Free Press columnist Georgeanne Davis
Free Press columnist Georgeanne Davis
Brightly decorated eggs and egg hunts are a part of celebrating Easter, even though the tradition of painting hard-boiled eggs during springtime predates Christianity. In many cultures around the world, the egg is a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth. If you keep chickens, the idea behind an egg as a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth is obvious: around Easter the creatures begin to lay again, although this has nothing to do with religion. Chickens need at least 12 hours of exposure to sunlight for their body to produce eggs, so during winter’s shorter days they either stop laying or their laying rate is greatly reduced. Once chickens get up to 12 to 16 hours of sunlight daily, they start laying once again. Since the days in the midcoast are now about 13 hours long, chickens are once again hard at work.

All those eggs you dyed and decorated over Easter were the product of chickens who had artificially extended daylight to keep production high. Commercially produced eggs aren’t as fresh as those you gather in your own coop, and thus have a loss of nutrition, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that eggs are a top source of inexpensive, high-quality protein. We ate a lot of eggs during this past pandemic year (we ate a lot of everything during this time, alas) because they are so versatile and keep for a long time, thus allowing us to eke out more meals between grocery pickups. Almost anything became a meal if you put an egg atop it. But our enjoyment of them remains undiminished, and it’s always been our practice to eat all the Easter eggs we hid or placed in baskets. But if you’re finding extra hard-boiled eggs are a burden, here are a few suggestions to use them up.

While it’s not yet asparagus season in Maine, asparagus from warmer climes is appearing in the markets, which means you could celebrate spring with asparagus mimosa. To do this you blanch a pound or so of fresh asparagus spears, toss them with a lemon-Dijon dressing, place them on a platter and top with a couple of diced or sieved hard-boiled eggs and Parmesan cheese shavings.

But that uses up only two of your eggs. If you have still more, you can incorporate another half-dozen or so into a classic salad niçoise, which can also use some of that oil-packed tuna you stockpiled early in the pandemic and have forgotten about. The same lemon-Dijon dressing will this time top slender green beans and baby potatoes cooked until just tender, about four minutes for the beans and 10 to 15 minutes for potatoes. Lay the beans, potatoes, a couple cups of tuna, a few sliced baby cucumbers and some black olives out in stripes on a platter, halve the hard-boiled eggs, lay them artfully on top of the vegetables and drizzle lightly with the dressing, reserving some for individual servings.

Another way to use up some of your Easter bounty is a sauce gribiche, a variant of the egg-based hollandaise, but one that uses hard-boiled rather than cooked eggs. It’s a great dressing for sturdy salads made with spinach or mustards, or can be spooned over poached fish, roasted vegetables or asparagus. Sort of like the love child of a remoulade sauce and deviled eggs, there are many variations on gribiche ingredients, but it traditionally calls for two you may not always have on hand — cornichons and capers. If you have no cornichons, substitute small dill gherkins. And while it’s a stretch, chopped green olives can mimic the briny taste of capers in a recipe.

S A U C E   G R I B I C H E

3 cornichons, chopped
13 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar
6-10 chopped drained capers
1 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
3 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
14 cup chopped herbs (such as tarragon, chervil or parsley)
Whisk cornichons, oil, vinegar, capers, and mustard in a small bowl to emulsify; season with salt and pepper. Gently mix eggs and herbs into dressing.

If, in addition to hard-boiled eggs you have an excess of Easter chocolate, you can combine them and make — what else? — chocolate chip cookies. Apparently hard-boiled eggs are a fine substitute for fresh. Who knew?

H A R D - B O I L D   E G G   C H O C O L A T E   C H I P   C O O K I E S

234 cups flour
1 cup butter, cubed
1 tsp. salt
12 tsp. baking soda
34 cup sugar
12 cup brown sugar
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
112 tsp. vanilla
1 (12-oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips or equivalent in chopped chocolate
Preheat oven to 350º. Pulse flour and butter in a food processor until mixture is coarse. Add salt and baking soda, pulse to mix. Add sugars, vanilla and hard-boiled eggs to processor. Pulse just until the mixture begins to come together. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Scoop cookies with a medium scoop and place on cookie sheet. Bake approximately 13 to 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the edges. Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.