market. If you don’t have a friendly duck farmer to break bread with, I suggest using pork rillette instead (available at most cheese shops, often in the showcase alongside the patés).
I’m really pleased with these. They’re a great make-ahead-friendly way to shake up a weekend brunch and, if kept chilled (even when transporting), are great picnic fare too. And by the way, why stop at tea for your staining medium? Beets and turmeric work nicely too. I think I’ll do the former with a potato and dill filling (a la borscht) and the latter with a curried roast chicken salad…looks like more late nights are in my future.
Deviled Tea Eggs with Duck Rillette
Makes 24 deviled eggs (12 whole eggs, halved and filled)
For the eggs
12 large eggs
2 Lapsang-Souchong tea bags
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
6 green cardamom pods
3 star anise pods
2-inch cinnamon stick
For the deviling
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 scallions, white and light green part finely chopped plus dark green part sliced crosswise into thin rings
2 tablespoons chopped basil (preferably purple basil)
3/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup duck rillettes (pork rillettes also work nicely)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the eggs, one at a time, settling each into the boiling water slowly so the shell doesn’t crack. Boil for 7 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to medium bowl (leave the water in the pot). Cover the eggs with cold water and once the eggs are cold enough to handle (after 3 to 5 minutes) place them on a kitchen towel. Gently roll each egg on a hard surface to crack the shell, using your thumb and forefinger to press the shell even further, getting deeper fissures and cracks.
Return the eggs to the pot. Add the tea bags, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon stick, return to a boil, and cook for 30 minutes, adding more water to keep the eggs fully submerged if necessary. Turn off the heat and let the eggs cool in the tea stock until they’re at room temperature, 1 to 2 hours. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
Take the eggs out from the refrigerator and pull each one from the liquid, setting on a paper towel. Carefully peel away the shells, taking care not to mar the marbled white (and take a moment to marvel at how gorgeous it is!). Halve the eggs and gently pop out the hard yolk, placing the yolks from 16 of the halves in a medium bowl (save the rest of the yolks for sprinkling over a spinach and bacon or chopped salad). Add the mayonnaise, crème fraîche, mustard, chopped scallions, basil, five-spice, salt, and pepper and mash with a fork to combine. Stir in the rillettes and using a teaspoon, fill each egg half. Finish with sliced scallions, tent loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until serving. The eggs can be boiled up to 3 days ahead of time (store in the tea broth—the eggs will get more flavorful the longer they sit) and the deviled filling can be made up to a few hours in advance.
Note: Lapsang Souchong is a kind of Chinese black tea that is traditionally smoked in bamboo baskets over pine wood fires. Regular black tea is fine, too.