When I was growing up, I loved my mom’s stuffed eggs. Heck, as a chubby and happy-go-lucky kid, I loved anything filled with mayonnaise.
As I grew older, I figured out that these seductive little bite-sized appetizers (also called deviled eggs, at least when spiked with something hot) were packed with calories. Happily, I now know that you don’t need a ton of mayonnaise to make a tasty filling. This recipe satisfies the heedless little kid in me and the more prudent grown-up.
But first, we need to address the proper way to boil an egg. The goal is to produce a tender white with no nasty green line between it and the yolk. It was Julia Child who taught me how to achieve this lovely result. The key is not to hard boil the egg, but to hard cook it.
You put the eggs in cold water, bring the water to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, then cover it. About 15 minutes later, you drain the pot and run cold water over the eggs. I tend to let them stand for 10 minutes, not 15. It’s the cold water that prevents the green line from forming.
What kind of egg is the best candidate for hard cooking? Oddly enough, you don’t want it to be super fresh. Slightly older eggs are better for hard cooking because the air pocket between the egg and the shell gets larger as the egg gets older. This makes them easier to peel.
How do you figure out the age of an egg (other than by reading the date on the carton)? Place your egg in a bowl of water. If it lies on its side on the bottom of the bowl, it is very fresh. If it stands up, it is somewhat aged and perfect for hard cooking. If it floats to the surface, you might want to toss it.
Now for the filling. Aside from a lone tablespoon of low-fat mayo, most of my filling’s creamy texture is thanks to the avocado. Though this wonderful fruit, a native of Mexico, was maligned for years by the food police because of its high fat content, avocados actually are as nutritious as they are delicious. Here I’ve teamed up the avocado with all of its guacamole pals — lime juice, onion and jalapeno peppers — and topped it with salsa.
Weirdly enough, you may have to search a little to find jalapenos with heat, as they’ve developed a strain of them in Texas that are mostly tame. Me, I don’t get it. It’d be like manufacturing alcohol-free rum. Anyway, you may decide that even your fiery jalapenos aren’t fiery enough. In that case, just add some of the pepper’s seeds and ribs. That’ll definitely raise the temperature.
I call for salsa here because tomatoes — especially local tomatoes — are now at the height of their season, so going to the trouble of using those tomatoes to whip up some homemade salsa pays big dividends. I prefer cherry tomatoes, but any ripe tomato will do. I salt them first, then let them stand a bit to concentrate their flavor. If you’re in a rush, or if you want to cook up this dish when it’s not tomato season, by all means use your favorite store-bought salsa. Their deliciousness aside, these eggs, with their green-and-red color scheme, would be as festive at Christmas as they are in mid-summer.
Mexican-style stuffed eggs
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Makes 16 stuffed egg halves
8 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced jalapenos (discarding seeds and ribs, if desired), divided
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons minced white onion, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 very ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
Ground black pepper
1. Place the eggs in a small saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring the water just to a boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat, cover it, and set it aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice and water and let cool completely.
2. While the eggs are cooking, in a colander toss the tomatoes with a hefty pinch of salt and let drain for 10 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the drained tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of the jalapenos, 2 teaspoons of the lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the onion and the cilantro. Toss well, then set aside.
4. Once the eggs have cooled, peel and halve them lengthwise. In a small bowl combine 6 of the yolks (discarding the remaining 2 or saving them for another use) with the avocado, mayonnaise, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice. Mash with a potato masher or fork until the mixture is smooth with a few lumps.
5. Stir in the remaining onion and jalapeno, add salt and pepper to taste. Mound the egg-avocado mixture into the egg whites and top each one with some of the salsa.
Nutrition information per half: 60 calories; 35 calories from fat (58 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 90 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 3 g protein; 100 mg sodium.
• Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”