During my single-digit years, there were a number of things I didn’t understand. Like how Santa got in our house since we had no fireplace.
Or how the Easter Bunny laid eggs.
And deviled eggs – those I knew nothing about. Mama was allergic to eggs. She didn’t eat them, so she didn’t cook them.
I had to go elsewhere to satisfy my quest for forbidden knowledge. I went to my grandmother.
Deviled eggs as my grandmother made them were creamy orbs of gustatory satisfaction. The filling was silky smooth, with not a single shred of pickle relish, although she added either a bit of the juice from a jar of relish or some white vinegar to the filling along with an ample scoop of mayonnaise. There was a tangy flavor, too; probably from a little yellow mustard. I’m not sure about the contents of these gems because she refused to write anything down, preferring to take her cooking reputation and secrets to the grave.
They were everything I loved: A bite of lovely fat, a bit of interesting zing and something Mama couldn’t stand.
That’s why I had to write an entire cookbook about them. In the process, I discovered knowledge that had been hidden from me for all those years.
For one thing, chunks do have their place in deviled egg fillings. Now that people want to order a bunch of little plates for their meals, deviled eggs have become restaurant darlings and chefs are doing all sorts of things to them.
New Orleans restaurants put crunchy fried chicken skin in their eggs, and even caviar and truffles. A Nashville restaurant has a three-style deviled egg plate that regularly changes and has been known to include radishes in the filling.
In San Francisco, you can find deviled eggs stuffed with pickled jalapeños and bacon. Another spot tops the eggs with something called “crisp quinoa,” which is so wrong, but so California.
I also discovered a few useful facts.
I still find the association between bunnies and eggs suspect, so please do not use the colored eggs that the rabbit hid as the basis for deviled eggs later. I know you don’t want to hear this because how to reuse Easter eggs is the No. 1 question I get asked this time of year. But the idea that they’re safe to eat after hours in the hot sun of the backyard is as much of a fantasy as Peter Cottontail.
Good deviled eggs start with properly cooked eggs. Here’s what works. Put the eggs in a saucepan, cover them with cold water and bring the water to a boil. As soon as it boils, put a lid on the pan and remove it completely from the heat. Let the pan sit for exactly 15 minutes (for large eggs), then drain and cool down the eggs as fast as you can, either under cold running water or by dumping them in a bowl of ice water.
If your neighbor with the chicken coop gives you fresh eggs, use them for omelets because they will be impossible to peel if hard-cooked. Extremely fresh eggs don’t have a large enough air pocket between the egg and shell to enable you to remove the shell without taking most of the egg with it. Or put the eggs in the fridge for a week or 10 days before using them.
The No. 2 question I get asked is “can you make a vegan deviled egg?” No, really, people ask this. The first time I heard this question, I said to consult the chicken on that.
Since then, I’ve seen attempts at vegan deviled “eggs” with whites made from molded tofu or mixtures of almond milk and agar powder.
At least those deceptive devils look like the real thing. I’ve also seen recipes that use avocado halves or hollowed-out small potatoes instead of egg halves to house a filling.
Stuffed avocados and potatoes? Those would never fit into the spaces on any of my 12 deviled egg plates which, I, as a Southern woman, must display and use throughout spring. The vegans who came up with those ideas did not consider display needs.
You must Respect the Plate in these parts.
Even my mother, who never deviled an egg, had a deviled egg plate.