Horns, Pitchfork Not Included
Deviled eggs are sinfully delicious
by Gay Lyons
I love deviled eggs. I'm apt to make them any time, but the week after Easter presents the perfect opportunity to recycle colored eggs by making deviled eggs. Sadly, we have no family members of egg dying and hunting age. When Easter comes, I don't crave yellow Peeps or chocolate bunnies; it's those eggs I miss.
I got nostalgic enough this season that I almost bought some eggs and a Paas egg dying kit. My best memories of egg dying are linked with teacups, Paas dye kits and that cool wire egg dipper. Even as an eight-year-old, I remember wondering about the Paas company. Was there really enough profit in egg dye kits to tide the company over during the other 11 months of the year? How did this company corner the egg dye market? These days you can order fancy kits from Williams-Sonoma, Martha Stewart and others, but when I was a kid, Paas seemed to have a monopoly.
Besides the distinctive vinegary smell, I most remember the fun of mixing colors. The tablets in the kit came in primary colors: blue, red and yellow. Light and dark shades were achieved by controlling the amount of time in the dye. Colors such as purple, pink, green, orange and aqua were achieved by double dipping in two dyes or by combining solutions. I remember competing with my brother and sister for "prettiest" and "weirdest" colors. It was a great combination of science and artistry.
Sadly, today's egg-dyers are denied this pleasure. The most basic Paas kit I found contained these colors: yellow, orange, red, denim, teal and purple. Who needs orange when you've got red and yellow? And wouldn't it be more fun to create your own teal (the color formerly known as aqua) and purple? Is denim really a color you want to see on an Easter egg? So I passed on colored eggs and went straight to the deviled eggs.
According to the foodtimeline.org, my favorite source of culinary history, deviled eggs have been around since 13th century Andalusia--though the name was invented in the 18th century when the term "deviled" came to mean a food to which spicy ingredients or condiments had been added. If your deviled egg recipe doesn't include at least a bit of mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, horseradish or something piquant, then your eggs may not be deviled in the original sense of the term.
The first step to creating delicious deviled eggs is making perfect hard-boiled eggs. Here is my method: Place eggs loosely in a pan of cold water and bring to boil. Just as the water starts to boil, remove pan from burner, add a dash of salt to water and let sit covered for 30 minutes. Remove eggs to coldwater bath for 20 minutes. Tap eggs to crack at both ends and peel under cold running water.
The best advice I've found for the novice is at deviledeggs.com, a website devoted to the art of making deviled eggs. The step-by-step instructions are excellent, pretty close to mine, but exceeding them in attention to detail. For example, the author suggests turning the eggs on their sides overnight before cooking to "center" the yolks, following the cold bath with refrigeration, and rolling and cracking the eggs underwater before peeling. She also believes eggs that are at least a week old make better hard-boiled eggs than fresher eggs.
Deviledeggs.com is also a great source for a basic recipe with interesting variations. My most basic recipe includes mashed egg yolks mixed with mayonnaise, a bit of Dijon mustard, a splash of vinegar, a drop of hot sauce, salt and pepper. My most basic garnishes are a sprinkle of paprika or a slice of pimiento-filled green olive. But it's fun to get more creative with ingredients and toppings such as chopped celery or red bell pepper, crabmeat or caviar.
Beautiful presentation is part of the fun of serving deviled eggs. You can line a plate with lettuce leaves to keep the eggs from rolling into each other, or you can use a deviled egg plate, which has egg-shaped indentions to hold the eggs in place. I love deviled egg plates and am not ashamed to confess I own four of them: a plastic one for picnics, a cut glass one, a milk glass one with gilt edges and a recently purchased robin's egg blue one on a pedestal I recently spotted in the window at Earth to Old City.
If you love deviled eggs, you really should invest in at least one deviled egg plate. If not for my reluctance to purchase items with limited use, I would own more than four. However, since I've recently discovered that deviled egg plates are perfect for serving shell-shaped Madeleine tea cookies, I may be able to justify increasing my collection. This justification is a little tricky since Madeleines themselves require a special baking pan, but since I've learned you can use these pans to make little shell-shaped pieces of cornbread, there may soon be another deviled egg plate in my cupboard.