Boiled Eggs: So Much Better Tasting Than They Look
Shabati eggs in Mexico
Growing up, my family spent summers on Long Island, at a house my grandparents bought when I was born. There were 16 of us there at a time, counting aunts, uncles, and cousins. My Persian grandmother fed us all, spending the day in the kitchen while we biked to the beach or played in the pool overlooking the grape vines and English-style garden my grandfather planted, each section carefully orchestrated to burst into bloom at its own designated time of year.
Every Friday afternoon, my grandmother boiled a pot of water with whole eggs, oil, onion skins, and rose petals from the garden, or sometimes, from the beach, if my mom had taken it upon herself to collect wild petals strewn by the dunes. She turned the pot to a low simmer, leaving the eggs to soak in their shells overnight—a relic recipe from her more religious Jewish upbringing, when a low flame was the most cooking you were permitted to do on Shabbat. We’d have the fragrant eggs for breakfast the next morning, with boiled potatoes and pita bread, and oily sautéed eggplant and squash for the grown-ups.
This year, my husband and I moved to Mexico, and my family sold the house. The morning the sale was finalized, I cried and called my grandmother to ask how to make Shabati eggs.
Last Friday was Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., when we would have piled onto the Long Island Railroad to escape the city for the summer. That night, I set the eggs to boil for my husband and I—four for the two of us, lonely-looking in their big pot. I didn’t have wild rose petals, so I used red onion skins and coffee grounds for color. I tapped the shells with the back of a spoon after a few hours, as my grandmother did, so that the mahogany liquid would seep in, spidering the skin of the eggs like tie-dye.
The next morning, I sliced ripe avocados and we cracked into our eggs. The whites had turned tan and tender, with the meaty flavor of caramelization, and the yolks were hard-cooked but creamy. Our breakfast tasted familiar but new—something like home.