I think deviled eggs are a nearly perfect food. The creamy richness of the yolk, the springy texture of the white, the beauty of the fluffy filling.
Maybe I’m fascinated with deviled eggs because they were banned at my house when I was a kid. My mother was allergic to eggs, and she believed that if she didn’t eat a particular food, she didn’t have to cook it. I had to steal away to my grandmother’s house for clandestine deviled eggs.
Even the name is temptingly sassy. Decades ago, the term “deviled” was applied only to dishes with spicy ingredients, like deviled ham. Mild versions were called “stuffed eggs.” Nowadays they’re all just deviled eggs, spicy or not. But I always hope for spicy.
Deviled eggs are the first things to go at potlucks and picnics. At family reunion spreads, there’s usually more than one kind — and you can be sure the cooks are watching closely to see whose eggs get eaten quicker. Nobody competes like that about macaroni salad or ham biscuits. Deviled eggs inspire personal pride.
Like fine jewels, deviled eggs shine best in the proper setting: the deviled egg plate. Generations ago, deviled egg plates were standard wedding gifts for Southern women, but that time passed and I had to buy my own. I have 12 deviled egg plates, but I’m nowhere near the record, which might be held by a woman in eastern North Carolina. She has a collection of more than 300 different ones, in their own display room.
The road to great deviled eggs starts with properly cooked eggs. Many people overcook them, resulting in a tough greenish yolk and rubbery white.
Here’s the technique that worked for me through cooking hundreds of eggs for my cookbook on deviled eggs: Place large eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Place the pot on high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil, put a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat. Set a timer for exactly 15 minutes.
At the end of 15 minutes, drain the eggs and cool them down as quickly as you can to stop the cooking process, either under cold running water or by dropping them into a bowl of ice water. Use the cooked eggs immediately, or put them in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Before addressing peeling, let’s discuss egg anatomy. Extremely fresh eggs — right out from under the hens — are impossible to peel after hard cooking because there’s no space between the egg and the shell. After a week or two, the egg shrinks slightly and an air pocket forms between it and the shell, enabling you to release the shell after cooking. Start at the large end where the air pocket is bigger. (Store-bought eggs usually aren’t a problem.)
Many deviled egg fans are definite about their preferences. My grandmother would tolerate nothing chunky in the filling and wanted it as creamy as possible. I’m flexible. I see the delights of chunky blue cheese, bacon or chopped dill pickle, but can also appreciate the rich texture of softened butter, mayonnaise or mustard.
What I really like is something spicy. My go-to deviled egg recipe combines mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and a fruity habanero hot sauce with curry powder and a dash of dry mustard. I top them with chopped fresh chives or a light sprinkling of smoked paprika. Those are the devils I know and love.
The Devil Made Me Do It
From "Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy" by Debbie Moose, published by Harvard Common Press.
- 6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 1/4 teaspoons Caribbean-style habanero hot sauce, plus more for garnish, if desired
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard. Stir in the hot sauce, curry powder and garlic powder. Taste, then season with salt and pepper (you may not need any).
- Fill the whites evenly with the mixture. If you really like it hot, garnish each egg half with a dab more hot sauce.